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News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 May 2018: Hill Farmstead, Fried Eggs, Fullers

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from interviews to historical ponderings, via a pub crawl in Stafford.

A bit of news to begin: Robinson’s of Stockport has decided to change the branding of its successful golden ale Dizzy Blonde after publicly resisting the idea earlier this year:

Dizzy Blonde has been the focal point of the sexism debate in the beer industry. Despite the fact that Dizzy Blonde is a much-loved brand by many, we don’t have our heads in the sand. It is time to acknowledge that the presentation is not universally accepted by a society that strives for, and celebrates, equality.

A brain.

In an interview for the Morning Advertiser by James Beeson influential American brewer Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead has spoken about mental health and attitudes to alcohol in the world of craft beer:

“I was doing 12 to 14-hour days and because I live 15ft away from the brewery, there was very little decompression. I would typically drink too much in order to artificially decompress, and then I wouldn’t sleep well. Then when I woke up I would still be tired, so then I would drink as much caffeine as I could, which would then accelerate an overall sense of anxiety. It was a vicious circle.”

(Footnote: Mr Hill has since complained about this story, apparently surprised that Mr Beeson identified the most interesting parts of a broader conversation and shaped it into a narrative. Which is, of course, what proper journalists do.)

A taster flight of beers with tiny stem glasses and receipt.

It’s #BeeryLongreads2018 day, in case you’d forgotten, and Lisa Grimm got in early with this reflection on changing attitudes to craft beer in the US, manufactured scarcity, and the popularity of ‘sours’ vs IPAs:

While 10 years ago it would not have been remarkable to see people lining up to buy Goose Island’s Bourbon County Breakfast Stout, it’s now something that sits on supermarket shelves. Some of this is, one presumes, in response to In-Bev’s purchase of Goose Island; one wouldn’t want to be seen drinking a Secret Macrobeer, because Craft Beer Is Part Of Your Identity. And shifting tastes are no doubt at play to some extent as well, but I suspect two other factors are also in play: novelty and availability. When it was hard to find, either because of true logistical constraints or by design, it was Important and Special. Now…not so much.

A vintage map of Belgium (detail)

Here’s an interesting question from Alan McLeod, illustrated with some lovely extracts from the archives: if Belgium only came into being as a nation in 1830, how soon after did the idea of Belgian beer emerge? Certainly by 1858:

Since Noah left the ark and the sons of Noah raised up new cities, each new-formed nation has found some new stimulant; but not one among the list of findings is at once so wholesome, cheap, and harmless as Belgian beer, and I look upon its introduction into the United States as an important reformatory movement.

A prison cage in a Stafford pub.

Kirst Walker visited Stafford for a pub crawl and the report is fun not only because it is peppered with her trademark wit but also because it brilliantly conveys the inevitable increasing tipsiness of such an expedition:

By this point, having not adhered strictly to the pub crawl recommended measure of a half pint, we were seeking sustenance, and so scurried to the Sun, a Titanic pub. Surely I had a plum porter in here, surely! Untappd says no, but I feel in my bones I did. The Sun sells giant burgers which are nigh on impossible to eat demurely – and mine came with chips and an egg. Whether I specially requested this egg I don’t recall, but it was very welcome.

The carpet at the Imperial, Exeter.

We like it when Phil at Oh Good Ale goes all stream-of-consciousness. This week he gave us a glimpse at the difficulties of leaving a Wetherspoon pub with porter at £1.79 a pint:

That porter… it’s good. No, I mean it, it’s fine. I mean there’s nothing wrong with it. Seriously, just as the beer that it is, you know… It’s an enjoyable beer, if you don’t think about…

You just feel a bit cheap after a while, that’s the thing. Or, maybe not cheap exactly, but a bit… off. A bit, kind of, is this what I’ve come to. Is this the kind of person I am?

Fag ash on the table, and everything. And the porter, I mean, it’s good, but…

Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

We’re delighted that someone has finally taken the hint and had a go at the ‘100 Words’ format, namely Dave S, who uses it to make a point about yeast: “Everything else is additive, linear and predictable… but yeast is transformative.”

