Blogging and writing

Everything We Wrote in October 2018: Guinness, Pub Lists, BrewDog

October was another manic month in the real world but the urge to blog was strong throughout and we managed 19 posts here on the blog proper, and 11 on the Patreon feed.

We started the month, as we often seem to do, with a ‘Pub Life’ piece on bar staff being trained in the art of dispensing strong beers: “As long as they’re not rat-arsed, and not acting the arsehole, you can serve them pints. Obviously, if they’re absolutely arseholed, don’t serve them anything.”

In philosophical mood, we reflected on whether another way to arrange the line-up of beers in a pub might be Classic | Standard | New/Local, e.g. Old Peculier, London Pride and Bristol Beer Factory Nova.

How Guinness is made.
1970s leaflet: ‘How Guinness is Made’.

This was a big one: over the course of 2,000 words we digested an internal document from Guinness dating from 1977 when the firm was in agonies over dropping sales and image problems:

“No survey of beer in the seventies would be complete without mention of CAMRA…. CAMRA has undoubtedly been successful as a movement, in that it has become more than a national beer-drinker’s talking point. CAMRA claims credit for the introduction of 18 cask conditioned beers, and the withdrawal of advertising support from kegs tells its own story…”

Our most-read blog post, obviously, was a reflection on BrewDog’s much trumpeted ‘Blueprint’, confirming what we’ve been saying for a long time: people will tell you they’re bored of talking about BrewDog, but the clicks say otherwise. The Blueprint otherwise seems to have died a death – did you forget it was published only a couple of weeks ago? We certainly did.

The Rutland Arms pub

This piece also went down well: a list of pubs all over the place that we find ourselves longing to be in, from Newcastle to Cardiff.

We wrote the above just as we were commissioned to contribute to this piece on pubs for the Guardian – spot the difference.

Then, jumping ahead, all this made us think in general about pub and beer lists, how they come together, and why people might react to them the way they do:

Why only one pub in [LOCATION]? Why only [NUMBER] in [REGION]?

Interesting questions. We took a moment to do the sums on this: it’s because 50 pubs equates to about half a pub for each UK county, or 0.6 pubs for every town/city with a population over 100,000.

Hooray for navel-gazing! Do you know what we mean when we say we’re “fond of” a beer? Or “interesting”?

Is this beer consistently tasty? Are the brewers good people? Is the project laudable? Is the beer, brewery or style in need of our support?

It’s entirely possible to answer yes to one question but not the others.

The Aquarius AKA the Bluebell, Chelmsley, Birmingham, which now looks like this.
The Aquarius AKA the Bluebell, Chelmsley, Birmingham, which now looks like this.

In 1968 the Birmingham-based designer John Merilion wrote an article about pubs for his local newspaper. He summarised the great traditions of English pub design, and compared them to pubs of the post-war period, from theme pubs to the Chelsea Drugstore:

Nobody actually says they desperately want to drink in a hunting lodge in Harborne, or beer cellar in Bearwood, or a galleon on the Ringway. However, most people do not actively dislike these surroundings, and no doubt a strong case can be made out for their existence. They are surely preferable to the pseudo-traditional Georgian or Tudor chintz tea-room versions.

We finally made it to the Rhubarb Tavern, “A strangely normal pub. Uniquely typical. A different arrangement of the same old pieces to create something that is all itself.

On the same weekend we went to the Elmer’s Arms, “Another strangely normal, typically unique pub… One more possible arrangement of the standard modular components, with a few custom circuits.”

For months now we’ve slowly been tasting Belgian and Belgian-style Tripels off against each other. Finally, we have a winner in this titanic battle of… Oh, never mind, you get the idea.

Guinness wallchart (detail)

Would you like to see a scan of a huge process chart from Guinness’s London brewery dating from 1950? It took us bloody ages to put together so please do have a quick look, and if you’re a brewery, tell us what it all means.

Do you like mid-century graphic design and illustration? Of course you do, so you will most certainly enjoy this gallery of covers from Guinness Time from the 1950s featuring Abram Games, Tom Eckerlsey and John Gilroy, among others.

This very morning we posted our final post of October on the optimum number of people for a trip to the pub: “No, three is the ideal – keeping the chat at a constant simmer, taking it in turns to interrogate or listen, and nobody left alone while the round’s got in.”

We got up early every Saturday to put together a list of links, news and bits and pieces:

Over on the Patreon feed $2+ subscribers got exclusive posts on…

Beers of the weekend 28-30 September | the rarity of a perfect cask pint | let us Google that for you | beers of the weekend 5-7 October | beers of the weekend 12-14 October | Americans in the UK brewing industry (a longread) | beers of the weekend 19-21 October | pub life: melancholia | we know a listicle that’ll get on your nerves | bus life: love you mate | Pink Floyd in the pub bog.

We Tweeted a lot…

…and Instagrammed a bit:


View this post on Instagram


Gorgeous pub. #pubs #london #wandsworth #victorian

A post shared by Boak & Bailey (@boakandbailey) on

Beyond our own #BrandedChannels we’re also in the latest edition of Original Gravity which you can read online here or at your local craft beer type bar type pub thing.

If any of that lot entertained, informed or amused you do consider giving us a bit of encouragement by: