News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 February 2018: Lancashire, Lager, Lambic

A central Bristol pub, The White Lion Hotel.

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from northern pubs to northern clubs via Belgium.

First up, a post from Katie at The Snap & The Hiss which offers some insight from behind the bar into what pub­go­ers real­ly want to drink, and how they feel about being con­front­ed by a world of choice:

Mar­ket­ing a prod­uct to peo­ple who already love that prod­uct is about trends and loy­al­ty and sur­pris­es. Find­ing new fans is a more dif­fi­cult endeav­our, espe­cial­ly if you’re so far down your own rab­bit hole that you don’t know what they don’t know. A large per­cent­age of drinkers aren’t invest­ed in the brew­eries you care about/you are. Many peo­ple don’t under­stand what they’re buy­ing. A lot of drinkers aren’t actu­al­ly sure what the dif­fer­ence is between cask and keg. And yes – some drinkers, to our con­stant unfair deri­sion – tru­ly believe that cloudy beers are off. It’s time to admit it: we’re answer­ing the wrong ques­tions about beer.

Four brewers.

Will Hawkes, one of the few bona fide nose-pok­ing jour­nal­ists work­ing in beer, sniffed out the sto­ry that Mahrs of Bam­berg was open­ing a brew­ery in Lon­don. Now, for Imbibe, he has all the fas­ci­nat­ing details, includ­ing the fact that the brew­ery is now called Bray­brooke Beer Co and actu­al­ly end­ed up in Northamp­ton­shire:

It’s the result of a col­lab­o­ra­tion between restau­ra­teurs Luke Wil­son and Cameron Emi­rali, who run 10 Greek Street, dis­trib­u­tor Nick Trow­er of Bier­craft and Stephan Michel, the own­er of Mahr’s Bräu, the craft-beer world’s favourite tra­di­tion­al Ger­man brew­ery.… The result is a keller­bier, an unfil­tered and unpas­teurised amber lager inspired by Mahr’s world-renowned ‘Unge­spun­det’ (known as ‘U’). It’ll be made with Ger­man malt and hops, fer­ment­ed with Mahr’s yeast, and brewed in the tra­di­tion­al way, includ­ing a sin­gle decoc­tion step and four weeks’ lager­ing.

Vintage SIBA sign on a pub in London.

If you’re inter­est­ed in the non-sexy behind-the-scenes busi­ness of the beer indus­try then this post from brew­er Steve Dunk­ley of Beer Nou­veau offers an inter­est­ing take on moves by the Soci­ety of Inde­pen­dent Brew­ers (SIBAinto dis­tri­b­u­tion and whole­sal­ing, and its deep­en­ing con­nec­tions with pub com­pa­nies:

SIBA have cre­at­ed an expen­sive box-tick­ing exer­cise that repli­cates what brew­eries already have to do legal­ly. They’ve removed a route to mar­ket for non-mem­bers, are tak­ing mon­ey from Pub­Cos intent on drop­ping cask from local brew­eries, and are risk­ing fur­ther reduc­ing choice for drinkers whilst also increas­ing prof­its for Pub­Cos at the expense of brew­ers and drinkers alike.… I real­ly can’t see how they can claim to rep­re­sent the inter­ests of inde­pen­dent brew­eries, and I can’t see how CAMRA can con­tin­ue to use Fly­ing Firkin [which SIBA recent­ly acquired] as a rec­om­mend­ed whole­saler whilst it runs the very real and emerg­ing risk of reduc­ing con­sumer choice.

Collage: a fractured pub.

This week saw the release of sta­tis­tics from the British Beer and Pub Asso­ci­a­tion (BBPA) sug­gest­ing that though beer con­sump­tion over­all is up, sales of beer in pubs and bars (the on-trade) was down by 2.4% based on the pre­vi­ous year, equat­ing to some 88 mil­lion few­er pints. Tan­dle­man has some thoughts here: “For those with jobs and ‘just about man­ag­ing’, choos­ing to drink cheap beer at home as pub prices increase on those already wage squeezed, is rapid­ly becom­ing a no brain­er.”

(We’ve said sim­i­lar our­selves: the prob­lem is that nobody has any mon­ey!)

