News, Nuggets & Longreads 17/11/2018: Cloudwater, Collaboration, Klein-Schwechat

A pint of stout.

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from yeast family trees to the curse of good press.

First, though, let’s have a bit of good news: John Pry­bus, the char­ac­ter behind the cult sta­tus of The Blue Bell in York, will con­tin­ue to run the pub after a vig­or­ous local cam­paign to pre­vent the pub com­pa­ny that owns it boot­ing him out in favour of a man­ag­er.


Cloudwater cask beers on a bar in Manchester.

Cloud­wa­ter aban­doned cask-con­di­tioned beer, but have now come back round to the idea. While some have bri­dled at the hype sur­round­ing this event (con­trolled launch of cask beers into select­ed pubs, lots of social media buzz) it’s prompt­ed some thought­ful debate. For exam­ple, there’s this cau­tious wel­come from Tan­dle­man, who avoids the knee-jerk anti-craft response:

Cloud­wa­ter has been seek­ing out pubs where their cask cre­den­tials are such that they will look after the beer prop­er­ly, going as far as hav­ing a lit­tle inter­ac­tive online map where you can seek out those who know how to coax the best out of beer from the wick­ets. Addi­tion­al­ly, a vet­ting process, which while hard­ly the Span­ish Inqui­si­tion, at least gets enough infor­ma­tion about prospec­tive sell­ers of the amber nec­tar to judge whether they’ll turn it into flat vine­gar or not. Good idea. Qual­i­ty at point of sale is para­mount and Cloud­wa­ter are to be praised for mak­ing such efforts as they have in the name of a qual­i­ty pint.


Handshake illustration.

At Pur­suit of Abbey­ness Mar­tin Stew­ard has been think­ing about col­lab­o­ra­tion brews. While acknowl­edg­ing the down­sides, he avoids cliched cyn­i­cism and reflects pleas­ing­ly deeply on how this rel­a­tive­ly new com­mer­cial prac­tice fits into the evo­lu­tion of our beer cul­ture:

Craft beer dis­tri­b­u­tion today has lit­tle to do with tied pub­lic hous­es, or even nation­al bar chains. The off-licence trade revolves around inde­pen­dent bot­tle shops that stock main­ly local prod­ucts, and the glob­al mail order ser­vices facil­i­tat­ed by the inter­net and advances in can­ning and logis­tics tech­nolo­gies. The on-licence trade con­sists of spe­cial­ist craft-beer bars and brew­ery tap rooms which, like the bot­tle shops that are some­times also on-licence tap rooms, have a dis­tinct­ly local bias… Col­lab­o­ra­tions enable brew­ers to expose their brands through those frag­ment­ed mod­ern dis­tri­b­u­tion net­works, and an Insta­gram sto­ry of a col­lab­o­ra­tive brew day instant­ly reach­es the fol­low­ers of each col­lab­o­ra­tors’ brands, wher­ev­er they are around the world.


One of our favourite writer-researchers, Andreas Kren­mair, con­tin­ues his obses­sives prob­ing into the his­to­ry of Vien­na beer with the unearthing of a water pro­file for the brew­ery well at Klein-Schwechat:

By pure acci­dent, I stum­bled upon an analy­sis of the brew­ing water (well water) of the brew­ery in Klein-Schwechat, in the book “The The­o­ry and Prac­tice of the Prepa­ra­tion of Malt and the Fab­ri­ca­tion of Beer, with Espe­cial Ref­er­ence to the Vien­na Process of Brew­ing” by Julius E. Thaus­ing. It’s actu­al­ly the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of a Ger­man book. One prob­lem with the analy­sis is that it doesn’t spec­i­fy any units for most of the num­bers. It does spec­i­fy the amount of residue after the water has been evap­o­rat­ed (in grams), but that was it… So by itself, the analy­sis is unfor­tu­nate­ly not real­ly help­ful. If any­body knows how to inter­pret the num­bers, I’m grate­ful for any help with it.

The open, col­lab­o­ra­tive grop­ing towards the truth con­tin­ues.


Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

More deep lev­el research, this time into yeast strains: Kristofer Krogerus and qq who com­ments here from time to time con­tin­ue to col­lab­o­rate on unpick­ing the ever-increas­ing pile of genet­ic infor­ma­tion on brew­ing yeast:

Wyeast 1469 West York­shire – Was ful­ly expect­ing this to be a Beer2 strain! 1469 is meant to come from Tim­o­thy Tay­lor, who got their yeast from Old­ham, who got their yeast from John Smith’s. The John Smith yeast also went to Harvey’s (the source of VTT-A81062, a Beer2 strain). So it’s a bit of a sur­prise that 1469 is in the heart of the UK Beer1 strains, clos­est to WLP022 Essex (‘Rid­leys’). So either the tra­di­tion­al sto­ries aren’t true, there’s been contamination/mixups, or we’re look­ing at John Smith being some kind of mul­ti­strain with both Beer 1’s and Beer 2’s in it.


