News, Nuggets & Longreads 4 November 2017: McMullen, Maltøl, Martin Luther

Pub skittle alley

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that has grabbed us in the last week, from longreads on local breweries to pubs on piers.

First, a public service announcement from Lars Marius Garshol (Norwegian beer personality of the year!) who wants to make sure everyone is using the buzzword of the day correctly:

Kveik is not a style of beer. It means “yeast” or “traditional farmhouse yeast,” but definitely not a kind of beer. If you want to say “Norwegian farmhouse ale,” without referencing any particular style, then say maltøl. But beware that that’s a bit like saying “English beer.” There are several very different styles.


Rivertown Pilsner

In a substantial piece of writing with all the flourish we have come to expect Alec Latham at Mostly About Beer reflects on the fortunes of his local big family brewer, McMullen’s, and how it is reacting to the 21st century:

There’s only one pub in St Albans that still sells McMullen’s beer and that’s the Peahen on Holywell Hill… Over the past several years, the Victorian brewer from Hertford seemed in retreat. As the pubs closed and the brewery had little to do with the public, I expected McMullen to depart the brewing scene and become a hotel or catering chain… [But in] its labyrinthine corridors and out-buildings, McMullen has suddenly come alive again.


The view from Blackpool's North Pier.

Katie at the Snap and the Hiss has been thinking about Blackpool’s North Pier and especially the Sunset Lounge, the pub at its end:

Protected from the sea winds and year-round bad weather by perspex and gloss paint, it’s a huge expanse of a pub, and is nearly always mostly empty inside where the darts boards and maroon carpets are. Despite clearly being big enough to host two wedding receptions simultaneously, there are three toilets in the ladies’ bathroom and the last time I was there, none had locks, toilet paper or a cushion for screaming into. I have never seen a single adult in the “pub” part of The Sunset Lounge.


9 point 5

In reference to the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses Jeff Alworth at Beervana gives us his 9.5 theses which, of course, relate specifically to beer and beer culture, e.g.:

Subtlety is harder to achieve than intensity.
People, particularly people new to a hobby, mistake intensity for quality. When Americans first discovered good coffee, the fashion was gnarly roast bitterness. With wine, it was jam and oak. In beer it was bitterness, booziness, tartness–anything so long as there was a lot of it. Aesthetic maturity arrives when the taster is able to appreciate the elements of a beer when they don’t overwhelm. Subtlety lays bare a beer’s elements for those able to identify them. Appreciation of subtlety, not intensity, is the higher achievement.


Waiter serving lager (vintage illustration)

Mark Johnson isn’t just fretting about the winefication of beer in the abstract — he offers a case study in taking things too far:

Can I get a Dead Pony Club, please?” It was only as the three words came off my tongue that my surroundings, environment and the stupidity of the words I was saying really became apparent. The server even smirked fleetingly, the only time all evening they broke from their smart and attentive character. “Of course.” … Any time I reached for the bottle, a server would appear from nowhere, shaking their hands before returning one to their back whilst the other poured from a cloth laden arm with a neat bow. Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club – served like a 1947 Cheval Blanc.  I couldn’t enjoy it.

Ad for the Fuller's/Hardknott beer launch.

Dave Bailey, owner and head brewer at Hardknott, offers some insight into the process of collaborating with Fuller’s which is interesting in its own right (we always love a tale of brewers vs. marketing) but the real meat here is in the typically frank footnotes:

Contrary to what some people like to claim, the beer industry is incredibly competitive. I am often encouraged to work together for common aims within the beer industry, and then get heavily shafted by the very people who I am asked to work with. We are not all friends, and make no mistake, big businesses worth many millions of pounds, with directors on healthy salaries are regularly pissing on my bonfire.

This month’s edition of the Session on ‘missing local beer styles’ prompted some fascinating entries. First, a contribution by the host, Eoghan Walsh, offers a historical overview of the place of Pils in the beer culture of Brussels:

[It] is not blasphemy to say that Brussels is just as much a pils town as it is a Geuze town. The only difference is, Brussels pils has not had its proselytisers and pilgrimages from abroad to keep it alive despite its rich history.

(Spoiler alert: Watney’s didn’t just screw up British beer — they made a mess in Belgium, too.)

On the same topic Andreas Krenmair, an Austrian based in Berlin, makes a plea for (a) more cask ale and (b) the return of a forgotten style — Berliner Braunbier.


The Festival Inn, Poplar.

Pub heritage news: The Festival Inn, the first permanent pub in the modern style built after World War II, has been listed (protected) by Historic England.


There were lots of great Tweets about this week but, to wrap up, here’s one that we particularly enjoyed, not least for the presence of all those wild Li’l Sebastians:

One thought on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 4 November 2017: McMullen, Maltøl, Martin Luther”

  1. Lars is correct, of course, but I fear telling people kveik is the yeast not the beer will be as effective as was telling them gruit is the herb and spice mixture not the beer.

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