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:

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