Twenty-First Century Brewpub

Sign: "MICRO BREWERY"

A ver­sion of this post first appeared in the autumn 2017 edi­tion of the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s quar­ter­ly mag­a­zine BEER and is repro­duced here with per­mis­sion.

To brewers, publicans and drinkers, there is undoubtedly something almost irresistible about the idea of making, serving and drinking beer within the same four walls.

If you’d been around three hun­dred years ago and ordered a quart of beer the chances are you’d be served some­thing brewed metres away from where you drank it. The brew­hous­es weren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly on dis­play but any­one who has ever vis­it­ed the Blue Anchor in Hel­ston, Corn­wall, will know how a brew­ery makes itself known even from behind closed doors – with tum­bling steam that car­ries the aro­ma of malt and hops. It seems to make the beer taste bet­ter and cer­tain­ly adds to the romance.

Then, in the 18th and 19th cen­turies, indus­tri­al brew­ing devel­oped, with pro­duc­tion becom­ing ever more cen­tralised in ever big­ger facil­i­ties. By the mid-20th cen­tu­ry a hand­ful of big brew­ing con­cerns were oper­at­ing across the coun­try and the num­ber of ‘home­brew hous­es’ had dwin­dled to few­er than ten.

But in the 1980s, as part of the post-CAM­RA real ale boom with its rejec­tion of the indus­tri­al and mass-pro­duced, the ‘brew­pub’ was invent­ed. The pri­ma­ry dri­ver in that was a brew­ery in the base­ment of a South Lon­don pub, The Goose & Firkin, set up by David and Louise Bruce in 1979. They opened sev­er­al more pubs with their own brew­eries in the decade that fol­lowed, most­ly in Lon­don. The Firkin chain made the Bruces’ for­tune as they sold strong beer brewed on site to pubs rammed with the type of cus­tomer hap­py to pay a lit­tle more for some­thing tru­ly unique.

SOURCE: David Bruce.

The nation­al brew­ing firms, fly­ing in the face of their own big-and-cen­tral ten­den­cy, copied this approach and launched their own chains. For exam­ple, Grand Met­ro­pol­i­tan (incor­po­rat­ing the hat­ed Watney’s) put a young woman called Kim Tay­lor in charge of a base­ment brewk­it at The Orange in Pim­li­co in Lon­don. This was such a suc­cess that they opened four more under Taylor’s super­vi­sion, includ­ing one in Northamp­ton. Whit­bread and Allied joined in too until, by 1986, there were 76 new brew­pubs oper­at­ing up and down the coun­try.

The Bruces’ influ­ence spread far beyond the UK, how­ev­er. Char­lie Papaz­ian, one of the god­fa­thers of the Amer­i­can craft beer move­ment, has described the Firkin mod­el as the direct inspi­ra­tion for ‘the world­wide brew­pub rev­o­lu­tion’. At the 1982 con­fer­ence of the Amer­i­can Home­brew­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion David Bruce gave a talk enti­tled ‘The Eng­lish Brew­pub and the Resur­gence of the Small, Local Brew­ery in Eng­land and Amer­i­ca’. This, as Papaz­ian recalls, ‘elec­tri­fied the audi­ence’ and with­in a year the first wave of Amer­i­can brew­pubs had appeared. There are now almost 2,000 brew­pubs in the US.

In Ger­many, too, the avail­abil­i­ty of smart-look­ing, com­pact, often semi-auto­mat­ed brew­ing equip­ment led to a boom in brew­pubs, espe­cial­ly in those parts of the coun­try where the native small brew­ing tra­di­tion had died away through con­sol­i­da­tion and indus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. In places such as Stuttgart and Ham­burg you will find vast, folksy din­ing rooms built around gleam­ing ves­sels. They gen­er­al­ly serve up remark­ably sim­i­lar, often quite unex­cit­ing beer, which nonethe­less offers an alter­na­tive to big region­al or nation­al brands. Where those tend to be yel­low, fair­ly bland, and per­fect­ly clear, Ger­man brew­pub prod­uct often comes in a vari­ety of shades from black to gold, and is often hazy – good for the diges­tion, the blurb implies. Whole­some and nat­ur­al. In France and Spain, too, most cities have one or two brew­pubs, which dis­tin­guish them­selves by offer­ing rus­tic British, Bel­gian and Ger­man style beers as an anti­dote to the stan­dard big brand lagers sold else­where.

