News, nuggets and longreads 1 February 2020: Babies, Bitter, Bushfires

Here’s everything the struck as interesting or amusing in writing about beer and pubs in the past two weeks, including Disney cruises and Kingston upon Hull boozers.

First, some bits of news.

  1. Peter Martin, head brewer at the Driftwood Spars in St Agnes, Cornwall, has sadly died. We never spoke to Pete although we saw him at work, sat near him and passed him coming and going from many Cornish pubs during our time living there.
  2. The Government has announced a business rates cut for pubs. The new pubs relief will kick in from April 2020 and reduce bills by £1,000.

A baby.

For Pellicle, Jemma Beedie writes well on a well-worn topic: children in pubs. Her point is not that people should tolerate children in pubs but that letting children into adult spaces is what turns them into functional adults:

My first experience of the pub was during childhood, as it was for so many of us. Waiting for parents to finish their drinks, bribed with packets of crisps, we learnt that the world didn’t revolve around us. We learnt how to be in public… There are some people who will complain if children are in their vicinity, outraged that parents would dare bring their offspring to a pub, a restaurant, or on a plane. I wonder about them. Did their parents keep them at home, locked in a nursery? Or were they, like the rest of us, also taken to public spaces where they learnt how to behave?

This topic always prompts responses. This time, we took particular note of a piece by Alistair Reece of Fuggled:

The problem here, in my unhumble opinion, is that we are focusing far too narrowly on children in pubs. Kids that misbehave in pubs are in all likelihood the kind of children who misbehave in other public spaces such as on the high street and in the shops. In reality the issue here is one of parenting, of which the child’s behaviour in public is a symptom not the disease itself. Parents that take their kids to a public space and then let them run wild to the detriment of others using the space are the problem.

Barley & Malt.

“Malt needs a rebrand,” writes Toni Canada for VinePair, reflecting on how the stuff that gives beer its very substance rarely gets talked about except by the biggest of beer nerds:

Christian Holbrook, the brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colo., believes that malt plays a more important role in brewing than hops. “Out of the four ingredients, hops are easily fourth on that list,” says Holbrook. In addition to contributing to a beer’s flavor, he points out that malt is critical for yeast health, explaining that its concentration of free amino nitrogen (a.k.a. FAN) and minerals like zinc, magnesium, and manganese help promote yeast growth, benefit fermentation, and aid in beer maturation. He also adds that there is a lack of balance in beers with little residual malt extract. “The bottom falls out of them,” says Holbrook, “because they’ve been fermented so far down that there is no malt left.”

Bushfire in Western Australia.
SOURCE: Fiona Smallwood/Unsplash.

For Good Beer HuntingLuke Robertson has written about the impact on the Australian brewing industry of the bushfires currently afflicting the country. Sure, there are more important aspects than beer, but this is just one way into an issue almost too scary to look at dead on:

“The reality is that at any point in time, things can go south. You’re just stressed all the time,” says Nathan Munt, founder of King River Brewing, in King River, Victoria. “As much as it should be going away and everything’s fine, it’s not. Not when you can see new smoke clouds billowing up.”

Current estimates put the total area burned by bushfires since September at over 46 million acres. In comparison, the 2018 California wildfires burned 2 million acres, and the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires burned 2.2 million acres.

Disney cruise ship
SOURCE: Christian Lambert/Unsplash.

Josh Farrington has a way of finding interesting angles on beer in what might, on the surface, seem to be unpromising locations. His latest piece at Beer and Present Danger is an account of kinky beer swapping aboard a Disney cruise:

My wife had joined a Facebook drink dedicated to our sailing, and found an old hand who organised a beer swap event for every voyage he was on… Disney’s policy lets you bring six beers on board for personal consumption, but the swap event encouraged you to share your haul on a table in the night club, then take it in turns to draft a new six-pack from the combined spoils. With most people bringing stuff that was local to them, it actually turned out to be a great way to sample new things…

Alexandra hotel with tiling.
SOURCE: Stephen Marland/Modern Mooch.

Stephen ‘Modern Mooch’ Marland stopped off at the historic Alexandra Hotel in Kingston upon Hull to take some photos, and a few notes:

Whilst walking the length of Hessle Road, up and back – taking the air, snaps, the sights and sounds, I came upon a fine Faience tiled frontage.

I began photographing, wandering dangerously into the space between the slip road and the flyover. A shout rang out, emanating from the boozer, the landlord called me over.

“Do you want to take a look inside?”


Detail from an old beer mat: BITTER!

For ImbibeWill Hawkes has written about the remarkable success of Five Points Best Bitter. Although we don’t really agree with the idea that bitter has generally been ‘derided as “twiggy”’ (that was only about five particularly gobby people) there’s no denying that this is an interesting development:

‘In this day and age where breweries are making all these amazing, hugely flavourful beers, I want something that I can drink that’s uncomplicated,’ says Greg Hobbs, head brewer at Five Points. ‘It’s still delicious, but it’s really balanced and I don’t have to think about it… that’s best bitter.’ It’s not just Hobbs who wants something straightforward, either: launched in the spring of 2019, Five Points Best already represents close to 5% of the brewery’s output.

There’s something of a partner piece from Pete Brown, emphasising the cask angle of the same story:

The arguments go round and round, the same every year, as cask ale sales continue to dwindle… So what a delight this morning to hear from Five Points that they have DOUBLED their cask ale sales year-on-year… In 2018, cask accounted for 20% of Five Points’ beer sales. In 2019, this grew to 26%. In the context of an undisclosed expansion in production over that time, cask is taking a bigger slice of a substantially bigger cake – according to the company, an increase of 325,000 pints versus the previous year.

From Twitter, we’re going to highlight a thread of our own:


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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 1 February 2020: Babies, Bitter, Bushfires”

Dare I say it, Five Points Best isn’t a really balanced beer, as it’s hopped only with Fuggles, in large quantities. As such, although it’s delicious, and very welcome, it doesn’t really taste like a traditional English bitter.

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