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Everything we wrote in February 2020

Will February 2020 go down as the most exciting month in this blog’s history?

Probably not. But we somehow managed to post 14 times, around side projects and day jobs, so not bad, all in all.

And we expect to hit our 3,000th post in March or April, by the way – bonkers, that.

Anyway…

We had Belgium on our brains in February and started the month with a post about the appeal of Belgian beer and Belgian beer culture to people just starting to get excited about beer:

When you first encounter Belgian beer, there’s an impression of boundless choice. Even the most basic bars have lengthy beer lists, usually with enough options to offer something different throughout a weekend city break. The beers on offer range from brain-dissolvingly sour to syrup sweet, and often come with tantalising, almost romantic descriptions.


Perhaps because storms kept us stuck in the house a bit more than usual, we spent a fair bit of time digging in online archives in the past few months, which is how we stumbled across an 1856 survey of London pubs. Apart from pointing people to the book, we wanted to highlight in particular the stats on mid-Victorian pub names:

“A wonderful display of tapsters’ ingenuity occurs in such signs as Blade Bone, Coffee-pot, Essex Serpent, Knave of Clubs, Lilliput Hall, Naked Boy and Woolpack, Old Centurion, Pickled Egg, Prospect of Whitby, Tippling Philosopher, Widow’s Son, Valiant Trooper, Sun in Splendour, Running Footman, Experienced Fowler, Good Man, Kentish Wag and World Turned Upside Down.”


You can’t judge a pub on one visit, we argued, perhaps with The Portcullis in mind, of which more later:

We think this is why it’s easier to judge places that have an identifiable guv’nor or guv’nors – that their personality, for good or worse, sets a fairly consistent tone for the place. And you can tell a lot by the regulars that they gather around them and the behaviours that are and aren’t allowed.


We shared details of a 1963 document from Guinness setting out the itinerary for a carefully managed press tour, including briefing notes on questions likely to be asked:

How can you expect to do well with beer now that wine and spirit drinking is a “done” thing?
It is true that wine sales are going up quickly but only a comparatively small amount is drunk by a particular section of the population.

What about failure of Common Market Negotiation?
This has not changed our picture. Our main trade within the European Common Market is with Belgium and France where Guinness has always been regarded as a speciality drink commanding a higher price than regular beers.


We put into words our feelings about The Portcullis, which at first we thought was a peculiar pub but eventually realised was actually a misplaced eccentric Belgian cafe:

On Saturday evening, we sat at a shelf, facing a canvas print of Prince, against a backdrop of red-rose boudoir wallpaper… We drank Belgian beers chosen from a printed menu, each served in correctly branded glassware – Chimay, Straffe Hendrik, Orval, De Ranke, with more on offer… Pink Floyd played softly in the background.


Next came a piece directly inspired by our visit to The Portcullis, on which we drank more than our physical limits would usually permit, but which, miraculously, we got away with:

Not too bad.

No instinctive shying from the light.

There doesn’t seem to be any nausea, although you won’t really know until you try to get up and do something.


We didn’t think we’d ever want to write about the origins or meaning of the term craft beer again but, having noticed conversations about it on Twitter, lately, felt the need to provide some raw information for reference. The post takes the form of a timeline running from 1883 to 1995, by which time the phrase was in regular use.


Molly Figgures lived and worked in the same Gloucestershire village pub for 50 years. Fortunately for we booze historians, she was given a nudge to write a short memoir – an eccentric volume full of amazing details. For example…

Sometimes the spittoons were turned into a form of entertainment when a well-known character, who had served in the Navy, would go down on his knees and slide them around the floor accompanied by an appropriate song. This was known as Holy Stoning.


We also produced five editions of our regular Saturday morning round-ups of news and links:


We posted some bits and pieces on Patreon, including a pub life vignette and notes on the controversy around people asking for samples in pubs. Do consider signing up.


Our newsletter was a whopper, covering our plans to index What’s Brewing, the necessity of nicheing and more. To get next month’s, sign up here.


And on Twitter, there was a bunch of stuff like this:

Now then – let’s crack on with March.