News, Nuggets & Longreads 30 September 2017: Bang Chang, Meerts, Cork Mild

A scotch egg in a pub.

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that got our brainboxes revving in the past week, with bulletins from Bhutan to Runcorn.

The Cask Mar­que Cask Report was pub­lished this week (PDF) writ­ten this year by Rosie Dav­en­port. We’re still digest­ing it, and, like oth­ers, debat­ing its val­ue, but in the mean­time James Bee­son has writ­ten an excel­lent sum­ma­ry with addi­tion­al indus­try com­ment for the Morn­ing Adver­tis­er:

The head­line sta­tis­tic from this year’s report high­lights that sales of cask beer are down by 5% over the past six years, and 3.8% in the past year alone. While it is undoubt­ed­ly dis­ap­point­ing, and indeed wor­ry­ing, to see cask suf­fer­ing a sharp decline in sales, this is symp­to­matic of a wider decline in beer drink­ing across the UK, with keg beer and lager also falling by 25% and 11% respec­tive­ly.

Brewing in an outdoor kitchen, Bhutan.

For Beer Advo­cate** Mar­tin Thibault has vis­it­ed the Himalayan king­dom of Bhutan to explore its farm­house brew­ing cul­ture:

So, Bang Chang and Sin Chang, the nation’s two types of farm­house ale, are often made from 100 per­cent organ­ic raw wheat cul­ti­vat­ed by each house­hold. In some cas­es, even the yeast cul­ture itself is coaxed from these same fields… Some of these farm­ers not only grow their cere­al and brew from it, they also make their own yeast bagels from bits of dried bark, leaves, and pow­dered maize or wheat, which are cooked and solid­i­fied. Aun Nam­gay, a Schar­chop woman from Rad­hi, a ham­let in the country’s sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed east, explains that her new­ly baked cakes need to be coat­ed in an old­er ‘moth­er’ bagel for the fresh ones to be tru­ly effec­tive.

"Meerts" (a mocked up sign)

For Draft mag­a­zine* Kate Bernot wrote about ‘meerts’, a sub-type of lam­bic that’s new to us and, appar­ent­ly, almost every­one else, and which Amer­i­can brew­ers are now explor­ing as a mar­ketable style:

Meerts was his­tor­i­cal­ly a beer brewed from the sec­ond run­nings of a lam­bic, which made it low­er in alco­hol (gen­er­al­ly around 3–4%). It was typ­i­cal­ly served ‘fresh’, only a few months’ old in com­par­i­son to lam­bics’ years of rest­ing time in wood… The drink­a­bil­i­ty fac­tor… is per­haps the beer’s great­est draw. At about 4% ABV and with only a year or so of time in wood… it feels refresh­ing.

In a fol­low-up Tweet, Bel­gian beer spe­cial­ist Christo­pher Barnes point­ed out that Boon brew a meerts which turns out to have a whiff of intrigue around it.

Lady's Well Brewery, James J. Murphy & Co., Cork.
Lady’s Well Brew­ery, James J. Mur­phy & Co., Cork.

A lit­tle niche, per­haps, but we were inter­est­ed by Liam’s report of his research into the the his­to­ry of the Lady’s Well Brew­ery, Cork, AKA ‘Murphy’s’, at Beer­Food­Trav­el:

[On] 12th of Jan­u­ary 1857… [an] adver­tise­ment appeared… [that] seems to make it clear exact­ly what was being brewed at the time – no less that sev­en ales and five porters includ­ing an Impe­r­i­al Ale and two impe­r­i­al stouts! And there’s that Cork Mild – with a cap­i­tal ‘M’ this time as well as an X Ale and XX Ale. I don’t have access to any books writ­ten specif­i­cal­ly on the brew­ery but oth­er books and most online sources state they opened with just two beer types, this was clear­ly not the case… Unfor­tu­nate­ly this range does not seem to have last­ed too long, as an adver­tise­ment in Novem­ber of the same year list just XX Ale, XX Stout, X Stout and Porter avail­able.

That’s a list that makes us shake our heads and won­der how the cur­rent own­ers of the Murphy’s brand (Heineken) can be miss­ing such a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty.

Walking between pubs along a public footpath.

Kirst Walk­er at Lady Sinks the Booze (the best name for a blog any­where in the world right now, by the way) pro­vides a blow-by-blow account of a pub crawl around the sur­viv­ing Vic­to­ri­an pubs of Run­corn which is as fun as it is edu­ca­tion­al:

I go to the Grapes every Tues­day for their smash­ing pub quiz host­ed by the smash­ing Sam Pele Tran­tum, but on Sat­ur­days the place takes on an air of the work­ing man’s club. Free sand­wich­es, packed to the rafters, a lady in her six­ties con­stant­ly ask­ing you for a pound for some­thing or oth­er (bin­go, shut the box, open the box, play your cards right, foot­ball card, half a mild for Wilf because it’s his birth­day). We arrived just before peak time and we were obvi­ous­ly sat in someone’s reg­u­lar seat because we attract­ed some quite ven­omous looks. The Grapes appar­ent­ly has a ghost from when it was a slaugh­ter­house so we didn’t hang about.

Kaleigh has been pon­der­ing the future of beer fes­ti­vals and in par­tic­u­lar the ben­e­fits of the all-you-can-eat pay­ment method, which doesn’t come nat­u­ral­ly to we Brits:

I think it… encour­ages you to try a wider vari­ety of beers. If I was pay­ing for indi­vid­ual beers and there was one I wasn’t too sure of, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t try it but at an all-in fes­ti­val I’d go for it – espe­cial­ly as the mea­sures are small­er than your stan­dard beer fes­ti­val so you feel less guilt about pour­ing it (I went for a beer at MBCC from Ice­landic brew­ery Borg which fea­tured malts smoked over sheep shit and detest­ed it, but I could sim­ply pour it and get some­thing I pre­ferred, which I did).

David Bas­combe moved to the US from the UK a few years ago and now offers some wist­ful con­clu­sions on how Amer­i­can bars dif­fer from Eng­lish pubs:

I like the choice I have here when it comes to drink­ing, but I miss the com­fort and anonymi­ty of a British Pub. Even­tu­al­ly I’ll get back to the UK, and hav­ing got­ten used to the way things are here, the world of the British Pub will seem strange and quaint. I think I’ll always choose a lack of choice and com­fort and atmos­phere over a wide choice and a lack of atmos­phere though.

Con­sol­i­da­tion news: via @JapanBeerTimes we hear that Yo-Ho Brew­ing Com­pa­ny is tak­ing over Gin­ga Kogen, though we can’t find any com­men­tary in Eng­lish beyond that one Tweet.

UK Brew­ery clo­sure news: Yates’s of Cum­bria is shut­ting up shop hav­ing failed to find a buy­er. (Via @HardknottDave who also offers some very per­son­al obser­va­tions on the news.)

Final­ly, here’s a real life ver­sion of all those Viz Top Tips about craft beer:

* Ugh, these dis­clo­sure things get com­pli­cat­ed, which is why we’ve moved them out of the way down here. Right, so, we’ve nev­er writ­ten for Draft but have writ­ten for All About Beer with which it recent­ly merged.

** We occa­sion­al­ly write for Beer Advo­cate.