News, Nuggets and Longreads 30 March 2019: Magic Rock, Bottle Shop, Light Ale

A lampshade in a pub.

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from takeovers to light ale.

First, some big news which would be more excit­ing if it had­n’t seemed inevitable, and if we had­n’t been through this cycle mul­ti­ple times in the past decade: Hud­der­s­field­’s Mag­ic Rock has been acquired by multi­na­tion­al brew­ing com­pa­ny Lion.

We’ve always found Mag­ic Rock­’s Richard Bur­house to be a frank, thought­ful sort of bloke, and his state­ment strikes home in a way these things often don’t:

Of course, I realise that this news will not be uni­ver­sal­ly well received but I’m also con­scious that inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned brew­ing com­pa­nies don’t invest in Hud­der­s­field every day, and I’m delight­ed that the jour­ney we start­ed eight years ago has got us to this point… I’m proud that we con­tin­ue to be a good news sto­ry in the town; the deal with Lion secures growth and longevi­ty for Mag­ic Rock, gen­uine job secu­ri­ty for our employ­ees and enables us to hire more peo­ple and con­tribute more to the econ­o­my of the local area going for­ward.

It’s inter­est­ing that of the four brew­eries involved in the found­ing of Unit­ed Craft Brew­ers in 2015, three have now been bought by multi­na­tion­als. We said at the time that UCB rep­re­sent­ed a state­ment of ambi­tion, which ideas seems to have been borne out by the pas­sage of time. Any­way, that’s one rumour down, leav­ing one more (that we’ve heard) to go…


More news, not per­haps unre­lat­ed to the above:


Light split (HSD and Light Ale).

Justin Mason at Get Beer. Drink Beer. has been research­ing and reflect­ing upon one of the most pop­u­lar 20th cen­tu­ry beer mix­es, light and bit­ter:

Light and Bit­ter is, as you might expect, a half of Bit­ter (usu­al­ly a bit more, three quar­ters was­n’t uncom­mon) served in a pint glass or mug with a bot­tle of Light Ale as an accom­pa­ni­ment. This was to be mixed as you saw fit, either in mea­sured stages but more usu­al­ly as half the bot­tle, tak­ing it almost to the top, and the oth­er half when you were down to the half pint lev­el again… I could­n’t remem­ber the last time I saw any­body order or drink a Light and Bit­ter in any pub I was in for at least ten years…


A mural in south London.

Stay­ing in the realms of the old school, Desert­er has been tour­ing the work­ing men’s clubs of south Lon­don:

Have you ever walked past those huge old build­ings that have a Courage sign from anoth­er epoch, but offer no encour­age­ment to enter? They’re mem­bers’ clubs, where the beer is as cheap as fibs and ‘refurb’ means a new snook­er table. Lib­er­al Clubs, Work­ing Men’s Clubs, Social Clubs. A mys­tery to most. A sanc­tu­ary to some… Roxy and Gail had become mem­bers of a CIU club and that enti­tled them to vis­it any of their 1800+ clubs in the UK and take in their spe­cial ’70s-ness, low-price pints, mas­sive func­tion rooms and strong cue-sports pres­ence. I bor­rowed a card and kicked off our club tour at the Peck­ham Lib.


J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2002 & 2009.

Archive arti­cle of the week: can you imag­ine a news­pa­per today pub­lish­ing any­thing as niche and geeky as this set of ver­ti­cal tast­ing notes by Michael Jack­son on J.W. Lees Har­vest Ale from 1995?

The exact influ­ence of age is open to argu­ment. Nine­ty-nine out of a hun­dred beers will go down­hill. Only the strong and com­plex might improve. Before this tast­ing, I would have said that Lees Har­vest Ale might devel­op favourably for three to six months. Now, I think six or sev­en years. Beyond that, oxi­da­tion cre­ates Madeira-like notes, which can become dom­i­nant. From day one, the herbal flow­er­i­ness of the hop can recede, but it was still def­i­nite­ly evi­dent in the 1990.


For more good read­ing, check out Alan on Thurs­day and Stan on Mon­day.

3 thoughts on “News, Nuggets and Longreads 30 March 2019: Magic Rock, Bottle Shop, Light Ale”

  1. Just added Mag­ic Rock to the list of brew­eries that are dead to me, which already includ­ed Cam­den, Brix­ton, Beaver­town and Four­pure.

    I don’t blame the own­ers for cash­ing-in, but please don’t pre­tend it is about any­thing oth­er than mon­ey.

    1. Rob, Rob – do you gen­uine­ly think the guys at Mag­ic Rock went into busi­ness sole­ly for your ben­e­fit, and you have any right to get upset at their busi­ness deci­sions? Frankly, any­one who decides that they’re not going to drink an excel­lent beer because they’d pre­fer it if the brewery’s own­er passed up the chance to cash in on all their hard work is a self-cen­tred dum­mo.

      1. Mar­tyn, I won’t dis­re­spect the excel­lent Boak and Bai­ley site by resort­ing to trad­ing insults, as you seem to be try­ing to.

        You are either for craft beer, or for macro-pro­duced beer, and there is no pos­si­bil­i­ty of any mid­dle ground.

        The macros would love to get the genie back in the bot­tle, and revert to the days where peo­ple drank the same macro beer for a whole night out, or for their whole lives, but that ship has sailed. Macro sales are plum­met­ing and so they are des­per­ate­ly cast­ing around for craft acqui­si­tions, to try to stay rel­e­vant and stem the bleed­ing.

        Whether Castlemaine4Rock or Heineken­Town con­tin­ue to make excel­lent beer in the future is entire­ly beside the point. Both brew­eries are now part of the Macro-world which would love noth­ing bet­ter than to see the death of craft beer.

        Although new­ly-acquired brew­eries go to great lengths to deny it, it seems inevitable to me that finan­cial pres­sures will even­tu­al­ly come into play to reduce the raw mate­r­i­al costs (main­ly hops, of course) to dri­ve down pro­duc­tion costs to the point where they can sell to Tescos at say £1 a can. This is the Macro’s busi­ness mod­el.

        As a case in point, it was hilar­i­ous to wit­ness Fuller’s Head Brew­er Georgina Young jump ship to Bath Ales just sev­en weeks after they sold to Asahi in Jan­u­ary.

        Busi­ness-as-usu­al at Fuller’s after sell­ing-out is it? It does­n’t sound like it.….!!!

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