News, nuggets and longreads for 11 January 2020: Abstinence, Birmingham, Smithwicks

A pub window.

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that struck us as especially interesting or entertaining in the past week, from Burton to Osaka.

The current fuss around Bass in certain corners of the beer world must seem baffling if you don’t get it. You might even have tried Bass and found it underwhelming – that can happen. Now, Ian Thurman, AKA The Wicking Man, is a passionate advocate for this historic brand and has declared 11 April National Bass Day 2020, which seems like a good opportunity for sceptics to give it one last chance:

First of all, have a pint or two of Draught Bass on Easter Saturday. If you’re on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram etc. please let people know the pubs you’ll be in. Don’t wait until Easter Saturday, tell us now where you’ll be and use the hashtags #DraughtBass, #NationalBassDay, #NBD2020… If you’re a landlord why not promote the day and let folk know that you’ll have Draught Bass on the bar. I’ll be offering free downloadable posters. Please PM me with your contact details through Twitter @TheWickingMan . A number of pubs have already offered to be the lead in their area. If you’re interested in doing the same please let me know.


A Smithwick's TIME beer mat.
SOURCE: Beerfoodtravel

Liam at BeerFoodTravel continues his chronicling of lesser-known aspects of Irish brewing history with notes on Smithwick’s 1960s attempt to compete with Watney’s Red Barrel:

Smithwicks have never been very good at promoting their not-so-recent history, or at least not if it varies from the fake-lore and new-stalgia that’s created by their marketing department goblins, as they weave their wicked magic over the actual history of the brewery to create some quasi-real world where their red ale is the same as one that was produced a 300 hundred odd years ago in a (possibly mythical) brewery from that age. I’ve written before of my doubts regarding their self-promoted history and how even that has changed over the years, it’s as if they feel uncomfortable about anything that deviates from that arrow-straight history that springs from 1710 to the present, so I feel duty bound to write about a period not terribly long ago when yet another Smithwicks marketing department decided that the company needed a rebrand for the swinging sixties – and so was born their Time brand.


Brewdog bar with SOBER in the window.

At Bring on the BeerMichael Young has written about Dry January, Tryanuary and the bitterness it increasingly seems to prompt:

I wouldn’t for one moment decry desperate business owners for being miffed at a campaign that they perceive as seeking to undermine their footfall at a needy time of year. But I would like to know if it’s been proven that that’s where their ire should be directed. Blunt, hostile rejection of the ‘other’ camp is completely illogical and does more harm than any abstinence campaign ever could. If a pub does put out a tweet saying ‘Forget (or stronger) Dryanuary’ it makes it less likely that folks will come into their pub to partake of a soft drink or two, so they’re basically shooting themselves in the foot.


Crackers, bread and sunflower seeds -- malt-type flavours.

At Appellation BeerStan Hieronymus has been thinking about how we taste beer, the perception of flavour, off-flavours and whether any of that helps us have more fun:

There’s good reason for those in the beer business to learn to identify what are classified as off flavors, and it useful to some to understand what causes them… However, I’m not convinced that the “Best way to be a better drinker is drink bad beer and learn what has gone wrong with it.”… I think the best way to be a happy… drinker is to drink great beer and learn what makes it great. Learning to identify positive attributes expands the number of beers you might appreciate.


Blogging is dead, people sometimes say, but it’s so frustrating that great information is left lying in Twitter where hardly anybody can find it within ten minutes of transmission. On that note, here’s @BEERMINGHAM with a thread listing the best places to drink in Birmingham.


Ceiling of the Marble Arch, Manchester.

And in Manchester, Kaleigh Watterson has prepared her now regular list of beer events to look forward to in the coming year. If you’re a drinker, you’ll want to see what’s on; if you’re a pub or brewery and your event is listed, let her know!


Brewery in Osaka, Japan.

SOURCE: Derailleur Beerworks.For the GuardianJustin McCurry reports on a brewery in Osaka, Japan, that employs disabled people and those with addiction issues:

Derailleur employs about 70 people, many of whom have physical and intellectual disabilities. They are given on-the-job training and perform tasks ranging from brewing, labelling, sales and delivery, as well as serving food and drink at the brewery’s three pubs – two in Osaka and one in the central city of Nagoya… Mr Yamagami – known affectionately as Yama-chan – spent his youth drinking illicitly produced alcohol and getting into fights, but decided to apply for a job at the brewery after he lost his sight… “It’s fun to be able to work alongside my friends,” says Yama-chan, a 47-year-old former fishmonger. “Handling the bottles by touch alone is the sort of work I can do without any problem. I need help getting around, but apart from that I can do my job freely. I really enjoy it.”


And, finally, here’s a taste of Bristol street photographer Colin Moody’s latest project:

For more good reading, check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up and Carey’s from Wednesday.

7 thoughts on “News, nuggets and longreads for 11 January 2020: Abstinence, Birmingham, Smithwicks”

  1. The Smithwicks story is interesting. Guinness tried to promote it in the UK during the 90s and it was a complete failure due to the Dundalk-brewed beer being truly awful, even to people who drank McEwans Best Scotch. They also sold bottled AFB which, imaginatively, stood for Alcohol Free Beer, but was quickly known to anyone trying to push it as Awful F*****g Beer.

  2. Well kept Landlord is a superb beer. I recommend the Cellar var in Chester as an example. However, no matter how many times I’ve tried Draught Bass in the last few years which is whenever I see it, I’ve been underwhelmed on each occasion.

  3. Guinness skunked the Smithwicks brand in the UK by launching a low-alcohol beer under the name, and had to call the beer Kilkenny when they finally launched the “full-strength” version here. Not that it was ever very good: in the 1970s, when I first drank it, it was a sweet, dull keg bitter. All that can be said in its favour is that the awfulness of Smithwicks in Irish pubs was almost certainly something that helped inspire the Founding Four when they sat in Kruger’s Bar in Dingle in 1971 and decided that beer in the UK had to be saved from a similar fate.

    1. I feel I have to speak up for the poor lad after that. It’s still the only commonly available Irish beer that’s under 4% ABV. Sometimes you just need cold, light and fizzy and I’ve been glad of Smithwick’s on that basis in the past.

  4. A bottle of “Phoenix” ale (once available on draught eons ago) which was only available in Waterford, south of county Kilkenny was a far superior product to Smithwicks. However Diagio discontinued it about 10 years ago.

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