Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past few weeks (given that we took Christmas off) from St Albans to air raid shelters.
At The Pursuit of Abbeyness Martin Steward asks an excellent question: why do people visit brewery taprooms?
On the face of it, this is an odd thing to do. Breweries without taprooms may give you a taste of their beer, but they are hardly places to kick back and put the world to rights over a good session. They can be interesting for beer lovers, but, if we’re honest, setting aside the few with special architectural, historical or brewing points of interest, one is much the same as another.
But perhaps there is something deeper going on:
When we knock on the door of a pokey little brewery at the ragged end of a rainswept industrial estate, are we really responding to a soul-deep thirst to express our gratitude, in person, to the brewers of our much-loved beer?
Tandleman has started the new year with his take on the currently fashionable choose-your-own-adventure format, reflecting on the options available to those visiting a strange pub for the first time:
You enter and as your eyes become accustomed to the somewhat gloomy interior you realise that this isn’t the shiny little gastropub you’d hoped for. Instead it is a fairly rough and ready local pub, with a single room – though you might be lucky and find the small snug open… You realise that you have found: a) a hidden gem b) a nightmare pub with no redeeming features… What happens next depends on you.
At Mostly About Beer Alec Latham takes some time to explore the importance of beer and pubs in the history of the city where he lives, St Albans in Hertfordshire:
The town (it didn’t become a city until 1877) was described by its mayor in 1637 as ‘chiefly of inns and victual houses, who drive a trade upon the travelling of passengers’ and in 1700, any houses suspected of harbouring vagrants, rogues or other disorderly persons could be punished by being suppressed from selling beer or ale – proof that threatening removal of that licence acted as an effective social control.
A nugget from Ron Pattinson: who wouldn’t want to work at a brewery with an excellent air raid shelter?
Josh Noel has apparently written an interesting article for the Chicago Tribune but we can’t (easily) read it because the Tribune group can’t be bothered to sort out their website for European GDPR and so have just blocked Europeans from seeing them. Fortunately, Jeff Alworth has summarised the key points, and added plenty of extra thoughts of his own:
[American breweries] that focus on European styles are at a real disadvantage in the marketplace, where most sales are registered within a few popular types. The hops-shift is almost inevitable, because owners can’t afford to sit around and watch their debt grow as they try to find an audience for obscure styles. So they make an entree of IPA with a side of pastry stout and fruit sour. Exactly like Une Annee did… When the story came out, some folks commented on Twitter that this is a sad state of affairs: why won’t Americans drink dubbels, dammit? But Une Annee’s development is entirely predictable, and most everything in the story represents the organic development of a mature market for craft beer.
While we’re in the US, do take a look at Dr J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham’s summary of eight months serving as diversity ambassador for the Brewers Association. It’s extremely frank and deeply thoughtful, and concludes with a note of frustration:
I wish I could tell you precisely what front-of-the-house habits will make your taproom inclusive in terms that are as concrete as those that govern how frequently to clean your draft lines. I wish I could tell you exactly what policies and practices will make your workplace more equitable in terms that are as precise as the technologies you use to conserve water or consume less energy. I wish I could explain what justice might mean in craft beer spaces with the specificity that you might find in guidelines for protective clothing for brewery workers. Perhaps one day, I will find ways to do these things. I am an optimist.
Our fellow CAMRA-watchers will, like us, be wondering what the appointment of Tom Stainer as the organisation’s new chief executive means. That there’s a sense bringing in reformers from outside hasn’t worked, perhaps? When Tim Page took the job a few years ago we had chance to talk to him about it; perhaps we’ll manage the same with Tom at some point.
We’ve started sharing the odd archive post in these round-ups and this week it’s a lovely bit of snark about Dry January from 2016:
“I’m doing no onion January” I sobbed. My friends thought I was joking, but I was deadly serious. For once, my tears were real, and not the result of chopping an onion. I’ve always enjoyed onions in the evening, but I felt it had reached a new level in 2015 where the only question I was asking when I got home from work was “white or red?”
Finally, from Twitter, here are Tom Clarke’s gorgeous photos of a classic booze bunker in the North East of England: