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:
I’m afraid the shareholders are the unfortunate casualty of the old company going under.….However with our new investor and MD we have managed to retain all Harlow staff and look forward to a better, brighter future.
— Redchurch Brewery (@RedchurchBrewer) May 14, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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:
— BBC Archive (@BBCArchive) May 13, 2019