A red-brick city centre building in Manchester.
The site of Mash & Air as it looked in 2014.

In Britain, how­ev­er, the 1980s brew­pub boom with­ered away. The Bruces sold up and Allied took the Firkin brand nation­al, suck­ing away its charm in the process, and wind­ing it up at the end of the 1990s. The Whit­bread and Grand Met chains fold­ed too. The orphaned brewk­its found sec­ond lives in the blos­som­ing micro­brew­eries of this century’s boom but the brew­pubs revert­ed to being sim­ply… well, pubs.

At the same time, a new wave emerged, dis­tin­guished by its rejec­tion of home­ly pub-like fea­tures and its embrace of ‘brew­ery con­di­tioned’ beer – that is, not CAM­RA-approved real ale. Brew­mas­ter Alas­tair Hook, best known as the founder of Mean­time Brew­ing, made a splash in the late 1990s when he helped restau­ra­teur Oliv­er Pey­ton estab­lish Mash & Air in Man­ches­ter. Inspired by Amer­i­can brew­pubs more than any Eng­lish tra­di­tion it occu­pied a for­mer indus­tri­al build­ing and put sexy space-age brewk­it at lit­er­al­ly the very cen­tre. Through heavy duty port­holes behind the bar drinkers and din­ers could see the Kubrick-esque bright orange fer­ment­ing ves­sels where the peach beer or black­cur­rant porter they were drink­ing was born and bred. Writ­ing in 1997 jour­nal­ist Peter Hay­don sug­gest­ed that this was some­thing dis­tinct from a brew­pub:

The lat­ter is a pub with a brew­ery attached. The brew­ery may or may not be vis­i­ble… A bou­tique brew­ery, how­ev­er, is an inte­gral part of the pub. Pos­si­bly made of steel or clad in cop­per, the visu­al appeal of tra­di­tion­al brew­ery plant is incor­po­rat­ed into the struc­ture of the premis­es, in such a way as to form a cen­tre­piece or add to the ambi­ence.

A Lon­don branch of Mash lat­er opened under the name Mash 2 and the high pro­file of the Pey­ton-Hook project, along with its point­ed­ly mod­ern approach, sure­ly inspired what is now the longest sur­viv­ing chain of brew­pubs in the UK, Zero Degrees. It was found­ed in South Lon­don in 2000 by entre­pre­neur Dipam Patel start­ing with a sin­gle bar-brew­ery in Black­heath. Despite the Vic­to­ri­an gen­til­i­ty of the sur­round­ing neigh­bour­hood the bar itself was almost bru­tal­ly indus­tri­al, all grey and pol­ished met­al, rough sur­faces and gird­ers. The brewk­it faced on to the street through the huge pic­ture win­dow adver­tis­ing to the world that this was some­thing spe­cial. Also dif­fer­ent was its empha­sis on Ger­man-style lagers, set­ting it apart from the world of real ale which was by then enter­ing com­fort­able mid­dle age and dis­tinct­ly lack­ing in youth appeal. Per­haps unsur­pris­ing­ly it was pop­u­lar with crowds of twen­ty-some­things who on any giv­en week­end evening could be found spilling out of the door­way in their best shirts and club­bing clothes. In the decade that fol­lowed the chain expand­ed at a rather sen­si­ble rate, gain­ing branch­es in Bris­tol, Read­ing and Cardiff.

Zero Degrees brewhouse, Bristol.

