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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