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

October 2018, with a pint of beer.

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

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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: