2017’s Best Words on Beer and Pubs, Sez Us

Illustration: A pint of beer and "2017".

These are the posts and articles from 2017 that have stuck with us throughout the year.

They cov­er every­thing from pubs to the busi­ness of beer and what links them, if any­thing, is that they all make a point, or tell us some­thing we did­n’t know.

A baby in the pub.

1. Children in Pubs

By The Beard­ed House­wife (@Cuichulain)

TBH, AKA Rob G, is a pub-lov­ing home-brew­er with two young daugh­ters. In this epic post from Jan­u­ary he applied much thought to the ques­tion of chil­dren in pubs:

Over­all, the debate nev­er seems to go any­where because most peo­ple worth lis­ten­ing to state their posi­tion as some­thing adja­cent to “I don’t have any prob­lem with chil­dren in pubs, if they’re well-behaved”. This posi­tion is so unar­guably rea­son­able that it’s nev­er real­ly ques­tioned, and every­one leaves with their own vast­ly diver­gent, and unchal­lenged, men­tal pic­ture of what ‘well-behaved’ actu­al­ly con­sti­tutes. I shall address this in greater depth fur­ther down, but first I’d like to pick out and exclude cer­tain argu­ments that don’t have mer­it.

Cuneiform tablet.

2. Babylonian Cuneiform

By Alan McLeod (@agoodbeerblog)

Back in Feb­ru­ary Alan at A Good Beer Blog did what all beer nerds do when a new online archive becomes avail­able: he searched it for the word BEER. What he found was a time tun­nel con­nect­ing us, now, with them, then:

How is it that I can read a Mesopotami­an clay tablet and pret­ty much imme­di­ate­ly under­stand what is going on? If it was about reli­gion, gov­er­nance or astron­o­my I wouldn’t have a clue. But beer and brew­ing are not strange. They are, in a very mean­ing­ful way, con­stant. You can see that if we go back to col­umn 2 where you see words for 1:1 beer, 2:1 beer, 3:1 beer and even triple beer. The ratio is the rela­tion­ship of grain input to beer out­put. If you scroll down to page 238 of the 2005 Spar and Lam­bert text you see there are foot­notes and in the foot­notes an expla­na­tion of Mesopotami­an method­ol­o­gy.

People watching TV in a pub.

3. The Always on Pub TV

By Pints & Pubs (@pintsandpubs)

This is real­ly an excuse to flag Adam’s ‘Every pub in Cam­bridge’ blog project as a whole but this par­tic­u­lar post from Feb­ru­ary, about The Pick­er­el, struck a resound­ing chord:

Something’s not quite right. There are plen­ty of peo­ple in but most seem to be speak­ing sus­pi­cious­ly qui­et­ly, if at all. Then I notice the TV in the cor­ner blar­ing out Unbe­liev­able Moments Caught on Cam­era. It’s obvi­ous­ly been left on after the rug­by fin­ished, and is now killing con­ver­sa­tion for the tables with­in sight or earshot of it. Peo­ple seem unwill­ing to break its spell. I look around and everyone’s either star­ing at the TV or at their phones. One cou­ple fin­ish their drinks and get their coats on to leave, then stand there for 5 min­utes trans­fixed by some wing­suit wear­ing stunt­man land­ing in a pile of card­board box­es. Anoth­er cou­ple come in and go straight for the two chairs direct­ly under the TV, then sit in silence, arch­ing their necks to watch it. At one point, loud screams attract every­one’s atten­tion – not the shriek from a cus­tomer lay­ing eyes on one of the pub’s ghosts, but from a woman caught in a tor­na­do in Alaba­ma.

Illustration: Turn on, Tune In, Dry Hop

4. The Science of Hops

By Emma (@femtobrewster)

A sci­en­tist by day and home brew­er by night Emma’s big post from April on how hops do what they do, how they inter­act with yeast, how they are affect­ed by oxy­gen, and every­thing else you could wish to know, deserves to be in every­one’s book­mark fold­er:

Well, the thing is, the sci­ence of hop aro­ma is not just chem­istry; bio­log­i­cal vari­a­tion is involved too. Hop har­vests vary on an annu­al basis and the qual­i­ty of hops reach­ing your beer will vary based on how they are processed after har­vest­ing (see also, oxi­da­tion). Plus there are at least two organ­isms play­ing a role in the per­cep­tion of hop aro­ma – one is the yeast which fer­ments the beer, the oth­er is the per­son who is smelling (and hope­ful­ly drink­ing) the beer. I’ll return to yeast short­ly, but just to touch very briefly on human aro­ma per­cep­tion: it’s incred­i­bly com­pli­cat­ed. The abil­i­ty to recog­nise dif­fer­ent odours, at dif­fer­ent lev­els, in the pres­ence of oth­er mask­ing odours varies enor­mous­ly per­son to per­son at a genet­ic lev­el. In a solu­tion con­tain­ing 20 dif­fer­ent com­pounds most peo­ple can pick out three or, if they’re lucky, four of them. There is also a sub­jec­tive ele­ment to aro­ma – both mem­o­ry and emo­tion have an effect on it, as I am sure you have expe­ri­enced for your­self.

"UK's first roundabout"

5. A Ramble Around Arid Letchworth

By Alec Lath­am (@LathamAlec)

Our favourite blog­ger of 2016 has con­tin­ued down his route of psy­cho­geo­graph­i­cal wan­der­ing and pon­der­ing dur­ing 2017. Back in April he vis­it­ed the pio­neer­ing Gar­den City of Letch­worth:

Letch­worth Gar­den City didn’t have an actu­al beer pub until the ear­ly 1970s when the Black Squir­rel (no longer there) was includ­ed in a new town cen­tre rede­vel­op­ment… There was a pub­lic house insti­tut­ed by the First Gar­den City L.t.d called the Skit­tles Inn that served food, had a skit­tles alley, a library and sold absolute­ly no alco­hol. Instead, the sta­ples were Cadbury’s drink­ing choco­late and Cydrax – a non-alco­holic apple wine. Lover of beer though I am, I can appre­ci­ate a pub­lic house that kept men sober – espe­cial­ly with the high rate of what we’d now deem vio­lent alco­holism in many work­ing fam­i­lies.

Sir Roger Moore.

6. The Name’s Bitter, Banks’s Bitter

By Theo Delaney

Sir Roger Moore, who died ear­li­er this year, starred in a com­mer­cial for Banks’s Bit­ter in the mid-1990s, as recalled by its direc­tor in this fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle for Cam­paign mag­a­zine:

The script required Sir Roger to walk into the crowd­ed saloon – in tuxe­do and dick­ie bow nat­u­ral­ly – caus­ing every­one in the place to gawp at him in silence as he approached the bar. “The trou­ble with being a world-famous celebri­ty,” he explains straight to cam­era, “is you sim­ply can’t go for a qui­et pint of Banks Bit­ter”.

When he arrives at the bar an awestruck local stut­ters “you’re him, aren’t you?” to which Roger silk­i­ly replies “yes”. Then the fel­la buys him a pint of the deli­cious beer. “See what I mean?” smirks Roger.

Ner­vous­ly I went to see our star in make up and he received me with good grace. I explained the scene to him and walked him though it again on set. “I think I can man­age that,” he drawled. Buoyed by his relaxed con­fi­dence, I decid­ed to shoot the rehearsal.

In walks Roger deliv­er­ing his lines to total per­fec­tion before arriv­ing at the bar. “You’re him, aren’t you?” says the fel­la. “Fuck off!” dead­pans Roger.

South African hops.

7. Another Angle on South African Hops

By Lucy Corne (@LucyCorne)

Ear­ly in the year there was a big hoo-ha over AB-InBev’s sup­posed monop­o­lis­ing of cov­et­ed South African hops. Lucy Corne, who lit­er­al­ly wrote the book on South African beer, broke the spell of Amer­i­can and Euro­pean com­men­ta­tors, report­ing from the ground for All About Beer:

What every arti­cle has over­looked is that while Amer­i­can brew­ers, for now at least, can’t get their hands on South African hops, there are micro­brew­eries that can—in South Africa. The coun­try now boasts almost 200 micro­brew­eries, a num­ber that has increased from just 50 in 2013… While some brew­ers uti­lize import­ed ingre­di­ents, many rely heav­i­ly on SAB—and now A‑B InBev—for both malt and hops.