Zero Degrees was, how­ev­er, a rare excep­tion in a field of fail­ures. Both branch­es of Mash closed with­in a decade of open­ing. Anoth­er 1998 open­ing, Bünker in Covent Gar­den, limped on to 2009. Meantime’s own brew­pub, the Old Brew­ery in Green­wich, looked mag­nif­i­cent and prompt­ed plen­ty of cov­er­age, but that man­aged only five years before brew­ing ceased and it was sold on. Oth­er ven­tures have been announced, brewk­it even being pur­chased and installed, only to be scup­pered by bureau­cra­cy, cost and plan­ning issues. Occa­sion­al­ly what starts as a brew­pub morphs into a ‘prop­er’ brew­ery at the first chance – this is exact­ly how the now fet­ed Beaver­town began, in the base­ment of founder Logan Plant’s bar­be­cue restau­rant in Hack­ney, east Lon­don.

Brew Wharf was part of the Vinop­o­lis restau­rant-bar com­plex at Bor­ough Mar­ket which oper­at­ed from 2005 until 2014. Phil Lowry was part of the brew­ing team there and now runs his own brew­ery, Break­wa­ter, in Dover, Kent. We asked him why brew­pubs seem to strug­gle in Britain while they thrive else­where:

Fun­da­men­tal­ly, this is a small island where real estate is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly expen­sive com­pared to oth­er places like Amer­i­ca and Ger­many. There’s a gen­er­al lack of suit­able spaces, too – they’re often too small, or already in use more prof­itably as shops or restau­rants. With a brew­pub, you’re basi­cal­ly putting a man­u­fac­tur­ing set­up into a valu­able retail space. Brew­pubs work in the US for var­i­ous rea­sons. The tax frame­work there is much more gen­er­ous than in the UK for one thing. There are incen­tives for brew­eries and brew­pubs to open where once there was a sus­pi­cion around busi­ness­es that brew and sell alco­hol. Amer­i­can civic bod­ies see brew­ing as OK – as an asset to a com­mu­ni­ty – where­as here, you get no help or sup­port. Open­ing Break­wa­ter was a frus­trat­ing edu­ca­tion in the civic machin­ery.

He also con­firmed our sus­pi­cion that brew­ing with cus­tomers hov­er­ing around has its down­sides:

At Brew Wharf it used to be prac­ti­cal­ly a full-time job in its own right to han­dle the cus­tomers who want­ed an impromp­tu tour or to ask ques­tions. It’s much safer to get the brew done and out of the way before the cus­tomers arrive, and to keep it behind glass. I don’t just mean pro­tect­ing them from the indus­tri­al process – I mean pro­tect­ing the brew­ery from them.

In oth­er words, oper­at­ing a brew­ery in a place where food and drink are also con­sumed is a risky busi­ness. When we inter­viewed him in 2013 David Bruce recalled that in the Goose & Firkin cig­a­rette ends from the gents toi­let would fall down into the damp base­ment brew­ery forc­ing him to scram­ble to cov­er the ves­sels. By the same token, a brew­ery per­ma­nent­ly on dis­play has to look spot­less or risk dam­ag­ing cus­tomer con­fi­dence. Even a mop and buck­et or a cloth left in the wrong place can give a bad impres­sion. In oth­er words, a work­ing brew­ery can­not afford to look too much like a work­ing brew­ery and requires a cer­tain lev­el of pre­tence. Pete Hugh­es, AKA ‘Swazi Pete’, head brew­er for a chain of 17 Brew­house & Kitchen pubs from Chester to Portsmouth, acknowl­edges this ten­sion diplo­mat­i­cal­ly:

The con­stant scruti­ny means that only good brew­ers can cope. We do have to make sure that the brew­ery is always look­ing spot­less and that we’re per­son­al­ly well pre­sent­ed at all times but any good brew­ery should be the same behind closed doors too.

This per­haps explains why it’s so rare, in our expe­ri­ence, to actu­al­ly see any brew­ing under­way on vis­its to brew­pubs. The kit usu­al­ly sits there, often behind glass, bright and clean but slum­ber­ing, its work com­plet­ed long before the doors opened to admit the lunchtime crowd.

At Zero Degrees in Bris­tol the brew­ery is a dom­i­nant phys­i­cal pres­ence even when dor­mant form­ing a back­drop to the bar – an art instal­la­tion in pol­ished met­al. Dur­ing ser­vice it is fur­ther enhanced by ever-chang­ing ambi­ent lights which turn it green, then pur­ple, then yel­low, always draw­ing the eye to the space-age sur­faces and end­less pipework. It’s so cold and so clean it feels almost eerie, like a set from Doc­tor Who lit by Mario Bava.

