News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Keptinis, Craeft

Turks Head pub signs.

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that inspired us to hit the BOOKMARK button in the past week, from pubs to hazy IPAs.

But let’s start with some items of news.

Illustration: intimidating pub.

For Orig­i­nal Grav­i­ty Emma Inch has writ­ten about the feel­ing of being on edge in pubs, even if noth­ing con­crete hap­pens, because of a sense that peo­ple are just a lit­tle too aware of “what makes you dif­fer­ent”:

Through­out my drink­ing life I’ve been asked to leave a pub on the grounds that it’s a ‘fam­i­ly friend­ly venue’; I’ve wit­nessed a friend being eject­ed for giv­ing his male part­ner a dry peck on the cheek; I’ve had a fel­low cus­tomer shout homo­pho­bic abuse in my ear whilst the bar­tender calm­ly con­tin­ued to ask me to pay for my pint… Once, I had to shield my face from fly­ing glass as the pub win­dows were kicked in by big­ots out­side, and I still remem­ber the sharp, breath­less fear in the days fol­low­ing the Admi­ral Dun­can pub bomb­ing, not know­ing if it was all over, or who and where would be tar­get­ed next.

Brewing keptinis.

Lars Mar­ius Garshol is back with anoth­er won­der­ful post about farm­house brew­ing, this time focus­ing on the specifics of how the Jančys fam­i­ly in north east Lithua­nia goes about brew­ing kep­ti­nis, a dark beer made with loaves of malt baked in the oven:

Now it was time for the mash to come out of the oven. The top of the mash was cov­ered in a hard, dark brown crust. Some of the liq­uid had boiled over the side of the box, run down the side, and con­gealed in a hard mass at the bot­tom. I broke some bits off the top crust and tast­ed them: mas­sive­ly sweet and tof­feeish, with notes almost like hon­ey. They actu­al­ly tast­ed like real­ly sweet and good cook­ies… And now I real­ized what was going on and why Vytautas’s beer had tast­ed so dif­fer­ent… Schwarz­bier, porter, dunkel, stout, and all the oth­er black­ish beers are made from toast­ed starch, but kep­ti­nis is made from toast­ed sug­ar. It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of dark beer.

A choice of beers.

We watched with inter­est via Twit­ter as beer writer Robin LeBlanc took part in a recent exper­i­ment by Cana­di­an super­mar­ket chain Loblaws, under­tak­ing sev­er­al shifts as an in-house beer aisle advi­sor, which expe­ri­ence she has now writ­ten up in a reflec­tive blog post:

So hey, hon­esty time, macro beers did sell real­ly well there and often sold out. But that didn’t mean that no one who picked up their week­ly six­er of Coors were unin­ter­est­ed in the idea of a craft beer. In fact, the big thing that seemed to get in most people’s way was that they couldn’t nav­i­gate the num­ber of styles to find some­thing that matched what they liked about the macros they bought, often result­ing in buy­ing a beer that was wrong for them and cre­at­ing a bad impres­sion of craft.

There’s some use­ful insight for retail­ers and brew­ers in there.

A milk carton of IPA.

Paste  has pub­lished notes on its now reg­u­lar epic taste-off of Amer­i­can IPAs which this time took in 324 exam­ples of the style. (Link to mobile ver­sion; wonky for­mat­ting, but all on one page.) There is also a com­pan­ion piece by Jim Vorel reflect­ing on IPA’s place in Amer­i­can beer cul­ture in 2018, called ‘Hazy, Sludgy, Juicy and Con­fused’:

It may feel like hazy IPA has com­plete­ly tak­en over the seg­ment, but any beer store with a wide selec­tion is still going to be car­ry­ing crys­tal clear, bit­ter, West Coast IPAs as well. Look hard­er, and you’ll even find some malt-for­ward IPAs in the mix, along with a smat­ter­ing of niche selec­tions. You’ll find some wild IPAs with bret­tanomyces. You’ll find some fruit­ed exam­ples, and some spiced exam­ples. You might find some bleed­ing edge stuff, like the afore­men­tioned brut IPA. And of course, you’ll find IPAs that blur the lines between dis­tinct substyles—clear IPAs with mod­ern, ‘juicy’ fla­vor pro­files, and vice ver­sa. To act as if the entire IPA seg­ment has been tak­en over by a sin­gle fad at any giv­en time is a gross over­gen­er­al­iza­tion.


Jeff Alworth has been read­ing books that aren’t about beer, which is some­thing we strong­ly rec­om­mend. In a blog post this week he took Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Ori­gins and True Mean­ing of Tra­di­tion­al Crafts by Alexan­der Lang­lands as the jump­ing off point for reflec­tion on ‘craft’ – not in the super­fi­cial Define Craft Beer sense, but in terms of how peo­ple relate to the prod­ucts of their labour:

For Lang­lands, cræft is the knowl­edge that resides in the body. As we do a thing repeat­ed­ly, we begin to devel­op mas­tery; our bod­ies, after a thou­sand rep­e­ti­tions, know how to do a thing. This is the cen­tral point of Cræft: the wis­dom and skill come from the body and mind of the craftsper­son, not a machine… The dis­tinc­tion between a tool, which allows the craftsper­son to wield pow­er and “kinaes­thet­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty,” and a machine, which removes them, isn’t incidental–it’s the essence of cræft.

Close-up shot of Fourpure Pils.

We real­ly have all but run out of inter­est in read­ing about Beaver­town-Heineken but Mark John­son man­aged to prod us from our ennui with an inter­est­ing obser­va­tion about that and the Four­pure acqui­si­tion. Why on earth, he asks, with typ­i­cal vigour, do peo­ple keep insist­ing that Big Beer get­ting involved increas­es choice, when it doesn’t?

I keep hear­ing peo­ple say things such as “Oh imag­ine being able to get Black Bet­ty (a 7.4% Black IPA) at a music fes­ti­val.” I am imag­in­ing because fan­tasies are fun. Your big busi­ness has no inter­est in such a beer. You will see one or two of the most basic styles begin to appear a lit­tle in super­mar­kets with the name they want to ped­dle the most promi­nent word on the can.… It is three years since Cam­den Brew­ery sold to AB Inbev… Three years since big busi­ness apol­o­gists told us we would have access to bet­ter beer in more places… but I have seen Cam­den beer on tap – out­side of beer focused bars – once in a pub where I was attend­ing a fam­i­ly meal, and I’m not even sure that wasn’t before 2015.

And final­ly, some­thing grim­ly inevitable: sure­ly peo­ple wouldn’t name beers after the Novi­chok nerve agent so much in the news late­ly, would they?