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

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

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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