Zero Degrees, Bristol.

Across the city, at the Brew­house & Kitchen in Cotham, the vibe is warmer – more like one of those Ger­man brew­pubs but with touch­es here and there of the 21st cen­tu­ry craft beer bar. Again, the brewk­it had been put to bed on both of our vis­its, thus resem­bling a muse­um exhib­it more than a liv­ing brew­ery. Still, there is some­thing pleas­ing about the sight of bur­nished cop­per and malt and hops in jars and sacks – a sense of a con­nec­tion to the brew­ing process, of siz­zle to go with the steak.

Cast­ing our minds back to the ear­ly days of our own seri­ous inter­est in beer we remem­ber being par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by brew­pubs for this very rea­son. Quite as much as the­atre there is edu­ca­tion to be found there: where else can you look at a mur­al depict­ing the brew­ing process (a com­mon dec­o­ra­tive touch in such places) then com­pare it to the real life brew­house, before tak­ing a sip of the prod­uct itself. And for begin­ners the styl­is­tic diver­si­ty of those prod­ucts can be help­ful, too. Tap East at the West­field Shop­ping Cen­tre, for exam­ple, is one of few places in Lon­don reg­u­lar­ly serv­ing dark mild, brewed a few steps from the bar. (Dis­clo­sure: Jes­si­ca’s lit­tle broth­er works there.) And Zero Degrees makes one of a hand­ful of dark lagers in reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion in the UK, along­side acces­si­ble but inter­est­ing fruit beers and IPAs.

Hops on display at Brewhouse & Kitchen in Bristol.

Acces­si­ble but inter­est­ing – if brew­pubs have a niche in the UK, that’s it. The crowd at Tap East, at the Brew­house & Kitchen in Bris­tol, or at the Zero Degrees bars we’ve vis­it­ed, is not made up of the kind of seri­ous beer geek you might find at a spe­cial­ist mul­ti-tap craft beer bar or real ale pub. Rather, they tend to be peo­ple of var­i­ous ages out in groups, drawn by the nov­el­ty of the sur­round­ings and the easy-to-sell premise: ‘They make their own beer, you know.’ Phil Lowry again:

The type of peo­ple that enjoy brew­pubs are what I would call slow­ly adven­tur­ous, float­ing past rather than being seri­ous­ly into beer. They’re ‘nor­mals’. Let’s not for­get, it’s easy on Twit­ter or wher­ev­er – just like in pol­i­tics – to mis­take a hard­core of loud indi­vid­u­als as being rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the wider world, when they’re not. There are a lot of peo­ple who want a beer with a bit of some­thing extra on the side, whether that’s nice food, or it being local, or what­ev­er.

Phil has a lot of admi­ra­tion for Zero Degrees in par­tic­u­lar. To obses­sives (like us) it some­times seems like a rel­ic of the Brit­pop era, despite recent bar makeovers and rebrand­ing, but Phil says: “They’ve stayed on tar­get, not chased the zeit­geist, and I think that’s to be applaud­ed.”

From the brew­ers’ per­spec­tive there are advan­tages too. “Brew­pubs are great because the beer is as fresh as it can be,” sug­gests Pete Hugh­es. “The brew­er has direct con­trol of the beer from grain to glass.” And at the Sheffield Tap, in the gor­geous­ly ren­o­vat­ed Edwar­dian refresh­ment rooms at Sheffield sta­tion, the prod­ucts of the onsite Tapped Brew­house sup­ple­ment the already wide range of draught beers on offer, and at rel­a­tive­ly com­pet­i­tive prices too.

Iron­i­cal­ly, giv­en Phil Lowry’s obser­va­tions about prop­er­ty prices, devel­op­ers increas­ing­ly semm to see the val­ue in brew­pubs as they add ‘soul’ to build­ing projects and gen­er­ate pos­i­tive PR. Tap East was a devel­op­er-led ini­tia­tive, for exam­ple, and in south Lon­don the instal­la­tion of a micro­brew­ery to be run by the Laine’s chain is a key part of plans for the restora­tion of the Fel­low­ship Inn, a colos­sal, semi-derelict inter-war pub on the Belling­ham estate.

