News, nuggets and longreads 7 December 2019: Marble, micropubs, more takeovers

The Hillgrove Porter Stores.

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from authenticity to Austria’s part in the birth of lager.

First, some takeover news from the US: Ballast Point has been sold again, sort of, as has Anderson Valley. It feels as if there’s often a flurry of buying and selling of breweries just before Christmas as people seek to seal deals before the end of the calendar year. The twist this time? It isn’t multi-nationals doing the buying. Here’s Jeff Alworth on Ballast Point:

Now that we’ve had 48 hours to digest the news that Kings and Convicts, a tiny, two-year-old brewery, has indeed purchased Ballast Point, new questions have emerged. Initially everyone was trying to learn who Kings and Convicts (K&C) were. Was the deal legit? And, because Ballast Point was purchased for a billion dollars just four years ago, the question everyone wanted answered—what was the (fire?) sale price?


Portrait of Jan Rogers.
SOURCE: Good Beer Hunting/Lily Waite.

For Good Beer Hunting Lily Waite has profiled Marble, the pioneering Manchester microbrewery that began its life behind one of Britain’s best pubs:

“I came here for a drink, got involved in a lock-in, and came away with a job,” Marble’s founder, owner, and director Jan Rogers tells me over a pint. “That was it!”… Often found with her trusty vape in hand, Rogers is a woman with a firecracker wit and just as much energy—her calm is someone else’s boisterous; her excited is your or my whirlwind. She’s razor-sharp of both mind and expletive-laden tongue. In an industry dominated by men, she may not exemplify a “typical” brewery owner but, frankly, I can’t imagine her giving a flying fuck—and it’s not like that’s slowed her down.


ATJ drinks Orval.
SOURCE: Pellicle/Matt Curtis.

At PellicleAdrian Tierney-Jones writes with typical lyricism about one of the world’s great beers, Orval:

I also peered through gaps in the wall that surrounded the ruined 18th-century Abbaye d’Orval next to its 1930s rebuild and thought that the people standing still or sitting down in the gardens were like something out of a movie (a weird French production from the early 1960s called Last Year at Marienbad if you must know). I was also learning more about the dry-hopping and the Brettanomyces that gave Orval its otherworldly sense of earthiness; rusticity and herbal dryness that is such a brooding counterpoint to its bright and spritzy palate-pleasing citrusiness.


Anton Dreher

At A Tempest in a Tankard Franz D. Hofer has written about the birth, decline and rebirth of Vienna Lager:

A few years back, the beer world came together to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law)… Four hours east of Munich as the RailJet flies, the Viennese were marking a milestone anniversary of their own, albeit with much less fanfare: 175 years of Vienna Lager… Bottom-fermented beer had been produced for centuries in Europe’s Alpine regions, but it wasn’t until Anton Dreher, owner of the Brauhaus zu Klein-Schwechat, brought together technological advances he learned in Britain and Bavaria that he was able to produce the first lager beer that could be brewed year-round. That happened in 1841. Up until then, Vienna’s top-fermented beers had a poor reputation: a dark brown, turbid, and frothy concoction that contemporaries dubbed “recht miserabel.” (I probably don’t need to translate that.)


Interior of a micropub.

For a change, here’s something to listen to: an episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme In Business in which John Murphy investigates the rise of the micropub:

Since 2001 the UK has lost a quarter of its pubs. They’ve shut their doors for good. High taxes, high prices, supermarket competition, even the smoking ban have all been blamed. But there are new types of pub, the micropub, and community-owned pubs, which are bucking the trend. While larger, traditional establishments have been under pressure, these have flourished. So why have they been able to succeed where others have not?


Surfers in Newquay
SOURCE: Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Also from the BBC, Johanna Carr has put together a fascinating case study on British drinking culture focused on the Cornish town of Newquay, once known as an out-of-control party town but now much tamed:

A mankini ban has been credited with helping to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. Insp Meredith says this was never a police initiative but rather the venues banding together and deciding they no longer wanted customers dressed in that way… Inflatable genitalia and T-shirts bearing offensive slogans were also prohibited in a code of conduct for the Newquay Pubwatch scheme, meaning people wearing or carrying such items would not get into venues signed up to it.


Katsu curry.

For Eater Jaya Saxena considers what ‘authenticity’ means when talking about food – a conversation not directly about beer and pubs but, of course, extremely relevant, especially with the issue of gentrification in mind:

[When] it came to restaurants serving European cuisine, Yelp reviewers associated authenticity with white tablecloths, elegance, and an overall positive dining experience. However, authenticity at non-European restaurants more often meant cheap food, dirty decor, and harried service. White people were allowed to be both authentic and upscale, while cuisine from people of color had to stay cheap and lowbrow to qualify. “I think a lot of the time [authenticity has] been co-opted in a way where it’s not just used to describe food that is made by the person from that culture. It’s like, ‘Oh, the authentic Chinese place is the hole in the wall with the bad health reading,’” says [food writer Priya] Krishna. “It’s gotten associated with so many negative stereotypes, like for something to be authentic it has to be an uncomfortable dining experience. The minute Indian food is served in a fine dining setting, it’s maybe not as authentic anymore, and I just don’t understand why that artificial distinction has been drawn.”


Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday and Carey’s ‘The Fizz’.