Here’s all the beer and pub related news, opinion and history that’s grabbed us in the past week, from kids in pubs to Never Gonna Give You Up.
First, money. As part of the publicity around its Great British Beer Festival (last day today) the Campaign for Real Ale published the results of a survey suggesting that the majority of British drinkers who expressed an opinion find the price of a pint of beer unaffordable.
There were various bits of interesting commentary around this, from musings on the question of value from Katie Taylor…
Affordability is quite an abstract concept, isn’t it? In my experience as someone who’s lived in extreme poverty and in relative comfort and all the incremental stages of debt, exhaustion and erratic spending in-between, things like pints come down to how much you value them. They’re not essential – unless you have an addiction – and yet as part of our culture they’re a central point of our social lives.
…to Richard Coldwell’s reflections on the difference between affordability and priorities:
I think there are many who are making the choice between going out for a pint and other things… Simple choices like; Sunday afternoon at the local pub with the family or a full day out at the beach with sandwiches and maybe an ice cream and a few bob on the amusements. I reckon it’s about 50 miles from our house to Scarbro’, so the biggest cost of the day is fuel… Round here, the price of the first round of say, a pint, glass of prosecco, three soft drinks and a few snacks would just about cover the fuel costs of a return journey to the seaside. The second round would more than pay for the picnic and sundries and we’ve only been in the pub for about an hour, max.
Jonny Garrett, meanwhile, is unimpressed with this focus on price which he regards as ultimately damaging to the image of cask ale:
Perhaps the greatest step CAMRA could take toward restoring growth in cask beer would be to invest in training and equipment for pubs that show loyalty to cask and price it fairly. For some reason, this call for quality brewing falls on deaf ears at CAMRA, who this week lamented how expensive pints have become. The party line of championing cask above all else appears to include the millions of cheap, dull, vinegary pints poured across the UK each year. Some of them even at their own festivals.
For Atlas Obscura Eric J Wallace brings us the story of Steins Unlimited, George Adams’s museum of beer mugs in Pamplin, Virginia, with lovely photos by Jill Nance:
In Adams’s childhood home, a hand-carved wooden cup with a handle and top hung above the mantelpiece. When his mother explained that the object had belonged to his great-grandfather and was a “stein,” it took on a mythical significance. “That word was so odd; it fascinated me. I started to imagine where this ‘stein’ thing came from and what kind of world it had been a part of.”
From Phil at Oh Good Ale comes a bit of slow-breaking news: Stalybridge brewery TicketyBrew quietly shut up shop earlier this year, without publicising the decision. What makes Phil’s piece isn’t the breaking of the news itself, it’s the expression of feeling that comes with it:
It started in July 2013, when I nominated their Pale, on cask, as my beer of the year; I didn’t think I’d taste anything better in the remaining five months of the year – and as it turned out I was right. I wrote: The aromatic wallop of a good contemporary pale ale runs head-on into the soft herbal richness of a Tripel, and they dance. Which still seems about right. On cask, the Blonde was pretty amazing too – not to mention the Jasmine Green Tea Pale, the Golden Bitter, the Invalid Stout, the Marmalade Pale… On keg and in bottle, there was a really nice Dubbel, a superb Tripel, the East India Porter, the Rose Wheat, the Rhubarb Weiss, the Ginger Beer and some terrific hoppy pales… the list just went on. Not to mention more or less experimental styles – Munchner, Grodziskie, Mumme – and dotty one-offs like Marmite Stout or Tea and Biscuits Mild.
A footnote to this, for what it’s worth: we haven’t been keeping a log of every closure this year as we did last year but, overall, our impression is that there have been fewer UK breweries shutting up shop in 2018.
David Holden at Yes Ale is a young father and has been reflecting on that perennial favourite topic, children in pubs. What makes this piece worth a share of your eyeballs is that it recognises something that these pieces often miss: kids in pubs isn’t something that started happening in the past few years, it’s how most of us grew up. This is the key passage:
Saturdays and Sunday afternoons, were spent down the pub as our parents didn’t have Facebook or Myspace to socialise so you were dragged along to be bored to death or hope that another kid had brought a ball so you could play Wally… Our first local was The Bloomfield in Blackpool… In my time there, everybody knew everybody. It was my dad’s local. My mum did shifts. Fake Aunties, False Uncles, step-dads and lasting family friends all came from the epicentre that is the pub. And, EVERYBODY knew my Grampsi was the one who bent the bars on the railings outside. As you walked in, we always went through the left door. No kids in the Games Room.
We’ve been enjoying notes on Bristol from the Beer Nut, not least because we were there for part of his research, watching him scribble in the ever-present notebook as he passed judgement on our local beer and pubs. Here’s part one, and this is part two which features our cameo.
As we near the end, here’s what looks like a bit of novelty news, or even a joke, but is actually kind of a big deal for beer geeks: Danish brewing company Mikkeller is opening a bar in London in partnership with singer Rick Astley.
We’ll finish with a Tweet from Geoff Quincy (@geoffquincy) which collects together photographs of The Windsock, a famously exuberant post-war pub that we mentioned in 20th Century Pub.