News, nuggets and longreads 13 July 2019: Molson, Heineken, RateBeer

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting or noteworthy in beer and pubs in the past week, from Burton to beer vats.

First, some news: following up on its apparent collapse in February, we now hear via 853 that London brewery Hop Stuff has been acquired by Molson Coors:

The company’s investors – many of whom were local to Woolwich – will receive nothing from the sale, which came a month after the company’s Twitter account announced: “Nearly there with something great for Hop Stuff!” One of the founders of the company, James Yeomans, set up a new company, JY Advisory Ltd, in March, while Hop Stuff was in turmoil, according to Companies House records. His wife, Emma Yeomans, who founded the company with him, resigned from Hop Stuff in April.

Here’s another nugget: after years of chat, we finally know what’s going on with brewing at the old Young’s Brewery site in Wandsworth – there’s going to be a new pub with attached brewery and Sambrook’s (which has always been something of an homage to Young’s) will also be moving there from Battersea.

And then there’s this, following on from last week’s little flurry of acquisitions by the Beer Hawk:


(We also refer you to this post of ours from 2016.)

Heineken sign

For Good Beer Hunting Jonny Garrett attempts to unpick the politics around tied pubs with particular reference to Heineken. We were especially struck by this point on which, we have to admit, we had not put together two and two:

Slowing down proceedings and starting negotiations well beyond “reasonable” terms aren’t the only ways that large pub companies are trying to restrict the number of publicans going free of tie. In Heineken’s case, the acquisitions of Beavertown Brewery and Brixton Brewery were in part to offer beer with “craft” credentials to their 2,000-strong Star Pubs & Bars’ estate, intending to remove one motive for publicans to look elsewhere. This in turn has shut out other large breweries and distributors who had hoped to sign large contracts with Star and Punch pubs.

(For years, people have been saying we need more coverage of the business side of pubs and brewing; it feels as if we’re getting there, to the point that there’s a sense of competition to break stories fastest, have the sharpest take, dig up the best source. Good news, that.)

Molson Coors brewery in Burton upon Trent.

It’s sometimes fun to read a piece about beer by someone who isn’t into beer, like this reflection on “Burton(-)(up)on(-)Trent” by railway ticker Scott Willison:

Beer is awful. At least, it is at first. Beer is this orange mess you have to force yourself to like because everyone else is drinking it. That first pint you get as a teenager, that wondrous moment when you get to drink what everyone else drinks… and then you taste it and it’s bitter and flat and gross… Of course, you have to train yourself. You have to force yourself to have more and eventually you get used to it. After a while you sort of like it. Then you really like it. Then you end up an alcoholic like me.

Beer maturing in vats.
Vats at George’s of Bristol as pictured in the Illustrated London News in 1909.

A fascinating nugget from Martyn Cornell: we’ve all heard about the London porter flood of 1814, a staple of did-you-know pieces for some years now, but Manchester had a go in 1831. He writes:

[The] vat that burst at Meux’s brewery, off Tottenham Court Road, containing nearly six times as much porter as the one that collapsed at Mottram’s brewery in Salford in 1831, but eight people, all women and children, died in the London flood, while the only real victim of the one in Salford was a pig that must have had a serious hangover the next day.

Playing the piano in a London pub.

Exciting news: The Ultimate London Pub Crawl is back! Their first post since November 2017 is an account of an expedition to Colliers Wood in south west London:

After our cathartic reunion, we quickly returned to our wry, laconic selves and moved on to The Royal Standard… The pub was of the carpeted, live sports, local boozer variety. Men sat drinking, singly and in pairs. I ventured to the gents and a solo drinker followed me. He joined me at the urinals, gave me a cheeky wink and said, “it go in one end and out the t’other, dun’t it!” This remarkable insight, delivered in a jaunty iambic hexameter, gave me pause for thought. Yes, I thought to myself, my God, yes — the fellow is right! He then asked me if I was a local, the flatterer. I admitted that, no, I lived near Kingston. He then proceeded to reel off an accurate list of all the riverside pubs south of Kingston Bridge. What a man.

And, finally, we don’t exactly why, but we love this image: