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News, nuggets and longreads 21 March 2020: the show must go on

Here’s all the news and commentary on pubs and beer that grabbed us in the past week, from takeaway beer to brewery-side blending.

First, sigh, some news: pubs, along with other hospitality businesses, have been commanded to close by the Government. The situation will be reviewed every month but even the most optimistic pundits seem to think we can expect them to be shut for three months.

In our view, this is sad, but necessary.

If you’re someone who relies on pubs for your social life, we’d recommend investigating the various virtual meet-up options, from Twitter drinkalongs to video conferencing.

And if you make your livelihood through the pub trade, we hope the various business support measures the Government has introduced will go some way to cushioning the blow.

It’s been fascinating, and heartening, to see how adept breweries, bars and pubs have been at switching to new business models in the face of adversity. To support these moves trade bodies, campaign groups and media outlets have begun putting together guides to takeaway beer options.

Three of particular note are:

Czech beer cellar.
SOURCE: Claire Bullen/Good Beer Hunting.

For Good Beer Hunting Claire Bullen has written about the chilly cellars where the magic occurs that makes Czech lager what it is:

Deep in these brewery bowels, the walls are wet brick and they grow their own colonies of moss and mildew. Everything else is metal. In one brewery, the caverns are lit by flickering yellow lights and the passageways look like a Cold War bunker, or like a film set for “The Third Man.” The atmosphere is noirish, I mean, with sallow spotlights and a space that is eerily empty of workers; the brain fills in a soundtrack of drips and echoes. The Lager tanks crack greenly with rust, like a reptile whose skin no longer fits, and the Tmavý Ležák tastes like a mouthful of pennies. You might wonder if the rust has also spread to their insides.

The Beer Hut beer
SOURCE: The Beer Nut.

The Beer Nut provides typically entertaining notes on Beer Hut (huh, that rhymes) which is a new wave brewery from Northern Ireland:

More than anything, this lot left me feeling like a grumpy old curmudgeon. I’m reasonably sure they’re all as the brewers intended and are without inadvertent flaws. However, they’re all very much aimed at current beer fashion, and I have a feeling that there’s talent going to waste here. I’d be interested to try Beer Hut’s takes on the styles of beer that have been around longer than a wet week.


Gary Gillman has dug up an interesting source from the ever-growing pile of digitised texts online via an ever-growing number of repositories: a French-language manual on the art of blending beer for sale, from 1871. Gary writes:

The book argues that the blending of beers is a necessary adjunct to the top-fermentation brewery. This is due to the frequent imperfection of the beers (at the time before modern temperature controls and yeast science), but also the desirability of achieving a consistent and pleasing palate for the public… It is stated that the perfect beer doesn’t need blending – almost an echo of the theory of “entire” porter of the early 1700s – but in practice blending is necessary and salutary… The book (no individual is credited) advises that a good blender can make greater profits than a non-blending brewer. The blender needn’t invest in expensive plant, simply enough store space for the beers and some simple manipulations.

Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

For the New York Times Josh Bernstein has written about trends in yeast experimentation among US craft breweries:

DeWayne Schaaf, the owner and a self-professed “yeast nerd,” ferments his I.P.A.s, sour beers and rustic country ales with yeast strains from Scandinavian farms, bottles of Spanish natural wine and Colorado dandelions. “We don’t use any commercial yeast,” said Mr. Schaaf, who hunts strains and swaps them with scientifically minded brewers… His efforts pay dividends in distinct aromatics, with few hops required. During fermentation, yeast converts sugars into alcohol and creates pungent esters — organic compounds that might evoke peaches, oranges or pineapples.

Allsopp's, Burton-on-Trent, c.1900,.

From deep in the archives, with a nod to the now-postponed National Bass Day, check out this 1902 article about Burton-upon-Trent, ‘A City of Beer’, from Pearson’s Magazine:

“What manner of town is Burton ?” I asked a fellow train-traveller as we neared that place. “Burton ?” came the answer. “It’s a brewery” and I found later that no one word could give a more succinct, a more accurate description of the place than this. In truth, the town of Burton-on-Trent, in the county of Staffordshire, England, is nothing more nor less than one vast brewery. It is a very City of Beer—Beeropolis—the heart and the home of Britain’s brewing trade. Every other house in Burton that is not actually a brewing building is connected in some way or other with the brewery trade.

And finally, if you have views on and/or knowledge of beer and fancy dipping a toe into the world of podcasting, why not drop Eoghan a line about being a guest on his new show?

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up and – perhaps for this week only – Stan Hieronymus’s from Monday.

And, by the way, here’s our plan: try to keep going as close to normal as our brains will permit, and learn to love virtual sessions via video conference. What else can we do?

4 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 21 March 2020: the show must go on”

Alabama, along with a bunch of other states, has passed an emergency ordinance that allows breweries and brewpubs to sell beer to go at the curbside.

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