Here’s everything on beer and pubs that seized our attention in the past week, from parallels with McDonald’s coffee to black beer festivals.
Chris ‘Podge’ Pollard died on 19 August. The author of several well-loved books on Belgian beer he was perhaps better known for his rite-of-passage guided tours. Veteran beer writer Tim Webb, who worked with Pollard on multiple projects, provides a touching remembrance via the British Guild of Beer Writers website:
We first met in a bar on the Belgian coast in 2003. Not quite fat, subtly bespectacled, wire-bearded in ginger-grey and sporting an unseasonably short-sleeved Caribbean shirt, his Burnley accent untrampled by decades in Essex… He had this idea that lambic beer was on its last legs and in passing would also bring to an end a culture of Payottenland cafés run by ageing widows, who used nutcrackers to pluck the corks from bottles of gueuze. Something must be done. His ridiculous idea was to compile a guidebook to what remained.
A few bits of news:
- Purity, which we’ve long had on our list of potential big-beer buyout targets, has just taken £7.5m in venture capital funding. (Via @philmellows.)
- Staff at Wetherspoon pubs are balloting for strike action. (Via @CraftBeerCommie.)
- Aston Manor, founded as a real ale brewery in 1983 but these days a commodity cider producer, has been bought out by French firm Agrial.
- Journalist James Beeson has ferreted out the story that some of Dark Star’s flagship Hophead is being brewed at Fuller’s, which took over the Sussex micro earlier this year.
- BrewDog has launched a TV channel with — surprise! — a PR stunt that was either ill-judged, or deliberately provocative. Pete Brown provides commentary on the TV channel itself.
For Good Beer Hunting Evan Rail has written a fantastic piece about what is ostensibly a minor technical point in the dispense and presentation of Czech beer, the side-pull tap, which really illuminates an entire culture:
They were visible from the front door, a series of taps with horizontal handles, and because they were still new their brass fittings, they gleamed inside the dimly lit front room. The rest of the pub was just like it had been before, with its historic patina of 70-plus years of hard riding. The only real standouts were the taps, which the newly hired bartenders seemed to be still figuring out. Using side-pull faucets is almost always a two-handed operation, with one hand holding the glass while the other adjusts the flow accordingly, with each degree of the handle’s turn increasing the rate of dispense. Compared to the simple taps the pub had used in its previous, grouchy-old-man incarnation, the side-pull taps were a reassuring indication that the new owners actually cared about beer.
(It also makes us yearn all the more for someone to commission a book of essays on European beer from Evan. Please. Someone.)
For Munchies (Vice) Lauren Rothman reports on America’s first black beer festival:
Conceived of by Day Bracey, a comedian and podcaster, and Mike Potter, a craft beer enthusiast and beer blogger, Fresh Fest sought to raise awareness of a still-nascent black brewing scene and help brewers get their products to drinkers who might still be exploring craft beer. In September, following up on the huge success of the festival, Potter will launch Black Brew Culture, an online magazine that will highlight the black beer scene and the creators that populate it. The men, both Pittsburgh natives, told MUNCHIES that both the festival and the magazine aim to right a historic wrong: the exclusion of people of color from the hugely profitable craft beer industry, a sector that generates about $70 billion annually.
From the ever-thoughtful Joe Tindall at The Fatal Glass of Beer comes commentary on a controversial article in tabloid newspaper the Sun, drawing connections to an advert for McDonald’s coffee currently airing on TV:
Reverse snobbery is certainly at play when simple things like a pale ale are dismissed as ‘poncey’. And reverse snobbery towards beer can be frustrating for those of us who love the stuff. It’s an inferiority complex that, we might think, denies people the pleasure we get from great beer… But I’m quite sure we should avoid anything that further divides craft beer from those who have decided, however arbitrarily, that it’s not for them. Delighting in reverse snobbery by, say, composing Tweets wearing negative reviews from the Sun article as a badge of pride seems, to me, a little smug (craft beer already looks pretty smug from the outside).
A sign of the times: Katie Taylor reports on Abbeydale’s Funkfest sour beer festival which took place on a Sheffield industrial estate:
This was an event with the sort of friendly, welcoming atmosphere missing from so many beer festivals, where total newbies could taste and discover, and openly dislike, and rapturously applaud, and ask questions and learn about the beer they were drinking… When that person asked their question, they were heard and answered properly, with genuine warmth, and offered more beer to taste to help them understand better. There are no judgements in the funk dungeon.
From the Pub Curmudgeon comes a substantial, constructive manifesto setting out what pubs should be doing to make cask ale special:
Pubs should see their cask offer as central to their business model rather than being just one amongst a range of products. In a sense selling cask represents a whole system of running a pub. There’s not much you can do about lager sales, but if your best-selling ale isn’t cask you’re doing something wrong. Think carefully about which beers will appeal to your customers and draw people in. Try to stock something that has a connection to the area or the history and traditions of the pub, rather than a brand from the other end of the country that was never seen locally until a few years ago.
And finally, remember that London pub knocked down by property developers in an effort to dodge planning laws? Well, the process of rebuilding it, brick by brick, has begun.
The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, the only building on its street to survive the blitz. Developers demolished it in 2015 without permission, to prevent the 1920s pub from being listed. Now – after a long court battle and several delays, the developers have begun to rebuild it. pic.twitter.com/RNIJ1thhUd
— Luke Hanrahan (@luketomhanrahan) August 29, 2018