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.

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