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News, nuggets and longreads 12 October 2019: silly stout, Somerset cider, sad stories

Here’s everything on the subject of beer, pubs and (this month only) cider, that caught our attention in the past few days, from lost friends to last beers.

Between us we’ve encountered Roger Wilkins of Wilkins Cider a few times over the decades. When Ray was young, his Dad used to buy cider from the farm every now and then. And until a year or so ago, Wilkins used to supply the Drapers Arms so the sight of Mr W himself steaming through a crowded pub, sweating and huffing, with a jar of pickled eggs under each arm wasn’t uncommon. Now, for PellicleNicci Peet has given him the full profile treatment:

I hear Roger before I see him, his laugh bellowing from inside his barn. It’s as big and as bold as his reputation. Locally, and to some internationally, he is known as the “cider king,” making proper, traditional farmhouse cider… Roger offers two ciders: dry and sweet. Both sit in big wooden barrels with taps ready for you to serve yourself and there’s no fixed price—you pay as you feel. If you’re after a medium simply mix the two. Then sip your cider in the barn or in the orchard, the way Somerset cider has been enjoyed for centuries. Even how he sells his cider is old school, as you have to ring him directly if you want to make an order.


Drawing: a pub bar.

Mark Johnson paints a picture of pub life with an emotional twist in a post about the accidental Thursday Club, dry roasted peanuts and a man called Colin:

Mostly we just meet at the bar. First by chance. Then increasingly “by chance.” Then it became Thursday club. Then Wednesday was added into the mix too. And of course we are always here Friday. And the odd quick pint on a Monday has been known to turn into five hours of putting the world to rights – or at least his beloved City’s back four… I’m not sure I’ve ever socialised with Colin outside of the pub… And he is too bloomin’ generous. Annoyingly so. I have to fight to even pay for a drink. I’m sure I’m about 20 pints behind now. I don’t think I’ve ever bought the bags of dry roasted.


Chelsie's last beer.
SOURCE: Chelsie Markel.

Chelsie Markel didn’t know she was drinking what might be her last beer when she checked it in on Untappd during the summer:

While I was drinking my very last full pour of beer while visiting Tree House Brewing Co. in July, I had no idea I had the disease. I had no idea that ‘Hurricane (with Peach)’ would be my last beer selfie that I ever took. That the beer I rated a 4.5 in Untappd and everything I had hoped for as a tasting experience would be the beginning of the finale… Even though a few years back a friend of mine had been diagnosed with Sjogrens and I thought “Wow! I have a lot of these medical conditions and symptoms thoughout my life. But stop being silly! Your doctors would have connected the dots and tested you if they thought this was a real concern. Stop self-diagnosing.”


Various books and magazine from the last 40+ years of CAMRA.

The Campaign for Real Ale keeps doing interesting things. The latest eyebrow-raising move is to tender for a not-the-usual-suspects writer to tackle an official 50th anniversary biography of the campaign group:

We would like this perspective to come from someone who is not perceived as having a close association with CAMRA. The brief is for a c.50,000 word authorised biography of CAMRA, to be researched and written in 2020, with the text due at the end of the year, ready for publication in March 2021 in time for the Campaign’s birthday celebrations. Exact outline, terms and fees to be negotiated.


Cult Czech brewery Kout na Šumavě is in trouble, it turns out:


Siren Caribbean Chocolate Cake (label).

Steve Body, AKA The Pour Fool, has put together a typically impassioned defence of ‘crazy’ beers:

We have to have this sort of “craziness” for craft beer – nothing says we have to like every dickhead idea or style that shambles onto the brewing scene – to continue to evolve and progress as the paradigm-changer it has become. There is NO other path. The surest way to murder innovation and creativity is to slap blinders on those doing the work. There is an old saying, “Out of experimentation comes synthesis.” Never heard that? Apparently, I just made it up. Google gives me no hits on that axiom. But it’s the truth: we try crazy shit, watch some or even most of it fail, and pluck the nuggets, the pearls, out of the chickenshit.


Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

We can’t resist these Humphrey Smith stories: the head of Samuel Smith’s brewery in Tadcaster has reached a new high this week by shutting down a newly opened pub because he heard a customer swearing. Here’s the story as reported by the Independent:

[Smith] was visiting the Fox and Goose in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, seven weeks after it opened… But when the 74-year-old heard another drinker dropping the F-word while telling his wife a joke, he decided to immediately close the place… [leaving] landlord Eric Lowery, who lives in a flat above the pub with wife Tracey, looking for both a new job and somewhere to live.


Finally, from Twitter: