It’s Saturday morning and time for us to round up links to all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve found stimulating, entertaining or engaging in the past week, from Huddersfield to West Africa.
But first, it’s pub geek Christmas: Historic England has listed five notable post-war pubs, this being the first fruit of a research project by Dr Emily Cole we first got excited about back in 2015. It was lovely to see not-beer-Twitter get all excited about this story yesterday and we suspect some of these pubs will find themselves a bit busier than usual today. We’re planning a trip to The Centurion for next month.
At Beer Compurgation Mark Johnson reflects on his support for Huddersfield Town, his connection with his father, and how all this become entangled with his affection for one particular pub:
For many fans, football is about the matchday rituals and experience as much as it about the 3pm Saturday kick-off. For my father and I the routine became embedded – the Grove at 1pm. It stopped requiring organisation with others coming from elsewhere. The texts about attendance weren’t necessary. We were in the Grove at 1pm.
You don’t have to be interested in football to enjoy this post which is really about the precariousness of important relationships, whether they are with people or places. (Suggested song pairing: ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles.)
It’s worth reading a pair of articles by veteran beer writer Roger Protz for his tracking of one particularly important question: how committed are the established family brewers to cask ale? St Austell (and its subsidiary Bath Ales) seems very much so; Adnams? Maybe not quite so much:
When I sat down with chairman Jonathan Adnams in the opulent splendour of the Swan Hotel fronting the brewery I checked I heard him correctly when he said early in our conversation: “By 2019 keg production will overtake cask.”
Surely not Adnams falling to keg? What has caused this astonishing turn round?
At Good Beer Hunting Matt Curtis provides a useful summary of a trend we’ve been meaning to engage with for a while: wild beers in the Lambic tradition being produced outside the traditional region, and by new entrants to the market. It’s a highly political business, demanding the deference of foreign brewers, or at least lots of careful diplomacy:
With its Saison à la Provision, Burning Sky is one of a handful of UK breweries to have a mixed fermentation beer in its core lineup. The brewery’s annually released Cuvée is a blend of its own oak-matured beer, with a small percentage of Girardin Lambic added…. [Mark] Tranter won’t be using the term ‘Lambic’ to describe his own spontaneously fermented beers when they are eventually ready…. “There is not yet an approved term from the majority of Lambic and Gueuze producers in Belgium. If and when there is, then we may adopt it—until then, we will resist it,” he says. “We are fortunate enough to be on good terms and even friends with some of these people—they have been more than generous with their knowledge to us, and as such we respect their wishes with regards to the protection of their unique produce.”
A minor quibble, though: the piece seems (accidentally, we think) to suggests that Faro was an innovation of the post-war period, which — though Belgian beer history isn’t our beat — we’re sure it wasn’t.
At Brussels Beer City Eoghan Walsh reports in a pop-up bar that apparently meets a long-held need in the Belgian capital, while making political points along the way:
In early May 2018, behind a jumble of corroded neon signs touting a long-departed Greek restaurant, a group of artists and activists opened something Brussels hadn’t seen for 15 years: a lesbian bar, run by and for the city’s lesbian community…. [The bar] has two menus [which are] identical in all ways except price. On each menu is written: “At Mothers & Daughters this pricing system is based on the documented gender gap in Belgium of 30%. If you have a privileged position that means your wages, and access to opportunities and documented work are positively affected by your gender, sexuality and/or ethnicity, then choose menu B.”
From Craft Beer & Brewing comes a piece from Noland Ryan Deaver on the brewing traditions of Benin in West Africa, with photographs by Abby Wendle:
Today, like every day, Rita and her family have been brewing in the hard-packed clay courtyard behind their cabaret. Rita’s sister, Brigitte, is inside serving the beer, which many locals consider some of the best in the area. A middle-aged man in a faded American T-shirt, tired-looking slacks, and flip-flops steps into the room. He is the day’s first customer, and Brigitte offers him a sample of the day’s batch. Here, as in all cabarets in this small West African nation of Benin, the server always offers each customer a free bowl of beer upon his/her arrival. If the quality is satisfactory, the customer might stay and continue drinking; others take advantage of the tradition and wander from beer house to beer house, drinking free samples all day…. From the corner where the still-fermenting beer sits in plastic buckets and large cooking pots, Brigitte calls out to the customer, “Well-fermented or sweet?”
(Disclosure: we’ve recently begun pitching articles to an editor at CB&B.)
At Splinter there’s a long and much-shared piece on poor pay and conditions in the US craft brewing industry by Dave Infante. It suggests that the ethos of artisanism leaves employees open to exploitation:
The workforces are often small, giving rise to a much-touted familial intimacy that in turn can bring a distinctly familial dysfunction of favoritism and manipulation…. “The wages suck for [craft] brewers unless you’re the head guy,” says Charlie Johnson, a brewer who worked in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years before starting Spontaneous Fermentation Project in California last year. Since it’s a desirable beer job, “people just assume that you will work for dirt cheap.”
We generally shy away from Actually Beer is Good For You articles but Pete Brown’s piece for the Guardian has a great punchline.
And finally here’s something a bit lighter, and just a touch shorter: advice from Kirst Walker on five beers to drink while watching the Royal Wedding. We won’t quote from it because… Well, you’ll see.