News, Nuggets & Longreads 9 September 2017: Pasteur, Porter, Pubcos

Hops on a Bristol allotment + today's date.

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in writing about beer and pubs in the last week, from ladylike behaviour to label design.

First up, some­thing fun­ny, in the form of a post from Kirst Walk­er who explains the lim­its with­in which she, a del­i­cate lady, likes beer:

In all hon­esty, I have nev­er been tempt­ed to try any beer which strays past the gold­en and into the brown. I feel that a beer in one of the more mas­cu­line shades, for exam­ple a coal black stout or a cig­a­r­il­lo coloured bit­ter, would real­ly be a step too far for a lady. I find that many hostel­ries now sup­ply a tiny mason jar in front of the pump which dis­plays the colour of the beer, which has been a tremen­dous help to me. I car­ry with me in my hand­bag a Dulux paint chart, which I hold against these tiny jars to make my selec­tion. Once a beer pass­es Lemon Punch and heads towards Hazel­nut Truf­fle, it’s off the menu!

Louis Pasteur
Detail from a pub­lic domain image restored by Nadar, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

Your his­to­ry les­son for today: Lars Mar­ius Garshol has unpicked exact­ly what Louis Pas­teur con­tributed to brew­ing which is, actu­al­ly, not much:

Pas­teur’s work was of tremen­dous the­o­ret­i­cal impor­tance, but had lim­it­ed prac­ti­cal use. It showed the impor­tance of hygiene, of course, but brew­ers were already aware of that. Using acid to clean the yeast of bac­te­ria was use­ful, but often when the yeast turned bad the prob­lem was not bac­te­ria, and Pas­teur had no solu­tion to this prob­lem… The main thing Pas­teur did for brew­eries was to show them how they could use the tools and meth­ods of micro­bi­ol­o­gists to get bet­ter con­trol over and under­stand­ing of their own brew­ing. In the years after the pub­li­ca­tion of ‘Stud­ies on beer’ a num­ber of brew­eries invest­ed in lab­o­ra­to­ries with micro­scopes, swan-neck bot­tles, and all the oth­er equip­ment Pas­teur used.

Portrait of a middle aged man mid-laugh.
Carl Singmas­ter by Matt Coats for Beer Advo­cate.

For Beer Advo­cate Mar­tin Ciz­mar has explored the role of beer buy­ers – those who choose which beers the hippest bars and shops will sell, and nego­ti­ate the sup­ply. There’s some­thing espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing in the par­al­lels drawn between hip beer and hip records, as enjoyed by ‘hyper-focused one-per­center Face­book groups’:

Stay­ing on top of the trendi­est beers is also a focus at Bel­mont Sta­tion, which today has both a retail bot­tle shop and a draft-fueled bar four blocks north of its orig­i­nal loca­tion. For co-own­er Singmas­ter, it’s impor­tant to strike the right bal­ance… ‘It was so par­al­lel to my expe­ri­ence in the record busi­ness, because records and beer have the same volatil­i­ty in demand,’ he says. ‘You may have some standards—whether it’s Led Zep­pelin or Orval—where they may con­tin­ue to sell 13 each week. That’s easy to man­age. But new releas­es and sea­son­als have a dif­fer­ent lifes­pan.’

(This arti­cle was in the June issue of the mag­a­zine but we think only just became avail­able online. Dis­clo­sure: we some­times sell arti­cles to Beer Advo­cate.)

Sign on a pub: "PORTER".

This piece on the revival of porter in Lon­don by Will Hawkes, also for Beer Advo­cate, just missed last week’s round-up. We had rather missed the cap­i­tal’s slow embrace of the style that made its brew­ing indus­try famous but this is a torch­beam:

Dozens of Porters are cur­rent­ly brewed on a reg­u­lar basis in Lon­don: Fuller’s Lon­don Porter, Gip­sy Hill Dis­si­dent, Five Points Rail­way Porter, Beaver­town Smog Rock­et, The Ker­nel Export India Porter, and more. Exact fig­ures are hard to come by—beers appear and dis­ap­pear at dizzy­ing speeds in the era of craft brew­ing, in Lon­don as much as elsewhere—but it’s much eas­i­er to find Porter in Lon­don than it is any­where else in the UK.

Label design for Partizan Lychee and Rose Martini Saison.
Alec Doherty/Partizan via the Guardian.

For the Guardian Tony Nay­lor has con­sid­ered the design of craft beer pack­ag­ing:

The rad­i­cal, tan­gen­tial and aes­thet­i­cal­ly purist way in which many craft brew­eries approach brand­ing has con­found­ed big brew­eries. Larg­er busi­ness­es design prod­uct pack­ag­ing to strict ‘brand guide­lines’ for spe­cif­ic demo­graph­ics, where­as, ini­tial­ly, UK craft beer had no defined audi­ence or mar­ket­ing bud­get. It just made it up on the hoof, often dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing itself not with the obvi­ous sig­ni­fiers of authen­tic­i­ty (retro print­ing styles, images of hops), but with wild, abstract designs that utilise every­thing from vogu­ish hand-drawn illus­tra­tion to land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. When estab­lished brew­eries attempt to tap into this mar­ket (see the gener­ic hip­ster brand­ing for Bear­do from the north-west brew­ery Robin­sons), they often look, says [Matt] Cur­tis, ‘Like your weird uncle try­ing to dance to Tay­lor Swift at a wed­ding.’

Some news: AB-InBev has insti­tut­ed a round of redun­dan­cies in its US High End divi­sion which com­pris­es the var­i­ous craft brew­eries tak­en over in the least year or two. It amounts to about 300 peo­ple employed in sales who were, we sup­pose, dupli­cat­ing effort and com­pet­ing with each oth­er. Still, for some, this is both a sign of things to come and a val­i­da­tion of the sus­pi­cion with which they regard Big Beer.

More news: an Amer­i­can pri­vate equi­ty firm has acquired a sub­stan­tial stake in Innis & Gunn, the strange Scot­tish whisky-beer brew­ing oper­a­tion. We can’t believe this did­n’t hap­pen about three years ago, to be frank.

Yet more news, best sum­marised in com­men­tary from the Pub Cur­mud­geon:

Hard on the heels of Heineken’s acqui­si­tion of Punch Tav­erns comes the news that Admi­ral Tav­erns is being sold to C&C Group, own­ers of Mag­n­ers cider and Tennent’s brew­ery in Scot­land. This rep­re­sents a fur­ther unrav­el­ling of the indus­try struc­ture cre­at­ed in the wake of the 1989 Beer Orders, and leaves Ei Group, for­mer­ly Enter­prise Inns, as the only non-brew­ing pub­co with over 500 pubs still stand­ing.

Strange times.

And, final­ly, here’s @6TownsMart with anoth­er gor­geous pub:

3 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 9 September 2017: Pasteur, Porter, Pubcos”

  1. Before Pas­teur start­ed his work there was no agree­ment on whether fer­men­ta­tion was a pure­ly chem­i­cal reac­tion or whether it was done by liv­ing organ­isms. […] The main thing Pas­teur did for brew­eries was to show them how they could use the tools and meth­ods of micro­bi­ol­o­gists to get bet­ter con­trol over and under­stand­ing of their own brew­ing. In the years after the pub­li­ca­tion of ‘Stud­ies on beer’ a num­ber of brew­eries invest­ed in lab­o­ra­to­ries with micro­scopes, swan-neck bot­tles, and all the oth­er equip­ment Pas­teur used.”

    And pas­teur­iza­tion.

    Not much!

  2. So this val­ues Innis and Gunn at near­ly £54 mil­lion? On a turnover of around £14 mil­lion? When I&G bought Inveral­mond for £3.1 mil­lion (on a turnover of maybe £2.5 mil­lion)? *Scratch­es head.*

    It would be more accu­rate to describe them as a strange Scot­tish oak-aged beer brew­ing oper­a­tion, I think. Does any­one on the crafty side real­ly view them as craft? It seems to me they occu­py an odd mid­dle ground, so no-one will be shout­ing “sell-out” at this. Their beers are pret­ty ubiq­ui­tous in super­mar­kets up here (includ­ing Aldi and Lidl) espe­cial­ly after mov­ing into four-packs of cans and all the ‘spoons have their lager. I don’t know who is buy­ing though. (Actu­al­ly, I quite like the lager, although the tankove I had in their Beer Kitchen was a crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment.)

  3. Inter­est­ing ideas on Pas­teur’s devel­op­ments in the brew­ing fields! His efforts were often in attempt to spoil the Ger­man beer brew­ing indus­try after his alliance with France!

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