The water has been mud­died in recent years by the emer­gence of brew­ery tap rooms, a more or less alien con­cept in the UK where licens­ing laws, until recent­ly, made them dif­fi­cult to set up. They aren’t pubs – most open only spo­rad­i­cal­ly, occu­py­ing bare makeshift spaces, in the shad­ow of seri­ous brew­ing kit designed for heavy use rather than as orna­men­ta­tion – but the appeal is sim­i­lar. In Totnes in Devon the New Lion tap­room amounts to lit­tle more than a pic­nic table or two and opens for a few hours after brew­ing is done for the day, but there is some­thing mag­i­cal about drink­ing a fresh pint of Pan­dit IPA served by one of the brew­ing team as evening light cuts through the steam ris­ing from still-warm, just-cleaned brew­ing equip­ment.

Whether the UK will ever have as many brew­pubs as Amer­i­ca, or whether all of the cur­rent crop will sur­vive, remains to be seen. Still, they keep com­ing, with a slew of new open­ings in the last year and more on the way. The Lon­don Beer Guide keeps the most accu­rate hands-on count of Lon­don brew­eries and, at the time of writ­ing, it reck­ons there are 23 brew­pubs oper­at­ing in the cap­i­tal alone.

16 thoughts on “Twenty-First Century Brewpub”

  1. Crofter’s Rights, AKA the Croft was, when I arrived in Bris­tol, the Bris­tol Brew­house and you could smell the mash quite dis­tinct­ly some­times. I was­n’t a mas­sive beer geek back then but I remem­ber the beer they brewed on the premis­es as being not very good. A def­i­nite taste of not quite ful­ly fer­ment­ed home­brew about it.
    Small Bar Bris­tol had some kit in it for a while but I don’t think it was ever used in anger.

  2. There will always be a mar­ket for brew­pubs, but I don’t see them becom­ing as much of a thing as in the US for sev­er­al rea­sons.

    Num­ber one is that there’s var­i­ous wrin­kles in the US legal regime that mas­sive­ly favour brew­pubs, but dis­crim­i­nate against small brew­eries sell­ing nation­wide. Num­ber two is the eco­nom­ics – we have lots of 5–10bbl micro­brew­eries that are sell­ing beer at almost no prof­it, it’s hard for a 1–2bbl brew­pub kit to com­pete on price with buy­ing in. It becomes more inter­est­ing to have a cen­tral 5–10bbl brew­ery feed­ing 10–20 tied pubs, and I think we’ll see a lot more of that – and I think the indus­try would be rather health­i­er if there was more of those small brewery+pub groups. B&K are inter­est­ing as in some ways they are a suc­ces­sor to Firkin – but as the name sug­gests are more food-led, and only tend to be found in loca­tions where New World Trad­ing will be near­by sell­ing ordi­nary bit­ter for £4.50 a pint. That helps to over­come the dis­ben­e­fits of small scale – Tap East sell­ing mild with few of those nasty expen­sive hops and not too much duty is anoth­er approach that works.

    Anoth­er fac­tor is that there’s just not enough skilled brew­ers to go round, and brew­ing 1–2 times a week on a small kit is not huge­ly attrac­tive to most of the peo­ple who are any good. I know two brew­pubs that gave up because they could­n’t get a brew­er – although in one case it was also con­nect­ed with the reg­u­lars los­ing faith in the home­brew, and it was quite a “ticky” pub where­as a brew­pub needs peo­ple to drink some core brews.

    1. I think qq hits a cou­ple of points spot on, one of which I had­n’t real­ly thought about, get­ting a good brew­er for 1–2 brews per week. The tax here in the US is a neg­li­gi­ble part of the cost of the final pint, yeast actu­al­ly being the major fac­tor for a very small brew­pub. A local restau­rant decid­ed to start brew­ing, and with a small 750 sq ft addi­tion put in a 2 bbl brew kit. Both the own­er and man­ag­er are part of one of the local home­brew clubs, so no prob­lem with hav­ing a brew­er avail­able. And I go out on a vol­un­teer basis (OK, I get free beer) to help out. And there are a num­ber of places I know that have uti­lized home­brew­ers, just from my club, who work part-time from their reg­u­lar day jobs to brew one or two days per week.

