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Everything We Wrote in September 2017: Listicles, GBBF, Post-War Pubs

September 2017: Pelican style photo illustration of a pub.

The last month was one of our busiest for some time with house moving issues and book business settling down to manageable levels.

In fact, we posted 23 times here and 11 times on our (mostly) subscriber-only Patreon feed, along with a ton of bits and pieces on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Proper pub with an accent on cider. #pubs

A post shared by Boak & Bailey (@boakandbailey) on

Two of our posts here were among the most read and commented on for a while, too, so we’ll give those a bit of special attention first.

The Great British Beer Festival

Having ruminated for a month we finally expressed some ideas about ways to improve GBBF. Our pre-emptive whining about how hard it is to discuss CAMRA and GBBF without people getting narky seems to have worked and a generally civil, stimulating conversation ensued. There was also quite a bit of chat on Twitter, across various Facebook groups and pages, on the Hopinions (Beer O’Clock Show) podcast, and behind the closed doors of the CAMRA discussion forum.

Illustration: SEVEN.
Seven Ages of Beer Geek

We think this attempt to break down the trajectory of a typical beer geek’s obsession was a bit more than just a listicle but there’s no denying the ‘click appeal’ of a post in the format ‘X types of Y’: it got something like three times as much traffic as anything else we wrote in September or, indeed, for months. It also prompted some substantial responses from other bloggers.

Jeff Alworth didn’t agree with our conclusions (‘The stages are conceptually familiar, but not emotionally so’) but, actually, we think he misunderstood our point, i.e. that if you go deeper than stage one, two or three, this is where it might lead, rather than that everyone will always end up at seven, or that they will always pass through every stop on the way. But his own reflections on the subject are as thoughtful as ever and worth a read.

Ed thought we’d missed something: that loving something often means hating something else, and ‘the most hated enemy can well be someone that to outsiders seems politically close’.

Uffe Karlström (new to us) effectively translated the post into (we think) Swedish adding some commentary of his own along the way, which we discovered via a pingback and were able to read via Google Translate — ain’t 2017 amazing? ‘Since spring 2005 I have terrorized brewers, salesmen, owners, distributors, etc. with questions, questions and more questions’, he says.

J. Wilson was moved out of blogging semi-retirement to write about how he has grown to appreciate ordinary bars and mainstream beer: ‘These days I’m a seven… There were no fives in sight.’

Everything Else

We started the month by taking part in the Session even though we struggled to find any actual Oktoberfest beers to write about. (You can read a round-up of all the contributions at Fuggled.)

Licensee William Garside of the Dog & Partridge, Ashton-under-Lyme, is presented with the Phillips N1700 video recorder he won in a magazine competition.

The latest of our occasional Bits We Underlined in… series was a filleting of a 1979 issue of the magazine Whitbread Way which featured advice on food for publicans, lots on lager, and the results of a competition to win a VHS recorder.

High Weald Charcoal Burner.

We continued writing up notes on another set of Magical Mystery Pour beers with a review of Charcoal Burner, an oatmeal stout from High Weald.

With a book to promote — we know, we know, but if we don’t do it, no-one else will with the state of 21st century publishing budgets — we ran a competition to win a copy. There’s not much point in reading our post now the deadline has passed but you might want to look at the winning prose entries from Liam and Robert on Twitter.

Beginning to engage with beer and pub history in Bristol we came across references to Bristol Old Beer and the tantalising suggestion that it might have in some way resembled acidic scrumpy cider.

Ted Wade.

Challenged by Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog we began the task of understanding the possible influence of Winemaker magazine on the global micro-brewing revolution. You’ve got to start somewhere so we started by picking apart the only issue of the magazine we could get our hands on, from 1971. (Alan had a couple of additional thoughts here.)

Stained glass in a pub: Jug & Bottle.

Inspired by a visit to The Shakespeare in Redland, Bristol, we gave a bit of thought to the idea of the Bottle & Jug. (Since writing that, and illustrating with an old, awful photograph, we’ve visited the Downend Tavern which has the rather lovely stained glass above.)

Thanks to the encouragement of our Patreon subscribers we finally got round to organising another taste-off, this time of beers from our local Eastern European mini-mart. We used this, as much as anything, as an opportunity to ponder why beer geeks are constantly drawn back to this well:

There’s something appealing about the idea of discovering a hidden gem in the least pretentious of surroundings, standing on chipped floor tiles next to the permanently running dehumidifier near the tinned Bigos. Most people are too snobby, too xenophobic, too scared to tackle these mysterious labels, goes the inner dialogue, but me? I’m a brave adventurer.

Mostly because we’re enjoying writing something that isn’t all opinions and/or footnotes, we turned in another post in our Pub Life series inspired by a conversation about slug traps overheard in Bristol.

Young's brewery logo on the outside of a pub.

We’ve observed an improvement in the quality of Young’s Ordinary and decided to declare it to the world. Since writing that post we’ve been in touch with CAMRA co-founder Michael Hardman who says he has tried Ordinary lately: ‘Not quite as bitter, while still being well balanced, as it was, but a vast improvement on a few months ago, when it was just another low-gravity bitter.’

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, 1960s.

A month late, we got round to writing up our experiences of drinking in the two surviving post-war pubs at the Elephant & Castle in south London:

At one point a young woman in office clothes came in and took a seat by the window. As she talked on her mobile phone the woman behind the bar came over and asked her brusquely if she intended to buy a drink or not. The young women told the person on the phone, pointedly, that they should meet in a different pub instead, and left. We weren’t made to feel unwelcome in any overt, specific way but it did feel as if we’d intruded upon a private party, or perhaps a wake. It was literally and spiritually gloomy.

On a similar theme we posted a slightly different take on a Bristol estate pub, The Blue Boy, juxtaposing original PR copy and pictures from its proud launch in 1959 with photos taken in last week’s drizzle.

Teacups and teapot at the Little Wonder Cafe, Penzance, April 2014.

In a rare solo performance Boak (Ugh… can we just say Jessica from now on?) offered strong views on strong tea:

I started drinking tea when I was about 2-years-old — weak and milky, then, out of a bottle. The not so fun side of this is that by the time I reached my teens I was on about ten cups a day and suffered withdrawal symptoms (migraine, faintness) if I missed a dose for some reason. Tea is, after all, a powerful stimulant and vehicle for caffeine, despite all the Great British Bake Off tweeness that comes with it.

Another pub that has long intrigued us is the Alpine Gasthof in Rochdale. Here’s what we’ve learned so far which we’re hoping might smoke out more intel from our readers. (The real surprise here was discovering that the AG had a twin in Yorkshire.)

The Greenford Hotel, west London.

Could hermit micropubs be the answer to the problem of the kind of huge Victorian and inter-war pubs that struggle to feel full and so often end up converted into fast food restaurants, flats and supermarkets? (See Dale Ingram’s comment below this post for some learned commentary.)

If there’s not enough reading for you in that lot there were also our usual weekly round-ups of good reading around the internet:

We also dispatched a 1,700 word email newsletter which we called ‘The Political Correctness Gone Mad Virtue Signalling Bumper Special’. Sign up here if you want to get the next edition.

And, finally, look — here’s us in a print magazine that isn’t specifically about beer!

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