The Best Beer Writing of 2018, Sez Us

A typewriter.

Beer magazines are in trouble and the Session is dead but, still, most weekends for the past year we’ve found between five and fifteen interesting things worth linking to.

From per­son­al reflec­tions to his­tor­i­cal analy­sis, from por­traits of pubs to pro­files of peo­ple, the depth, breadth and qual­i­ty of beer writ­ing only seems to increase.

The fol­low­ing list is our per­son­al selec­tion of the very best, with a bias towards ‘prop­er’ blogs over paid out­lets, and also towards voic­es we think deserve a sig­nal boost.

We’ve omit­ted some great stuff that rather lost its pow­er when it ceased to be top­i­cal, and there are some blogs which are best approached as bod­ies of work rather than through indi­vid­ual posts, so this is by no means every­thing we liked in the past year.

Jam sandwiches.

Purity, Truth and Love

Katie Tay­lor | | @Shinybiscuit

Let’s start with the absence of beer in this account of a vis­it to a sur­viv­ing tem­per­ance bar in Rawten­stall, Lan­cashire, where jam butties are served at the bar and real mav­er­icks drink shots of neat cor­dial:

The col­lec­tive cul­tur­al mem­o­ry of Rawten­stall and all the towns exact­ly like it in this, my area of the coun­try, is one of damp cob­bles, leak­ing drain­pipes, hard­ware shops, old ladies in long tweed coats, steep lines of ter­raced hous­es, end­less bus jour­neys and lim­it­ed hours of sun­light.

Illustration: "Odd One Out".

From Both Sides

Lily Waite | | @QueerBeerBrewCo

This long fea­ture arti­cle sim­mers with anger as it sets out the expe­ri­ence of being a trans woman in the UK beer indus­try, as part of a wider con­ver­sa­tion chal­leng­ing the idea that Craft Beer is by def­i­n­i­tion wel­com­ing and inclu­sive:

Since liv­ing ‘as a woman,’ the dif­fer­ence in how I’ve been treat­ed has been huge­ly notice­able. When I was read as male, my opin­ions were worth more than those of my female col­leagues. I was trust­ed more, I was giv­en more respect, and I was rarely spo­ken over.

Speech bubble: the call out.

From Dreamsicle to Shelf Turds

Melis­sa Cole | | @MelissaCole

Despite being the most promi­nent female voice in beer writ­ing, and espe­cial­ly on ques­tions of sex­ism and dis­crim­i­na­tion against women in the world of beer, Melis­sa Cole rarely writes at length in places where we can eas­i­ly link to it. This year, though, she let it all pour out in a sub­stan­tial arti­cle for Good Beer Hunt­ing prompt­ed by some spe­cif­ic inci­dents:

Of course, peo­ple don’t deserve sym­pa­thy for putting sex­ist brand­ing out there. All I’m actu­al­ly say­ing here is that per­haps we need to stop and think about what led these men, and some­times women, to not being able to see how this art­work is unac­cept­able. Are these instances a chance to move the con­ver­sa­tion on from mere­ly call­ing out, and call­ing names, to a more gen­uine dis­course about why sex­ist brand­ing is dam­ag­ing on so many lev­els? I hope so.

Friday Lunch

Phil Edwards | | @flandyke

Old-fash­ioned blog­ging – a stream of words on a page, plucked straight from the brain, with not even a pho­to nicked from Google Images to liv­en it up – but no less enjoy­able for that, and one that lodged in our mem­o­ries: what hap­pened to the Fri­day lunchtime work­day pint?

1983, Chester

I knew we were on when I saw Tom going back for a pud­ding. Most days, we’d clock out at lunchtime, go to the can­teen for some­thing to eat – a hot meal served with plates and cut­lery, none of your rub­bish – and then it’d be down the Ces­tri­an for a pint or two, or three… If we timed it right and got them down with­out too much hang­ing about (the Greenall Whit­ley bit­ter in the Ces wasn’t any­thing to linger over), we could be clock­ing back in after not much more than the reg­u­la­tion 30 min­utes. Fri­days were a bit dif­fer­ent – lunch­breaks stretched to an hour; if you usu­al­ly had two pints you’d stay for three, and so on – but the can­teen part of the rou­tine didn’t change.

Madeleine McCarthy (L) and Lee Hedgmon holding glasses of glitter beer.

Glitter Beer: the full report

Jeff Alworth | | @Beervana

This kind of thing is why Jeff won our Gold­en Pints award: resist­ing reflex­ive snark, he actu­al­ly went out of his way to try ear­ly-2018’s trend of the week, glit­ter beer; to talk to those who were pro­duc­ing it; and to reflect on its appeal.

What you can’t appre­ci­ate from still pho­tos is that glit­ter expos­es how dynam­ic a beer is. The tiny flecks ride the cur­rents in bands and whorls, fol­low­ing the con­vec­tion of released car­bon diox­ide or the motion of the drinker’s hand. As you look down into the glass, you see it roil and churn. It’s riv­et­ing.

Illustration: lambic blending.