  3. I like brew­pubs. I always have. First one I knew was the Fox and Newt in Leeds, a Whit­bread brew­pub that was a very ear­ly response to the Firkin rev­o­lu­tion, and then the Lass O’Gowrie in Man­ches­ter. Beer was­n’t real­ly all that good at the start (malt extract rather than full mash, from mem­o­ry) but it was dif­fer­ent, back in the days when vari­ety was almost more impor­tant than quan­ti­ty – which was the real secret behind the 80s brew­pubs, I think. Next I actu­al­ly found the Firkins, then the Firkins found me as the chain expand­ed. At much the same time, I found the Four Orig­i­nals, par­tic­u­lar­ly Ma Par­does – and wow, the beer was much bet­ter. Then the Bea­con at Sedge­ley, home of Dark Ruby Mild. Heav­en.
    On for­eign trips, I found Ger­man and Amer­i­can ones. To be hon­est, I nev­er found any­thing that much dif­fer­ent in the US ones, same sort of beers as every­where else, although I have a very soft spot for the Moat Moun­tain Smoke­house and Brew­ery in North Con­way, NH, but I had huge fun in Hei­del­berg in par­tic­u­lar in Ger­many.
    Of the more mod­ern ones, I real­ly like Zero Degrees. OK, it real­ly helps that the Cardiff one is right across the road from the Mil­le­ni­um Sta­di­um so ide­al for a pre-match pint and piz­za, but sev­er­al of the beers are pret­ty decent.
    But the com­mon thread for me is that brew­pubs only now make sense if the beer qual­i­ty is top notch; the nov­el­ty alone of a brew­ery out the back isn’t enough. In the 80s, most pubs served the same beers day in, day out, year in, year out. And many towns would only have the beers from 2 or 3 brew­eries gen­er­al­ly avail­able. ANY vari­ety was wel­come.
    Now good beer is so much eas­i­er to find, only those beers worth drink­ing in their own right make any sense for any brew­ery, and there’s no free ride just for hav­ing brewk­it on dis­play.

    1. I go the oppo­site way actu­al­ly – for as long as I remem­ber (2000s onwards…) I’ve thought of brew­pubs as hav­ing gen­er­al­ly worse beer than a decent reg­u­lar pub and been cagey about going to them. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, if the beer’s any good then should­n’t they be able to sell it to more than one pub?

      I’d guess that the big dif­fer­ence in the US is the three-tier dis­tri­b­u­tion thing, mean­ing that there’s more of a bar­ri­er to pre­vent a brew­pub from becom­ing a nor­mal brew­ery that hap­pens to be attached to a pub. That and maybe a bit less com­mer­cial pres­sure on space, once you get out­side of the biggest cities.

      1. Don’t think we’re real­ly dis­agree­ing – I’m say­ing that in the past, just vari­ety allowed them to get away with poor beer, but that’s not enough any more.

  4. I agree with Nick that the essen­tial appeal of the new wave of brew­eries in the 1970s was nov­el­ty and vari­ety. For exam­ple, I recall being dis­tinct­ly unim­pressed by the beer in the Mason Arms, South Leigh, Oxford­shire (the brew­ery was in oper­a­tion from 1974 to 1982) and the Miskin Arms, Pon­ty­clun, Glam­or­gan (in oper­a­tion from 1976 to 1979) – admit­ted­ly, the beer in the Miskin Arms was both brewed from malt extract and served under pres­sure. Nei­ther pub war­rant­ed a return vis­it from me. I had a rather bet­ter expe­ri­ence with the new brew­eries which weren’t home brew pubs: the beer from the Litch­bor­ough Brew­ery, for exam­ple, though fil­tered, was fair­ly palat­able if unex­cep­tion­al when served with­out pres­sure (I recall col­lect­ing a cask or two from the brew­ery for the South West Lon­don CAMRA beer fes­ti­val at Wim­ble­don baths in 1975). Pollard’s of Stock­port was quite agree­able if lack­ing any real­ly dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter; I remem­ber think­ing how sim­i­lar it was to Wilson’s Bit­ter. (As an aside, when and why did home-brew pubs become “brew­pubs” in com­mon par­lance? In the case of the Good Beer Guide, it was the 1990 edi­tion; I had rather assumed that the change was a result of Amer­i­can influ­ence, but per­haps it wasn’t if David Bruce was talk­ing about brew­pubs as ear­ly as 1982. What­ev­er the rea­son, it seems a pity for the tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish term to have fall­en large­ly into dis­use.)

