News, Nuggets & Longreads 1 September 2018: Side-Pulls, Strikes, Sour Beer

The Cock Tavern in Hackney, London.

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:


A side-pull beer tap.
By Ben Chlapek for Good Beer Hunt­ing.

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.)


Men at a beer festival.
SOURCE: Munchies.

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.


Illustration: red coffee cup.

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).


Rennies indigestion tablets and sour beer.

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.


The cover of the Beer Map of Great Britain, 1970s.

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.

One thought on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 1 September 2018: Side-Pulls, Strikes, Sour Beer”

  1. Dark Star Hop­head now turn­ing up as a reg­u­lar guest ale in ‘Spoons branch at Cow­ley (Oxford).
    Rather nice at £1.99 per pint.
    Mean­while, Rud­dles Best Bit­ter at £1.49 per pint in that branch must be the cheap­est ale in the south?

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