Blogging and writing

Everything We Wrote in October 2017: Painted Pubs, Plum Porter, Poetry

Header: beer tanks at Zero Degrees.

We didn’t manage quite so many posts this month as in September but that’s partly because we spent quite a bit of what is usually blogging time, before breakfast and after work, writing articles for (ker-ching) cash money.

We started the month off with a guest post on another blog, Municipal Dreams, about estate pubs:

The lack of pubs on estates in the first part of the 20th century was often a direct result of the temperance instinct: pubs were of the slum and if people were to be rescued from that environment and culture, the drier the sanctuary the better. That debate continued in the period after World War II with serious consideration given to nationalising any pubs to be built in new towns and a determined lobby that thought building any pubs at all was on par with providing, say, council-sponsored opium dens.

Our second post of the month about what The Local actually means in relation to pubs generated a huge amount of discussion on Twitter (1 | 2) — or, rather, intensified a discussion that was already underway.

The front of the pub.

This month’s big feature post — a lot of work and a lot of words — was a profile of the eccentric pub designer Roderick Gradidge:

As he got older he did not settle into respectability, even though his active involvement with the Catholic Church intensified. He began to get tattoos long before that was the kind of thing respectable people did until they were all over his body, including a dragon that covered most of his back. Later on he grew his grey hair long and wore it in a ponytail. And, once the Teddy boy phase had passed, he started to have all his suits made with both trousers and ‘skorts’ – plain kilts of his own design. That last habit earned him a nickname, the Kilted Crusader.

This one was made possible by our Patreon subscribers whose support justified spending a couple of extra hours spent scanning and foraging in online archives. Thanks again, folks!

We tasted the last of the Magical Mystery Pour Beers chosen for us by Rach Smith, Gun Brewery Zamzama IPA, and loved it:

We were delighted by how clean it tasted — no staleness, no cardboard, not a wheelbarrow full of muddy onions, just a lot of Jaffa Cake jelly and jam, balanced by a rye bread bitterness in the background. Cans can be a lottery but this time it worked.

Book cover: One for the Road

A couple of books about pubs and beer from our outside the beer writing bubble came to our attention and were sufficiently interesting to prompt us to write a review.

Collage: The Old Fox.

On our travels we stumbled across a derelict pub called The Old Fox whose name rang a bell. Then we remembered: this was CAMRA’s outpost in Bristol back in the 1970s. So we went back, took some photos, and had a dig in the newspaper archives.

It struck us that there were suddenly grapefruit beers everywhere, not only in the far reaches of Craftonia, although one of those we encountered came with a twist…

In the first of a new series we gave a shout out to the beer and pubs collection at Newcastle City Library:

The real star of the show… is a huge scrapbook of newspaper clippings and leaflets. Archivists rightly protest when people claim to have ‘unearthed’ something which they, the librarians, found, bound and catalogued years ago, and this collection is a great example of their work. It contains early Tyneside CAMRA leaflets, for example — the kind of thing that most people threw away or lost when their guidance ceased to be useful but that someone thought to keep and preserve.

Thomas Hardy in profile on the neck of our 1986 beer bottle.

A debate about the volume of a ‘Nip’ led us down an etymological wormhole and introduced a new word into our vocabulary: the Nipperkin. (Des de Moor had a crack at a related subject creating what is sure to be a useful reference in future.)

Dockside scene with huge Guinness tanks.
The Pluto unloading in Bristol c.1966.

According to a 1966 edition of the Guinness in-house magazine Guinness Time Bristol was the first place in England to get a regular supply of the famous porter as far back as 1819 and in the 20th century Bristol remained an important centre for the importing of Guinness from Ireland. We shared some photos and nuggets.

You know that pub that’s a bit like a branch of Wetherspoon but… isn’t? It’s probably owned by Stonegate. At one of our local Stonegate pubs we had a mixed experience — a decent Sussex Best paired with an ESB that was (sign) “meant to be like that”.

The cover of the Beer Map of Great Britain, 1970s.

This was great fun: we outlined our approach to responding to requests for pub recommendations (TL;DR — give a straight answer, don’t be over-complicate it) which generated some great to-the-point advice on drinking around the UK, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. We are going to try to find time to turn this into some sort of printable handout that will fit in the average wallet, handbag or rucksack.

COLLAGE: Painted Pubs of Bristol

Fascinated by the painted pubs of Bristol — it’s a Thing here — we took some photos of some and put together a gallery. Since we posted this, the Golden Lion has been finished.

The story of the proto-CAMRA beer society The Ring rather fell into our laps when we got an email from Sue Hart, one of its current core members:

The Ring was founded in October 1960 by two brothers, both Oxford graduates… Clive and Tony Chester, were charismatic chaps, both obsessed with the Young’s pubs in and around London… It was Tony, AKA The Deputy, who did most of the research into The Ring’s famous pub crawls… He was a real whizz with numbers and often his Ring sheets would contain lots of mathematical riddles, or sometimes references to football teams. He would also try and get a singing spot in the right sort of pub. Given that he looked like a tramp with a piece of string holding his coat together it was quite a sight, but he usually got a round of applause as he knew all the old songs.

Titanic Plum Porter is a rare treat for us and we were pleased to find some in Bristol last week. “It divides opinion,” we said; “nNo it doesn’t, everyone loves it!” some people replied; “Ugh — I don’t!” said some others. (Titanic chipped in Twitter to respond to our suggestion, backed up by others, that it might be a variable product.)

Exterior of the Cardinal's Hat.

Yesterday we posted a ton of pictures of pubs from Watney Mann in-house magazines from 1964, some more interesting than others, and a surprising number still trading.

We also posted our usual weekly round-ups of news and interesting reading — such a joy to compile early on Saturday before the sun has risen…

We were busy on Twitter posting pictures from pubs in Bristol, Weston super Mare and various other places, as well as stuff like this:

There was also plenty of stuff on Facebook and Instagram. Give us a follow on all or any of those channels.

Our monthly newsletter of 1,000+ words went had thoughts on freebies for bloggers, Bristol Beer Week, and other topics — sign up here to make sure you don’t miss the next one!

Detail from the cover of BEER magazine.

Beyond the blog and our own social media we have two articles in the latest edition of CAMRA’s BEER magazine — one on Brits obsessed with Belgian beer and another on brewpubs and ‘The Theatre of Beer’. Members will have access online if they haven’t received a copy in the post; the rest of you will need to scrounge a copy at your local real ale pub.