News, nuggets and longreads 7 March 2020: Sceptres, Slutte, Spitalfields

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, with a particular focus on beer labels.

First, some Portman Group news. The industry body has declared against a label from Bristol brewery Lost & Grounded on the grounds that its procession of cartoon animals might be seen to appeal to children. Lost & Grounded has rejected this decision and doesn’t intend to change the label which, as we understand it, is always an option as long as you’re willing to be blacklisted by outlets that are signed up to the Portman code.

This time, Martyn Cornell has taken on the job of writing the obligatory opinion piece on the subject:

There is a legitimate position in declaring: “Why shouldn’t we use whatever artwork we like on our cans and bottles? What actual evidence is there that such artwork will encourage under-18s to drink the contents?” And you’d be right. But in the real world, there will always be those wowsers who will declare that such images COULD encourage children to pick up the can or bottle and sample what’s inside, and the Portman Group will always head those people off and ban such images, in the frankly justifiable fear that if it isn’t seen to be banning such images, then some politician will declare that industry self-regulation has failed, and state regulation will be brought in instead.

Another brewer, Purity, has also had a ticking off from Portman over its Lawless unfiltered lager: “The Panel considered that the name ‘Lawless’ directly implied breaking the law, which was by definition illegal behaviour. Therefore, it could not be justifiable through content given the nature of the Code.”.

Purity’s defence in this case does a good job of explaining why these decisions are a problem for small breweries: “The company explained Lawless was an internationally award-winning beer brand, and accounted for 10% of their revenue across cans and keg. The company stated changes to the brand name were a huge risk and could impact sales through consumer recognition and delists.”

At any rate, your man from SIBA is taking steps:


Switched on Bach.

At Appellation Beer Stan Hieronymus asks, “How much do ‘we’ need to know about beer history?” In a post that references Bach, Philip Glass and Nadia Boulanger, he reflects on whether doing your homework matters much in appreciating and commentating on what is current:

“If we had a teenager and a film historian talking about Quentin Tarantino then the film historian would matter more,” [music podcaster Chuck] Klosterman says. “If we had a rock historian talking about Billy Eilish the teenager’s perspective would matter more. It’s the only thing like that.”

Perhaps it is not the only thing. Perhaps milkshake IPAs and pastry stouts are like that.

Slutte label

In a guest post for Brussels Beer City, beer sommelier Hélène Spitaels declares that she has had enough of the unabashed sexism of her native beer culture:

Slutte was a perfect example. A brand set up by a group of men from a local sports club in Brussels, the brand received unearned attention when it was awarded a medal at the World Beer Awards in 2019… Despite protestations to the contrary by the owners, and a fake backstory they cooked up in an attempt to give themselves cover, the name means what you think it means. And then there’s the beer’s label – the silhouette of a women’s bum, accompanied by the tagline “A Belgian beer with body”.

The Blue Anchor brewery in the 1980s.
The Blue Anchor brewery, Mile End Road. SOURCE: Philip Cunningham/Spitalfields Life.

At Spitalfields Life, guest poster Philip Cunningham has provided a set of poignant photos of the lost breweries of the East End of London, along with notes on his own family history:

My grandfather was a train driver until the day he was discovered to be colour blind, when he was sacked on the spot. He then became a drayman and – apart from two world wars – spent the rest of his working life at the Albion Brewery in Whitechapel. He was one of the first draymen to drive a motorised vehicle, a skill which saved his life in WWI.

Lost and Grounded.

After what must have been a tough week, we imagine the team at Lost & Grounded were quite pleased to see the publication of a tribute to their flagship beer by Will Hawkes, at Pellicle.  Keller Pils is a beer we know fairly well and generally enjoy. The notes here about sales and production method are particularly interesting:

At every step, the lager problem has been tackled with rigorous attention to detail. One telling example: to iron out inconsistencies between batches of Keller Pils, [Alex Troncoso] now blends two types of pale lager malt, from Bamberg and Belgium, and fermentation and maturation take place in tanks big enough to contain six batches. … The brewery has grown rapidly of late. Keller Pils makes up around 70 per cent of 2019’s 6000-hectolitre total (just over a million pints). That will double next year, with a final target of somewhere between 30,000 (5.3m pints) and 40,000 (7m).6

And, finally, there’s this…

…and this:


For more good reading about beer and pubs, check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

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