News, nuggets and longreads 16 November 2019: novelty, nostalgia, nourishment

Here’s all the beer and pubs news, opinion and history that grabbed us in the past week, from Manchester estate pubs to meat stout.

First up there’s the welcome return of Chris Hall, always a thought-provoking and thoughtful voice, and a bloody good writer, too. He’s written at length about the tendency towards novelty in British craft beer, and what he sees as a worrying absence of maturity:

Discussions and debates in blog comment threads and on Twitter have waned. Craft beer consumers scroll and double-tap now, and have changed both the social media landscape and production schedules as a result. There’s no time to type, or respond, or think. When it does happen, it’s often as privately as possible, and typically with the safe, reaffirming vacuum of a private group chat or forum. The craft beer consumer feeds on their own opinions in reflection, and debates, when they do happen, are feverish in their heat and lifespan, destroying themselves in the process.

In response – and it is nice to see blog posts prompting responses – Dave S has stuck up for the novelty tendency while Bring on the Beer argues that the answer to this problem is speaking up for beers that aren’t IPAs.

Craft Brew Alliance logo.

It’s been a while since we had a good AB-InBev takeover story. This week’s is lacking a little dramatic impact because it’s merely the conclusion of a long, slow manoeuvre. Jeff Alworth, always our first port of call for clarity on US industry news, summarises the story:

In August, it was the shoe that didn’t drop. AB InBev (ABI) had had the opportunity to buy Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) as a part of an arrangement struck three years ago, but finally passed in August, paying the Portland-based brewery collective $20 million instead. That was perplexing. CBA’s biggest asset, Kona, was a brand ready-made for an industrial giant. It has enormous brand potential that extends nationwide—vanishingly rare in the current clogged craft market—and products tailor-made to be scaled up at any of the twenty North American plants owned by ABI.

Illustration: Men silhouetted in steam.

For Ferment, the magazine distributed to customers of beer subscription service Beer 52, Robin Eveleigh writes about an issue that’s moved up the agenda in recent months: the apparently cavalier attitude to health and safety at some UK breweries. It might, Eveleigh argues, be a cultural problem:

[It’s] the rapid expansion in Britain’s craft sector which some old hands say gives cause for concern. The craft beer boom has spawned almost a thousand new breweries in the last five years, and the Society of Independent Brewers’ (SIBA) latest annual report estimates indies will generate almost 900 new jobs this year alone. Inside of a decade, we’ve seen hobby brewers catapulted from cooking up 40-pint batches in garden sheds and back rooms of pubs to helming huge plants with scores of employees pushing out thousands of litres at a time.

The Gamecock
SOURCE: Stephen Marland/Manchester Estate Pubs.

The Gamecock at Hulme is a funky looking post-war building but currently derelict, as Stephen Marland reports for Manchester Estate Pubs:

The Gamecock ever in the shadow of one of the few remaining housing blocks… Nobody knows precisely when it ceased to be a pub, suffice to say that at some point, it sadly ceased to be a pub… It now stands abandoned, slowly reclaimed by nature – as bramble and dock scramble over its sharp interlocking volumes of brick and once bright white cladding.

Obadiah Poundage porter.
SOURCE: Goose Island/YouTube.

Goose Island (AB-InBev) has collaborated with beer historian Ron Pattinson on what might be the most painstaking historic recreation to date, as written-up by Ed Wray:

[Obadiah Poundage porter] was made with heritage barley, old English hop varieties and historic malting techniques. Though probably not that much brown malt, unlike when I had a go at making historic porter. A portion was aged in oak vats where it underwent a secondary fermentation with Bretanomyces clausenii (probably my old friend WLP645). This was then blended with a freshly made version as the porter brewers did back in its heyday at a ratio of 1:2.

Although on the painstaking front, we need to know more about this revival of Mercer’s Meat Stout:

For more reading check out the links round-ups posted by Alan McLeod on Thursdays and Carey’s The Fizz.