We did not have a dry January. (Not that we’re criticising those who did.) We went to quite a few new pubs and even made it as far as Stockport for a weekend away.
In terms of blogging, that produced 12 posts in total – about standard for us these days.
We started the month with notes on a crawl around the pubs of Filton on the outskirts of Bristol, from chains to council-owned oddities:
The Ratepayer’s Arms is… an odd place. If you look towards the bar, it feels much like any other social club with plenty of charming clutter, pickled eggs, rolls and drinkers clustered round the bar. Look the other way, though, and it’s all blank walls and municipal fixtures and fittings… Still, the welcome was notably warm, nobody paid us the slightest attention – just how we like it – and we enjoyed the buzz of local gossip and, inevitably, bitter criticism of the quality of Boeing aircraft these days.
At the request of a Twitter connection we researched Cave’s Solid Beer Syndicate, a peculiar Victorian business dedicated to shipping beer abroad in slabs, ready for reconstitution.
We like being asked questions, by the way – do let us know if there are any questions about beer or pubs that have been puzzling you and we’ll see if we can find the answers in our little library, or elsewhere.
Then it was back to pub exploring, this time in the back streets of Westbury-on-Trym, another Bristol suburb, where we didn’t expect to find any pubs, let alone two hidden gems:
As per my plan, we went through the centre of Westbury-on-Trym, and turned up a large suburban avenue. I had literally just said to Ray, “One thing we won’t find out here will be any pubs,” when we rounded the corner and saw not one but two pub signs close together, blowing in the wind. At a glance, both appeared to be modest sized boozers advertising real ale among other things.
What if you think of mild not as a beer style but as an attribute – and what if pale, hazy, fruitily hoppy beers are now it?
Having stumbled up on a couple of examples of English smoked beer, we had some thoughts about its status as a style and the importance of Schlenkerla:
Before Christmas, one of our Patreon supporters, Paul Grace, invoked his right to ask us to try beers from particular brewery and pointed us in the direction of Round Corner of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire… To our delight (and let’s be honest, surprise) the beer really was very decent. Billed as a ‘Bamberg style Helles’, [Succumb to Smoke is] clearly an attempt to clone Schlenkerla Helles specifically, and gets about 80% of the way there.
Then there was a third pub crawl, through Hengrove, Knowle West and Knowle, including a vast publess wasteland:
We think Knowle West is now the biggest area of Bristol, in terms of both area and population, that is not served by a pub – and it’s not even as if there are any disused or unloved pub buildings left that an enterprising landlord or landlady could take on, Bellingham style. It felt pretty sad, really, as if the estate is missing a vital organ.
Nuggets of beer history lurk in all sorts of places, such as the diaries and letters of individuals like Nigel Graves, who recorded his observations of the 1979 Great British Beer Festival.
Guinness’s in-house magazine, Guinness Time, is a goldmine of details about the production process, often with evocative photos. This time, we mined a 1967 issue which gave notes on the conditioning of bottled and draught Guinness.
In 1873, the French critic Alphonse Karr came to London and experienced its gin palaces, which he did not like one bit:
A flood of ragged beings move incessantly towards the temple, on the door of which shine, on large copper plates, the words gin, beer, spirits – that is to say, forgetfulness, absence stupor… A room a hundred feet long, all furnished on one side with huge barrels painted in various colors, with portraits of the queen in between.
As usual, we also provided weekly round-ups of news and links:
- 4 January 2020 | BrewDog, boats, brewery cats
- 11 January 2020 | Abstinence, Birmingham, Smithwick’s
- 18 January 2020 | Summer Wine, South Africa, Sierra Nevada
Patreon subscribers got weekly round-ups of our favourite beers including a whopper recounting the big hits of our weekend in Stockport and Manchester. They also got further background on Round Corner Brewing and a snippet of pub life focused on Brexit.
There were 1,000+ words of original newsletter content, including notes on US fast food culture, pub exploration and the whisky wall. Sign up here to make sure you get next month’s.
We Tweeted a lot, too – stuff like this:
Well, you have to, don't you? pic.twitter.com/X58c2qlWcX
— Boak and Bailey (@BoakandBailey) January 26, 2020