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

A pub window.

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

  1. 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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