News, nuggets and longreads 9 May 2020: VR, influenza, McEwan’s

Robins's brewery, Stockport.

Here’s all our favourite reading on beer and pubs from the past week, excluding #BeeryLongReads2020 contributions, which will get their own round-up tomorrow.

For Good Beer Hunting, American beer historian Brian Alberts provides an account of the flu pandemic of 1918 and how it affected drinkers and brewers in Milwaukee:

Milwaukee’s leaders stepped up in a crisis, and largely handled it well. But, for the city’s brewers and saloonkeepers, this wasn’t the only battle to fight. From a business standpoint, it probably wasn’t the most important battle in the fall of 1918, nor the second, and maybe not even the third. After all, when the President criminalizes your beer supply, a university threatens to shut you down completely, the Senate tries to brand you a traitor, and a pandemic ravages your community—all at the same time—how do you decide what takes priority?


VR pub: barman and bar.
SOURCE: Tristan Cross/Wired.

Is it even possible to write about pubs without getting lost in philosophical questions about what makes a pub a pub? For Wired magazine, Tristan Cross writes about how yearning for his South London prompted him to build a virtual reality replica of the pub from scratch:

Finally, after weeks of effort and days of rendering, I’ve done it. I’ve made Skehans, and I’ve brought my friends inside. Despite beaming at being able to hear to their utterly depraved nonsense again, it’s still not quite right… I’m there, in Skehan’s with my nearest and dearest, but they can’t see or hear me. It’s like I’ve died and been sent to haunt them on a night out. The simulation is nearly there. It has the pub and the people, but you, the player, are absent.


Anchor brewery, San Francisco.

Jeff Alworth continues his survey of classic beers at Beervana with notes on Anchor Steam, somehow finding new things to say, and wrapping it all up in an elegantly readable package:

In choosing the combination of two-row and pale, Anchor created the blueprint that would dominate craft brewing for two decades. The pale malt available then was so free of character it was often called ‘sugar’ for its capacity to ferment cleanly. The caramel malts provided body (not typical in lagers), sweetness, and flavor. Until well into the 2000s, that was the character of most craft beer… They chose an old hop variety in Northern Brewer, first grown in England in 1934. This, combined with the open fermentation, gave the beer a distinctly British flavor. When craft breweries started opening up along the West Coast in the 1970s and 80s, they followed this general profile…


Illustration: 'Yeast'.

Lars Marius Garshol asks an intriguing question: is the distinction between baking yeast and brewing yeast a false one?

[It’s] not only me who thinks baking yeast can make good beer. Kristoffer Krogerus did a scientific evaluation of Suomen Hiiva and found it to be “perfectly usable for beer fermentations”. Brulosophy also did a recent experiment with baking yeast and although people could tell the difference, 1 in 3 preferred the version with baking yeast… So a lot of different bread yeasts really do produce good beer. Why?

A footnote from us: a few years ago, we wrote about Cornish swanky beer, including a recipe, and recommended fermenting with baking yeast. That really seemed to annoy people even thought it worked, based on the evidence of our own tastebuds.


McEwan's Pale Ale
SOURCE: Sontarans on Flickr.

Tandleman asks an interesting question: which long lost beers do you most miss? His own list is intriguing, including several names that don’t often crop up as candidates for The Canon:

McEwan’s Pale Ale… Always in pint screwtop bottles. I used to drink this in Dumbarton when in certain pubs. McEwan’s Pale Ale was also the first beer I ever tasted. Darkish, not too sweet and hardly strong at all. A great thirst quencher. And I liked pints bottles. Sometimes it was a Belhaven Screwtop or, if flush, Whitbread Pale Ale.

The comments are great, too, though, with plenty of other people joining in the game. Us? We’re still thinking.


Brew2You

The Campaign for Real Ale has taken the interesting step of launching a consumer beer retail platform, Brew2You. The idea is that drinkers download an app and use it to buy beer from local brewers and pubs. CAMRA doesn’t take a cut but it does add a 5% admin fee to cover costs. We’ll probably be giving it a go.


Finally, from Twitter – cor, blimey, what a turn up!


For more good reading, check out the round-ups from Alan and It Must Beer Love.

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