Everything we wrote in May 2019: Guinness, pubs, tea gardens

May 2019

Oof, this was not a highly productive stretch… Let’s just say we were running low on energy in the run up to the holiday we’re now on. Anyway, slim or not, the month was not without interesting stuff.

First, there was a long piece actually published at the end of April, but after the cut-off for our last monthly round-up: the story of Guinness’s brewery at Ikeja in Nigeria told through an interview and archive research. One reader kindly wrote to tell us it was ‘far and away the best beer blog of 2019’ and that it reflected his own experiences of working in Africa (not in brewing) in the 1980s, which was nice.


We announced our new bookBalmy Nectar, which we’re pleased to say has been selling quite well. If you haven’t bought a copy, do take a look; and if you have, please leave a review.


Several months ago, someone asked us if we knew the origins of an apparently unique pub name from Leicestershire and after weeks of digging, we think we’ve cracked it. Spoiler: freemasonry!


One of those periodic debates about sparklers popped up on Twitter and, watching the conversation play out, we thought we’d achieved clarity: they’re neither good nor evil, it depends on the underlying condition of the beer.


We picked some bits of about beer from a 1945 magazine for British armed forces stationed in India, like this:

Advertisement for Dyer Meakin Breweries and their Solan brand beers.


We finally made it to Beese’s Tea Gardens, a Victorian institution on the outskirts of Bristol, where you can drink beer in the shade of ancient trees on a riverbank:

Last Saturday, we approached from Broomhill, cutting from a council estate into a sloping park where teenagers flirted on the climbing frame next to a basketball court. A short walk down a wooded path brought us to a gate that might have been transplanted from Bavaria…


Camden Hells didn’t seem that big a deal in 2011; we’ve now come to realise that there was a time before Camden, and a time after, and the post-Camden beer scene is an alien planet:

What we should have paid more attention to was that our friends who weren’t especially interested in beer – who would turn pale if you accused them of being beer geeks – seemed to like Hells a lot. They were switching from Foster’s, Stella, Peroni, and (perhaps crucially) drinking Hells just as they’d drunk those other beers: by the pint, pint after pint.


The cover of 'Pub', 1969.

Osbert Lancaster was an illustrator and writer with strong opinions about pubs, especially Victorian ones, as set out in a 1938 book:

In the earlier part of the nineteenth century it was assumed, and rightly, that a little healthy vulgarity and full-blooded ostentation were not out of place in the architecture and decoration of a public-house, and it was during this period that the tradition governing the appearance of the English pub was evolved.


Another mid-century writer and illustrator, Geoffrey Fletcher, set out similar views in his book The London Nobody Knows in 1962. We picked out a few choice lines, like this:

The architects of the late Victorian pubs and music-halls knew exactly what the situation demanded – extravagance, exuberance, and plenty of decoration for its own sake.


We also put together our usual round-ups of news and good reading from beer blogs, newspapers and magazines:


At Patreon we gave $2+ subscribers rundowns of the best beers of each weekend plus a few extra nuggets, such as an account of a (no-injuries) car crash outside a pub that turned into a serious spectator event.


Our monthly newsletter was a proper whopper with notes on tea in pubs in the 1920s and links to archive footage of pubs in action. Sign up here.


We Tweeted a ton, too, especially from Tewkesbury: