News pubs

News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 March 2018: Lemondrop, Brewdog, Hardknott

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, covering everything from Pink IPA to Gothenburgs.

First, a blast of pure raving enthusiasm to cheer everyone up as Steve The Pour Fool Body waxes lyrical about the “new rock-star flower-bomb” hop variety that “makes your beer taste like LemonHeads candy”. It sounds good; we want to try it.

Illustration: "No! Bad dog."

Now on to the problem story of the week, BrewDog’s Pink IPA. We considered providing a round-up of all the ‘hot takes’ but decided instead to point to one really substantial, thoughtful post by Oli (@CraftBeerCommie) guest posting at Craft Queer. It expresses a counter view to ours (“the idea itself doesn’t seem so dreadful even if the execution is terribly clumsy”) and puts this specific incident into a broader context of BrewDog’s behaviour over the years:

Brewdog as a company has a long history of misunderstanding (some might be so bold as to say abusing) social commentary as a marketing tool…. [In] the company’s earlier years, the bad humoured, unapologetically offensive tone and actions of the company’s founder-owners was able to shelter beneath the veil of an appropriated revolutionary language and DIY punk ideology…. After this, however, it seems that, as with so many other companies, Brewdog intentionally courts controversy as a means of marketing itself. The search for an initial, perhaps viral reaction of offence before the secondary “A-ha! Here’s the punchline” is yet again delivered in a manner that relies as much on customer enragement as it does engagement.

For more on this subject check out Alcohol by Volume where the opinions of women in and adjacent to the beer industry have been collated.

Portman Group logo.

At Crema’s Beer Odyssey Emma offers feedback on the meeting she attended at the Portman Group about the regulation of sexist beer packaging along with some thoughts about where things might be going:

When the presentation displayed a complaint about a beer (Wye Valley Brewery’s Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout) which had been reported for breaching section 3.2 (d) of the code (a drink should not… “suggest any association with sexual activity or sexual success”) this was greeted with disbelief by the audience…. [How] could this not be in violation of the code? The answer is that the code in its current form mentions sexual references on beer packaging only within narrow margins: a product should not suggest that it makes the consumer more attractive or that it leads to “sexual success” which is actually quite an unpleasant sounding, masculine phrase. Possibly even a little dated.

The Dean Tavern.Now, on to pubs. First, on his blog Pubmeister Duncan Mackay, one of the pub tickers we profiled in the last issue of CAMRA’s BEER magazine, reports on a rare surviving ‘Gothenburg pub’ in Midlothian:

The Dean Tavern in Newtongrange is one of very few surviving Goths and perhaps the last to operate the principles in so much as it is owned by a Trust that distributes profits back into the community. And, great joy, it now appears for the first time in the Good Beer Guide…. Dating from 1898 but with some more recent additions, it must be the only pub in the Guide with a Temperance Lounge and reflects well the history of the village. Pithead baths were only introduced at the Lady Victoria Colliery as late as 1954.

A pint of stout.

Meanwhile in Lancashire Mark Briggs, AKA Real Ale Up North, went on a crawl of thriving wet-led pubs in Rawtenstall, as reported in his regular local newspaper column:

[There] was good news this week when latest figures released, revealed that despite the number of wet-led pubs having fallen by almost 20 per cent in the last five years, the rate has slowed from 6 per cent in 2014 to 3 per cent in 2017…. So, are our wet-led establishments showing signs of a revival? Is this sector of the market bottoming out? In 2014 there were 1,604 wet-led pub closures. This figure was reduced dramatically in 2016, when 664 called last orders.

Detail from an old brewing log.

For Good Beer Hunting beer historian Brian Alberts reflects at length on the precarious state of many breweries’ archives and records, and the long-term cost of businesses failing to see themselves as part of history in the making:

David Thieme…. lives in Lafayette, Indiana, where his descendants founded the once-prominent Thieme & Wagner Brewing Company. At its height in the 1890s, Thieme & Wagner produced more than 40,000 barrels annually for thirsty Hoosiers. But like many breweries, it never recovered from Prohibition. For more than two years, Thieme has worked to re-establish the brewery’s presence in his Midwestern home, starting with a bar on Main Street, decorated with Thieme & Wagner memorabilia…. Still, Thieme knows far less about the family business than he’d like to…. The brewing logs, meeting minutes, and sales receipts that might help him answer basic historical questions about the brewery—what states it was sold in, for instance—have all been lost.

A page from the 1893 Brewers' Guardian.

Speaking of beer history, here’s something from 1893 that might reward a few minutes of your browsing time: every edition of the British Brewers’ Guardian for that year now unlocked and fully readable at Google Books.

A reminder: if a book you’re sure is in the public domain is not fully viewable at Google Books, just click the link that says ‘Where’s the rest o this book?’ and ask them to review it. We do it all the time and have invariably been successful. You might start with those other editions of the Brewers’ Guardian listed at the bottom of the page linked above, if you fancy a mission.

Dave Bailey in contemplative mood.

Something interesting is going on at HardKnott where co-founder Dave Bailey (no relation) has spent the last week pondering his brewery’s relationship to larger brewers, thinking out loud about what he should or shouldn’t say publicly, and then saying the things he wanted to say very publicly indeed:

With urgency I am calling upon all brewers who are members of SIBA to reject the motion asking for the membership to be enlarged to take in the biggest PLC brewing businesses. If this motion succeeds we can be sure that SIBA will move even further way from the interests of the current membership…. Proxy voting has been made particularly difficult it seems. Couple that with a gagging order on us talking about the issue shows clear intent to subvert the course of this particular democratic process. It is your duty to ensure you get your proxy vote set-up up with urgency…. For this reason I have decided to break ranks and ignore the embargo, hence this blog.

This story about CAMRA’s Revitalisation project in the Herts Advertiser isn’t especially interesting in its own right but take a look at the headline: COULD CAMRA START SUPPORTING LAGERS? A taste, there, of how the mainstream press might interpret this if communications aren’t managed carefully.

And finally, here’s what we would be doing if we were in or near Manchester this weekend:

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9 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 March 2018: Lemondrop, Brewdog, Hardknott”

I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t been more talk about the Northern Monk crowdfunding. Maybe I’ll have to become a patreon so I can force you to write about it (that’s how it works, right?).

Ooh, snarky! Not sure what there is to say about it. We’re generally massively uninterested in crowdfunding. Wrote about it a bit in the abstract here, though.

I wasn’t going for snark, honest! I was hoping for gentle joshing.

As far as NM are concerned the interesting thing (to me anyway) is that they seem to be a company that seems to go about their business relatively quietly, but they’ve easily exceeded their fundraising target. I wonder whether this will mean a raft of other companies following suit.

Sort of, but it’s not that we have any problem with crowdfunding as a practice, it’s just not very interesting to us as a subject.

Indeed. What they’re wanting to fund and their future expansion plans are much more interesting.

The “crawl of thriving wet-led pubs in Rawtenstall” consists of three(!) outlets, none of which sound like they were there ten years ago (two self-styled micropubs and one with the word ‘Tap’ in the name). I’m glad they’re thriving, but I wonder what’s going on with, well, ordinary pubs.

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