News, Nuggets and Longreads 12 January 2019: Bitterness, Brüpond, Burlesque

An out of focus pub scene.

Here’s everything we thought bookmark-worthy in the past week, from beer with bite to Double Diamond.

First, a quick stop at the BBC, where the recent ONS report on pub clo­sures con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate sto­ries: we know some areas have suf­fered par­tic­u­lar­ly bad­ly, but where are pubs open­ing? Where have the num­bers risen? The High­lands of Scot­land, it turns out, is one such region:

Since 2008, almost a quar­ter of pubs in the UK have shut accord­ing to Office for Nation­al Sta­tis­tics (ONS) analy­sis… But the study shows that in the High­lands there are 14% more pubs than there were 10 years ago… Paul Water­son, of the Scot­tish Licensed Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, said a major fac­tor behind the growth was that the pubs had done well cater­ing for tourists.

David Brassfield outside Brupond.

This week’s must-read is Will Hawkes account of the brief rise and rapid fall of Lon­don brew­ery Brüpond, which makes 2013 seem like a mil­lion years ago.

I spoke to investors like Jan Rees, who put £500 into Brüpond: “I’m not real­ly in to beer at all, but it was a great pitch and David came across as super con­fi­dent & capa­ble,” he told me over email – but also that, after this expe­ri­ence, “I would avoid the micro­brew­ery sec­tor com­plete­ly because there are just way too many start-ups with no real­is­tic hope of a decent invest­ment return.” But I nev­er heard back again from [Brüpond’s founder David] Brass­field… Until a few weeks ago, when a mes­sage popped up on my email. It took me a few moments to reg­is­ter the name, but the mes­sage was unequiv­o­cal. “Hey Will! I know it’s 4 years lat­er… You still want to talk?”

This piece is also notable because it announces the arrival of Mr Hawkes’ own web­site, which we sus­pect will come to be a gold­mine of stuff like this which, frankly, is too inter­est­ing for news­pa­pers.

Detail from an old beer mat: BITTER!

Lon­don-based beer blogger,and beer som­me­li­er Natalya Wat­son knows what she wants to be drink­ing in 2019: bor­ing, brown, bit­ter beer. But those com­mas mat­ter, as she explains:

No, I don’t mean the tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish bit­ter. (Sor­ry.)

I sup­pose “bit­ter­ness” is prob­a­bly a more fit­ting term here. And a good, clean bit­ter­ness at that… While I have enjoyed a few of the hazy IPAs I’ve tried in the past year, I’ve found that too many brew­ers have tak­en their dry-hop­ping a bit too far, mak­ing the beer astrin­gent and unpleas­ant to drink. Sure I enjoy the enhanced hop char­ac­ter on the nose and palate, but I don’t like it when my beer bites back.

Mean­while, in the USJeff Alworth does want a beer with bite, or rather with teeth, and essen­tial­ly agrees with Ms. Wat­son:

In the bar’s dim light, it sparkled a molten gold. Clar­i­on bright, as if to spite fans of haze. From it arose the scent of forest—shall we say spruce just to be inter­est­ing? The first taste was all teeth. It was bit­ing back. It is a beer from before this decade, when peo­ple expect­ed hops to sting rather than seduce. The fla­vors are def­i­nite­ly arbo­re­al, I decide as I drink, and I’m stick­ing with spruce—Sitka spruce, like the ones that grow old and wide near the sea air. The prick­le of bit­ter­ness can fur­ther chill an icy night, but it can also crack­le in the mouth like fire. After half a glass, I see that this Eclip­tic is a warmer, even with­out much malt. Such a strange sen­sa­tion, bit­ter­ness, so close to heat and cold.

There’s clear­ly some­thing in the air: Cana­di­an beer writer Stephen Beau­mont seems to have casu­al­ly launched some­thing called #Flag­shipFeb­ru­ary with a view to focus­ing atten­tion on stan­dards and clas­sics such as Sier­ra Neva­da Pale Ale, in a world of one-offs and odd­i­ties. Some peo­ple are excit­ed and on-board; oth­ers not so much.

