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.

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