Everything we wrote in July 2019

July 2019

This was a pretty good month in terms of productivity with more posts than we’ve managed in a single stretch for some time.

We start­ed with a hang­over from June and a report on our week in Fort William in the Scot­tish High­lands:

The tricky thing about run­ning a pub in a town like Fort William is that for half the year, there’s too much of a par­tic­u­lar type of busi­ness: tourists who often don’t know how it all works and prob­a­bly want din­ner… Then, for the remain­ing six months, there’s not enough busi­ness. You’re left with a hand­ful of locals rat­tling round most­ly emp­ty pubs, if they can afford to go out at all giv­en the sea­son­al nature of the employ­ment mar­ket.

We shared some notes by J.B. Priest­ley on the pubs of Brad­ford and the bleak­ness of Eng­lish towns on Sun­days before the war:

Priestley’s pub crawl is depress­ing. He finds the first one he vis­its very qui­et with ‘five or six hob­blede­hoys drink­ing glass­es of bit­ter’ and both­er­ing the bar­maid. ‘Noth­ing wrong with the place’, he writes, ‘except that it was dull and stu­pid.’

Think­ing about a par­tic­u­lar­ly good round of Lon­don Pride we reflect­ed on the dif­fi­cul­ty of rec­om­mend­ing one beer over anoth­er and the risk that the recip­i­ent of your rec­om­men­da­tion will taste some­thing… awful.

Suffolk malsters in a group at Burton.

Did you know about the migra­tion of Suf­folk and Nor­folk lads to work in the brew­ing indus­try in Bur­ton upon Trent in the 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­turies? We did­n’t, until we picked up George Ewart Evan­s’s book Where Beards Wag All.

We’ve been in Bris­tol for two years and vis­it­ed more than 200 dif­fer­ent pubs. Here are some thoughts on what we’ve learned so far:

In gen­er­al, Bris­tol pubs are good.

They tend to be friend­ly, even if they don’t always look it.

They’re extreme­ly var­ied – hip­py hang­outs, old boys booz­ers, gas­trop­ubs, craft beer exhi­bi­tions, back­street gems, fam­i­ly hang­outs, and so on.

They most­ly have real ale, even those that might not if they were in any oth­er city. We reck­on we’ve count­ed three (four if you think Brew­Dog is a pub) that didn’t have any­thing at all on offer.

We made a cou­ple of dips into the let­ters pages of A Month­ly Bul­letin start­ing with this 1964 com­plaint about how pubs were becom­ing too posh:

This type of com­ment ignores the real­i­ties of 1964 cater­ing. If the char­ac­ter of our pubs is chang­ing with the times, it is rea­son­able to assume, too, that the same can be said of the cus­tomers. The num­ber of cus­tomers who go into bars in over­alls at any time is dwin­dling. But the num­ber of cus­tomers who, after work­ing hours, change into well-cut suits to go into pub­lic hous­es with their wives or girl friends is increas­ing. These female com­pan­ions not unnat­u­ral­ly pre­fer the com­fort and ameni­ties of a mod­ern, taste­ful­ly appoint­ed bar rather than sur­round­ings that are drea­ry and out­mod­ed.

A crowd.

Is crowd­fund­ing in beer a dan­ger sign? Does it indi­cate that a brew­ery is vul­ner­a­ble? We’re begin­ning to think it might be. Some com­menters and Twit­ter folk dis­agreed.

It’s been a while since we gave tast­ing notes on beers from the cor­ner­shop. In July, we tast­ed a sup­pos­ed­ly crafti­fied lager from Balti­ka and three inter­est­ing look­ing beers from Vilk­merges.

Read­ing a book about Vic­to­ri­an soci­ety and cul­ture we came across the con­cept of Laver’s Law which attempts to map the cycle of fash­ion. How, if at all, does it apply to beer and pubs? we won­dered.

Vic­to­ri­an pubs were naff in 1914, charm­ing by 1950 and the best are now prac­ti­cal­ly nation­al mon­u­ments; inter-war pubs have recent­ly become roman­tic after years in the wilder­ness; and we’re just beg­ging to col­lec­tive­ly recog­nise the charm of the post-war.

It turns out that, when chal­lenged, we pre­fer Fyne Ales Jarl to Oakham Cit­ra. But why?

We observed some com­ing and going in a craft beer bar, from wan­der­ing kids to grum­bling pen­sion­ers, and tried to cap­ture the moment in the pub life for­mat.

Our sec­ond for­ay into A Month­ly Bul­letin con­cerned the sup­posed snob val­ue of lager and keg bit­ter in the mid-1960s:

In this age of alleged democ­ra­cy and an appar­ent ten­den­cy to throw con­ven­tion to the winds, it is sur­pris­ing to hear that two cus­tomers din­ing in an old hotel restau­rant were refused “two pints of best bit­ter”. Pints of bit­ter were not served because they “low­ered the tone” of the hotel.

There were the usu­al round-ups of news, arti­cles and blog posts:

We wrote a 1,400-word email newslet­ter (sign up!) which prompt­ed mul­ti­ple unsub­scribes – is it because we said Car­ling was­n’t that bad?

There were quite a few chunky posts on our Patre­on feed includ­ing a lon­gread on the sto­ry of Pas­sage­way Brew­ing pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in Hop & Bar­ley mag­a­zine. (Do con­sid­er sign­ing up.)

And we knocked out a ton of Tweets, even if most of them were just vari­ants on this: