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News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 October 2017: Sir Geoff, Squirrels, Subjectivity

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of booze and pubs in the past week, from industry profiles to philosophical ponderings.

First, the Brewers’ Journal has a profile of UK brewing industry veteran Sir Geoff Palmer who came to the UK from Jamaica as a teenager in 1955:

“I’ve been able to teach many people, I have been given awards and I have even been given an OBE which are all great, great, privileges.

“But to be honest, the best feeling is when I go into a supermarket and see someone struggling when it comes to the choices available to them on the beer aisle.

“So I go up and ask what are they looking for. I don’t tell them I have studied and taught brewing, I just listen to what they say and make a suggestion that they will hopefully enjoy. I’d like to think they will do something with that knowledge.

“But in reality, they will probably just go home and tell their family about the old Jamaican that was rambling on!”

We were also interested to read the same publication’s interviews with Phil Lowry (“Brewers have little to bitch about right now. If your brand isn’t flying, that’s your fault. ”) and John Keeling of Fuller’s: “I think this industry here is still too slavish to America. We need to develop our own identity and our own beer styles should be at the forefront of that.”


India Pale Ale

There might be a clue to the origins of that last comment in this piece from Martyn Cornell on the boundaries of the definition of IPA:

I was discussing this… with Georgina Young, head brewer at Fuller’s… and she rolled her eyes: I don’t think she was in the mood to hear about wacko IPAs, since she had apparently spent the afternoon arguing with Fullers’ marketing department about the need to maintain production of Bengal Lancer, Fuller’s own “properly English” IPA, made with masses of Goldings and Fuggles. As she said, modern American IPAs are all well and fine, but if a brewery like Fullers can’t make a British IPA, what’s the point?


A can of beer on a baby buggy.

We continue to enjoy the ‘Beer Tokens’ series from Rach Smith at Look at Brew who this week has been reflecting on parenthood and attitudes to drink:

I will never be drunk around my child. I know my limits and I don’t get anywhere close to them. That’s because I know that I’m responsible for a baby. And that’s the key word here; responsible. I’m not going to completely change who I am and what I enjoy; it’s important for my child to grow up knowing the things that I like, what my hobbies are and what makes me me. Writing about beer happens to be one of those hobbies, and the culture around (craft) beer, brewing and pubs happens to be a big part what makes me tick.


The evolution of the Mad Squirrel logo.

Alec Latham offers a case study of brewery re-branding, looking at the reasons for and results of Red Squirrel becoming Mad Squirrel earlier this year:

Its perceived image changed from that of twee, rural and folksy to that of the modern, edgy and lapel-grabbing. The delightful little rodent that used to bound ‘tail aquiver’ across the pump clips – became narcotised – an opaque mammal stare on a bright hallucinogenic dais… But there was a pincer movement: some on social media saw the move as muscling into a craft brewery culture – more of a Zeitgeist – that they didn’t feel Mad Squirrel should be a part of. It didn’t belong… This post isn’t so much about Mad Squirrel – though we will constantly be orbiting it – but what we the drinkers feel is and isn’t acceptable for breweries, what we want their backstory to be and where we find comfort culturally.


Wine glasses.

Not beer: in the New Yorker Anne Faidman has shared an extract from her upcoming book The Wine Lover’s Daughter in which she explores the science of taste and big philosophical questions of perception and subjective experience:

My fellow-guests took their first sips. Several broke out into mmmmms and aaahhhs and little susurrations of pleasure. I later looked up tasting notes for this Haut-Brion vintage. Other people had smelled violets, sour cherries, white pepper, blue cheese, autumn leaves, saddle leather, iron filings, hot rocks in a cedar-panelled sauna, and earth. They had tasted pencil shavings, sandalwood, tea leaves, plums, green peppers, goat cheese, licorice, mint, peat, twigs, and toast.

I sniffed the wine. I couldn’t smell any of those things, except earth.


Fry: "Shut up and take my money!"

We don’t normally do this — crowdfunding fatigue and all that — but as we’ve been contacted by three different worthy projects looking for backing in the past week, we thought we might as well give them a shout out and let you decide for yourselves whether they are of interest.

  1. A new visuals-heavy beer magazine Caña is aiming to raise £15,000 via Kickstarter: “Expect in-depth profiles and interviews with designers, artists, brewers, and beer’s movers and shakers, alongside gonzo forays into the furthest recesses of beer and the culture that surrounds it.”
  2. Filmmaker Danny Eycott is working on a documentary about micropubs and is seeking to raise £10,000 via Indiegogo: “The foundation of this documentary will be the ordinary men, women and families who have, for whatever reason, decided to open their own micropub.”
  3. The team behind Hop & Barley magazine is after support for its new book projectBeer Yorkshire, to the tune of £16,000 via Kickstarter: “A celebration of Yorkshire’s diverse brewing landscape, it’s about photographically documenting this wonderful corner of Britain’s brewing culture, and curating it into a carefully designed, coffee table style book.” (Disclosure: we were once paid to write an article for Hop & Barley.)

Here’s a quick note for the register of good/bad news: Birmingham has a new craft beer bar, the Paper Duck, as reported here by the Midlands Beer Blog Collective.


And, finally, BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth, hosted by Michael Rosen, is looking for input.

2 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 October 2017: Sir Geoff, Squirrels, Subjectivity”

Lived in Harborne for a few months 30 years ago. Some interesting pubs then (particularly by Brum standards – it was one area that had a large number of smaller pubs, instead of the few enormous gin palaces) but it suffered from the same problems as the rest of the city – M&B and Ansells. What a turnaround.

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