News, Nuggets & Longreads 25 August 2018: Bibles, the Blue Bell, Mr Bigot

The Hopbunker beer bar in Cardiff.

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that seized our attention in the past week, from skittle alley rats to Jesus.

Well, most of the past week, as we wrote this on Fri­day morn­ing and sched­uled it to post at the usu­al time. And it’s a bit lighter than usu­al, too, per­haps because August is when every­one dis­ap­pears on hol­i­day.

First, for Vine­Pair Cat Wolin­s­ki inves­ti­gates how Amer­i­can church­es are using the appeal of craft beer to engage in their com­mu­ni­ties:

We’re not try­ing to force a mes­sage on peo­ple,” Spencer Nix, CEO and co-founder of Ref­or­ma­tion Brew­ing, says. “We’re try­ing to live out our val­ues and our vision.”

Jeff Heck, CEO and co-founder of Mon­day Night Brew­ing, agrees. “Our pos­ture going into a neigh­bor­hood is not like, ‘We’re going to be the sav­ior of this neigh­bor­hood.’ Instead, we’re com­ing in and we’re try­ing to ask the ques­tion, ‘What does the neigh­bor­hood need?’”

John Pybus

We vis­it­ed The Blue Bell in York for the first time ear­li­er this year and added it imme­di­ate­ly to our men­tal list of Prop­er Pubs – dis­tinc­tive, worn-in, inti­mate and warm. Now for York Mix Nick Love brings news of a threat to its exis­tence, or at least its char­ac­ter:

[The] charis­mat­ic land­lord John Pybus, who’s made the Blue Bell such a suc­cess, is fac­ing an uncer­tain future… He has been served a Sec­tion 25 notice by the pub’s own­ers to end his ten­an­cy and force him to leave his busi­ness and his home… He’s become col­lat­er­al dam­age of a wide­spread strat­e­gy by the UK’s largest pub com­pa­nies (pub­cos) to resist and indeed to legal­ly cir­cum­vent new pub laws that were intro­duced to try and make the indus­try more equi­table.

Michael Collins

From Mar­tyn Cor­nell comes one of those posts that uses beer as the sug­ar to help a dose of his­to­ry go down: did Irish rev­o­lu­tion­ary Michael Collins drink a pint of Deasy’s porter on the day in 1922 when he died?

One source says that Collins actu­al­ly “loathed the sight of porter”. How­ev­er, he cer­tain­ly did drink Deasy’s most famous beer on occa­sions. When he came home to Cork from Fron­goch prison camp in North Wales in Decem­ber 1916, after the British gov­ern­ment released the sur­viv­ing pris­on­ers tak­en at the end of the East­er Ris­ing, “the Big Fel­low” spent three weeks, in his own words, “drink­ing Clon­akilty wrastler [sic] on a Fron­goch stom­ach,” before return­ing to Dublin. But Collins’s pre­ferred drink actu­al­ly appears to have been whiskey: “‘a ball of malt’ was his usu­al,” accord­ing to one biog­ra­ph­er, and anoth­er named Jameson’s as his favourite.

Pub sign advertising a tasting tray of Irish beers.

One of our favourite new blogs, An Seisiún, this week told the sto­ry of what hap­pens when a pub­’s own­ers insist on offer­ing things the pub does­n’t want any­thing to do with:

The biggest ques­tion of all how­ev­er: would my social anx­i­ety and acute sense of embarass­ment allow me to go up to the bar and ask for a f***ing tast­ing tray of f***ing Smith­wicks of all things? In what can only be called the biggest vic­to­ry against my shy­ness since the first time I asked some­one out for a date, I did just that. And just like then, it could­n’t have went worse.

Vintage photo of a man and woman sitting in the sun with a pint of beer.

Kirsty Walk­er at Lady Sinks the Booze has gath­ered some mem­o­ries of fam­i­ly hol­i­days, many cen­tred around pubs and beer:

In Stogum­ber, Som­er­set, we had a local pub which adver­tised its skit­tle alley, but we were dis­mayed to learn that it was in an out­build­ing that was full of trac­tors. The land­lord promised to clean it out if we came back the next day, and sure enough we played skit­tles in a barn with a row of trac­tors star­ing at us and rats scut­tling about whilst my nana screamed to God to save her from these unholy min­ions.

The march at Stone, 3 November, 1973.
The march at Stone, 3 Novem­ber, 1973, with Christo­pher Hutt at dead cen­tre.

Roger Protz has dug out a copy of his very first beer book, the fas­ci­nat­ing Pulling a Fast One from 1978, and used it as the start­ing point for
an extend­ed reflec­tion on the changes in British beer 40 years have brought

Of course, beer choice is demon­stra­bly bet­ter today as a result of the rise of the craft beer move­ment. But let’s not kid our­selves. The glob­al brew­ers and their pub­co pals dom­i­nate the mar­ket and charge wicked­ly high prices for their prod­ucts.

Final­ly, here’s an inter­est­ing nugget from Twit­ter which sug­gests the direc­tion AB-InBev’s craft beer adven­tures might be tak­ing: brew­eries, dis­trib­u­tors, media in every region, all inter­linked and cross-pro­mot­ing.

One thought on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 25 August 2018: Bibles, the Blue Bell, Mr Bigot”

  1. Look­ing at the pic­ture of the March at Stone, I think the chap on the right with glass­es and tie is Pete Roberts, a very ear­ly mem­ber of CAMRA who sad­ly died some years ago (90s?). He led the annu­al East Lon­don branch Roberts Ram­ble and the event is still held annu­al­ly in his mem­o­ry. Pete was also very inter­est­ed in canals and Thames barges. I don’t know what hap­pened to his exten­sive col­lec­tion of beer guides and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions after his death but hope they were pre­served some­where – they would cer­tain­ly hold inter­est for you (B&B).

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