News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019

The Shakespeare, Bethnal Green.

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from AB-InBev to Samuel Smith.

Hol­lie at Globe Hops, a UK beer blog that’s new to us, recent­ly went back to Not­ting­ham where she stud­ied and noticed that many of her favourite pubs had tons more choice in their beer ranges, but some­how less char­ac­ter:

My brow fur­rowed. I strug­gled to artic­u­late how it felt to me like some­thing had been lost from the place, even though all that had real­ly hap­pened was that more options had been added. I’d loved the pub for pre­cise­ly its niche; the reli­a­bil­i­ty of excel­lent­ly kept Cas­tle Rock ales, the chance to try the brewery’s sea­son­al ranges, and guest ales from oth­er small local brew­eries, such as the fan­tas­tic Spring­head. But now there was a smor­gas­bord of choice that was almost dizzy­ing. I quick­ly realised the prob­lem; were it not for the recog­nis­able brick walls and beams lov­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pump labels, I could be any­where. The pub had retained its charm, but the bar choice had lost its accent.

(Via Peter McK­er­ry | @PeterMcKerry.)


Detail from an old brewing log.

For the Take­out Kate Bernot answers a great ques­tion from a read­er, Mike, who is fed up of find­ing a beer he likes only for it to change beyond recog­ni­tion after a year or two, by talk­ing to brew­ers about why they might tin­ker with recipes:

Some­times, tweak­ing a recipe is nec­es­sary to achieve con­sis­ten­cy. It might sound para­dox­i­cal, but mak­ing small adjust­ments to account for changes in ingre­di­ents actu­al­ly pro­duces a more uni­form prod­uct from year to year. Hops espe­cial­ly can vary from one annu­al har­vest to the next, which makes your beloved IPAs tricky. If a brew­ery uses only one type of hop in an IPA, and that hop’s char­ac­ter­is­tics change from one year to the next, it could absolute­ly impact the beer’s fla­vor.


Mackeson beer mat detail.

This week, Ron Pat­tin­son gave us an espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing ‘Let’s Brew’ his­toric beer recipe – Mack­e­son Milk Stout as it was in 1939. The beer that invent­ed a cat­e­go­ry, a beer of great sig­nif­i­cance in the his­to­ry of women and beer, and pret­ty tasty-look­ing, too. If you’re a brew­er or home-brew­er you’d be daft not to at least study this for a few min­utes.


A scientist looks at flasks of colourful liquid.
Sci­ence, as depict­ed in the Bell Tele­phone mag­a­zine, 1967.

From Jeff Alworth comes some­thing that feels quite pro­found: an attempt to map the cycles we go through with rela­tion to the appli­ca­tion of tech­nol­o­gy in beer:

A month or two back, I saw some news about yet anoth­er tech­ni­cal inno­va­tion involv­ing enzymes use in beer, or anoth­er hop prod­uct, or some­thing else wiz­ards in a food-sci­ence lab whipped up to make a beer taste like key lime pie. These new tech­nolo­gies come fast enough that I lose track. In any case, it crys­tal­lized a thought that has been ges­tat­ing for some time: beer is cycli­cal, oscil­lat­ing between peri­ods of tech­ni­cal change and tra­di­tion-build­ing.


AB's Pacific Ridge pale ale.

At Medi­um Dave Infante offers a long, detailed account of AB-InBev’s attempts to engage with, dis­rupt, and take a piece of, craft beer; and how that has “killed the buzz”. There’s not much here most of us ded­i­cat­ed beer-watch­ers won’t already know but it’s help­ful to have it pulled togeth­er in one place, in a com­pelling­ly read­able form:

[Tim] Schoen tried to build an answer to craft beer from with­in the [Anheuser-Busch], launch­ing look-alike brands that had lit­tle appar­ent con­nec­tion to Anheuser-Busch, aping Sier­ra Neva­da with Pacif­ic Ridge and Shin­er Bock with Ziegen­Bock. It was a begrudg­ing admis­sion in St. Louis that micro­brew­ing was no mere fad… It did not go well. Aside from some infa­mous con­coc­tions like Tequiza (a quick­ly killed blue agave and lime fla­vored lager), it wasn’t real­ly the brew­ers’ fault. “We came out with some real­ly good beers, and none of them real­ly gained any sig­nif­i­cant trac­tion,” said Mitch Steele, who worked on the craft beer skunkworks team at Anheuser-Busch in the ’90s and is now the brew­mas­ter of Atlanta’s New Realm Brew­ing. While fla­vors could be cloned, the anti-cor­po­rate spir­it could not.

(Via Jeff Alworth | @Beervana.)


An Irish pub in London.

For the Irish Times Niamh Line­han reflects on Irish pubs in Lon­don, and else­where around the world. Not Irish Pubs, mind, but Irish pubs, where actu­al Irish peo­ple drink to fend of home­sick­ness or wal­low in nos­tal­gia:

The Sheep­haven [Bay in Morn­ing­ton Cres­cent] is prob­a­bly what you think of when you think of an Irish pub: well-worn floor­boards line up with the wood-pan­elled walls; from the ceil­ing, jer­seys and coun­ty flags hang, inter­spersed with bodhráns, ban­ners and oth­er bric-a-brac; the walls are adorned with Guin­ness para­pher­na­lia, along­side pic­tures of coun­ty play­ers, road signs, and news­pa­per arti­cles deemed wor­thy of fram­ing. This tapes­try of the Sheephaven’s his­to­ry has built up organ­i­cal­ly over time.


A sea of wooden casks.

Ben Nunn at Ben Viveur offers a detailed review of the recent Cask 2019 fes­ti­val in Bermond­sey, south Lon­don, which (broad­ly speak­ing) treats cask ale with the kind of hoo-ha usu­al­ly reserved for the fan­cy-end of keg:

I can’t be the only per­son in the coun­try who likes excit­ing, inno­v­a­tive, inter­est­ing and new beer who also hap­pens to strong­ly pre­fer to drink cask, can I? (Judg­ing by the sell-out atten­dance at Cask 2019, I’m obvi­ous­ly not.) But is it real­ly fair to give us a taste of Heav­en for just a few hours a year?


Final­ly, here’s a fas­ci­nat­ing thing we wish we’d thought to do our­selves, and which is a reminder of what a big deal Samuel Smith was all those years ago.

For fur­ther read­ing and links, check out Stan’s Mon­day round-ups and Alan on Thurs­days.

2 thoughts on “News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019”

  1. Re:“Tequiza (a quick­ly killed blue agave and lime fla­vored lager).”

    Anheuser-Busch was sim­ply ahead of its time. Con­coc­tions like that and din­gle­ber­ries- with- cocoa- puffs are now the norm for Amer­i­can ‘craft’ beer.

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