News, Nuggets & Longreads 30 June 2018: Drunkards, Dill, Dilemmas

The foam on a glass of beer.

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Victorian pub culture to brine drinking.

First, here’s a very long read: Tho­ra Hands’ book Drink­ing in Vic­to­ri­an and Edwar­dian Britain: beyond the spec­tre of the drunk­ard is avail­able as a free down­load (PDF) under a Cre­ative Com­mons licence via the pub­lish­er. It’s a seri­ous aca­d­e­m­ic work but, from what we’ve enjoyed so far, worth dip­ping into if you have any inter­est in the his­to­ry of pubs and drink:

By the turn of the cen­tu­ry, Bass was one of many com­pa­nies com­pet­ing in the grow­ing domes­tic mar­ket for alco­holic ‘health’ drinks and many of the adverts from the 1890–1910 peri­od drew upon con­cepts of beer as a nutri­tious med­i­c­i­nal drink that could be used in a vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions for an array of health com­plaints. One adver­tis­ing cam­paign used the mis­eries of the dai­ly grind to con­vince con­sumers that Bass ale could help cure their ills. These adverts posed ques­tions such as: ‘Can’t eat? Can’t sleep?’ and ‘Too tired to sleep?’ or ‘Tired or run down?’—and in every case the answer to the prob­lem was to be found in a ‘nutri­tious’ glass of Bass ale.

A pickle.

Not about beer but def­i­nite­ly a reminder that you can’t make any assump­tions about what peo­ple will and won’t enjoy drink­ing: pick­le juice – the liq­uid from jars of gherkins, in British Eng­lish – turns out to have con­sid­er­ably more appeal as a bev­er­age than might pre­vi­ous­ly have been sus­pect­ed, accord­ing to Julie Jar­gon for the Wash­ing­ton Post:

Devo­tees say they like pick­les but like the juice even more because it sat­is­fies a salt crav­ing they can’t quite explain. Some gulp with pick­les still in the jar, irk­ing non­drinkers.

(Via @jennypfafflin.)

The Statue of Liberty in Weston super Mare.

Here’s a provoca­tive piece from Matt Cur­tis for Good Beer Hunt­ing: are Amer­i­can beer fans doing British beer an injus­tice through their sin­gle-mind­ed fas­ci­na­tion with our brew­ing tra­di­tions?

Too often do I see Amer­i­cans com­ing to Lon­don excit­ed about drink­ing lots of “cask ale.” Noth­ing spe­cif­ic, just “cask ale.” Of course, the UK has a wealth of amaz­ing places to drink cask beer—it’s the dif­fer­en­tia­tor that, for many years, has ensured British beer cul­ture is one worth cel­e­brat­ing. You should know that most great cask beer is not with­in easy reach of Heathrow Air­port, how­ev­er. And, unfor­tu­nate­ly, this mis­con­cep­tion can often lead to bad expe­ri­ences with sub-par beer in Cen­tral Lon­don tourist traps. They’re the kind of places that have giv­en us an unre­lent­ing­ly annoy­ing rep­u­ta­tion for serv­ing warm beer. Here’s a lit­tle secret: we don’t like warm beer. No one likes warm beer.

(No. It’s per­fect­ly rea­son­able to want to drink the thing that is unique to, or at least iden­ti­fied with, the place you’re vis­it­ing; it also rea­son­able if you are from a par­tic­u­lar place to be inter­est­ed in beer that isn’t.)

Beaver + Town.

If you’ve got Beaver­town-Heineken fatigue, as have many, then skip this bit. Var­i­ous peo­ple have used the news of the sale of a stake in the Lon­don brew­ery to the mul­ti-nation­al as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect at length on what this kind of thing means for the beer indus­try, and for con­sumers. We’d par­tic­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend this piece by Antho­ny Glad­man

If you take all the thought out of beer, soon enough the enjoy­ment will leave it too. If you take all the thought out of beer, soon enough you end up in a world where pret­ty much all beer tastes the same. A world where there’s noth­ing to like, and noth­ing to get excit­ed about. This is not hyper­bole. I’ve lived it. This is what beer was like before craft beer came along. It could be like that again if we’re not care­ful.

…and this Medi­um essay by Oli, a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent and beer indus­try vet­er­an, com­bin­ing analy­sis with per­son­al anec­dote:

When the news broke last year that Wicked Weed had been bought by AB InBev, I myself was in a rather unique sit­u­a­tion here in the UK. I was at work when a cou­ple from Asheville, North Car­oli­na hap­pened to walk into the shop… I asked them if they had heard about Wicked Weed sell­ing out. They hadn’t. At this point, I didn’t know they were semi-reg­u­lars at Wicked Weed, nor that it was their local brew­ery… The look of dis­ap­point­ment on their faces spoke a thou­sand words.

Duchess of Kent, North London.

It’s always good to have offi­cial data when reflect­ing on pub clo­sures rather than rely­ing on gut feel­ings and guess­work. In Lon­don we now know that:

  • There are 3,350 pubs in oper­a­tion.
  • The num­ber of “small pub units” (nine employ­ees or few­er) has halved in the past two decades;
  • while the num­ber of large pubs has more than dou­bled.
  • And the num­ber of peo­ple employed in pubs has gone up, despite declin­ing pub num­bers.

And final­ly, Fuller’s has some new retro mer­chan­dise – not quite the 1970s brand­ed T-shirt we were hop­ing for but not bad, being based on vin­tage adver­tis­ing from the 1950s:

4 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 30 June 2018: Drunkards, Dill, Dilemmas”

  1. It’s always been one of the things that amus­es me – the craft beer move­ment in Amer­i­ca gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ers Cask Ale to be the pin­na­cle of, well, the craft. I’ve been told that sev­er­al times by craft brew­ers and craft bar own­ers; I’ve explained that for us, it was real­ly just the way we did things, and that although some of our cask beers are among the best in the world, there’s a lot of hum­drum stuff as well; in and of itself, it’s no guar­an­tee of qual­i­ty.
    But if I’m vis­it­ing a coun­try, I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in what makes that coun­try unique, and sam­pling the local tra­di­tions. So in all hon­esty, I don’t go to Bel­gium or Ger­many to drink IPAs. That’s not to say I won’t, but it’s not what I’m there for. And I don’t think I’m mas­sive­ly unusu­al in that. So of course Amer­i­cans who know even a lit­tle about beer are going to come here to try some­thing they can’t read­i­ly get at home, and let’s be hon­est, cul­tur­al­ly, Doom Bar is prob­a­bly more inter­est­ing to them to expe­ri­ence than the lat­est NEIPA sim­ply because it’s dif­fer­ent to what they have at home. They’re not miss­ing out, they’re broad­en­ing their hori­zons.

  2. Oh, and pick­le juice drink­ing? Ama­teurs! The real stuff is pick­led dill her­ring juice. Love­ly stuff. 😉

    1. Agreed on the pick­led her­ring. Also, Gatorade, the US sports drink is just fruit flavoured pick­le juice. Invent­ed by the foot­ball coach at a Flori­da uni­ver­si­ty.

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