News, Nuggets and Longreads 16 February 2019: Beer Duty, BridgePort, Brussels

The interior of an ordinary pub.

Here’s everything in writing about beer and pubs from the past week that struck as especially noteworthy, from colonialism to brewery closures.

For the Guardian Dutch jour­nal­ist Olivi­er van Beemen offers an arti­cle based on an extract from his book Heineken in Africa: a Multi­na­tion­al Unleashed. It offers a glimpse into the prac­tices of a Euro­pean brew­ing giant oper­at­ing in Africa, and how, despite the rhetoric of cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­i­ty, it can­not help but echo the behav­iours of the colo­nial era:

Fur­ther research [into pro­mo­tion girls] in DRC, the coun­try where the most abuse was report­ed, revealed that unwant­ed advances came not only from cus­tomers but also from Heineken staff. “The enor­mous uncer­tain­ty of keep­ing a job com­bined with the absence of employ­ee rights of legal sta­tus makes PW [pro­mo­tion women] vul­ner­a­ble for mis­use from sev­er­al stake­hold­ers,” the inter­nal report notes. Often, the women, who earned very lit­tle, had to sleep with man­agers if they want­ed to keep their job. But if they need­ed to see a gynae­col­o­gist or get an abor­tion, which was often ille­gal and dan­ger­ous, they had to sort every­thing them­selves, and pay for it. They also had to drink five to 10 large bot­tles of beer every work­ing day, in order to per­suade cus­tomers to con­sume more.

Sighing bar staff.

This week’s big viral sto­ry, for quite under­stand­able rea­sons, was this expres­sion of right­eous fury by Cana­di­an beer writer Robin LeBlanc in response to a bizarre sex­ist ram­ble in an Amer­i­can brew­ing mag­a­zine by its pub­lish­ers, Bill Met­zger, who has since resigned:

That’s right, folks. He man­aged to take a piece about cask ale and turn it into a whiny, self-indul­gent, sex­ist, heav­i­ly misog­y­nist, and creepy as hell work. In fact he did this so expert­ly that it actu­al­ly broke my brain and I need to break it down and go over most of the par­tic­u­lar­ly offen­sive quotes with you all because if I don’t I’m going to keep think­ing about it until I have a brain aneurysm.

Alright. Let’s start with the very first sen­tence of the arti­cle.

Like most men, I strug­gle with my my pri­mal self.”

Oh boy, strap in folks, because we know exact­ly where this is going.

De la Senne beers in Brussels.

For Brus­sels Beer City Eoghan Walsh pro­vides a run­down of the his­to­ry of cult Bel­gian brew­ery de la Senne, con­struct­ing his tale around five spe­cif­ic beers:

Before there was Brasserie de la Senne, there was Zin­nebir. Bernard Leboucq was home-brew­ing in the base­ment of a cen­tral Brus­sels squat in 2002, and he was invit­ed to brew Zin­nebir as the offi­cial beer for that year’s Zin­neke parade. Yvan De Baets, already pas­sion­ate about beer, was a social work­er work­ing along­side youth groups on the parade. A meet-cute was inevitable.

I saw this guy pulling a big trol­ley of beer,” says De Baets, “and I told the guys work­ing with me to take care of the kids, I have to meet him. He offered me a beer, a sec­ond, a third.” Two years lat­er De Baets joined Leboucq as unof­fi­cial brew­ing advi­sor in their first iter­a­tion of Brasserie de la Senne.

The Quest for the Perfect Pub

The Pub Cur­mud­geon has dis­sect­ed a large­ly for­got­ten book from 1989 in which broth­er Nick and Char­lie Hurt report on a three-month Quest for the Per­fect Pub:

The thir­ty years since the book was pub­lished have, not sur­pris­ing­ly, not been kind to the pubs list­ed. Some, for­tu­nate­ly, are still in exis­tence in lit­tle-changed form, such as the Yew Tree at Cauldon in Stafford­shire and the Traveller’s Rest at Alpra­ham in Cheshire. Oth­ers, such as the Stagg at Tit­ley in Here­ford­shire and the Durham Ox at Shrew­ley in War­wick­shire, have very much gone down the gas­tro route and can no longer be regard­ed as com­mu­ni­ty booz­ers, while many, such as the Horse & Jock­ey at Delph in the for­mer Sad­dle­worth dis­trict of York­shire and the White Lion at Pen-y-Myny­dd in Flintshire have long since closed. Indeed, I doubt whether either of those long sur­vived the pub­li­ca­tion of the book, and the Horse & Jock­ey has long been a roof­less, crum­bling ruin.

Abstract illustration of pubs.

Roger Protz has writ­ten an inter­est­ing piece about the spe­cif­ic issues faced by those run­ning hous­es owned by giant pub com­pa­nies:

My agree­ment meant I could buy wines, spir­its and min­er­als free of tie but I was tied for beer and cider. The main Ei beer list had Dark Star Hop­head. Jack had sold three 18 gal­lon casks a week of Hop­head but Ei said I couldn’t have it as it was out­side SIBA’s deliv­ery area – SIBA has a 25-mile radius for beer orders.”

Courage Best is a pop­u­lar beer among reg­u­lars. Har­ry found he would have to pay £30 a bar­rel more than Jack had paid – and Jack had sold 100 bar­rels a year.

Carling Black Label beer mat.

At Ed’s Beer Site Ed pro­vides some fas­ci­nat­ing details of how Car­ling lager is actu­al­ly brewed:

Very high mal­tose syrup is used in the ket­tle to give 20% of the grist. For those not famil­iar with high grav­i­ty brew­ing very high mal­tose syrup is impor­tant because it reduces the amount of esters pro­duced dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion, some­thing which high grav­i­ty brew­ing rais­es.

Jim at Beers Man­ches­ter is angry about the weasel­ly ways of the UK’s larg­er brew­eries which are lob­by­ing for changes to Pro­gres­sive Beer Duty from behind the facades of var­i­ous organ­i­sa­tions, such as the Inde­pen­dent Fam­i­ly Brew­ers of Britain:

Let’s look at the IFBB in more detail.

Richard Fuller. Sec­re­tary of The Inde­pen­dent Fam­i­ly Brew­ers of Britain.

Hang on. Fuller. As in that brew­ery that is no longer “Inde­pen­dent”? Hmmm.

A notable brew­ery clo­sure: Bridge­Port Brew­ing of Port­land, Ore­gon – one of the first of the mod­ern IPA brew­ers, launch­ing its flag­ship hop­py pale beer in 1996 – is shut­ting up shop after 35 years. Jeff All­worth offers con­text and com­men­tary here.

And final­ly, from Twit­ter:

For more links see Stan Hierony­mus’s blog on Mon­days and Alan McLeod’s on Thurs­days.

3 thoughts on “News, Nuggets and Longreads 16 February 2019: Beer Duty, BridgePort, Brussels”

  1. I strong­ly advise any­one inter­est­ed in the top­ic of sex­ism and tol­er­ance to read through the com­ments of the above linked blog post of Robin LeBlanc, and also read the orig­i­nal text, since it is (should be) pret­ty obvi­ous to any think­ing grown-up that it was meant as a satire (and is a part of a series of sim­i­lar arti­cles). Note that this was also acknowl­edged by Robin LeBlanc in a lat­er edit, but nonethe­less, the agres­sive call to arms against this man, the site and its adver­tis­ers was not with­drawn.

    While I agree that the said report is uncouth and just pret­ty stu­pid, and its satire about sex­ism and chau­vin­ism is cause­less (its top­ic being real ale in Scot­land), I think that a blog­ger ask­ing her fol­low­ers to attack the author, the site which was man­aged by him for many years, and also its adver­tis­ers is beyond going too far – it is so agres­sive, ruth­less and pet­ty that it even harms the cause of fight­ing against sex­ism, even in its sup­posed harm­less forms (which are not harm­less at all as we know) like ban­ter and jokes.

    One can hate sex­ist jokes all they want, but there is noth­ing to cel­e­brate about this sad sto­ry. Because instead of equal­i­ty or respect, the after­taste of these events is rather that of resent­ment and revenge. I don’t want to live, work or enjoy my hob­by in such a hos­tile and cru­el atmos­phere just the same as in a sex­ist one.

    1. It’s not at all obvi­ous that it’s satire, and it’s very poor qual­i­ty tone-deaf satire if it real­ly is. If you don’t regard Met­zger’s piece as part of the chron­ic prob­lem of sex­ism in beer then you’re part of the chron­ic prob­lem of sex­ism in beer.

      1. I know about the prob­lem of sex­ism in beer from arti­cles on this site, main­ly, as I am not work­ing in this area. I know gen­er­al­ly about the prob­lem of sex­ism in the world, be it against any sex, just as any­one else with a bit of empa­thy does. (I tru­ly think that here in Central/Eastern Europe it is less chron­ic than in the UK although that may be wrong and is hard to decide.) How­ev­er, the “if not with us, then against us, but you are in a WAR” men­tal­i­ty of your com­ment is what I was crit­i­cis­ing in the first place in the orig­i­nal blog post (I don’t think you have mis­un­der­stood it, I just feel impor­tant to empha­size it because I don’t think one can or should force an extreme view­point on any­one else).
        Any kind of pos­i­tive and for­ward-think­ing change must come with a much more peace­ful men­tal­i­ty, or else it will become mis­guid­ed and end up hurt more than heal, thus start­ing new prob­lems. See Robin LeBlanc’s ini­tia­tive and result.
        I feel that I am against sex­ism (I have been doing a lot of look­ing into myself as well to prac­tice self-crit­i­cism), and don’t feel myself “part of the prob­lem”, but I know that my men­tal­i­ty described above will not guar­an­tee that nobody ever feels me to be that.
        But if lev­el-head­ed atti­tude like mine becomes part of the prob­lem for sex­ism, I think that it will hin­der its good cause in the end because extrem­ist reac­tions tend to beget a counter-reac­tion of the same kind.
        I real­ly hope there is still place and need for a kind of a mid­dle ground where we have some hope for oth­ers and not only have pun­ish­ment at the ready, or even vig­i­lan­tism – e.g. not giv­ing a chance for any­body for any expla­na­tion, self-cor­rec­tion or apol­o­gy.
        This is all I can say, gen­er­al­ly, for all today’s heat­ed top­ics, not just this one.
        I think this won’t change your opin­ion (or any­one else’s who is in my eyes an “extrem­ist”), but it felt good to write it down. Peace, and let’s hope argu­ments like these will be rar­er and rar­er.

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