News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 June 2018: Lager, Gas, Glass

A fizzing pint of lager.

Here’s everything around beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Belgium to Oregon via Moscow. (And with special thanks this week to our Patreon subscribers for suggestions.)

Some news: there is a short­age of CO2 (car­bon diox­ide) which is affect­ing not only the food indus­try but also pubs which rely on it to add sparkle to cer­tain beers and soft drinks. It’s been brought about by a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, not least of which is the World Cup which caus­es a Europe-wide surge in demand for lager, espe­cial­ly in Moscow. But…

The [British Beer and Pub Asso­ci­a­tion] has issued some guid­ance to its mem­bers remind­ing them that CO2 used in drinks, includ­ing for dis­pens­ing beer at the pumps, must be food grade gas.… “We’d be con­cerned this is not the time to go look­ing for a white van man who says they can sup­ply you with CO2,” [Brigid Sim­mons] said.

(On the whole, peo­ple did not take well to the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s attempt to score a cheeky goal off the back of this by point­ing out that cask ale pro­duces its own CO2.)

Graffiti: lager, lager, lager.

Alec Lath­am has been reflect­ing on the recent resur­gence of lager in the UK, updat­ing on a sim­i­lar post from last year:

The acid test is when the tra­di­tion­al ale oases that dom­i­nate Britain’s rur­al areas and small­er towns give way to this prop­er matured beer style – hope­ful­ly reflect­ed in pubs where cor­po­rate Lager still holds a 70% hold.… Last year in that local catch­ment, I found evi­dence of just four brew­eries (not includ­ing a giant – Wells & Young’s). This year, the tal­ly has shot up to thir­teen. These coun­ties are by no means brew­ing epi­cen­tres, so this aug­men­ta­tion could be applied nation­al­ly – prob­a­bly with a mar­gin in its favour.

We touched on this in our email newslet­ter that went out yes­ter­day and are inclined to think he’s right – lager real­ly does seem to be In right now.

And it’s not just hap­pen­ing in the UK – here’s an analy­sis of the trend as it man­i­fest­ing in the US from Kate Bernot for the Take­Out:

The way craft lager is going to going to grow is appeal­ing to peo­ple who want to sup­port local busi­ness­es but just don’t like all those oth­er beer fla­vors,” says Nick Nunns, founder of Denver’s TRVE Brew­ing, where an unfil­tered pil­sner called Cold is the taproom’s top sell­er. “These peo­ple want­ed to sup­port local brew­eries, but we were too busy throw­ing 8 pounds of hops in a bar­rel or mak­ing shit­ty birth­day-cake beers. Now that we’ve reached peak dumb­ness with glit­ter and all that, brew­ers are final­ly like ‘fuck that, we’re going to go back to mak­ing beer-fla­vored beer.’”

Oregon refillable bottle.

The US state of Ore­gon has launched a scheme to encour­age brew­eries to use stan­dard­ised, refill­able bot­tles – very much the norm in many parts of the world but an alien con­cept in Amer­i­ca. Jeff Alworth, an Ore­gon­ian, has all the details with the usu­al thought­ful com­men­tary:

The project start­ed at OBRC under John Ander­sen, but was tak­en over by Jules Bai­ley, the for­mer Ore­gon leg­is­la­tor… [He] trav­eled to Ger­many to see how well such a sys­tem worked there. What he found was a cul­ture built around return­ing bot­tles. In Ger­many, peo­ple buy beer by the crate. This makes returns easy; emp­ty bot­tles go back into the crate and the crate goes back to the store. They’re such a com­mon fea­ture of Ger­man life that Mer­cedes designed car trunks with dimen­sions to accom­mo­date them. Big­ger brew­eries have bot­tle-wash­ing machines for the refill­able bot­tles, and the gro­cery stores effi­cient­ly keep the cycle going. Of course, these Ger­man advan­tages pose mir­ror-image dis­ad­van­tages for Ore­gon. We don’t have a cul­ture built around refill­ables (yet), and we don’t buy beer by the crate. In terms of infra­struc­ture, how­ev­er, we are clos­er than any oth­er state.

