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

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

“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!

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.)

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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