News pubs

News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2019: Pub Crawling, Carlsberg, Craftonia

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from Leeds to low alcohol beer.

For the Guardian Dave Simpson writes about the development of the post-punk scene in Leeds in the late 1970s, which took place in pubs, with the Yorkshire Ripper as a dark background presence:

Today, with its wood and tiles and punk soundtrack, [the Fenton] is almost as it was; Gill observes that the jukebox has moved rooms. “Pre-mobile phones, you’d have to go where you knew people would be,” Mekons singer Tom Greenhalgh explains, remembering “intense political debates and insane hedonism”, and legendary scene characters such as Barry the Badge. “A huge gay guy covered in badges from Armley Socialist Worker’s party. He was rock-hard, but then he could just grab you, snog you and stick his tongue down your throat.”

Roger Protz has been writing about lager in Britain for 40 years so his commentary on where the new ‘Danish Pilsner’ Carlsberg has just launched in the UK fits in was bound to be interesting. Where others have been cautiously positive, Mr Protz essentially dismisses the beer as more the same:

I was asked for my views by Carlsberg’s London-based PR company, who sent me some samples. The bottled version said it was brewed in the UK – presumably this means the Northampton factory – while the can says “brewed in the EU”. I said this made a mockery of the new beer being called “Danish Pilsner”… I added that 3.8 per cent ABV was too low to merit being called Pilsner: the classic Pilsner Urquell is 4.4 per cent and all claims to be a Pilsner should be judged against it. I found the Carlsberg beer to be thin and lacking in aroma and flavour.

A footnote from us: we were asked to take part in market research by Heineken earlier this week, which leads us to suspect some similar post-Camden reinvention is in the pipeline there, too.


After 12 years at this game, we’ve begun to spot cycles and patterns. One topic that re-emerges every couple of years, prompting just as much debate every time, is about the homogeneity of global craft beer. The latest spike was prompted by a blog post from Will Hawkes about a new beer from Thornbridge:

I appreciate being able to get what I want to drink in London, from IPA to witbier, but it’d be better if there was more that spoke specifically of London… What is the point of craft beer if what you get in Strasbourg tastes largely the same as what you drink in Glasgow? Mikkeller is opening a new bar in Paris later this month; Brewdog has dozens already. This is not exciting. Regional variety is exciting.

For what it’s worth, we didn’t have any trouble finding Helles in Munich last year, and last night stumbled straight into a London pub serving Harvey’s Sussex Best and Pedigree. The international craft beer approach might seem to dominate the conversation, but it’s a parallel dimension, clearly signposted, and easily avoided.

Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

For the Financial Times Leila Abboud offers up some facts and figures on increasing sales of non-alcoholic beer, and on the marketing push behind it:

Ilaria Lodigiani, Heineken’s global director for its low- and no-alcohol division, said the next challenge was convincing people to drink it… The Dutch brewer’s strategy was simple but bold: build huge distribution quickly, and then back the launch with major multimedia advertising campaigns. “Non-alcoholic beers used to be seen as the uncool version of your brand, so they didn’t get a lot of marketing dollars,” Ms Lodigiani admitted. But for Heineken 0.0, the company spent big, she said, recommending that countries spent up to 25 per cent of their marketing budgets on the product.

Walking from pub to pub.

Have you heard of Bruce Masters? We hadn’t until Sophie Norris and Amanda Crook wrote about him for the Manchester Evening News. He’s held the Guinness World Record for the most pubs visited since 1994. He ticked off his first pub in 1960, and has been to more than 51,000 in total:

“I’m planning to be a centenarian anyway so I can’t imagine how many pubs I’ll have visited by then – I’m hoping to never stop.

“Some people my age aren’t able to get around as much, but I walk quite a lot when I’m out and about so that keeps me active too.

“My daughters do nag me sometimes and say ‘Dad, don’t you think it’s time you slowed down a bit!’ I say ‘no way!’ I plan to just keep going forever – who knows what number I could get up to.

Sign: "A Traditional Mancunian Alehouse".

Today’s archive post is by Ronald Atkins and comes from 1987. It’s an attempt to summarise the the Manchester beer scene, with tasting notes on Boddington’s (peppermint) and the following arch aside that could have been written yesterday:

Beer has followed wine in developing a global perspective. Once it was enough to rave about Greene King’s Abbot Ale and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, just as wine fit to drink came from only three countries. But the smart set now moan about weakened purity laws, or scour the back end of Flanders for a beer rumoured to mash in a thermal spring before being sprinkled spontaneously with essence of syrup of figs.

Finally, from Twitter, there’s this, which is the second bit of evidence we’ve seen to suggest that, as we suspected, the first result of the takeover of Fuller’s is going to be the loss of a lot of their most characterful pubs:

(A scan of the full article is linked at the bottom.)

For more reading, check out Stan’s regular Monday round-ups, or Alan’s on Thursdays.

4 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2019: Pub Crawling, Carlsberg, Craftonia”

Harvey’s Sussex Best isn’t local, though, not if you’re in London – and Pedigree certainly isn’t.

I don’t know how beer distribution works, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of mid-level (national & sub-national) homogenisation going on, as well as the International Language of Craft. Certainly the last time I was in Brighton I saw a lot of the same names over and over again, most of them not particularly local at all – a lot of (apparently) independent pubs were effectively perming three smallish-brewery beers from a list of five. Harvey’s – or anything else local, like Burning Sky – was quite hard to find. (I stuck my nose in a lot of different pubs precisely because I was looking for Harvey’s!)

Years ago I used to visit the Basketmakers on journeys with friends down to Brighton, when it was often the first or last stop going to/from the station. Living in London, it was about the nearest place for Gales at that time. As a small pub, I can see it not fitting Fuller’s current ethos although at least it looks like being sold on as a pub. The price seems low and if the remaining lease is long enough then it might suit a small brewery. However, I certainly agree with your prediction that more ‘pruning’ could well happen and I wonder about the future of pubs like the Anchor & Hope in Clapton.

‘After 12 years at this game, we’ve begun to spot cycles …’ mates, wait until you,ve been at it 30 years. This is at least the third time I’ve seen no and low-alcohol beers proclaimed as the next big, each time with marketeers too young to remember the last time boasting about the size of their budgets. I may be wrong, but I see nothing to convince me this won’t be another fail: massive ad budgets produce a big bubble, which soon bursts as drinkers find the products don’t live up to the hype.

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