News pubs

News, Nuggets & Longreads 29 September 2018: Runcorn, Rochefort, Rules of the Tavern

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from PR disasters to art installations.

Last year Kirst Walker wrote up a pub crawl of Runcorn’s Victorian pubs with her trademark spark; this year, she notes plenty of changes, giving the exercise a certain academic interest as well as pure entertainment value:

Time for the Lion, where everybody knows your name! Last year’s winner was where we we would end the night once more. I didn’t double up last time but as we’d already had time bonuses, sambucca, and sandwiches I threw caution to the wind. Alan bought a round of pies like a freaking billionaire and we had a group de-brief with plans to repeat the operation next year on the same weekend… The Lion has lost much of its original room layout since it was refurbished and part of it converted into houses, but it’s still the type of traditional corner pub which is a hub for the community, and in my opinion it as better to try and save the pub than keep the entire sprawling space.

Price list in a pub.

We tend to ignore clickbaity brouhahas over individual expensive pints these days but Martin Steward at Pursuit of Abbeyness has waited for the dust to settle before reflecting on one such recent incident, producing a slow-cooked opinion rather than a flash-fried ‘hot take’:

The most remarkable thing about the price of Alesmith Speedway Stout Hawaiian is not that it is five-times higher than the price of Rochefort 10, but that it is three-times higher than Alesmith’s ordinary Speedway Stout… That premium buys you some toasted coconut flakes, some vanilla and some rare Hawaiian Ka’u coffee beans, which are indeed three-times more expensive than your bog-standard joe… If you can taste the difference after those beans have had beer fermenting on them, I complement you on your sensitive palate. If you think it justifies a 200% premium, I have a bridge to sell you.

The Blue Bell, York.

Adrian Tierney-Jones asks a good question: what is the attraction of dark, brown pubs, Kellers and bars?

The first thought that attempted to answer this question was that these wooden wombs are perhaps reminiscent of the dark forests from whence we came, where we all felt the same and during a time before electric light, a time when perhaps, disregarding tales of monsters and demons, we were more comfortable with the dark. An ancestral memory perhaps?

Rules of this Tavern.

Here’s something a bit different: a background detail in the Jonathan Meades video we linked to last week caught the eye of London’s Singing Organ Grinder, prompting him to do some digging into the history of the faux-antique signs often seen in pubs:

It is one of a range of quasi-antique, kind-of-humorous pub and bar signs which I thought originated with cheap publishing in 1990s’ England, but which an Ebay listing suggests were mass-produced by Yorkraft in Pennsylvania in the 1960s… I don’t think the sign would fool any British drinker above a certain age, but perhaps Americans are more trusting of proto-distressed Bohemianism. One writes, of the Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford, PA: “In the lower photos, the year of original construction, 1762, is celebrated in stained glass and the tavern’s original rules remain on display…”

(Spotted via pingback — one very good reason for interlinking.)

Closed sign on shop.Reflecting on the long-trailed final final final closure of Hardknott Brewery, and on the question of crowdfunding, Tandleman expresses his sense that all is not well on the UK scene:

There will be further casualties and it won’t always be the bad guys who will fail. It won’t necessarily be the ones with the worst beer. It may be your favourite small to medium local brewer and it may well be that even the optimists who are using other people’s money to grow won’t be successful either.

For what it’s worth, though we agree with many of the specifics, we ultimately draw less gloomy conclusions. But who can say for sure what’s going to happen until it does or doesn’t?


Tipperary back bar.

Martyn Cornell has directed his annoyance towards the unchecked bullshit that infests the supposed history of a central London pub, The Tipperary:

“In approx 1700 the S.G. Mooney & Son brewery chain of Dublin purchased ‘The Boars Head’ and it became the first Irish pub outside Ireland … The pub also became the first pub outside Ireland to have bottled Guinness and later draft.” I cannot fathom how or why anyone would invent this stuff, or have it so totally wrong. There is actually a gorgeous old mirror, probably more than 100 years old, on the wall inside the pub which gives the proper name of the pub chain – not “brewery chain”, whatever one of those is — that formerly owned the Board’s Head/Tipperary, which makes getting the incorrect name outside the pub particularly inexcusable. It was JG Mooney and Co, not “SG Mooney & Son”: the company developed out of the licensed wholesaler and retailer business James G Mooney was running in Dublin from at least 1863. The Tipperary was not only emphatically NOT “the first Irish pub outside Ireland”, it wasn’t even JG Mooney’s first pub outside Ireland.

Confession: we credulously repeated a bit of this fake history back in 2015, and even 20th Century Pub has an unfortunate passing reference (p.150).  A useful reminder to question everything.

We weren’t going to bother mentioning the latest BrewDog PR disaster because, well, it’s much like the last BrewDog PR disaster. But then we noticed that non-beer-geek colleagues at our respective workplaces were talking about it and figured it might be worth a line or two, just for the record.

Eater has a good round up from Emma Hughes embedding Tweets from several familiar names but, short version: a PR agency working with BrewDog and US firm Scofflaw sent out a press release offering free pints to Donald Trump supporters; people were not impressed. Our reading: this was a genuine cock up. But it’s interesting that this idea was on the table somewhere, somehow, long enough to make it to first draft stage.

Finally, this sounds like fun, if you happen to be knocking about South London today or tomorrow:

For more links and reading check out Alan’s Thursday round-up. (Stan Hieronymus is still on holiday.)

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