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.