Everything We Wrote in March 2018: Devon, Michael Jackson, the Good Beer Guide

That was a pretty productive month with more posts than in any other month for some time, perhaps because the snow and cold kept us indoors near the books and the computer.

We start­ed off gen­tly with a bit of Pub Life, observ­ing the dain­ty manoeu­vres that take place around a com­mu­nal pork pie which every­one wants to eat, but nobody wants to be seen to want to eat.

The top­ic of last mon­th’s edi­tion of The Ses­sion was ‘Home­town Glo­ries’ so we sep­a­rat­ed into our con­sti­tu­tion­al parts to think about Waltham­stow and Bridg­wa­ter respec­tive­ly. It does­n’t look as if the host has put togeth­er a round-up of the entries yet but when he does, it’ll be here. (No pres­sure, Gareth.)

We flagged a new favourite book, 1949’s A Scrap­book of Inns, pick­ing out some high­lights, and then came back for anoth­er go at one of them in this post about the mys­te­ri­ous lost style ‘Ash­bur­ton Pop’:

There is a par­tic­u­lar kind of beer brewed at Ash­bur­ton in Devon­shire, very full of fixed air, and there­fore known by the name of Ash­bur­ton pop, which is sup­posed to be as effi­ca­cious in con­sump­tions as even the air of Devon­shire itself…

Brew­Dog have been embroiled in some brouha­ha every oth­er day for the last month, it seems. We had some thoughts on the Pink IPA busi­ness, the reac­tion to which seemed like anoth­er win-win for the Scot­tish behe­moth.

In a big­gish post we looked back on what we learned about Devon’s beer scene while writ­ing our Devon Life col­umn for a year and a half:

If you think brown bit­ter is endan­gered, spend more time in Devon. Time after time we spoke to peo­ple who expressed mild frus­tra­tion at the con­ser­vatism of the coun­ty – at the aver­sion to things pale, bit­ter or aro­mat­ic – and of the need to dial things back and down if they want to sell any of it in local pubs. There are too many poten­tial­ly inter­est­ing beers that feel com­pro­mised, and too many brew­ers who know it.

This was one of our most pop­u­lar posts for the month, though 99.9 per cent of the traf­fic was from one par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal region.

Women in work clothes smiling.
Women pos­ing beside the bot­tling machine at Mitchells & But­lers bot­tling depot, Birm­ing­ham, c.1950.

For Inter­na­tion Wom­en’s Day we put togeth­er a gallery of images of women work­ing in brew­eries and pubs from our col­lec­tion of mid-20th-cen­tu­ry in-house mag­a­zines.

One thing we weren’t very good at last month was tast­ing new beers and writ­ing up the notes. We did get round to try­ing one of the beers sug­gest­ed for us by our Patre­on sub­scribers, though – De Molen Not For Sale Ale, about which we were rather enthu­si­as­tic.

While research­ing the IWD post (above) we came across sev­er­al arti­cles about malt­ing and decid­ed to put togeth­er a gallery of pic­tures from those, too.

Then came a cry of despair from the pub: what’s the point in brew­eries pro­duc­ing decent beer if it’s exact­ly the same as every­body else’s decent beer? What’s your thing?

Butting into some­body else’s mys­tery took us down an inter­est­ing line of research around Bris­tol’s min­ing his­to­ry and take-away-only beer­hous­es. There’s a fur­ther update from the orig­i­nal poster in the com­ments on Insta­gram: “The Rock Tav­ern / Rock House appears around 1899 and dis­ap­pears in the late 1960s. One of the entries is aster­isked to indi­cate it was off-sales.”

There’s a whole lot of pol­i­tics going on in and around SIBA, a lot of it rather hard to fol­low. We piped up to say that, actu­al­ly, we under­stand why small brew­ers might not want medi­um-large brew­ers in their club. (Note: Neil from SIBA popped up on Twit­ter to point out that St Austell aren’t so much “muscling in” (our phrase) as try­ing to get back in, hav­ing been bumped out when they grew too big.)

Watney's Red -- detail from beer mat.

Nick Wheat acquired and uploaded a rare Wat­ney’s train­ing film from the launch of the reviled Red keg bit­ter in 1971 and kind­ly allowed us to share it. Do give it a watch if you have a spare 10–15 min­utes, if only to mar­vel at the impen­e­tra­bly plum­my accents.

Last year CAMRA pub­lished our 2,500-word arti­cle on the ori­gins of the Good Beer Guide, using only the words of those who were there. Now, so every­one can read it, it’s avail­able here on the blog.

We weren’t expect­ing to like that beer, which we did­n’t expect to find in such good con­di­tion, or in that pub, which we did­n’t expect to find on that street, in that part of town. Sur­pris­es all round!

In 1983–84 Pit­field brewed a mild in sup­port of the women of Green­ham Com­mon – was it the first ‘cause’ beer? Check out the com­ments for some oth­er sug­ges­tions, and a telling off.

Illustration: Micheal Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

This was great fun to write, and a great exam­ple of where hav­ing two writ­ers helps rather than hin­ders: some­one asked us what Michael Jack­son would have made of NEIPA so we invent­ed two schol­ars and had them debate it using only his writ­ings for ammo.

For a long time Orval was a beer alone; now, it has com­pa­ny, as a new style is in the process of being born. We’re call­ing it DHBA for now. And here’s a foot­note via Twit­ter:

It was a long month which meant five rounds of News, Nuggets & Lon­greads, includ­ing one that was so full of good stuff we resort­ed to a list of bul­let points at the end to fit it all in:

3 March 2018 – Nor­way, Nitro­gen, Nanas

10 March 2018 – Lemon­drop, Brew­Dog, Hard­knott

17 March 2018 – Lon­don Drinkers & Bris­tol Dock­ers

24 March 2018 – Glit­ter, Ilford, AK

31 March 2018 – Moor­house­’s, Memel, Mel­low­ness

There was also an email newslet­ter (sign up!), lots of Tweets, pho­tos of pubs on Insta­gram, a bit of Face­book stuff, and a three-hour Red­dit AMA.

If you think all this lot is worth any­thing please con­sid­er sign­ing up to sup­port us via Patre­on (where there are also exclu­sive posts for $2+ sub­scribers) or maybe just buy us a pint via Ko-Fi.