    1. John – we reck­on it was a result of ‘home-brew’ becom­ing a bit of a dirty word after the boom of the late 1970s and ear­ly 1980s, which end­ed in about 1986. Tra­di­tion­al or not, using ‘home-brew’ to refer to beer that’s brewed in a brew­ery, even a tiny one, rather than in some­one’s house, does end up being a bit con­fus­ing in prac­tice. The OED reck­ons it orig­i­nates in the US.

  5. Very inter­est­ing. No idea there were so many in Lon­don. It has me pon­der­ing where West and Dry­gate up here sit. Some­where else per­haps as they are brew­pubs and brew­ery taps, except tap does­n’t real­ly cov­er it; and for both the brew­ery is much big­ger than the pub (nei­ther of which are small). More like the onsite hostel­ry of a tra­di­tion­al Ger­man local brew­ery (in West­’s case, hard­ly sur­pris­ing.)

    (Two bits of triv­ia from the past: in the 90s, Coat­bridge was home to an odd­i­ty, a ten-pin bowl­ing alley brew­pub. And the Rover’s Return in Cor­rie was at one time a brew­pub, home to a base­ment brew­ery.)

  6. I’ve always been put off by my mem­o­ries of Whit­bread­’s malt extract Dog and Par­rot brew pub in New­cas­tle. The Wal­lop was rea­son­able but tast­ed a lot like Geordie home brew kit.

  7. The bowl­ing alley brew­eries were a small chain estab­lished by Bass,there was one in Cardiff where brew­ing of a pale ‘larg­er­ish’ beer took place infrequently,a take over of the busi­ness by a mul­ti­ple pub oper­a­tor meant that,due to the beer orders,the brew­eries had to close as pub oper­a­tors over a cer­tain size could not have brew­eries. The Firkin brew pub chain also ceased brew­ing when it became part of,I think,Pubmaster. The ben­e­fi­cia­ries were small brew­eries who were able to source good qual­i­ty kit at good prices.

    1. Punch took over the Firkin chain when it acquired a swath of Allied pubs, and closed them because own­ing brew­eries would have brought it under the remit of the Beer Orders.

  8. There’s often a small-scale char­ac­ter to brew-pub beers that is off-putting, IME. I think it takes reg­u­lar brew­ing at a cer­tain capac­i­ty to get the bal­ance of flavours right and con­sis­tent­ly so. I was dis­ap­point­ed when one of my locals in N Lon­don recent­ly began to brew its core range onsite in the cel­lar rather than buy­ing it in from an excel­lent local micro. The qual­i­ty just isn’t as good, and there are so many very good micros around now, it’s not nec­es­sary.

  9. If you’d been around three hun­dred years ago and ordered a quart of beer the chances are you’d be served some­thing brewed metres away from where you drank it … Then, in the 18th and 19th cen­turies, indus­tri­al brew­ing devel­oped …”

    Just to be Mr His­tor­i­cal­ly Picky, that’s true only out­side Lon­don. Indus­tri­al brew­ing in Lon­don was well on the way by 1700. And in large parts of Eng­land even 80 years ago you would have found hun­dreds of home-brew pubs – the Black Coun­try, for exam­ple.

    1. We packed a lot of stuff we did­n’t have the words to deal with into ‘the chances are’. Sup­pose we could have unpacked that a bit more in this online ver­sion.

Comments are closed.