News, nuggets and longreads 22 June 2019: Birmingham, Bottle Shares, Books

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting, amusing or eye-opening in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from Burning Soul to the future of CAMRA.

First, some sad news: Mordue Brewery has gone into administration. Founded in North Shields in 1995, Mordue was best known for its Workie Ticket real ale. The Newcastle Chronicle includes some telling lines from co-founder Garry Fawson:

“We have been looking to get investment over the last 12 months but with no luck. We then put the brewery up for sale and again no serious interest, which was particularly disappointing to Matt and I… If you have won the amount of awards that we have and still no interest in buying the business then we are just lost for words, to be honest… [The] market has changed dramatically. It has shrunk whilst at the same time there are now more breweries than there ever have been before.”

(Via @robsterowski.)

Old sign: B'HAM (Birmingham).

For Pellicle Nicci Peet has produced a profile of Birmingham’s Burning Soul brewery with side notes on the city’s beer scene. You may think you’ve read enough of these origin story pieces to last a lifetime but, seriously, this is a good one:

Chris Small: I used to work for the NHS. The job was fine and I was pretty good at it. It was money and I had a little place in Edgbaston but I had quite a bit of debt and I didn’t really have any savings to make this work, so I sold close to everything. I sold the flat, all the furniture, everything that I had at the time. I had four things: a van, my clothes, my mobile and I had…I’m not sure what else, there was definitely a fourth thing…

Nicci Peet: A brewery?

Chris Small: Half of a brewery!

Various bottles from a 1910 advertisement.

For Ferment, the promotional magazine of beer subscription service Beer52, Anthony Gladman has written about the joys of organised bottle-sharing sessions with input from lots of keen advocates of this approach:

Sometimes these events are put on by bottle shops, pubs or breweries. Sometimes they’re less formal and run by groups of friends. Either way the concept is simple: a bunch of beer lovers get together and each person brings one or two beers to share with the group. At smaller events it’s pretty common to drink one beer at a time and usually the group will be small enough that everyone can get a taste of every beer. Sometimes people will introduce the beers they have brought along and say who brewed it, how they got hold of it and what it means to them. At bigger events there might be an element of the night during which a brewer or the shop staff introduce a few beers to the group and talk about them, before people open up the beers they’ve brought themselves and everyone gets stuck in.

(Anthony seems a good egg. Do give him a follow on Twitter.)

Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

Ash Corbett-Collins, a new generation director at the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), has written an impassioned blog post on the organisation’s direction of travel:

Despite the growing interest from drinkers, the praise from beer writers and the enthusiasm from brewers; cask is still suffering. Sales are down 6.8 per cent. Pubs are still closing. There is still confusion to many as to what real ale is, how it differs from other beers and why it needs protecting. CAMRA has a vital role to play in helping consumers discover more beers and learn about what they are drinking. It needs to help people learn what it means when one PubCo calls their beers ‘live ale’ while another claims cask is back when really it never went away. It has to fight to protect cask beer from those who wish to cheapen it’s image or relegate it to a marketing gimmick to be rolled out once in a blue moon.

From the Irish Times comes an interesting nugget by Frank McNally on the naming of Dublin street corners with reference to James Joyce:

Anyone who was at the annual Bloomsday re-enactment in Glasnevin last Sunday will have been reminded that Doyle’s Corner, in nearby Phibsboro, used to be “Dunphy’s”. As such, it was mentioned in Ulysses for its prominent role in city funerals, including the fictional Paddy Dignam’s, as the last right-angle turn towards the cemetery… Hence, as Leopold Bloom’s interior voice records: “Dunphy’s corner. Mourning coaches drawn up drowning their grief. A pause by the wayside. Tiptop position for a pub. Expect we’ll pull up here on the way back to drink his health. Pass around the consolation. Elixir of life.”

And finally, there’s this exciting news:


For more links to good reading check out Stan Hieronymus on Monday (probably) and Alan McLeod on Thursday (almost certainly).

3 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 22 June 2019: Birmingham, Bottle Shares, Books”

Mordues owners might be portraying themselves as victims but this is their second time in administration and the actual victims are, as ever in these situations, employees and suppliers. Other similar sized brewers in the area seem to be managing well but then they haven’t just opened a new pet project in the form of Beeronomy – a grandiose craft beer and food venue in Newcastle city centre (with enormous rent and rates) which seems to be the main reason for the brewery closing down.

I agree with the previous comment but it is interesting to add that Gerry Fawson resigned as a director of Beeronomy (the restaurant business) in March so perhaps strains were starting to show then. The brewery business is already mortgaged, perhaps to pay for the restaurant, and the lenders must have thought that enough was enough. I tried the beers and I think liked them, but it was a few years ago and they clearly aren’t one that stood out in the memory. It is interesting that Beeronomy doesn’t mention on its menu what beers it sells, although the haddock is battered in Brooklyn Beer and beer and food matching is said to be ‘coming soon’. Whatpub just states ’10 changing beers’ without giving any examples. Selling their own beer in their own restaurant might have helped?

I think selling their own beer there would have been shutting the stable door, and although they dabbled with ‘craft’ with their Panda Frog Project, their beers were eminently traditional and didn’t really fit in with Beeronomy’s offer.

Comments are closed.