News pubs

News, Nuggets and Longreads 16 March 2019: Potatoes, Preston, Pubs

Here are all the blog posts and news stories about beer that seized our attention in the past week, from potato beer to ancient Irish pubs.

First, some food for thought: SIBA, the body that represents a significant chunk of the UK’s independent breweries, has published its annual report. (Unfortunately, in flippy-flappy skeuomorphic online booklet form. UPDATE: Neil at SIBA sent us a link to a PDF.) Some of the key messages:

  • The public perceives craft beer to be from small, independent producers, and made using traditional methods.
  • Young people do seem to be pulling away from alcohol, with only 16% of 25-34 year olds drinking beer more regularly than once a week, down from 26% in 2017.
  • The number of breweries producing keg beer has increased, and craft lager especially is on the up.

SOURCE: Ferment.

Better late than never, having finally got round to reading it in a hard copy of Ferment, the magazine from beer subscription service Beer52, we wanted to flag Katie Taylor’s piece on the beer scene in Preston, Lancashire:

A former Victorian textiles giant left to the fates of so many Northern towns, the city sits patiently on direct rail routes to nearly every UK city you can think of; it’s two hours from London, two hours from Edinburgh. Deprivation has cast its shadow for some time, but after over a decade of diligent local action and positive steps towards self-sufficiency it feels like recently, Preston’s time might finally be arriving… The hipsters of Preston are made of different stuff though. For a start, they’re not interlopers searching for cheap loft spaces – instead they’re local, young and they’ve never left.

ILLUSTRATION: Working Hard to Make a Living:

Velky Al at Fuggled reports on efforts by the workforce at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco to unionise, and reflects on brewery work more generally: “1% of the cost of your six-pack is the hours the brewers spent making that beer. Risking physical injury and even death in the event of a tragedy, to earn a single percent of the pie, the same single percent of the pie as the yeast gets.”

Potato beer.

Jeff Alworth at Beervana explains how brewers desperate for new ideas are mining historic styles, such as German potato beer:

Alan [Taylor] pulled a glass from the tank and I was quite impressed. His version had a milky white color, reminiscent of witbier. He used Saaz hops and they gave it a wonderful zing, but the potatoes added a creamy, silky texture. That was the unusual aspect. They’re used for fermentability, not to add flavor, and I couldn’t identify them from taste (almost certainly a good thing).

If we were still home-brewing, we’d certainly have to give this a go.

Sean's Bar

For the BBC’s international travel website Mike MacEacheren reports on a pub not only certified as the oldest in Ireland, but possibly the oldest in the world:

Sean’s Bar, with its woodchip-covered floor and walls made of wattle and wicker interwoven with horse hair and clay, has been in business since the Dark Ages. Located near to the ruins of a 12th-Century Norman Castle, it is the oldest extant public house in Ireland, a claim officially certified by Guinness World Records in 2004. But many, including the current owners and plenty of Athlone regulars and respected Irish historians, also believe it to be the oldest in the world.

Lots of ‘believing’ and ‘suggesting’ going on in the story, though, so the usual caveats about pub history apply…

Public Bar etched on a Manchester pub window.

A nugget: The other week Tandleman ran a poll on Twitter: good beer, or good pubs? He has written up his thoughts here.

And finally, there’s this: