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

  1. 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!)

  2. 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.

  3. 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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