News, nuggets and longreads 15 February 2020: Flagships, Norway, Introversion

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that’s grabbed our attention in the past week, from pub ticking to archive digging.

First, as we’ve failed to mention in previous weeks for some reason, it’s Flagship February when we’re encouraged to celebrate classics and standards. You can read a whole series of personal essays by notable beer writers at the FF website. If you’re bored of negativity and/or novelty-seeking, here’s your antidote. Check out this from Stan Hieronymus, for example:

Creature Comforts Tropicália represents American IPA evolution. It’s bitterness is softer than the IPAs of the aughts. It is juicy, but not like drinking orange juice and certainly not juicy/hazy. It’s more like biting into a ripe apricot. You almost feel like you need to wipe some juice off your face after you take a long drink. Per its name, Tropicália’s aroma is fresh and tropical, its flavor full of juicy (there’s that word again) fruits — take your pick of mango, banana or melon.

Taras Boulba label.
SOURCE: Brasserie De La Senne.

A bit of news that we mention more for completeness than anything else: The Portman Group, which is the UK booze industry’s own regulatory body, has ruled against the packaging for Belgian beer Taras Boulba. This happens from time to time and people get angry at censorship and so on but we can’t help but shrug – this is the Portman Group being consistent. Maddeningly, tediously consistent, but consistent. Like the British Board of Film Classification, they’re doomed to be hated.

A craft beer bar.
RØØR, Oslo (SOURCE: Quinten Taylor/Tanya Kynaston/Beer Europe.)

For Beer EuropeQuinten Taylor has produced some refreshingly practical advice for drinking craft beer in Norway. We don’t intend to go to Norway, or indeed ever expect to do so, but it’s interesting to hear about the quirks of another beer culture, and to encounter such pragmatism:

Tip 2 – Price usually signifies quality

Almost all Norwegian craft brewers understand the wallet pain that drinking their product can cause, and therefore are rarely in the habit of passing off sub-standard or shoddy beer. Price indicates time, quality and brewing cost in a way that sometimes doesn’t happen in the UK.

Pint glasses in a pub.

This week, we’ve got something a bit different from Martyn Cornell, who usually focuses on beer history – a personal reflection the pleasure of sitting alone in a pub. He writes:

It relaxes me, it lets me explore my thoughts, run through and rearrange memories, have conversations with myself about problems I am facing, work out plans: if I have a tricky piece to write, I try out in my head different ways to arrange the narrative, to construct the intro and the opening paragraphs. If I have a meeting or an interview or a journey coming up, I rehearse in my head what might happen. And all the time there is a buzz around me that I can tune into or tune out, if I want, that keeps me feeling connected with the rest of humanity, even if I don’t desire one-on-one contact with another human right then.

(Hard agree from Ray.)

The London Metropolitan Archives.

This seems like a good week to remind people to check out Ron Pattinson‘s blog Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, not for any particular showstopping item but because of the constant flow of facts, stats and historical data. How hard he works at this was brought home by a piece this week on visiting archives to photograph brewing records:

Smells evoke memories more than any other senses. First Truman’s log up, it hits me. Covers my fingers, progresses up my nails, dirties my shirt. And that smell. Archive dust… Sends a shiver down my spine every time.

And when you’ve read that, do have an explore.

Good Beer Guide with highlighting.
SOURCE: Martin Taylor.

Another prolific blogger we like to mention occasionally, in general rather than pointing to specific posts, is Martin Taylor, AKA Retired Martin, who is on track to complete his mission to visit every pub in the Good Beer Guide for 2020:

I’m making good progress this year. 337 new GBG pubs since September, which is nearly 15 a week when I’d targeted a dozen. Resilience to man flu, a functioning Aygo and decent weather have helped… My master spreadsheet contains all the pubs I’ve visited over 25 years and the progress by county since GBG 2003 (a great year), when I managed a third of the Guide.

Again, do have a nose around. He gets about and has a sharp eye for pub life, does Martin.

BrewDog rebrand.
SOURCE: BrewDog.

For Craft and SliceMichael Wilson has taken the time to really think about the recent BrewDog rebrand and what it means for the brewery and what it means to him:

It’s an age old trope, the rebellious teen with the spiky mohawk grows up and turns from anarchist to activist, their rage against the machine becomes fuel to effect change. BrewDog appears to be growing up… It’s a shift that’s been coming, too. In recent times, BrewDog have made a few missteps – remember Pink IPA or the time they built a fake porn website? These are just two examples of the good-will erosion they brought upon themselves which eventually led to parting ways with PR agency, Manifest… This is a necessary change of vision for BrewDog – it’s difficult to continue to play the ‘punk’ card when you’ve officially broken into the world’s 25 most valuable beer brands – but it’s a logical progression, championing causes that are still inherently true to their liberal ethos.

And, finally, a couple of bits from Twitter:

And check out this amazing looking theme pub:


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

4 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 15 February 2020: Flagships, Norway, Introversion”

Interesting that while Portman is funded by multinational drinks companies, the vast majority of their rulings are against breaches to their code relating to product packaging made by much smaller independent producers – mainly craft brewers – that aren’t in most cases signatories to the code anyway. A cynic might infer that the big brewers ‘have it in’ for anyone who dares cross the threshold of their self-imposed rules on packaging. I also think Portman’s frequent rulings that packaging appeals to minors a bit dim because alcohol retailing is generally well-controlled in the first place, and while we all know that underage sales go on, they aren’t from outlets selling cans of Tiny Rebel et al for £4 a pop.

Sorry, but that argument just comes across as “We are Craft Brewers. We operate on a higher moral plane than those who cater for the unwashed masses”.

And, if you don’t like a voluntary regulator, just imagine how much less you would like a statutory one.

But it’s not a voluntary regulator for the whole industry – it’s a self-interest group set up by multinational drinks companies with the sole purpose of managing their own reputations to protect their businesses against the nanny state which on one hand is a good thing but not when it’s used as a stick to beat smaller competitors. I don’t see why craft brewers can’t sell products in the packaging they want to and with brand names they want to use – they aren’t selling to the mass market and the CYP’s Portman are allegedly protecting aren’t exposed to the products. Perhaps Portman would be better employed making the packaging of strong cider and fizzy wine less attractive to underage buyers of alcohol, and working with licensing authorities to eradicate those retailers that persist in selling alcohol to kids.

Stan Hieronymus: “It is juicy, but not like drinking orange juice and certainly not juicy/hazy. It’s more like biting into a ripe apricot. You almost feel like you need to wipe some juice off your face after you take a long drink. Per its name, Tropicália’s aroma is fresh and tropical, its flavor full of juicy (there’s that word again) fruits — take your pick of mango, banana or melon.” So, not like drinking orange juice, then – more like drinking a smoothy.

But still not much like drinking beer, IMHO. Apart from the alcohol, obv. Don’t get me wrong, I like apricots, and the juicier the better. But when I drink one of these beers – which I do from time to time, in an effort at objectivity and open-mindedness – I’m reminded of a youthful experiment with vodka and orange, which lasted about as long as the hangover.

Vodka & smoothy, anyone?

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