News, Nuggets & Longreads 9 December 2017: SIBA, Spitfire, Shaving Foam

The Bull Inn, Totnes

There’s everything in beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week from the ethics of milk production to fake restaurants.

Let’s get actual news out of the way before we get into the fun stuff. First, as has rumoured for a while, Norwich’s Redwell Brewery has been struggling and formally went into administration on Monday last. But — good news for those facing redundancy in the run up to Christmas — it has now been acquired by a group of saviour investors. Doug Faulkner at the Eastern Daily Press broke the story here.

SIBA, the body that represents (some) small brewers (with increasing controversy) has acquired a majority stake in cask ale distribution company Flying Firkin. This further muddies the waters around SIBA’s role — isn’t it these days a primarily commercial operation in competition with its own members? Their responses to that and other questions are here, in a PDF.(Via the Brewers Journal.)

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) will have a new national chair from April next year as the forthright Colin Valentine hands over control to Jackie Parker, the current vice-chair. (Via Beer Today.)

Detail from the poster for the 2017 Pigs Ear festival.

Also sort of news, we guess: Rebecca Pate has dedicated herself to reviewing  beer festivals and events this year and her notes on the East London CAMRA Pig’s Ear festival are just about still topical as it runs until 23:00 tonight: “[As] a showcase of a huge amount of excellent and interesting cask beers, Pigs Ear demonstrated that cask events can achieve a great atmosphere with limited fuss, provided that the beer selection is worthwhile.”

Shelves at the LCBO

The always thoughtful Canadian writer Jordan St. John has turned his attention to the classic British ales available through outlets of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Generally a blow-by-blow review of a handful of mainstream canned bitters wouldn’t be the most likely candidate for inclusion here but it’s fascinating to have an outsider’s perspective on English beer, and he does turn a nice phrase:

Revisiting Great Britain for purpose, I’m struck by one thing: Of a small number of beers that are available, many of them are caught up in the military symbolism of the past. Is this just a symbol of ex-Empire? If America lasts long enough will there be a Bradley Tank Amber Ale and an F-35 IPA? I appreciate that the Battle of Britain is within living memory, but that brewing should seem to be so bound up in the military tradition seems odd. If Britain survives Brexit, perhaps there will be an Absolute Boy Bitter.


Mark Johnson seems to have unblocked a blockage if the recent run of posts at Beer Compurgation are anything to go by. The one that particularly caught our attention, posted yesterday, was this piece on the pragmatism of ethical consumption:

“I’ll never buy Brixton again” until the choice on the bar is between Brixton IPA and Carling. I guarantee [vocal critics of buy-outs] will not be turning around back out the door and refusing to buy anything. It’s just when the choice is between that Brixton beer and, say, any other damn brewery in the country that does not have ties to Heineken, people know where they would rather spend their money.

From Alec Latham comes an evocation of the English pub in winter:

In winter, when you stand outside the pub looking in through the window, it looks as though it’s raining on the inside. Beads of condensation run down the panes; a sign of inner life. A mist obscures the volume of people inside – but the acoustics betray it.

Fake food at the Shed, Dulwich.

This last link has nothing to do with pubs or beer but has a tangential relevance: for Vice Oobah Butler gamed Trip Advisor to make a non-existent restaurant London’s top-rated dining destination. It says something about hype and the perversity of algorithms and, of course, made us wonder how difficult it might be to similarly cheat RateBeer or Untappd, although the Trip Advisor spokesperson Butler dealt with makes a good point: “Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us.”

Finally, here’s where beer meets Bitcoin: