Beer history

News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 December 2017: Thornbridge, Theatre, Tinsel

This is, obviously, the last Saturday news and links round-up before Christmas, featuring theatres, hot beer and juicy IPAs.

First, a bit of news: in partnership with Pivovar (Sheffield Tap, Pivni, &c.) Derbyshire brewery Thornbridge is to open ten bars across the UK. They’re a sensible, fairly cautious bunch and this reads to us as a vote of confidence in the health of the UK craft beer scene.

The George Inn, Southwark.
Illustration from Walks In London Vol. 1, c.1896.

As part of a project on the history of British theatre Andy Kesson gives us notes on the role of inns in the days before Shakespeare:

When we think of Elizabethan London playhouses, most of us think of an amphitheatre: big, round and outdoors. Sometimes we might also think of indoor playing spaces, particularly at the Blackfriars: small, rectangular and indoors… [But inns] are rarely included in accounts of the playhouses at all. This, I’m going to suggest, would have surprised Elizabethans, who may well have considered the inns as the primary, most prestigious playing houses in town. As we shall see, figures as diverse as the Queen’s Men, Richard Tarlton’s horse and Satan himself all sought access to performance at the inns.

(Via @intoxproject/@andykesson)

Valkyries by Lorenz Frølich, 1895.

Christine Wade reports on her attempts at mulling ale and uses that as the starting point for a consideration of Jólöl and the role of Viking women in brewing and serving beer:

[Bowls] are often found in Viking furnished burial. These are usually declared to be female graves, and according to Shelia Raven, their presence in these burials, along with other ‘luxury’ vessels associated with liquids, ‘may either signify a wealthy woman’s role as hostess in the feasting hall, or alternatively her status as a woman of wealth and refinement in having at her disposal a personal “washing set”’. Bowls of any kind might have been viewed as an important status symbol for the Viking woman. Raven argued that items related to the serving of liquids in so-called female burials, emphasized the importance of women’s role in hospitality and feasting as well as their wealth. And indeed, one of the most common depictions in Viking art is ‘that of a female figure presenting a warrior with a drinking horn.’

SOURCE: David Bruce.

We wrote about David Bruce’s role as the founder of the Firkin brewpub chain in the 1980s in Brew Britannia but didn’t look much into his role in kickstarting the American craft beer movement or his ongoing involvement in brewing since. Fortunately, Glynn Davis at Beer Insider has, producing a fascinating profile of Bruce as solo artist which is full of great details:

In 1992 he returned to the US having sold off the Firkin chain in 1988 for £6.6 million, which left him with £4.6 million after paying off the loans, and he recognised that craft brewing was really taking off. He met with Englishman abroad Richard Wrigley of the Manhattan Brewing Company and found out the business was for sale – for a mere $1 but with $2 million of debt… He was dissuaded from investing by Manhattan’s young brewer Garrett Oliver who instead suggested sticking his money in Brooklyn Brewery – which he was involved with alongside Steve Hindy and Tom Potter.

A pub window decorated for Christmas.

Kirst Walker, our Golden Pints best blogger of 2017, caps the year off with this beautifully observed, wonderfully written evocation of the pub at Christmas, when it is enlivened by a cast of special guest stars:

The man who never speaks and is either called Dave or Dan is partnered by a vivacious lady with baubles on her ears and three inch red nails, who knows everyone by name but still calls them all love. They’re on their way to Spoons to meet up with their friends who they know from northern soul nights and they thought they’d pop in – is your mum alright love, she’s been poorly hasn’t she? How’s your Melanie, is she still at Iceland?

Illustration: 'Citrus burst'.

The never-ending conversation about New England India pale ale (NEIPA) got a prod with the poker this week when Mark Dredge shared an article he wrote for Ferment magazine. It’s an excellent piece not least because it abandons the customary beer-writerly assertions of authority in favour of a frank expression of bewilderment — why do I keep buying these beers? What are people getting from them that I’m not?

It prompted some spirited but civilised debate between those who believethe NEIPA is here to stay and in the process of changing British beer, and those who suspect it is a daft fad. We’ve got a response brewing ourselves but that’ll have to wait until after Christmas.  In the meantime, we enjoyed this from the ever-thoughtful Dave S at Brewing in a Bedsitter:

I get cognitive dissonance – do I sip at this, like a big sweet stout, or swig it, like a hoppy pale ale? Should this beer be challenging? Comforting? Refreshing? What? Maybe a lot of people don’t get this and enjoy appreciatively sipping their way through a pale and fruity beer. Maybe people with sweeter teeth and stronger livers than me are knocking it back like juice. Either way, I personally don’t really get enough out of the experience to justify the price tag that often, let alone the sort of planning and queuing that seems to be involved in getting hold of the most sought-after examples.

Finally, there’s this interesting development out of CAMRA in the wake of recent discussion over sexism in beer:

And that’s it for now. Have a great Christmas, one and all.


Ray & Jessica

2 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 December 2017: Thornbridge, Theatre, Tinsel”

Completely agree with that take on the Thornbridge bars news. Encouraging news for the crafty sector (which I still think has potential for significant further growth).

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