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Everything We Wrote in July 2018: Community, Mild, Tripel

July 2018: hot sun, parched land, cool beer.

Here in one handy round-up is everything we wrote in the past month. We managed to keep up the output up despite the heat, including one whopper of a post.

The month began with the kick-off of our Tripel Taste-Off. This time, we’ve gone with a knockout competition. The first round games so far have been:

In what turned out to be quite a history-filled month we dissected Ted Elkins 1970 book about the history of the Northern Clubs Federation, AKA The Fed, and its empire in the north east of England:

What is the maximum output possible to the brewery?
Answer: One hundred barrels per week.
What is the minimum required to make the brewery solvent?
Answer: thirty barrels.
Then am I right in understanding that you can live on 30 barrels and will grow rich on 100 barrels weekly?
Answer: Yes.
Then three of four large clubs in any locality could easily and profitably free themselves of private brewers?
Answer: Yes.

Observing a conversation between two older men experimenting with craft beer, we wrote it up as one of our Pub Life pieces:

He picks up the binder and turns it in his hands, bewildered, as if the very form is alien to him. He opens it and begins to scan the pages with a fingertip.

“These are all beers, are they? Passion fruit… Cherry…  They can’t be beers.”

“Give us a look. Yeah, look, it says here: fruit beers.”

“They’ve actually got fruit in them? Bloody hell. I don’t… What’s this… Two-thirds? Is that two-thirds of a litre or what?”


For the 137th edition of the Session we wrote about our early experiences with German wheat beer in Samuel Smith pubs in London: “At first we didn’t quite get it. To us, it tasted like beer. Weird, soupy, sweet beer. So we had a few until we understood what he meant. And yes, there it was — the stink of blackened bananas left too long in the bowl.”

(The host, Roger, has rounded up all the contributions here.)

An article in the New Yorker archive took us back to the birth of the beer can in the mid-1930s and some all too familiar partisan viewpoints:

We resigned from the Foreign Legion last week and joined the war between the beer-bottle people and the beer-can people. It is a lot more fun. We spent the entire week teasing bottle men about cans, and can men about bottles. “Is it true,” we asked Mr. Hopper, of the Continental Can Company, “that glass is a better insulator than tin?” “Is it a fact,” we asked Mr. Norrington, of the Glass Container Association of American, “that beer in Continental Cans is how beer ought to taste?”

Illustration: All Together Now

This one generated a lot of attention: we disagree with Martyn Cornellthere is a craft beer community, whether we or others choose to be involved in it or not.

(Gary Gillman had some additional thoughts; and Stan Hieronymus pointed to the conversation that took place last time this topic came up in 2011.)

Flipping through old copies of Grist magazine we came across a nugget that we hadn’t noticed before: legendary British brewer Sean Franklin’s observations on the differences between British and American beer from 1996.

Bitterness (EBU) chart.

Also in the Grist we found mention of a long-running research project to map the colour, strength and bitterness of various UK beer styles. The results are quirky (see the comments on our post) but still interesting and thanks to one reader we now have access to the full 2006 report. We’ll digest it and write something on that soon.

There’s lots to chew on in the 1955 comic memoir We Keep a Pub, especially in the details of how beer was doctored in pub cellars, and the various tricks that went on behind the bar:

“Mild-ale drinkers never notice nothing — not if you don’t overdo it; and that reminds me: when you was pulling up mild-and-bitters last night I see you giving ’em half-and-half. That’s no good. All you want is a drop o’ bitter at the bottom o’ the glass and fill up with mild. Mild’s cheaper than bitter. See? You got to watch the stocks.”

The Silver Sword, Coventry, which now looks like this.
The Silver Sword, Coventry, which now looks like this.

Reflecting on our own tendency to wallow in the past we thought it worth underlining something: we’re not really nostalgists; we think that, on the whole, in the long term, change is a good thing.

Related: we have a new local, and a new type of local — a specialist bottle shop which now also sells draught beer to drink on site, and has a handful of seats and tables. People seem to like it.

We were a bit surprised to see someone claim that beer geeks don’t give lager much attention given our own history, and the state of our social media timelines in recent months. Many beer geeks definitely do like lager, and that’s not a new development.

A pub in Whitechapel c.1902.

This month’s big feature post, made possible with the support of our Patreon subscribers, was about the beer people were drinking in pubs from 1900 to 1959. We subtitled it ‘The Rise of Mild’ which is really the headline story of that period.

Having paid 20p for a hardback copy of a collection of Dylan Thomas’s writings for radio we were delighted to find a depiction of a dreary post-war Swansea pub in winter.

Our usual round-ups of news and good reading covered all sorts this month from heavy news to history, via impressionistic reflections on pubs and classic beer styles.

On Patreon for $2+ subscribers we wrote about…

Eddie Marsan and how it’s OK not to like pubs | The present joy of Camden Hells | The best beers of the weekend of 6-8 July | Pub Life according to an army veteran | The best beers of the weekend 13-15 July | Why the loss of social safety nets might drive young people away from drink | The best beers of the weekend 20-22 July | And an odd staff behaviour we observed at a brewery tap.

Collage: a fractured pub.

And beyond our own platforms, for All About Beer we wrote a piece called ‘Decoding the English Pub’:

The English pub is much romanticised, even mythologised, which must leave some visitors disappointed when they encounter the real thing. Having been brought up in and around pubs our whole lives, reading them and negotiating them is a matter of instinct for us, but here we have tried to put the subconscious knowledge into words.

(The Pub Curmudgeon was prompted to write something fairly substantial off the back of that piece.)

We also Tweeted a lot of stuff like this:

And there was a bit of Instagram and Facebook, too.