Here’s all the beer-related gubbins that caught our eye and seemed bookmarkworthy in the past week, from ramen amateurs to the perceived sophistication of gin.
First, though, some bits of news on the health and trajectory of specific breweries, which we expect to be including in these round-ups quite a bit in the coming months.
Northern Monk, which was one of the breweries we’d heard might be on the verge of takeover, has announced that Active Partners has taken a less than 25% stake in the company. (We’re beginning to learn the code: that probably means something like a 24.5% stake.) In their announcement, they acknowledge having batted away offers from larger breweries.
Meanwhile, in London, Redchurch seems to be undergoing some turmoil. It has apparently filed notice of intention to appoint an administrator with the civil courts, and changed ownership. (Is it us, or is the launch of crowdfunding increasingly reliable as an indicator that a brewery is either going to fold, or get sold?)
Canadian writer Robin LeBlanc watched Tampopo, dir. Juzo Itami, 1985, about two amateurs learning to make perfect noodles, and it sparked thoughts about attitudes to beer:
With the word amateur celebrated instead of filled with negative stigma (the latter, I feel, unfairly gets more focus), suddenly all the events people go to, the sense of wonder and excitement I feel when I go to a bar I’ve never been to before, when I don’t recognize a THING on the beer menu, and that wild, devil-may-care attitude when I order something to just try it…all of that suddenly made more sense to me. There was no single word that could accurately define it. “Passionate” felt too one-sided. “Curious” didn’t quite cover the drive. And a label of “connoisseur” or even “expert” seemed to remove a lot of the assumption that there is always more to learn and discover about beer.
The latest report on women’s attitudes to beer has been released by industry group Dea Latis with the provocative title Why Can’t Beer Be More Like Gin? Its finding chime with our observations: that while women don’t necessarily want beer to be pink and frilly, they do appreciate efforts to make it less overtly macho. The report’s co-author Annabel Smith says:
This year’s report illustrated that many women in this country still have some ingrained deep-seated beliefs and perceptions about beer. And many of these are not positive. Women don’t want a beer made for women. Women just want the beer and pub industry to look at things from their perspective, and reconsider how beer is presented and positioned to them.
Joe Tindall at The Fatal Glass of Beer has written notes on beers he enjoyed in Athens – not usually the kind of thing that grabs us, but Joe’s eye is sharp, as is his writing, and he makes some interesting observations. For example…
The label on the bottle in front of me reads ‘New England Barley Wine’. What, I wonder, is the impulse behind this seemingly contradictory collision of styles? Ignorance? Provocation? Is it a ploy to trick geeks like me into parting with their hard-earned Euros, or something genuinely inspired? … Later on, I look the beer up and find it’s brewed with Norwegian farmhouse yeast (kveik) and, just for a while, the concept of beer styles seems laughably inadequate.
We mentioned Palaces of Pleasure, the new book by Lee Jackson, in our monthly newsletter, and then gave it a wholehearted recommendation on Twitter. You can now read an article derived from the book, explaining how some pubs evolved into dance halls in 19th century Britain, via History Today:
Some public houses offered commercial dancing; established venues like the Star and Garter in Richmond hired out their large function rooms to the local gentry, while itinerant fiddlers toured small working-class pubs. The Morning Post describes a blind fiddler working the taproom at the Salmon and Compasses in Brooke’s Market, Holborn, a miserably poor district. Money is collected, tables dragged to one side. Then, to quote a customer, ‘when the fiddler is paid he strikes up and we jump up and dances’.
We were interested to read notes from the Beer Nut on the Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie, a brewery in Belgium, which made a name for itself by reviving an extinct beer style:
I reviewed Seef in 2014 when it was contract-brewed and a clear orange colour. Now it comes from the brewery’s own plant and is a hazy yellow. Though it’s a supposedly faithful recreation of a unique local speciality, it tastes a lot like a weissbier: big sweet bananas and a heady buzz of butane. The texture is similarly soft, while 6.5% ABV intensifies those weissbier qualities, almost to the point of making it difficult to drink. I’m informed by [brewery owner] Johan [Van Dyck] this was the beer consumed in quantity by the dockworkers of 19th century Antwerp. Feeling heavy when only half way down a 33cl bottle, I found that difficult to imagine.
The US Brewers’ Association has released its updated style catalogue for 2019. It’s intended as a reflection of reality, to inform competitions, and it is always fascinating to see what’s been added as a snapshot of each moment. The four new styles recognised this year are:
- Juicy or Hazy Strong Pale Ale
- Contemporary Belgian-Style Gueuze Lambic
- Franconian-Style Rotbier
- American-Style India Pale Lager
And finally, from Twitter, an ‘andsome pub:
— Stef Dickers (@stefdickers) May 1, 2019