News, Nuggets & Longreads 2 February 2019: Conmen, Archaeobotanists, Maltsters

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from gig venues to American home-brewing.

Kentucky’s Craft Beer Con Man’ is a hell of a head­line and the sto­ry, by Michael Moeller for Ken­tucky Sports Radio, more than lives up to it:

This is the sto­ry of a craft beer con man who trav­eled across the Unit­ed States and abroad – a man who knew how to exploit the shared weak­ness of most small busi­ness­es – talk a big enough game and a back­ground check won’t be required. Talk an even big­ger game and even fool busi­ness part­ners and investors.

(Via @beerbabe.)


Gig posters on a pub in Manchester.

Katie Tay­lor has been lis­ten­ing to BBC Radio 6 and noticed par­al­lels between con­cerns about the loss of inde­pen­dent music venues and fret­ting over the fate of pubs:

Recent­ly, the sta­tion has been run­ning a cam­paign to redis­cov­er and cham­pi­on local inde­pen­dent music venues, and the more inter­views with pas­sion­ate but skint pro­mot­ers and own­ers they broad­cast, the stronger I’ve noticed the over­lap between their strug­gles and the strug­gles of our favourite pubs, tap­rooms and brew­eries. There’s an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion there, for sure – the same rev­o­lu­tion­ary atti­tude towards resist­ing devel­op­ers and buy­outs smoul­ders under a heavy smog of frus­tra­tion, the same anger and resigned futil­i­ty wafts through their brava­do into their every­day con­ver­sa­tions.


American homebrewers in a vintage photo.
AHBA

Michael ‘Mad Fer­men­ta­tion’ Ton­s­meire has post­ed a sober reflec­tion on the health of Amer­i­can home-brew­ing, observ­ing a dip or decline:

Anec­do­tal­ly over the last 30 years, Amer­i­can home­brew­ing has expe­ri­enced three sim­i­lar dips. Rough­ly the ear­ly-1990s, ear­ly-2000s, and the last few years. These coin­cide with three piv­otal moments in com­mer­cial beer avail­abil­i­ty… With more than 6,000 brew­eries spread across the coun­try, most Amer­i­cans can take a short dri­ve to vis­it a dif­fer­ent brew­ery tast­ing rooms every week for a few months with­out repeat­ing. Not only that, but the old mod­el of four core beers, four sea­son­als, and a cou­ple spe­cial releas­es is gone. Many brew­eries are pro­duc­ing 50 or more beers each year. The vari­ety is stag­ger­ing, and again many for­mer home­brew­ers are hap­py to reduce their risk/effort and sam­ple as many new beers as they desire.


A statue of a maltster.
‘The Malt­ster’ by Jill Tweed. SOURCE: Alec Lath­am.

We’d nev­er thought much about Ware’s part in British beer his­to­ry. Or, indeed, real­ly been aware of the exis­tence of Ware. For­tu­nate­ly, Alec Lath­am has put togeth­er a com­pre­hen­sive note on the Hert­ford­shire town and its his­toric rela­tion­ship with malt­ing, brew­ing and booz­ing:

In 1869 (coin­ci­den­tal­ly, also the year Britain’s pubs reached their high­est record­ed peak in num­bers), the town… con­tained the largest malt­ing estab­lish­ments on the plan­et… In 1880 there were over one hun­dred malt kilns in this lit­tle town – pos­si­bly as many as 140. Every local inhab­i­tant owed their liv­ing to the pro­duc­tion of malt. Pub­li­cans of Ware’s many small ale hous­es would open as ear­ly as five o clock in the morn­ing to offer liq­uid sus­te­nance to the malt­mak­ers on their way to light the kiln fires.


A relic of ancient brewing.

Some fresh news about ancient beer: work to improve the A14 in Cam­bridgeshire have uncov­ered “what is believed to be evi­dence of the first beer brewed in the UK”, pos­si­bly dat­ing from 400 BC, as explained by archaeob­otanist Lara Gon­za­lez:

I knew when I looked at these tiny frag­ments under the micro­scope that I had some­thing spe­cial. The microstruc­ture of these remains had clear­ly changed through the fer­men­ta­tion process and air bub­bles typ­i­cal of those formed in the boil­ing and mash­ing process of brew­ing… The porous struc­tures of these frag­ments are quite sim­i­lar to bread, but through micro­scop­ic study, it’s pos­si­ble to see that this residue is from the beer-mak­ing process as it shows evi­dence of fer­men­ta­tion and con­tains larg­er pieces of cracked grains and bran but no fine flour.


The sign of the Victoria, a Fuller's pub in Paddington.

If you real­ly want to read more on last weekend’s big news sto­ry, the takeover of the brew­ing oper­a­tion at Fuller’s by Asahi, here’s a round-up of the most inter­est­ing com­men­tary we haven’t already linked to else­where:

Pete Brown – “As some­one who (a) loves beer and (b) also aspires to being seen as a lev­el-head­ed com­men­ta­tor with a degree of insight into the mar­ket, when­ev­er some­thing like this hap­pens I have two reac­tions: the emo­tion­al and the ana­lyt­i­cal. Some­times they match up with each oth­er. Oth­er times they don’t.”

Will Hawkes – “[It’s] the human ele­ment that has made Fuller’s so impor­tant in mod­ern Lon­don brew­ing. When the [Lon­don Brew­ers’ Alliance] was get­ting start­ed, [John] Keel­ing and fel­low Fuller’s brew­er Derek Pren­tice were cen­tral… Evin O’Riordain, founder of The Ker­nel, told me then that the best thing about the LBA was being able to ask Keel­ing and Pren­tice ques­tions, which they’d hap­pi­ly answer.”

Mark John­son – “Imag­ine hav­ing the actu­al hubris to not hold the same opin­ion of some­body else when it comes to busi­ness. Imag­ine not think­ing that any­thing but pro­gres­sive cap­i­tal­ism is pos­i­tive. Imag­ine sid­ing with that cau­tion. Imag­ine just want­i­ng to take a step back and ques­tion the motives of big­ger con­glom­er­ates...

Roger Protz – “The sale of Fuller’s brew­ery and brands to Asahi of Japan brings to an end the long his­to­ry of fam­i­ly brew­ing in Lon­don. One by one, the likes of Char­ring­ton, Courage, Manns, Tay­lor Walk­er, Tru­man and Wat­ney have dis­ap­peared, with the revered Young’s of Wandsworth throw­ing in the tow­el in 2006.”

Adri­an Tier­ney-Jones – “I’ll get over it, we get over things us adults, and after all as long as ESB, Lon­don Porter (in keg for me), Vin­tage Ale, the wis­te­ria, the brew­ery yard across which hun­dreds of work­ers have ambled and gam­bled on a life in beer and that tum­ble-down dusty room of bound brew­ery archives exists I will feel I belong.”


And final­ly, there’s this:

One thought on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 2 February 2019: Conmen, Archaeobotanists, Maltsters”

  1. I actu­al­ly met the ‘Kentucky’s Craft Beer Con Man’ when he was at 81Bay in Tam­pa. He invit­ed a group of us in to taste test his beers. He was slick, but of the 4 or 5 beers we tast­ed, only one was pass­able. And over the next sev­er­al months the beer was very incon­sis­tent, and most­ly bad. So it wasn’t a major sur­prise to hear he had lied about his resume and was gone. The brew­ery has sur­vived but was scram­bling for quite a while. Sad to see his is still out there con­ning peo­ple.

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