A trendy beer in a fancy glass.

We were inter­est­ed to read Chris Mar­t­in’s post on craft brew­eries to watch in 2018 and beyond, in which he attempts to pre­dict which might be the next Cloud­wa­ters or Ver­dants:

I’ve com­piled this round-up not just based on brew­eries that are launch­ing in 2018, but also ones that are gain­ing a lot of respect and momen­tum. The lat­ter being ones I think will have a break­through year.

This is the kind of stuff that peo­ple on the scene just know but which for those of us less tuned into the buzz is real­ly rather use­ful.

Illustration: Belgium and Belgian beer.

For the Guardian, with a rather bril­liant head­line, Daniel Bof­fey reports on Bel­gian beer sales:

The vol­ume of Bel­gian beer sold at home fell by 1.6% between 2016 and 2017. This came after a drop of 3.5% the year before, accord­ing to the annu­al report of the Bel­gian Brew­ers fed­er­a­tion… But while Bel­gium expe­ri­ences a 30-year decline in beer drink­ing, its exports are on the rise. Last year, over­seas sales of Bel­gian beer grew by 8.7%, of which 17% was out­side the EU.… Bel­gian Brew­ers said this “less but bet­ter” phe­nom­e­non had result­ed in the num­ber of brew­eries in Bel­gium grow­ing from 224 to 261 in 2017, and 49,000 peo­ple being employed.

At Beer et seq Gary Gill­man has tak­en a look at a neglect­ed 1959 arti­cle by a brew­ing sci­en­tist Antho­ny Rose enti­tled sim­ply ‘Beer’:

Con­tin­u­al­ly through the arti­cle Rose bal­ances the need for bet­ter sci­ence with tra­di­tion­al con­cerns to pre­serve beer’s palate and char­ac­ter, some­thing that clear­ly res­onat­ed with Jack­son. In dis­cussing the use of cere­al adjunct he states it pro­vides main­ly just fer­mentable sug­ar and “contribute[s] lit­tle if any­thing to the taste and aro­ma of beer”.… He also implies, in the gen­tlest pos­si­ble way, that the need for mass dis­tri­b­u­tion in the U.S. was mak­ing its beer ever paler, bub­bly, and of low bit­ter­ness.

(We men­tioned Rose’s arti­cle here but have yet to find a way to read it in full.)

We’re going to take the unusu­al step of fin­ish­ing with one of our own Tweets: if you’re after a beer bar­gain this week­end (and, more impor­tant­ly, a bit of reas­sur­ance that you’re not the only one sneak­ing to the super­mar­ket to buy beer) check out the respons­es to this:

If you want more read­ing do check out Alan McLeod’s Thurs­day round-up (opin­ion­at­ed, inter­twined) and Stan Hierony­mus’s Mon­day links (wide rang­ing, with splash­es of wine).

2 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 June 2018: Lager, Gas, Glass”

  1. Liv­ing in the US, I can say that return­able bot­tles used to be the norm when I was young (many decades ago), but for what­ev­er rea­son (cost/quality/laziness) brew­eries went away from it. Hope it works out in Ore­gon and it becomes com­mon­place again in oth­er states.

  2. I view diver­si­ty of styles whether pale ale, porter, ipa, helles, schwar­bier or pil­sner as our great for­tune. I love them all. I am not opposed to some dif­fer­ent fla­vors going into beer. For instance I think pump­kin ale is a legit­i­mate Amer­i­can style in it’s own right. I miss Sam Adams Hon­ey Porter so much but some of them are just down­right sil­ly.

    If I were to open a brew­ery, I would build it around two dif­fer­ent but not whol­ly unre­lat­ed styles, Amer­i­can Cream Ale and Clas­sic Amer­i­can Pil­sner. My indul­gence brew would be Porter. I love Porter.

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