Illustration: lambic blending.

For Beer Advo­cate Gail Ann Williams and Steve Shapiro offer a por­trait of a new wave Bel­gian ‘nano-blendery’. As well as a dis­cus­sion of the cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance of a new blendery charg­ing what by Bel­gian stan­dards are eye-water­ing prices for chal­leng­ing prod­ucts (cin­na­mon Fram­boos!) it’s also full of inter­est­ing details on the process:

Sou­vereyns com­bines three inoc­u­lat­ed wort com­po­nents for all of his beers, rely­ing on rela­tion­ships with three Lam­bic pro­duc­ers: Girardin, Lin­de­mans (in Vlezen­beek), and De Troch (in Wambeek). In par­tic­u­lar, he believes the De Troch influ­ence is key to his fla­vor sig­na­ture. “De Troch is one of those brew­eries that is so under­rat­ed. The Lam­bic [it] makes is phe­nom­e­nal but peo­ple only relate that brew­ery to sweet­ened prod­ucts,” he laments, refer­ring to quick­ly-pro­duced fruit beers which sub­si­dize the old brewery’s lim­it­ed Oude Gueuze pro­duc­tion.

(We’re not quite sure when this piece appeared online but we only noticed it this week.)

We’ll fin­ish with this archive film from the BBC on the boom in north­ern clubs dur­ing the 1960s. It con­tains lots of shots of foam­ing pints.

9 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 February 2018: Lancashire, Lager, Lambic”

  1. I read Katie’s piece yes­ter­day and was amused to watch a guy check the strength of each beer on in my local before choos­ing. I was sur­prised he went for the weak­est, though.

      1. A good old-fash­ioned ses­sion, and he wasn’t in the first flush of youth, shall we say. 😉

        Mind you, strongest beer on was 4.5%, and that’s not very unusu­al there. Always decent beers, though. What makes me laugh is that there’s a reg­u­lar beer on that’s brand­ed on pump­clip and glass as a “craft” beer, yet is by far the most tra­di­tion­al Bit­ter they serve. It’s a very good exam­ple, though.

        1. It’d be only log­i­cal if that was what ‘craft’ meant – skills and tech­niques built up over decades, tac­it knowl­edge passed down from one gen­er­a­tion of arti­san pro­duc­er to the next… Weird how words like ‘craft’ and ‘arti­san’ now tend to sug­gest the oppo­site – from Joe Grundy to Toby Fair­broth­er in a gen­er­a­tion.

          1. On reflec­tion, that’s not very fair on the Toby Fair­broth­ers (rep­re­sent­ing well-cap­i­talised but wild­ly vari­able craft brew­ers) – they only walked through the door held open for them by an ear­li­er gen­er­a­tion of ‘back to the land’ arti­san chancers. Basi­cal­ly, we can blame the hip­pies (Lyn­da Snell, Helen Archer, Kate Aldridge…). (I would include Car­ol Tre­gor­ran, but I’m con­vinced she was Jill’s imag­i­nary friend and every­one else was humour­ing her. More of this in Ambridge than meets the ear – I mean, you don’t real­ly believe there are two Fair­broth­ers? Clas­sic dis­so­cia­tive per­son­al­i­ty, good Fairbrother/bad Fair­broth­er. But I digress.)

    1. A lot of pubs around will not order any beer over about 4% ABV. Their cus­tomers won’t buy it, part­ly because they are used to that lev­el of alco­hol and also because they want to be able to dri­ve home after­wards.

  2. some drinkers … tru­ly believe that cloudy beers are off.

    I know I’ve said this before, but some cloudy beer is cloudy because it’s off (or else because it’s gone on too soon & hasn’t set­tled). Some (most?) of the beers cur­rent­ly being poured cloudy may be ver­i­ta­ble pin­na­cles of the brewer’s art, but until we can elim­i­nate all those pints that are cloudy and are also flat/sour/full of trub, I think we should show a bit of patience to those sus­pi­cious pun­ters. (I have actu­al­ly had a pint of cask that was hazy, flat and sour, and was meant to be all of those things, but that’s anoth­er sto­ry.)

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