Our read­ing: all of this is about where those indi­vid­u­als are in the cycle, rather than sig­nalling a trend. Still, Cloud­wa­ter mak­ing a virtue of the clar­i­ty and bit­ter­ness of a new IPA is an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment.

The Cantillon Brewery in Brussels.

For Good Beer Hunt­ing British beer writer Lily Waite has done some deep dig­ging into how the con­ver­sa­tion about sex­ism in beer works when a cult Bel­gian brew­ery such as Can­til­lon is the focus:

In 2018… the Zwanze Day events that Can­til­lon co-host­ed at Moed­er Lambic—one of Brus­sels’ most pop­u­lar beer bars—overshadowed the beer itself… After an intro­duc­tion by Can­til­lon own­er Jean Van Roy, Colette Collerette, a bur­lesque dancer who per­forms with Brus­sels’ Cabaret Made­moi­selle, began to dis­robe in front of the bar. The show cul­mi­nat­ed when Collerette—wearing just nip­ple pasties and a thong—shook two bot­tles of beer and sprayed the foam over her near­ly-naked body… The live video was post­ed to Face­book by the venue short­ly after the per­for­mance, and quick­ly divid­ed opin­ions. Some crit­i­cized Can­til­lon for crude and sex­ist mar­ket­ing tac­tics, while oth­ers defend­ed the artistry of the per­for­mance. Even months lat­er, the result­ing firestorm is still smok­ing.

A cou­ple of bits of news:

Final­ly, here’s a splen­did vin­tage adver­tise­ment with a jin­gle we’d only just got out of our heads from last time we heard it:

For more read­ing check out Alan’s links on Thurs­days, Stan’s every Mon­day, and a new addi­tion to our list, Glass of Beer, which is a week­ly round-up of just five hand­picked links (@beerglassof on Twit­ter).

6 thoughts on “News, Nuggets and Longreads 12 January 2019: Bitterness, Brüpond, Burlesque”

  1. I’m real­ly dubi­ous about the ONS data. The analy­sis sug­gests to me a clear case of ‘let’s take a load of num­bers and just accept the results with­out think­ing why?’. In my pre­vi­ous work­ing area of retail there is cur­rent­ly huge dis­trust of the ONS data against the real­i­ty of what’s hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket.

    My ques­tions and sense checks would be, with regards to the High­lands…

    This is an an area that, at least in terms of alco­holic drinks sales, must have suf­fered severe­ly from the tight­en­ing of drink/driving laws.

    Do tourist num­bers match the growth in ‘pubs’ dur­ing the peri­od?

    Are we look­ing at the same def­i­n­i­tions of ‘pub’ at the start and fin­ish date. Is it that pos­si­ble some exist­ing out­lets now have on drinks licences? For exam­ple what were unli­censed cafes have become pubs in the ‘growth’ num­bers?

    Nev­er auto­mat­i­cal­ly believe what comes out of a spread­sheet.

    1. FWIW, the bit we could eas­i­ly sense check – stats for Bris­tol – was con­sis­tent with our own tot, so we’ve no par­tic­u­lar rea­son to think it’s dras­ti­cal­ly out of whack. It’s as good a bench­mark as any oth­er we’ve got, any­way.

      1. Agreed but Bris­tol is a stan­dard City area much in line with the nation­al pic­ture. It’s always the dodgy out­liers that reveal some­thing odd about a dataset. I’d just be wary of ONS these days.

        1. I blogged about the ONS fig­ures recent­ly. Clear­ly a lot of pubs have closed, but on the face of it these fig­ures only par­tial­ly take account of new open­ings, so you have to ques­tion how they are defin­ing “pubs”. One exam­ple is that a lot of restau­rants have full on-licences, but they’re still restau­rants and not places any­one goes to just for a drink.

          I’d agree with TWM that the High­lands fig­ures are very ques­tion­able. I’d doubt whether many of these new venues are pubs or bars in the usu­al sense and, being Scot­land, there won’t have been any microp­ubs. In that part of the world, much drink­ing is done in hotel bars any­way.

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