News, Nuggets and Longreads 06 April 2019: Berlin, Brett, Better Lager

A derelict pub with faded Courage sign.

Here’s all the news, commentary and thinking about beer that’s seized our attention in the past week, from Berlin to Peckham, via Huddersfield.

First, some interesting news: BrewDog has acquired the brewery American outfit Stone launched in Berlin a few years ago. Stone says Germans didn’t take to their beer or brand; BrewDog, which already has a bar in the city, cites a need for a post-Brexit continental brewing baseJeff Alworth offers commentary.


Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

It’s fitting that the new leadership at the Campaign for Real Ale should use an interview by veteran beer writer Roger Protz as an opportunity to make a statement of intent:

Nik [Antona] and Tom [Stainer] are quick to point out that a proposal to allow CAMRA beer festivals to include key kegs was supported by the necessary majority and many festivals are now supporting this change.

“A number of festivals have key kegs with explanations that are not dogmatic about the different ways beer can be served. I accept that we’ve poor about explaining this in the past,” Tom says. “We need to represent all pubgoers.”

“We may revisit Revitalisation in a few years,” Nik adds, “but in reality we’re doing it now. Younger people are drinking cask but they want to try different things – they want to drink good beer but not necessarily from casks.”


The UK edition of Wired magazine has a fun piece by Nicole Kobie about the cliches of craft brewery origin stories, from two-mates-in-a-shed to just-making-the-beer-we-wanted-to-drink:

Superheros have origin stories — and so do craft brewers. Read the side of your can of saison or pale ale, or click the ‘about; page on the website for a crowdfunded, East London brewery, and you’ll get a story of two friends who met while travelling, a career change driven by passion for beer, or a frustration at the lack of quality IPAs available… ‘Tom and Dave met in China on a rock climbing tour around Asia,’ reads Brew By Numbers’ history, while Bianca Road begins: ‘It all started back in 2014 with a bike ride, 4800 miles from San Francisco to Miami.’


Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

For Good Beer Hunting, Evan Rail has written about the origins of a newly popular commercial yeast strain that isn’t perhaps what it seems:

In a departure from Brettanomyces’ notoriously slow fermentation times, the yeast popularly known as Brett Trois was also said to work nearly as fast as the traditional brewer’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae… At Omega Yeast in Chicago, however, the yeast scientist Lance Shaner was starting to have some doubts. “This strain was becoming the strain that people were using for 100% Brett beers,” Shaner says. “It just started to accumulate all this circumstantial evidence.”


Wine glasses.

Kat Sewell, a creative London home-brewer, has a nice tale of a neighbour, a sack of back garden grapes, and a beer on the border of wine:

I was round my next door neighbour George’s house for a BBQ last year when I mentioned to him that I had spotted the grapevine growing in his garden. George hates this grapevine and has been trying to kill it unsuccessfully for years. I had to look out from my bedroom window to see it as it was hidden behind a massive bit of wood to stop it overtaking the garden. This year it had been particularly prolific and George knocked on my door a few weeks later with a massive sack of grapes. We’d spoken at the BBQ about my brewing and so he thought I might like them. He thought correct.


Magic Rock Brewing

We didn’t actually share any commentary on last week’s news of the takeover of Magic Rock by Lion, perhaps because… there wasn’t much? This week, though, Mark Johnson has come out spitting:

The aspect that changes each time comes through personal attachment. It has already been suggested to me that northern beer communicators are a little more defensive this time than they have been previously… Whether right or wrong, northern or southern, capitalist or idealist, one thing remains true – you don’t get to decide how I feel. You don’t get to decide for anybody else what their reaction should be.


Text illustration: LAGER

Will Hawkes has been reflecting on the evolution of lager in the UK and the effect of beers such as Camden Hells, effectively dragging up the quality bar:

Whatever happens, beer drinkers should see this [new Carlsberg Pils] as a victory: a brand that for so long has been committed to mediocrity is suddenly making something quite nice. This has only happened because of the changes in beer over the past decade or so. Forget the milkshake IPAs and sour pilsners for a second and think back to why this whole phenomenon began: to get better beer on the bar. That’s what has happened here. Whether you try it or not, this new Carlsberg is a big win for drinkers. Multinational brewers may be buying up your favourite breweries, but you and people like you have changed how they operate on a fundamental level.


And finally, look, we’d normally avoid highlighting stunt beers, but HENDOS!

There’s more reading to be had from Stan on Mondays and Alan on Thursdays – do check them out.

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