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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