Red Devil Lager
SOURCE: Latas Fute­bol Clube
8. Forgotten Football Lagers

By Ryan Her­man (@ryanherman15)

Here’s anoth­er beer arti­cle from an unex­pect­ed source (Vice Sports) and from a writer who was new to us when we spot­ted this was point­ed out to us back in June. It con­cerns the brief craze in the 1980s for British foot­ball clubs to launch their own lagers:

The brains behind the beers was Essex entre­pre­neur and wheel­er deal­er Ken­ny Will­mott. In 1987, he teamed up with David Gillian from Cor­nish Brew­eries and arranged deals with four of Eng­land’s so-called ‘Big Five’ clubs – Man­ches­ter Unit­ed, Liv­er­pool, Arse­nal and Ever­ton. The only excep­tion was Spurs who, at that time, had a spon­sor­ship deal with Hol­sten… In the wake of the Hey­sel dis­as­ter, which led to Eng­lish clubs being banned from Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion, the Big Five were des­per­ate to find new ways of replac­ing that loss in rev­enue.

The Shakespeare pub, London EC1.

9. Pubs as Londoners’ Third Place

By Jes­si­ca Brown (@Jessica_E_Brown)

This reflec­tion from July on the role of pubs in the lives of Lon­don­ers appeared in an unex­pect­ed place (the Lon­greads web­site) and comes from a voice that’s new to us.

I won­dered if the Britons’ third place could be pubs. Accord­ing to Old­en­burg, it must be a neu­tral space. He writes, “The neu­tral ground (space upon which one is not bur­dened by the role of host or guest) of third places offers the great ease of asso­ci­a­tion so impor­tant to com­mu­ni­ty life. Peo­ple may come and go just when they please and are behold­en to no one.”

It’s also, he writes, where you’ll find “pub­lic char­ac­ters” known by locals. “In the third place, enter­tain­ment is pro­vid­ed by the peo­ple them­selves. The sus­tain­ing activ­i­ty is con­ver­sa­tion which is var­i­ous­ly pas­sion­ate and light-heart­ed, seri­ous and wit­ty, infor­ma­tive and sil­ly. And in the course of it, acquain­tances become per­son­al­i­ties and per­son­al­i­ties become true char­ac­ters — unique in the whole world and each adding rich­ness to our lives.”

The pub seems to be a per­fect fit; at least, it does when you’re look­ing through the lens of nos­tal­gia, as one can eas­i­ly do when under the alien sky­scrap­ers and mys­ti­cal spell of the city.

Fry: "Shut up and take my money!"

10. Crowdfunding = Fanboys?

By Mar­tyn Cor­nell (@zythophiliac)

Best known for his writ­ing on British beer his­to­ry, Mr Cor­nell is also a ded­i­cat­ed indus­try com­men­ta­tor, and this sharp piece on crowd­fund­ing from July remains rel­e­vant:

Fan­boy invest­ing can be fun, but is not nec­es­sar­i­ly lucra­tive: and, like all gam­bling ven­tures, you should only risk mon­ey you can afford to lose. Indeed, giv­en the gen­er­al lack of form avail­able on those ask­ing you to fund their dreams, fan­boy invest­ing is actu­al­ly worse than most forms of gam­bling. At least when it comes to the 2:30 at Hay­dock Park you can see how the hors­es per­formed in the past. Few start-up brew­ers have ever begun a com­pa­ny before to let you gath­er some idea of their busi­ness savvy.

Detail from the cover of a German brewing textbook.

11. Our Man in Germany

By Ben Palmer (@Johnzee7)

From Sheffield but work­ing at a Ger­man brew­ery, Ben has a unique per­spec­tive on the world of beer, which he explored in this post back in July:

The rea­son I make the gen­er­al­i­sa­tion about ‘Ger­man brew­ers’ in the first place is because they must all jump through the same edu­ca­tion­al hoops in order to become recog­nised as a brew­er in the first place. The three-year appren­tice­ship pro­gramme (in which I am also cur­rent­ly enrolled) pro­vides the appren­tices with a base knowl­edge of the dai­ly oper­a­tional tasks per­formed in a brew­ery. I esti­mate that 99% of peo­ple in pro­duc­tion based brew­ery roles have at some point com­plet­ed this appren­tice­ship, sat the exams and, most impor­tant­ly, received the cer­tifi­cate to prove this. Ger­mans real­ly like cer­tifi­cates. And offi­cial stamps too.

Closed sign on shop.

12. Why Breweries Close Down

By Zach Fowle (@ZachFowle)

It’s hard to get peo­ple to talk about why their brew­eries failed because, well, it hurts, but for the now defunct Draft mag­a­zine (grab this arti­cle while you can) Mr Fowle man­aged to get a few peo­ple to offer some insight:

For us, it was real­ly a pro­duc­tion restraint. It’s sim­ple math. Over­head was too high for the amount of beer we could pro­duce in the space we had. There were all kinds of things that were always lim­it­ing: pump space, floor space, com­bined with the big cost of the space, the peo­ple we work with, and we were also a shared facil­i­ty host­ing sev­er­al oth­er brew­eries. That was some­thing we were real­ly pas­sion­ate about, but these brew­eries are tak­ing 20 per­cent of the space but not pay­ing 20 per­cent of the over­head. We were basi­cal­ly land­locked in a very expen­sive build­ing… I learned in this process that what­ev­er mon­ey you’re rais­ing, dou­ble it. Maybe triple it.”

Ladies sign in a pub.

13. Why Ladies Drink Beer

By Kirst Walk­er (@doubleshiny)

We did­n’t need remind­ing of this piece when time came to put this round-up togeth­er – it has stuck with us since Sep­tem­ber, part­ly because it’s so fun­ny. In it Ms Walk­er, whose blog Lady Sinks the Booze has the best name in the busi­ness, attempts in her del­i­cate way to explain how women might go about drink­ing beer with­out com­pro­mis­ing their fem­i­nin­i­ty:

What type of styles do you pre­fer?

In all hon­esty, I have nev­er been tempt­ed to try any beer which strays past the gold­en and into the brown. I feel that a beer in one of the more mas­cu­line shades, for exam­ple a coal black stout or a cig­a­r­il­lo coloured bit­ter, would real­ly be a step too far for a lady. I find that many hostel­ries now sup­ply a tiny mason jar in front of the pump which dis­plays the colour of the beer, which has been a tremen­dous help to me. I car­ry with me in my hand­bag a Dulux paint chart, which I hold against these tiny jars to make my selec­tion. Once a beer pass­es Lemon Punch and heads towards Hazel­nut Truf­fle, it’s off the menu!

Cranes on the waterside in Bristol.

14. Lost & Grounded in Profile

By Matt Cur­tis (@totalcurtis)

This pro­file of both a brew­ery (Lost & Ground­ed) and the city where it oper­ates (Bris­tol) was, of course, espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing to us because we’ve just moved here:

Bris­tol is a very open-mind­ed, mul­ti­cul­tur­al, pro­gres­sive city, so con­se­quent­ly the peo­ple are real­ly inter­est­ed in things that are new, inter­est­ing, and high qual­i­ty,” [Justin] Hawke says. “It’s also a very social­ly con­scious city, so things like local­ism are impor­tant. The geog­ra­phy of the city is perfect—it’s very com­pact, so you can walk near­ly every­where, and there are a vari­ety of neigh­bor­hoods, all with dif­fer­ent vibes.”

15. Provoking Pub Lovers

By Des de Moor (@desdemoor)

In Novem­ber vet­er­an beer writer Des de Moor decid­ed to speak his mind about pubs, with ref­er­ence to his own 40 year expe­ri­ence drink­ing in them:

I reached pub-going age in the sec­ond half of the 1970s. I wasn’t yet out as a gay man, but I was mild­ly uncon­ven­tion­al and decid­ed­ly non-macho. Most pubs in the small Home Coun­ties town where I lived, far from being wel­com­ing and inclu­sive places, were off-lim­its to me and any­one like me, on pain of any­thing from tac­it hos­til­i­ty to actu­al vio­lence… And I was at least white and male. There were very few pubs where women could go on their own and expect to be treat­ed decent­ly, and I can’t think what it must have been like for the small minor­i­ty of non-white peo­ple who formed part of the com­mu­ni­ty at that time. Pubs open­ly dis­play­ing ‘No trav­ellers’ signs could be seen in Eng­land into the 1990s. In the days when large scale indus­try dom­i­nat­ed the econ­o­my, when social con­for­mi­ty was seen as essen­tial to effi­cient cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, pubs were one of the spaces where the work­ing class policed itself.

And that’s it for this year. There were lots of oth­er posts and arti­cles we read and enjoyed, of course – check out the News, Nuggets & Lon­greads archive for a full cat­a­logue – and some blogs are impor­tant as a whole with­out hav­ing any one stand-out post we could point to.

But if there’s any­thing you think it’s crim­i­nal we omit­ted (that you did­n’t write your­self, or edit, or com­mis­sion…) stick a link in the com­ments below.

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