News pubs

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

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 (SIBA) into 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 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 February 2018: Lancashire, Lager, Lambic”

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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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