Eight Myths about Lambic Debunked

Roel Mul­der |

Mr Mul­der has spent much of the past year crash­ing through the estab­lished sto­ry of Bel­gian beer, stir­ring up debate, and push­ing peo­ple to defend argu­ments and cite sources. This piece from March is typ­i­cal:

Apart from its unique taste and pro­duc­tion process, there is also a cer­tain mythol­o­gy that adds to the appeal: lam­bic as a pri­mor­dial beer from an ancient past. Late­ly how­ev­er, beer con­nois­seurs are wis­en­ing up: not every aspect of the con­ven­tion­al lam­bic sto­ry stands up to scruti­ny. In their enthu­si­asm for lam­bic, some writ­ers have spread the weird­est tales.

On the Lash With Baudelaire: a literary pub crawl through Brussels (Act 1)

Eoghan Walsh | | @BruBeerCity

An Irish­man based in Brus­sels, Mr Walsh writes thought­ful­ly about his adopt­ed home, con­sis­tent­ly find­ing new angles and inter­est­ing per­spec­tives. This pub crawl with the shades of long-deceased writ­ers is a great exam­ple:

Charles Baude­laire hat­ed Brus­sels. From his arrival in the city in 1862, indebt­ed and unloved, until he left two years lat­er a paral­ysed syphilitic, he did not mince his words about Brus­sels: “a ghost town, a mum­my of a town, it smells of death, the Mid­dle Ages, and tombs”. Its peo­ple: “An amaz­ing quan­ti­ty of hunch­backs”. Or its women: “Mon­strous bosoms typ­i­cal­ly devel­op­ing quite pre­co­cious­ly, swelling like swamps owing to the humid­i­ty of the cli­mate and the glut­tony of the women”. Worst of all, he despised the beer drunk in Brus­sels, curs­ing faro as a “syn­onym for urine!”.

A perfect pint of Bass in Plymouth.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Where Can I Drink Draught Bass?

Ian Thur­man | | @thewickingman

You know it’s a good post when you book­mark the link and keep Tweet­ing it at peo­ple. Mr Thur­man is a Bur­ton upon Trent boy and a Bass loy­al­ist, and got anx­ious at the thought that this leg­endary beer might one day just be a name that sur­vives on pub mir­rors:

Else­where there are swathes of Draught Bass deserts with only the occa­sion­al oasis to quench the thirst. In Man­ches­ter, the Uni­corn holds sway as a unique city cen­tre Bass booz­er (see Tandleman’s reports below), Birm­ing­ham city cen­tre is emp­ty of Bass pubs, with Liv­er­pool, Lon­don, Edin­burgh and Glas­gow also short-changed.

That’s why he took the time to crowd­source a direc­to­ry of every pub in the UK known to sell cask Bass on a per­ma­nent basis. What a resource!

A moose head at The Grove

Those Were the Days My Friend

Mark John­son | | @MarkNJohnson

This reflec­tion on Hud­der­s­field Town FC, fathers, and pubs, is real­ly about the pre­car­i­ous­ness of impor­tant rela­tion­ships:

For many fans, foot­ball is about the match­day rit­u­als and expe­ri­ence as much as it about the 3pm Sat­ur­day kick-off. For my father and I the rou­tine became embed­ded – the Grove at 1pm. It stopped requir­ing organ­i­sa­tion with oth­ers com­ing from else­where. The texts about atten­dance weren’t nec­es­sary. We were in the Grove at 1pm.

German troops sharing beer during World War I.

Beer in the Shadow of War

Christo­pher Barnes | | @cbarneswrites

To mark the hun­dredth anniver­sary of the end of World War I the almost defunct All About Beer com­mis­sioned this won­der­ful piece on how the war affect­ed the brew­eries across West­ern Europe, and espe­cial­ly in Bel­gium:

Brouw­er­ij Sas was destroyed by retreat­ing French and Bel­gian troops,” says [Karel] Leroy. “It was on the wrong side of the canal so it was burned down before the Ger­man troops could arrive.”… The oth­er side of the fam­i­ly, how­ev­er, had much bet­ter for­tune. Van Eecke was locat­ed in Watou, which was sev­er­al kilo­me­ters west of Ypres and the front lines. Most of the brewery’s beer was sold in Poperinge, which was a pop­u­lar place for British troops to rest and relax in between stints at the front.

Oakwood, 1938.

The Oakwood and Me

Leigh Lin­ley | | @leighgoodstuff

We called anoth­er round of #Beery­Lon­greads this year and approached Leigh direct­ly: would he con­sid­er fir­ing up his retired blog one last time? He did not dis­ap­point, turn­ing in this fan­tas­tic piece about the his­to­ry of the Beefeater chain, and one branch in par­tic­u­lar:

As in most sum­mer child­hood mem­o­ries of the ear­ly 1990’s, it’s hot. Real­ly, real­ly hot. Hard, pow­der-blue sky, short shorts and sweaty poly­ester repli­ca foot­ball shirts. Ice pops drib­bling neon sug­ar-water down your wrist. Leeds Unit­ed are play­ing – or have played, actu­al­ly – and have won. I know this even though we’re play­ing in the car park of The Oak­wood pub with a rapid­ly-deflat­ing ball.

Plastic footballs.

The Drinker’ World Cup Survival Guide

Kirsty Walk­er | | @doubleshiny

It seems a long time since It was Com­ing Home and Gareth South­gate’s waist­coat got its own book deal, but this typ­i­cal­ly wit­ty post from the best-named blog in the world took us right back to the sum­mer:

An hour before kick-off is nev­er enough time to secure a seat and you damn well know it. Some peo­ple will have been there since open­ing to make sure they had a spot, and if you’re not will­ing to do that, or fear that you’ll be ham­mered and gib­ber­ing by the time a ball is kicked, it’s time to go poach­ing. Here are some ways to spot who might be hoard­ing a plum seat but will dart off like a fright­ened rab­bit as soon as foot­ball comes on. Check for two or more of the fol­low­ing;


A cot­ton bag for life adver­tis­ing a book fes­ti­val

The John Hewitt pub in Belfast.

Not Guinness

Mac Siúrtáin | | @SeisiunBelfast

This is part Belfast pub-crawl, part front­line beer review­ing, and part pon­der on the nature of Guin­ness’s dom­i­nance in Ire­land:

Hon­est­ly, I’d flip-flopped on which beer was which  and had actu­al­ly set­tled on Beer 1 being Guin­ness at first. How­ev­er in hind­sight it should have been pret­ty easy to peg them. Beer 1 had more aro­ma and flavour but didn’t quite gel togeth­er as well. Beer 2 pre­sent­ed bet­ter, smelled and tast­ed of very lit­tle but was tech­ni­cal­ly flaw­less, more har­mo­nious and eas­i­er to drink. I did how­ev­er man­age to get them wrong as Beer 1 turned out to be Yards­man and Beer 2 was Guin­ness. I think this was large­ly down to my prej­u­dice – I assumed the bet­ter beer was the craft-brewed one. This high­lights the impor­tance of the ‘blind’ part of blind tast­ing.

What Ails Cask Ale?

Pete Brown | | @PeteBrownBeer

Hav­ing under­tak­en research and con­sul­tan­cy behind the scenes on the lat­est Cask Report Pete Brown here unpacks some of that detail, across three blog posts, with graphs, stats and insight galore:

Cask is an ‘old man’s drink’, tra­di­tion­al,  but wide­ly per­ceived as good qual­i­ty. In groups, peo­ple said that cask ale should be served in big, dim­pled mugs. It should be poured from wood­en hand­pulls. It should look old-fash­ioned. There should be a group of old codgers stand­ing around the pumps drink­ing it. None of these attrib­ut­es make my respon­dents any more like­ly to drink cask more often, but that’s not the point – to them, this is all part of the back­ground ambi­ence of what a prop­er pub should be.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

A man crouched over his brewing apparatus.
Dmitriy Zhe­zlov with his unusu­al brew­ing kit.
Oven Beer in Central Russia

Lars Mar­ius Garshol | | @larsga

LMG’s reports of his explo­rations of farm­house brew­ing tra­di­tions con­tin­ued through­out 2018, includ­ing this account of Dmitriy Zhe­zlov’s set­up 800km east of Moscow:

Once the malts had been ground Dmitriy brought out the kor­cha­ga, a ceram­ic ves­sel that’s real­ly the key to Dmitriy’s beer, since it is both the mash tun and the lauter tun. The kor­cha­ga is heat­ed in the oven, and then the wort is lautered direct­ly out of it through a small hole near the bot­tom, which is closed with a wood­en plug. To make the mash fil­ter Dmitriy soaked rye straw in water to soft­en it, and then cov­ered the bot­tom with care­ful­ly cut lengths of straw. The straw has to go above the hole, and the high­er lay­ers need to be longer.

Beer pump for Young's Ordinary bitter.

A Love Letter to Cask Ale

Rowan Molyneux | | @RowanMolyneux

Hav­ing worked in and around the beer and pub indus­try for years, Rowan Molyneux’s thoughts on cask ale and where it sits in the scene, have a sharp­er edge than much of the pon­der­ing on this top­ic:

Eigh­teen keg lines, two taps ded­i­cat­ed to cock­tails, and four cask on… It was a tough deci­sion, but in the end a half of Ori­gin on keg was exact­ly what I need­ed after the train jour­ney; zingy, refresh­ing, and chilled. As my com­pan­ion and I gazed up at the rest of the exten­sive beer range, sore­ly tempt­ed by the BA Tof­fee Stran­nik… we spot­ted some­thing we didn’t expect. Tim­o­thy Taylor’s Land­lord… It was in per­fect con­di­tion and tast­ed great… The hap­pi­ness this brought me actu­al­ly took me aback a lit­tle. Since when am I some­body who is excit­ed about cask beer? And then I asked myself, wait – when did I stop being some­body who is excit­ed about cask beer?

For more, check out our week­ly round-ups and our Twit­ter feed where we share all sorts of stuff that has grabbed our atten­tion.