News, nuggets and longreads 18 May 2019: ratings, lager, and lager ratings

A graffiti covered Bristol pub.

Here’s everything that struck as particularly interesting in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from Carlsberg to Cambridge.

First, some news: those Red­church rum­blings from the oth­er week are now con­firmed – the brew­ery went into admin­is­tra­tion and is now under new own­er­ship. This has prompt­ed an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion about crowd­fund­ing:


More news: it’s intrigu­ing to hear that Curi­ous is expand­ing. It’s a brew­ery you don’t hear talked about much by geeks like us – in fact, we’re not sure we’ve ever tried the beer – but it does turn up in a sur­pris­ing num­ber of pubs and restau­rants.


Vintage map of Cambridge

This piece by Ram­blin’ Dave S on the Cam­bridge craft beer scene is inter­est­ing because, well, it’s not about Lon­don, Man­ches­ter or any of the oth­er places that get writ­ten about more often, and men­tions some brew­eries we don’t much about:

On the pan­el, we had a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Brew­board, who took over Black Bar’s kit and premis­es in Harston in 2017, and rapid­ly brought out a sol­id range of well-exe­cut­ed US-style craft stan­dards – the sort of stuff that might get lost in the noise in a town like Man­ches­ter or Leeds, but which Cam­bridge had been miss­ing for a while… Mil­ton Brew­ery, the vet­er­ans of the Cam­bridge scene, were rep­re­sent­ed by their founder Richard Nais­by.… they’re prob­a­bly best described as being part of the pro­to-craft / Weird Real Ale gen­er­a­tion; found­ed in 1999, fit­ting com­fort­ably with­in real ale cul­ture in many ways, but push­ing the style enve­lope rather more than most of their tra­di­tion­al­ist pre­de­ces­sors.


Text illustration: LAGER

What starts as a sav­aging of Carlsberg’s sup­pos­ed­ly new and improved Dan­ish Pil­sner by Mar­tyn Cor­nell turns into an inter­est­ing reflec­tion on trends in low­er-ABV lager:

What this new style of lager is deliv­er­ing is taste, some­thing that, 20 years after the Amer­i­can IPA rev­o­lu­tion, is final­ly becom­ing a main­stream demand, plus “cold refresh­ing­ness”’ some­thing beers such as Carls­berg once had tied up and held down on the ground, but which is no longer enough. What [Cam­den] Week Nite is deliv­er­ing as well is rel­a­tive­ly low alco­hol: it used to be that a three per cent beer would have to be made with roast­ed or high-dried malts, like a brown ale or a dark mild or a sweet stout, to deliv­er flavour. Brew­ers are now dis­cov­er­ing that it is pos­si­ble to deliv­er flavour in a low-grav­i­ty beer with Amer­i­can-her­itage hops.


The Untappd logo

Michael Ton­s­meire has analysed what makes for high rat­ings on beer web­sites and reached some unsur­pris­ing con­clu­sions but expressed with par­tic­u­lar clar­i­ty:

Peo­ple love assertive fla­vors. Once you’ve tried a few hun­dred (or thou­sand) beers, it is dif­fi­cult to get a “wow” response from malt, hops, and yeast. This is espe­cial­ly true in a small sam­ple or in close prox­im­i­ty to oth­er beers (e.g., tast­ing flight, bot­tle share, fes­ti­val). So many of the top beers don’t taste like “beer” they taste like maple, coconut, bour­bon, choco­late, cof­fee, cher­ries etc. If you say there is a fla­vor in the beer every­one wants to taste it… look­ing at reviews for our Vanil­lafort, it is amaz­ing how diver­gent the expe­ri­ences are. Despite a (to my palate) huge vanil­la fla­vor (one bean per 5 gal­lons), some peo­ple don’t taste it.


And, relat­ed, here’s a fas­ci­nat­ing piece from the Econ­o­mist, unfor­tu­nate­ly deliv­ered with a snarky tone that’s a bit off­putting, from the head­line onwards: “Why beer snobs guz­zle lagers they claim to dis­like”. The point it makes, beyond the curled lip, is that lager rates poor­ly on Untap­pd and yet remains the most con­sumed beer style:

One expla­na­tion is frag­men­ta­tion. Though report­ed con­sump­tion tends to be high­er for indi­vid­ual lagers than for ales, there are far more ales than lagers. As a result, ales account for 73% of drink­ing of the 5,000 lead­ing beers record­ed on Untap­pd.


And, final­ly, here’s a gem from the BBC Archive:

For more read­ing check out Stan Hierony­mus on most Mon­days and Alan McLeod on Thurs­day.

2 thoughts on “News, nuggets and longreads 18 May 2019: ratings, lager, and lager ratings”

  1. Thanks for the men­tion! FWIW I tend to be either Dave S as a per­son or Brew in a Bed­sit as a blog – the Twit­ter han­dle is most­ly a his­toric acci­dent…

    Any­way, some real­ly inter­est­ing stuff about rat­ings, there – I’d always had sus­pi­cions about super-lim­it­ed stuff get­ting a “spe­cial occa­sion bonus”, but it hadn’t occurred that the fact of being hard to get was essen­tial­ly intro­duc­ing selec­tion bias (in the brewer’s favor) to the pool of raters. To be hon­est, I kind of hope that brew­ers get more and more shame­less about gam­ing this sort of thing and the rat­ings get more and more obvi­ous­ly sil­ly as a result – it might help to dis­pel the idea that “the 50 top rat­ed what­ev­ers” is a thing to be tak­en too seri­ous­ly.

  2. Dav­eS, agreed. I think it would be great if a brew­ery released two beers that, unbe­knownst to the pub­lic, were actu­al­ly from the same batch. They would have dif­fer­ent names, dif­fer­ent labels, and dif­fer­ent dis­tri­b­u­tion (for instance, one might be avail­able only at the brew­ery), but oth­er­wise they would be iden­ti­cal. I imag­ine that with a lit­tle effort you could engi­neer a pret­ty wide dis­crep­an­cy between Untap­pd rank­ings for the beer. I’d like to think that would take some wind out of Untappd’s sails, but real­is­ti­cal­ly I sup­pose very few peo­ple would know or care. Still it would be enlight­en­ing.

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