Finally, here’s a bit of news which comes with two photographs that might excited brewers keen to clone Fuller’s ESB:

11 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 May 2018: Hill Farmstead, Fried Eggs, Fullers”

That photo solves a problem! You may recall my early Victorian pewter ale pot. I am always on the hunt for those on eBay and keep seeing ones with spouts. I assumed they were repurposed quarts after the norm moved from selling quarts to pints. But your man to the right in that image is illustrating the proper use – you buy the quart but pour your serving into a smaller cup. In this case it appears to be a chalice. To the left, the lad appears to be drinking directly from the non-spouted quart. Could it be the spout was for a distinct sort of drink? Spouts for strong ales, non-spouted quarts for lower strength?

The MA, like most struggling news orgs today, rely on website hits and, as such, try to generate the hits via overblown headlines and taglines. Otherwise known as clickbait of course. The author has some history in this regard (unsurprisingly – he’s just carrying out his employer’s wishes) and received, and receives, a fair bit of flack for it. But not his fault I guess.

Articles should reflect the interview held, ensuring the balance of items as discussed comes through into the article. A much better headline would’ve been ‘Interview With Hill Farmstead Head.’ But we’ve lost that golden age I suppose.

I could not agree less. If a journalist interviews a sports star or a politician for a hour and gets – at some point – an 30 second admission to a cheat of some sort or another do you really think that we are going to have to plod through the 59 minutes and 30 seconds of nothing along side that before we are treated to learning the real news? Of course not. You also suggest that the subject of the interview has a stake in – or even some extra special skill – in shaping the outcome of the interview. Hardly a power I am going to run into with a brewery owner.

Your “golden age” sounds a lot like private interest cliques controlling what the rest of us learn about in the media. I am sure there was a lot of gold involved in that sort of press but I prefer independent journalism myself, of the sort on display in that article.

Fair enough, Alan, you’re entitled to your opinion of course.

I’d love to see, as you would, truly independent journalism becoming more popular. It’s certainly growing but alas you won’t find much at the MA. It, and the larger group it is part of, follow the same business model as the struggling regional and local press – in the main passing on press releases from companies but adding the little clickbait twist. I’d hate to think how much the young people there get paid, and it’s no surprise that many have to ‘freelance’ and write elsewhere too – that’s the case in this example anyhow.

It’s arguable these days whether it’s even right to class oneself a journalist if you’re paid for work by organisations who answer to profit-seeking shareholders. Reporter/writer/copywriter maybe.

Fair enough. I suppose I like the fact that it good enough to be worth disagreeing with as opposed to just doubting its motives, as with too much writing in beer. Not a lot of places have the integrity to tick of brewers now and then.

“A much better headline would’ve been ‘Interview With Hill Farmstead Head.’”

I’m sorry to have to say this, Nick, but journalism was the gainer when you decided not to enter the profession. Any sub/copy editor who suggested THAT as a headline would be out the door on her/his ear immediately. The idea of a headline is to make people want to read the story, not fall asleep. Incidentally, I would be very surprised if, even today, James Beeson wrote the head: that’s not how it happens. But he certainly led on the most interesting aspect of what Shaun Hill had to say, and any decent journalist would have done the same: it’s an important issue and it IS ignored. And if Mr Hill didn’t like it, he shouldn’t have said it.

It was a tad tongue in cheek, Martyn, blimey !

Disagree on the motives of the article slant, but it’s all about opinions, one as good as the next.

Something people who haven’t done it a few times may not understand is that even a short interview potentially generates a lot of words – what you see on the page is always ‘edited highlights’. What that means, though, is that you can get enough copy for a shortish article out of quite a small sub-section of an interview – or out of a single question, if the answer is interesting enough to suggest follow-up questions. I think it’s this selectivity that Shaun Hill is objecting to – not that words he said are being reported or that a particular angle is being emphasised, but that the majority of what he said isn’t being reported, at all. It’s standard journalistic practice, and I can see why the journalist did it – the other trade secret about interviews is that an awful lot of them are dull as ditchwater – but I can understand Hill feeling a bit bruised by the experience.

Yes, agreed, but we wanted to say something small in support of James’s approach. Would be a shame if Mr Hill accidentally becoming a spokesman for mental health issues resulted in him feeling down or got at.

The interest in that 1981 (CBOB-winning) ESB recipe comes from comparing it with the current recipe which they tweeted a while back

In 1981 they were using maize and a bit of invert but far less crystal than today.

I thought the most interesting part of that Lisa Grimm piece was the 8 fridges of sour to 5 fridges of IPA in a Seattle bottleshop. Unlike some, I think NEIPAs are here to stay, but 8 fridges of sour feels like a fad. Still, that’s some justification for InBev buying Wicked Weed…

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