Here’s everything that grabbed our attention over the past week in the world of beer and pubs, from #MeToo to George Washington.
A social media posting by a major Czech brewery that appeared to mock the #MeToo movement has prompted strong reactions, drawing praise, criticism and some soul-searching on sexism in this former communist republic…. The Facebook post by the Bernard Brewery in Humpolec, about an hour’s journey from Prague, features the likeness of a nearly toothless old woman with the hashtag #MeToo superimposed in white. “The world’s gone crazy,” reads the Czech-language text on the post, which is also emblazoned with the brewery’s logo. “Brace yourselves.”
In the UK Bernard beers have fairly generic branding — almost bland — and it’s hard to connect this kind of advertising, and the follow-up comments from the brewery, with the stuff you see on sale at the Sheffield Tap and elsewhere. Another reminder (along with the reaction to this) that other places and cultures can often be in different places to yours on these issues.
We’ve been missing Kirst Walker’s posts but it turns out there was a good reason: she broke her wrist performing on stage, as she explains in this typically entertaining piece on how booze and painkillers mix, or, rather, how they don’t:
I was worried about some plans I might have to cancel so I asked the surgeon how soon I could go about my normal life after the operation…. He assured me I could still go to London to see Hamilton and looked affronted that I doubted his skills in repairing me. My next trip ‘out’ after the operation was three days later when I went to see Niall Horan in concert. There I stood at the back taking full advantage of my invalid status to get my cousin to run to the bar for me. I had one pint of John Smiths in a plastic cup and later felt like my dreams were running out of my ears. That’s when I reduced the dose of codeine.
Oh, that turn of phrase! Wonderful.
Jeff Alworth takes Budweiser to task for one of the most extreme examples of ‘inspired by’ ahistorical marketing we’ve ever heard of — a beer they’re suggesting has some connection to brewing instructions scribbled by George Washington but which really doesn’t:
The English did not drink lagers. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Washington would have even encountered the word, much less the beer. Colonial brewing was hard because barley didn’t grow well and English ingredients were expensive–as we’ll see when we come to Washington’s recipe. Colonists certainly weren’t digging out cellars for careful lagering. In fact, they mostly weren’t brewing much at all… [And] Washington’s recipe was… odd.
And we’re going to stick with Jeff Alworth, this time writing for All About Beer on the subject of the cult dark beer from Prague, U Fleků:
When citing the year of their inception, many breweries—well, how to say this delicately?—polish the apple somewhat. The date you find on a bottle may refer to monks who brewed there once, or an unrelated brewery from centuries earlier, or some other abstruse connection to antiquity. That’s why it’s nice to be able to highlight truly historic breweries. And, when they happen to make the classic example of a beer style, they deserve special celebration and acclamation. Thus I give you the sprawling brewpub at the heart of Prague, U Fleků, founded—really!—in 1499. The restaurant is now most famous (or notorious) for its oompah bands and the kitschy “old-world” experience it presents to tourists, but for beer fans, a real treasure can be found in the mugs delivered by the trayful. A beer of just one flavor, a standout tmavé (dark lager) in a land of světlé (pale).
(It’s a beer we’ve not had since our big trip to Goslar-Leipzig-Prague back in 2008 — almost a decade ago! — but we found it so delicious that the taste seems to linger, even a decade on.)
We enjoyed these in-depth reflections on white stout from Josh Weikert for Craft Beer and Brewing magazine:
Given the sometimes aggressive and negative reaction to White Stout, it’s easy to come away with the impression that this must be a beer that tastes horrible—like asking people how they feel about cheese on fish. Underneath the invective, though, there doesn’t seem to be much objection to the White Stout on its merits. At least half of the pushback is against the nomenclature employed—the aforementioned “it’s really just a blonde ale with coffee” troupe, or the “if it’s white, it’s not a stout” brigade.
A bit of business news: Laine’s, the London-Brighton pub and brewpub chain, has been acquired by Patron Capital which is also behind Punch Taverns these days, as reported in the Morning Advertiser. This is another of those hard-to-follow business stories where Company X acquires a stake in Company Y which is part owned by Company Z, a joint investor in Company Q, and so on, but the gist is this: pub chains with any kind of craft beer credibility are so hot right now, especially if they also have the potential to supply own-brand beer.
Another bit of news: minimum pricing for alcohol came into effect in Scotland earlier this week. This is either very bad news (Pub Curmudgeon et al) or a step in the right direction depending who you listen to. For what it’s worth, our view has not changed much since we wrote this.
Something is happening in Texas that ought to be happening everywhere: Megan Blair at St Edward’s University is actively collecting items relating to local brewing history as it continues to unfold. From a report by Arianna Auber for Austin 360:
A tap handle from the original Celis Brewery; a faded food menu from Waterloo Brewing, the first modern, legal brewpub in Texas; and old Adelbert’s tokens used in the days before breweries could sell pints in their taproom are just some of the items Blair has begun to keep safe in the bottom-floor archival room at St. Edward’s Munday Library…. The widow of Steve Anderson — the brewmaster at long-defunct Waterloo and then founder and brewmaster of Big Bend Brewing until his death in 2015 — also donated some of the things he had kept from his many years in the beer industry, including gold, silver and bronze medals won at Great American Beer Festival.
Something about Ken’s post on the subject of pubs and teetotalism grabbed us — perhaps it’s that the deep family story it hints at it is so sharply undercut by the jocular tone? It certainly feels as if it could be the opening to some kind of horror story: “The beer will get you in the end you know…”
Finally, here’s some brewery wildlife: