Everything We Wrote in November 2018: Backstreet Pubs, Cashless Payments, Guinness (again)

November 2018

Here’s a round-up of everything we wrote in the past month. We managed 17 posts here in total, plus a few pieces over on the Patreon feed.

Just to shake up the run­ning order, let’s start with the lat­ter:


Illustration: Hilltop.

Here on the blog prop­er, we start­ed the month with notes on, and pho­tographs of, Hill­top, a res­olute­ly mod­ern pub, the design of which was tied up with post-war social ideals.


Back from a trip to Sheffield, with the pubs of Kel­ham Island in mind espe­cial­ly, we thought a bit about how stand­ing in crowds can be part of the fun of a real­ly busy pub. (And why qui­et pubs, though pleas­ant, might not be in the best of health.)


Still in Sheffield, we brought our 100-word #BeeryShort­reads for­mat out of retire­ment to describe a brief moment of rap­port between bar staff and cus­tomer: “Sure?”


A man dispensing Guinness from a cask.

We flagged anoth­er gem found in the pages of an old Guin­ness Time mag­a­zine: a detailed account on the sta­tus and ongo­ing devel­op­ment of draught Guin­ness from 1958, with spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion on the two-cask method, and some excel­lent pho­tographs.


The Ses­sion is on its death bed. For the penul­ti­mate edi­tion we reluc­tant­ly blogged about blog­ging, offer­ing some notes on where beer blog­ging was, where it is now, and where it might be going:

In gen­er­al, we’d say the feel­ing of glob­al com­mu­ni­ty has dimin­ished, but that’s not a whinge. It’s been replaced (prob­a­bly for the best) by many active, more local­ly-focused sub-com­mu­ni­ties: the pub crawlers, the his­to­ri­ans, the tast­ing note gang, the pod­cast­ers, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pis­stak­ers, and so on.

Host Jay Brooks round­ed up the pal­try six respons­es here. The very final last edi­tion of the Ses­sion is next Fri­day, 7 Decem­ber. Stan Hierony­mus has asked us to think about beer for funer­als. Do join in.


Observ­ing friends, fam­i­ly and col­leagues in the past year, we’ve noticed a new behav­iour emerg­ing: the ten­den­cy to order “What­ev­er IPA they’ve got”, or whichev­er ‘craft lager’.


pub life obser­va­tion­al piece gave an account of a Big Lad offer­ing unwant­ed and per­sis­tent com­pli­ments on a Mod’s admit­ted­ly atten­tion-grab­bing hair­do:

No, lis­ten, seri­ous­ly… If I was as good look­ing as you, I’d go out and get that hair­cut today. The girls wouldn’t know what hit ‘em.”

Silence. Shift­ing in seats. The Big Lad’s wheez­ing breath.

Then, remem­ber­ing his pri­ma­ry mis­sion, he lurch­es away into the gents toi­let, smash­ing through doors like a bull­doz­er.


After a crawl around the pubs of Tot­ter­down in Bris­tol we found our­selves think­ing about how mag­i­cal back­street pubs can be, and almost always look, espe­cial­ly in the dark, espe­cial­ly in rain or snow:

You know the feel­ing – walk­ing up the cen­tre of the road because there’s no traf­fic, TV light flick­er­ing behind cur­tains here and there, and the sound of your boots crunch­ing and echo­ing in the qui­et.


Read­ing a tat­ty old edi­tion of a 1934 book by J.B. Priest­ley we were delight­ed, if not entire­ly sur­prised, to find some piquant obser­va­tions on inter-war ‘improved pubs’:

The trick is – and long has been – to make or keep the beer-house dull or dis­rep­utable, and then to point out how dull or dis­rep­utable it is. Is is rather as if the rest of us should com­pel tee­to­tallers to wear their hair long and unwashed, and then should write pam­phlets com­plain­ing of their dirty habits: “Look at their hair,” we should cry.


After a Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tion about find­ing, shar­ing and hoard­ing archive mate­r­i­al on beer and pub his­to­ry, we put some thoughts into words. Short ver­sion: nobody owns his­to­ry, we’re all bet­ter off when peo­ple share, and the more you share, the more peo­ple share with you.


An out-of-date hack paper­back on pub names put us on the track of an inter­est­ing sto­ry: an Exeter pub which opened in 1985, designed to give peo­ple with alco­hol prob­lems the feel of a prop­er night out with no booze on the premis­es. How do you think it went?


We briefly acknowl­edged that we won an award, that we are very pleased about it, and point­ed to the stuff wot won it.


The post that got most traf­fic this month, per­haps because it dealt with a con­tem­po­rary hot-but­ton issue rather than what kind of pies they served in the Watney’s can­teen in 1962, was about cash­less pubs, and pubs that don’t take cards, and putting the needs of con­sumers first:

One pub­li­can in a cash-only busi­ness recent­ly told us they’d been think­ing about get­ting a card machine pure­ly because they were aware of con­stant­ly turn­ing away young peo­ple who expect­ed to be able to use cards. About half of them were will­ing to find a cash machine and come back, but the rest just moved on down the road.


Any­way, back to those Watney’s can­teen pies: in the ear­ly 1970s cut­ting edge archi­tec­ture firm Arup designed a new bru­tal­ist brew­ery for Carls­berg in Northamp­ton. Arup’s own in-house jour­nal is now avail­able online and the March 1974 edi­tion has a wealth of infor­ma­tion on the brew­ery, as well as some fab­u­lous­ly indus­tri­al pho­tographs.


We pro­duced our usu­al round-ups of news, nuggets and lon­greads:


We Tweet­ed quite a bit (but per­haps not as much as usu­al) and Insta­grammed a touch, too. Face­book, frankly, bare­ly got a look in.