News, nuggets and longreads 8 September 2019: Stevenage, Sheffield, Sam Smith

A pub in Belgium.

Better late than never, here’s everything that grabbed us in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from the Faroes to Wetherspoon.

One of our favourite sub-genres in beer writing is the nostalgic pub crawl and Martyn Cornell has delivered a classic of the form, revisiting his youthful haunts in the new town of Stevenage in Hertfordshire:

When I started going into pubs regularly, about 1968/69, the drinkers at the Chequers were mostly Old Towners whose ancestors had lived in North Hertfordshire for, probably, 500 years or more, and who spoke in a noticeably different accent from the tens of thousands of New Towners, like my parents, who had moved to North Hertfordshire in the early and mid 1950s from North London suburbs such as Willesden and Burnt Oak, 30 miles to the south.


Craft beer in Sheffield
SOURCE: Kirsty Walker.

Kirsty Walker at Lady Sinks the Booze ended up on an organised pub crawl in Sheffield and used the opportunity to make some typically sharp observations of the local pubs and bars:

Kommune… is your typical HWP or Hipster Warehouse Project. The following are signs you may have entered one: you try to pay with cash for something and you get a look as if you’ve tried to barter a live chicken; chips cost five pounds; periodically a loud person starts shouting that the puppet show/comedy improv/ritual killing will start in five minutes; every third person is either a dog, a child, or has a beard.


The Sportsman, a strange-looking modern pub.
SOURCE: Gerald Reece/Brownhills Bob.

Via @pezholio on Twitter, here’s a collection of vintage photos and notes on the pubs of Brownhills in the West Midlands from ‘Brownhills Bob’, with images supplied by Gerald Reece.


The Faroe Islands.

For Pellicle, veteran writer and industry commentator Phil Mellows reports from the Faroe Islands where craft beer (definition 2) is making inroads:

The rock in Søren Antoft’s hand is pitted with tiny holes like a black sponge. Once, it was the bubbling volcanic lava that solidified halfway between Shetland and Iceland to form the Faroe Islands. Now, it’s going to be reheated to 800 degrees centigrade before being plunged into the mash for a spicy, mineral-edged ale called Rinkusteinur.


An image from the Gazette.
SOURCE: BNA.

Exciting news for beer historians: the excellent British Newspaper Archive has added editions of Holmes’ Brewing Trade Gazette for the years 1878 to 1886:

During the Victorian era, temperance was one of the biggest moral, social and religious debates of the day… This debate, played out in the pages of the Gazette, is a fascinating one, with Victorian morality coming into direct conflict with Victorian enterprise. The debate was to only escalate with the coming of the twentieth century, and was to reach a head across the Atlantic with the introduction of prohibition in the United States. You can find out more about this debate by searching for the word ‘temperance’ in the pages of Holmes’ Brewing Trade Gazette.


Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

Tandleman reports from the front line of Humphrey Smith’s war on his own pub customers, visiting one of his locals, The Pleasant in Royton:

Then horror on horrors. A mobile phone rang in the bar and in hushed tones, after exchanging endearments with his/someone else’s wife/girlfriend or whatever, the callee, said words to the effect of “I have to go. I’m in The Pleasant and mobiles aren’t allowed.” Seems Humph has put the fear of God into his customers on that one. Less so on the effing and jeffing I’d suggest, but all of it was in the context of fitting bathrooms, exchanges about how the day had gone and so on, so to my mind at least, harmless enough. One lad called through to me saying that he didn’t care (“couldn’t give a fuck”) about Humph’s rules. Sooner or later he’d shut the pub anyway, like he had the Yew Tree, he observed.


We’re all sick of (addicted to) Brexit news, of course, but this Wetherspoon story is so odd we have to mention it: the pub chain has cut the price of Ruddles by 20p a pint this week, apparently as proof of the freedom a no-deal Brexit would bring. Except… there hasn’t been a no-deal Brexit, not yet. Rumours on social media suggest this stunt was planned to land during a general election, currently in limbo, which might make some sense.


And, finally, from Twitter…

As ever, for more selected beer reading, check out Stan on Monday and Alan on Thursday.