Pete Brown's chart of cask + craft sales.

Pete Brown has shared more of the back­ground research that informed this year’s Cask Report, observ­ing that the cask ale and craft beer seg­ments of the mar­ket, if viewed togeth­er as ‘flavour­ful’ or ‘inter­est­ing’ beer, tell an inter­est­ing sto­ry:

Drinkers who say they under­stand what craft beer is and claim to drink it were asked to name a craft beer brand. A major­i­ty of them – 55% – named a beer the researchers felt was a ‘tra­di­tion­al ale’. Telling­ly, the [Marston’s On-Trade Beer Report’s] authors say that 45% ‘cor­rect­ly’ named a brand they deem to be craft – imply­ing that those who named a tra­di­tion­al brand were incor­rect in doing so… Per­haps you agree. Per­haps you’re sit­ting there think­ing, ‘Blimey, over half of peo­ple who think they’re drink­ing craft beer don’t even know what it is.’ Maybe to you this is a sign of how big­ger brew­ers have co-opt­ed the term ‘craft’ and made it mean­ing­less. Maybe you just think these peo­ple aren’t as knowl­edge­able about beer as you are. Or maybe – just maybe – they’re right and you’re wrong.


Black Sheep bottle cap.

Anoth­er pos­si­bly relat­ed nugget via @LeedsBeerWolf: one of the finan­cial back­ers of York­shire brew­ery Black Sheep is attempt­ing to mount a coup against the found­ing fam­i­ly because they are“failing to cap­i­talise on an explod­ing demand for craft beer”, as report­ed by Mark Cas­ci at the Har­ro­gate Adver­tis­er. (Warn­ing: the site is ren­dered bare­ly read­able by aggres­sive ads.)


Closed sign on shop.

This week’s not-beer lon­gread (via @StanHieronymus) is food writer Kevin Alexander’s piece for Thril­list about how he killed a restau­rant by declar­ing it The Best in the US nation­al media:

Five months lat­er, in a sto­ry in The Ore­gon­ian, restau­rant crit­ic Michael Rus­sell detailed how Stanich’s had been forced to shut down. In the arti­cle, Steve Stanich called my burg­er award a curse, “the worst thing that’s ever hap­pened to us.” He told a sto­ry about the coun­try music singer Tim McGraw show­ing up one day, and not being able to serve him because there was a five hour wait for a burg­er. On Jan­u­ary 2, 2018, Stanich shut down the restau­rant for what he called a “two week deep clean­ing.” Ten months lat­er, Stanich’s is still closed. Now when I look at the Stanich’s mug in my office, I no longer feel light and hap­py. I feel like I’ve done a bad thing.

A grim tale worth bear­ing in mind next time you see, or get asked to con­tribute to, a lis­ti­cle about pubs.



If you want more links, check out Alan’s Thurs­day round-up at A Good Beer Blog.

2 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 17/11/2018: Cloudwater, Collaboration, Klein-Schwechat”

  1. When peo­ple talk about the grow­ing mar­ket share of craft, they’re prob­a­bly not think­ing of the likes of Ship­yard and Blue Moon, but both of those fea­ture in the list of the top ten on-trade craft beer brands.

    This reflects what I’ve always said, that in the longer term some inno­va­tions asso­ci­at­ed with “craft” will fall by the way­side, while oth­ers will end up being assim­i­lat­ed by the estab­lished major brew­ers.

  2. Although most of the yeast stuff doesn’t mean much for those not famil­iar with the strains con­cerned, some­thing that might be of wider inter­est is Wyeast 1318 Lon­don Ale III. Tra­di­tion­al wis­dom on the inter­net has it com­ing from Bod­dies, but genet­i­cal­ly it’s close to WLP017 Whit­bread II. So there’s a whis­per of a pos­si­bil­i­ty that at some point before or after the takeover Bod­dies got yeast from Whit­bread, although it’s a bit too much like coul­da-woul­da-shoul­da for my taste.

    Still it’s anoth­er dat­a­point for the mys­tery of Bod­dies’ yeast. If any­one has some Bod­dies yeast, I could get it test­ed.…

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