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News, nuggets and longreads 11 April 2020: drinkability, gong, the absence of pubs

Here’s everything on the subject of booze and boozers that caught our eyes in the past week, from Bavaria to the back gardens of England.

For Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, Joe Stange has profiled Schönramer, asking in particular what makes its beer so drinkable:

The Schönramer Pils is, for my money, the best in Germany—bearing in mind that (1) it is virtually impossible to taste every Pils in Germany, though I’ve made a fair run at it; and (2) my personal tastes run hoppy (yet noble). Fresh Schönramer Pils is bitter, but malty enough to hold it; it is jam-packed with spicy-floral-lemony aroma and flavor; and it is difficult to stop drinking. To me, most other German Pilsners seem drab in comparison… The Hell, meanwhile, is simply addictive. It is a pure expression of light, sweet malt but with a touch more bitterness—a soft, smooth bitterness, mind you—than any Munich helles. And while it starts lightly sweet, it finishes dry, leaving you wanting more. And more. And so on.


Cooling with snow.
SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol.

In our hour of greatest needs, Lars Marius Garshol has returned with another farmhouse brewing adventure, this time in eastern Norway. And guess what? He’s only found another weird yeast to investigate. It’s called gong and isn’t kveik, though it is closely related:

While the wort boiled, we headed into the house where Ågot, Sverre’s mother, was preparing the yeast. Sverre said that even when his father brewed, his mother was the one that handled the yeast. Entering the kitchen I was astonished to see pieces of cloth with a thin, dry crust of darkish-brown yeast on them. I’d read about people storing yeast by drying it on cloth, but never actually seen it… It turned out Ågot takes the harvested yeast and smears it on cloth, where it is dried. She has a box full of these cloth pieces with dried yeast on them. After they’re dried she cuts them into suitable sizes for the next brews.

Lars’s long-awaited book, Historical Brewing Technigues: the lost art of farmhouse beer, is due out anytime now.


The Old Fountain
SOURCE: Pellicle

Jonny Garrett has been talking to Jim Durrant who has run one of his regular haunts, The Old Fountain on the eastern edge of the City of London, since 1971. His piece for Pellicle is full of lovely details that reveal how different the story of each pub and every publican can be:

In the 1960s a pub wasn’t just a place you went to drink, it was the centre of a community. You kept warm there, you ate lunch and drank there, you met your family, had weddings and christenings and wakes there. To attract a bigger crowd than the pub down the road, publicans had to cater to everyone—and all their specific needs. Jim’s father decided the best way to do that at the Old Fountain was to focus on food, so he packed his son off to train at a glitzy steakhouse in west London. In the meantime, he started serving sandwiches in brown paper bags to go.

There’s an interesting pre-empting of the gastropub here, too, which you might recall was officially born in the 1990s at The Eagle, not so far away from the Old Fountain, with steak sandwiches also on the menu.


Illustration: moody London pub.

For the New York TimesAllison McCann asks ‘What is Britain without the pub?’ This piece seemed to attract some ire on social media but we’re not sure why; it strikes us as a sincere attempt to consider how we’re coping without one of our essential institutions, and we especially liked the opening:

After a long day of working from home, all four of them in one cramped terraced house in East London, the roommates wait for salvation via text message… Today, it comes from Lucie Audibert, a trainee lawyer. “I’m going for a pint at the Ufton Arms if you want to join.”… Eventually, all four roommates will make their way from their shared apartment to the garden out back: The Ufton Arms, named for the road out front… They spent the better part of 10 hours on a recent weekend assembling a pub bench in their garden… They already had pint glasses — stolen from their local pub, an honored tradition. Someone found a YouTube video for “Pub Background Noise Sound Effects.”

(In short, we are all going slightly mad.)


Post-It notes.
SOURCE: Pete Brown

Blogging about writing: Pete Brown has shared some insight into the practicalities of putting together a book with the hope that it might help aspiring writers:

As I’m reviewing and finalising my notes, I put each key point I want to make on a post-it. I use different colours for different themes. For Shakespeare’s Local it might have been green for the local history of Southwark, pink for the history of pubs generally, yellow for my lame jokes and so on. For The Meanings of Craft Beer, pink is how the craft beer industry works, orange is the history of craft in a broader sense, green is an insight or idea I might have had myself while reading, pale yellow is stuff on the nature of work, blue is about the definitional problems of ‘craft beer’, and on it goes. Over a period of weeks, as I’m working, the post-its gradually populate the wall.

As you might know, we have a couple of self-published eBooks floating about and, for what it’s worth, we’d recommend any beer writer currently twiddling their thumbs to give it a go. The risk is low, the process is both fun and educational, and you’ll make more money from eBook sales than from words hidden away on your hard drive.


Odds and ends:


Finally, from Twitter, there’s some lovely pub art – for which, we confess, we are suckers:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up and a newcomer to the round-up game, David at It Must Beer Love.

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 11 April 2020: drinkability, gong, the absence of pubs”

‘They already had pint glasses — stolen from their local pub, an honored tradition.’
That really winds me up! What other traditions do they have? Shoplifting and acquring traffic cones?

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