News, nuggets and longreads 25 April 2020: Bamberg, Barcelona, big data

The Golden Lion in lockdown.

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past seven days, from Dorchester to daytime drinking.

Joan Villar-i-Martí reports on an online edition of the Barcelona Beer Challenge, conducted via YouTube Live. In particular, he has thoughts on the participation of big brewers in craft brewing competitions, not least because of their frequent success:

[This is controversial because of the] exaggerated exaltation and esotericism about concepts such as naturalness and craftsmanship, as opposed to the horrendous artificiality of the ‘industrial’ stuff. Honesty and affection in the elaboration, versus perfidy and greed… I have always been critical of this series of myths, although time makes me understand that they were surely useful tools to broaden that limited concept of beer that the dominant actors had sold us. In any case, I think it is high time for us to forget all of it: in the end, they are all companies in the same industry but with a different history, structure, resources, objectives and products. All of them with their own peculiarities, strengths and weaknesses.


Sign on a wall: Zum Biergarten,

Kaleigh Watterson at The Ale in Kaleigh has been daydreaming about biergärten, and one specific biergarten in particular:

Our goal was Greifenklau, a beer garden so perfect it felt like I’d custom designed it in The Sims. A wide space providing a feeling of openness, seating both under cover and out in the open, benches comfortable enough for the long haul, complete with cushions on offer if you so desired. And then, there’s the view…. A choice of tables open to us, thanks to the early hour of the day, and we opt for one right on the far side. It’s right on the perimeter of the site, providing sweeping views up to a castle and over what appears to be an orchard, with a very welcome tree providing shade from the glaring heat. Probably the best seat in the house – proven later by the scramble to get it when we vacate.

We like this piece not only because it takes us there but also because it’s a document of the kind of conversation we’re having, and we suspect many beer geeks are having, day after day.


The Dorchester Brewery c.1889.
SOURCE: Alfred Barnard/Hathi Trust.

Alan McLeod has given us another hefty instalment of his ongoing research into British regional beer styles and their export around the world. This week, it’s more on Dorchester ale:

Dorchester was a key departure port for Puritans emigrating to New England in the 1600s. Dorchester beer was popular before and after the American Revolution from at least the 1760s in New York City to the early 1800s. It is not mentioned by Locke in 1674. There was a song about it published in 1784 praising its power to even sooth political disunion. Coppinger described its ingredients in this way in the 1815 edition of his fabulously named book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner:

54 Bushels of the best Pale Malt.
50 lb. of the best Hops.
1 lb. of Ginger.
¼ of a lb. of Cinnamon, pounded.


London breweries.

Here’s an interesting project: Andrew Helm, one of the co-founders of Yorkshire’s Revolution Brewing, is now based in London and in the process of pivoting to a career in data mapping. Combining his two careers, he has undertaken to take data from various sources, including Quaffale, and produce some maps that give an at-a-glance sense of the growth of UK brewing in the past few decades. In his latest blog post, he pulls several of those maps together and also asks, will COVID-19 stop or even reverse the growth?


Adnams sign on brewery wall, Southwold.

For Good Beer Hunting, Adrian Tierney-Jones gives us a full and substantial meal of a post: a profile of Adnams which asks some awkward questions, digs into the downs as well as the ups, and reflects on the decisions that have been made in recent decades. We were especially pleased to read detailed notes on the issues with yeast that nearly destroyed the brewery’s reputation in the 1980s and 90s:

Cleanliness issues persisted even during the period of construction. “Adnams had an old yeast press where the yeast crop was made into a cake, put in a fridge and then weighed into buckets when the time came to reuse it. The buckets were notoriously impossible to keep clean and so it proved for Adnams,” says [head brewer Fergus] Fitzgerald. “Even when I started in 2004, we had to deal with the fact the cast-iron mash tuns were flaking, and providing a perfect breeding ground of bacteria while we were brewing, so after the second brew of the day we had to strip it down to do a CIP [cleaning in place] before we did the third brew.”


A pint.

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) has launched a new blog to keep beer writers busy during the global pause. Its first published piece is by John Holl and discusses daytime drinking at home, which is generally regarded as a bad habit but, Holl argues, is certainly a fun indulgence:

There’s also a difference between day-drinking at a bar with friends and opening a few beers during daylight hours while quarantined at home (even if you do pull up a chair on the patio). A bar is a social destination where you can still be alone. Proper day-drinking can’t be about boredom, or we’d do it too often. It shouldn’t have a regularly scheduled time either. It should be spontaneous, and therefore indulgent.


Pliny the Elder tap.
SOURCE: Pellicle/Matt Curtis.

For Pellicle, editor and chief contributor Matt Curtis remembers the time he travelled 5,000 miles to drink his dream beer, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder:

I’m not sure if it was the lingering tiredness from a long day and even longer journey, or the skinful of IPAs I’d been tasting throughout, but when I arrived at the Russian River brewpub in Santa Rosa, California and stood in front of its bar, I burst into tears… Our server tipped us off that they’d had a couple of cases of Pliny delivered that morning—a chance to try a beer I had lusted after for years presenting itself without warning. I remember feeling somewhat overawed as I held the bottle in my hand, it’s bold red and green label smiling up at me, while text that formed a square around its border asked us to “drink fresh, do not age.” We were not going to argue.


And finally, from Twitter:

 


For more good reading, check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up and It Must Beer Love’s movable feast.

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