News, Nuggets & Longreads 1 December 2018: Stats, Social Clubs, Suburban Pubs

A derelict pub in Bristol.

Here are all the blog posts, articles and news stories around beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Norway, Maine, to Canley.

First, some­thing with a bit of weight behind it: UK government’s Office for Nation­al Sta­tis­tics (ONS) has pub­lished a report on the health of the pub mar­ket. The over­all con­clu­sion it reach­es is that, yes, lots of pubs have closed in the past 20 years, but “the total turnover of pubs and bars has held up, remain­ing flat since 2008, once infla­tion is tak­en into account”.

There’s also an inter­ac­tive tool which will give you a read­out for your town or city, e.g.

ONS chart on Bristol pubs -- down from 375 to 285 since 2001.

The report sug­gests increas­ing employ­ment in the pub trade might be down to the growth in food ser­vice, and a trend towards big­ger rather than small­er pubs. (But we won­der if the intro­duc­tion of RTI in 2013 might also be an influ­ence, effec­tive­ly end­ing  infor­mal (unre­port­ed) employ­ment in most sec­tors.)


Children's party at a social club.

His­to­ri­an of clubs Ruth Cher­ring­ton has writ­ten about her mem­o­ries of play­ing bin­go with her par­ents at the Can­ley Social Club and Insti­tute in Coven­try, and what it all meant:

Our local club was con­ve­nient­ly sit­u­at­ed just across the street from our house on a post­war coun­cil estate. Mum told us that Dad was thrilled to bits when plans for the clubs were drawn up in the late 1940s. Hav­ing a local place to drink and play games like bil­liards and crib­bage over a pint or two meant he would no longer have to trek to his old haunts on the oth­er side of town. Like many local men on the estate, he threw him­self into set­ting up the new club on the land allo­cat­ed by the Cor­po­ra­tion specif­i­cal­ly for that pur­pose. The club opened in a wood­en hut in 1948 and affil­i­at­ed to the Club and Insti­tute Union in 1950.

(PDF, unfor­tu­nate­ly.)


Norway, Maine, brewpub.

At Beer­vana Jeff Alworth has tak­en a moment to breathe and reflect on how ordi­nary it has become to find decent and inter­est­ing beer in unlike­ly places:

Human expe­ri­ence requires con­stant recal­i­bra­tion, and mine occurred about halfway through my dry-hopped pil­sner, Imper­son­ator. I was focused on the over­ly Amer­i­can hop char­ac­ter and lack of assertive malt fla­vor when it hit me: I am in a brew­pub in Nor­way, Maine. My crit­i­cal appa­ra­tus had been set to “world stan­dards.” I quick­ly recal­i­brat­ed to “18-month-old brew­pub in rur­al Maine,” and all of a sud­den it was look­ing mighty impres­sive. There were no flaws in that or any beers we tried, and part of my com­plaint was, admit­ted­ly, pref­er­ence (I don’t want to taste IPA in my pil­sner).


Debit card illustration.

We wrote about cashless/cardless pubs and bars ear­li­er this week, and it’s a top­ic gen­er­al­ly in the air. David Hold­en at Yes! Ale reports the real­i­ty on the ground where con­sumers are expect­ed to car­ry both cash and cards if they expect to vis­it more than one venue in the course of an evening:

Yes, I had to go back out in the wind and rain but at least I am in a posi­tion to get cash out at six o’clock in the evening. I don’t have to go into an open branch to get cash. In Koelschip Yard I was in the posi­tion to open my wal­let and draw a card out to make a pay­ment. There are many rea­sons why not every­one can do this. These rea­sons may be why one poten­tial cus­tomer has to “give this one a miss” or ask their mate “Do you mind get­ting the round in here?”.


Hofmeister lager.

And here’s anoth­er real­i­ty check, from Paul ‘no rela­tion’ Bai­ley: beers that you can’t actu­al­ly buy, even if you real­ly, real­ly want to, might as well not exist. His expe­ri­ence was with the award-win­ning revived ver­sion of Hofmeis­ter.


Vintage illustration: McSorleys

We were sur­prised to come across some­one this week who didn’t know Joseph Mitchell’s bril­liant 1940 essay on New York City tav­ern McSorley’s, AKA ‘The Old House at Home’. So now, in what might be a one-off, or could become a reg­u­lar fea­ture, wel­come to Clas­sics Cor­ner:

It is equipped with elec­tric­i­ty, but the bar is stub­born­ly illu­mi­nat­ed with a pair of gas lamps, which flick­er fit­ful­ly and throw shad­ows on the low, cob­web­by ceil­ing each time some­one opens the street door. There is no cash reg­is­ter. Coins are dropped in soup bowls—one for nick­els, one for dimes, one for quar­ters, and one for halves—and bills are kept in a rose­wood cash­box. It is a drowsy place; the bar­tenders nev­er make a need­less move, the cus­tomers nurse their mugs of ale, and the three clocks on the walls have not been in agree­ment for many years.


And how can we not fin­ish with Hilary Man­tel doing her ver­sion of 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub?

Want more read­ing? See Alan.

One thought on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 1 December 2018: Stats, Social Clubs, Suburban Pubs”

  1. That New York­er piece is sub­lime. I vis­it­ed McSorley’s the first time a few years back (John Holl act­ing as tour guide), and it was out of date in exact­ly the same way. The gaslights are gone, but oth­er antiq­ui­ties plunge the drinker into a dif­fer­ent era. It’s as close to a time machine as I’ve found. After­ward, I googled around and found that same arti­cle. If you two make it the NYC, it real­ly ought to be your first stop (apolo­gies to Torst et al)—it’s a shard of rare Amer­i­can his­to­ry.

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