We managed a respectable fourteen posts in November, with an emphasis on pubs, community and gentrification, but with the odd tasting note and bit of history, too.
The first proper post of the month wasn’t about beer and was a solo flight for Ray on the subject of pies, and specifically whether they need to have a pastry base:
You are here for deprogramming. Everything you thought you knew about pies is wrong. Listen to me – listen carefully: even if it has no pastry base, it is still a pie. You might have a preference for a pie with a pastry base. That might be how your Mum made pies, or how the speciality pie of your hometown is made. But none of that means ‘stew with a lid’ is anything other than a legitimate pie.
This generated some attention from outside our friendly bubble – turns out pie people are passionate and partisan as beer geeks.
For our own satisfaction, we (mostly Jess) set out to discover exactly when British brewers started putting the ABV on beer packaging and at point of sale:
[We were] able to establish that a change in the law was proposed in 1987 by the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in response to an EEC (European Economic Community) directive… And that was our first surprise – we had assumed it happened as a result of either consumer or CAMRA pressure, or as a result of one of the many government enquiries going on at the time. But it looks like it was actually just an all-but automatic implementation in the UK of European wide legislation.
The first of our pieces on pubs and gentrification was a reflection on the relaunch of The Fellowship at Bellingham, south east London, which we last visited in 2016 when it was semi-derelict:
We visited shortly after opening on a Sunday when it was fairly quiet but with a good number of reservations for lunch later in the afternoon. They had had a busy night before, too, as suggested by the dry pumps and confirmed by the staff behind the bar: “Well, we did have Don Letts here last night.”… We were really impressed with the transformation, or rather the comparative lack of it. While it definitely clean and contemporary the original wooden panelling was visible throughout, barely even retouched or varnished in some places.
Then, just across town at Deptford, we visited The Dog & Bell, which seems to represent something close to the ideal of the community pub in a rapidly-changing London:
An Irishman in a three-piece tweed suit demonstrated his line dancing moves as a country and western song played. Someone asked the woman behind the bar if she was still a compulsive knitter: “I’ve seen you walking down the street doing it, haven’t I, eh?” There was heated debate about the likely winner of an upcoming pickle-making competition and a jar of something spicy was passed around for testing: “Bloody hell, I can’t breathe!”
Digging through some old newspaper articles we found a set of stats on lager consumption from 1989. We got excited thinking they might tell us something profound but… they didn’t. Blogging is a game of win-some, lose-some. Still, perhaps someone will find it useful to know this information is out there.
The beer festival at The Drapers Arms coincided with a push on dark beer from the local ‘rare ales’ group meaning that we were treated to multiple milds, stouts and porters. Bristol Beer Factory Future Proof, a 3.3% dark mild, impressed us especially.
Still on the subject of dark beers and historic styles, we were pleased to be able to try a painstakingly recreated 19th century porter from Goose Island, even if the beer itself didn’t knock our socks off:
It had fairly high carbonation but certainly not any ‘fizz’ and gave off a musty, leathery stink immediately on opening. It was deep red rather than black… First gulps, dominated by the funky aroma of Brettanomyces, revealed a lighter body than many modern porters, despite the 6.3% alcohol by volume, and a distinct dryness.
We finished the month off by tying together all of our thoughts on gentrification in a 2,000-word piece focused on The Swan With Two Necks, a recently relaunched pub just outside Bristol city centre. This prompted plenty of comment including this post from Keith Flett. There’s also a particularly sharp comment on the post from the manager of The Bevy, a community pub in Brighton, which we’d advise you to take a look at.
We also continued our several-year streak of dragging ourselves out of bed on Saturday morning to put together round-ups of the best, most interesting or most important reading on beer and pubs from around the blogoshire:
- 2 November 2019 | Table beer, table skittles
- 9 November 2019 | Gushers, sparklers, Fuggles
- 16 November 2019 | novelty, nostalgia, nourishment
- 23 November 2019 | New Belgium, Bovril, Bucharest
- 30 November 2019 | Football, wine, pub rules
And on Twitter, there were polls, photos, opinions, front-line snapshots and bits of sheer silliness like this:
Fig. 1: the Baader Meinhof Group.
Fig. 2: candidates for the CAMRA National Executive at the 1987 AGM. pic.twitter.com/gDIp8UtmJG
— Boak and Bailey (@BoakandBailey) November 6, 2019
Now, December, the season of gift guides, year-end listicles and beer advent calendars. We’ve got a couple more ‘proper’ posts in the bag, including on on early Victorian gin palaces, but we’ll be winding down too.