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

The door of a dodgy old pub.

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: