News, nuggets and longreads 30 May 2020: Farewell, Roger Ryman

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that struck us as especially interesting in this final week of May.

First, some very sad news: Roger Ryman, brewing director at St Austell and creator of Tribute and Proper Job, has died of cancer at the age of 52. This obituary by Cornwall-based beer writer Darren Norbury at Beer Today says it all, really. We met Mr Ryman a few times and he was always a pleasure to deal with and remarkably open in response to any question we asked.

Illustration: "Wodge of cash."

For his own blog, journalist Will Hawkes has written a piece breaking down the financials of a pub in lockdown. Could The King’s Arms in Bethnal Green, East London, be doomed?

“That is pretty much all down to our landlord,” Chatwin, 40, says. “I think at the end of the day, [with] him being an old publican and an individual as opposed to a massive company, we will be able to salvage that somehow… On the other hand, we owe a lot of suppliers money, about £30,000. Pretty much all of them have been pretty understanding because they are often in the same boat as us… But I think it will come to a crunch point. It’s a massive elongated chain, isn’t it? As soon as one person in that chain is like, “Fuck, I need money,” then the whole pyramid falls down. But at the moment everybody has been pretty nice about the situation.”

Free Trade Inn tables.

For PellicleMartin Flynn paints a picture of a particular pub – the wonderful Free Trade Inn, looking down over Newcastle:

Locals are so strongly tied to the place that even the city’s newspaper mourned the death of its resident cat—affectionately named Craig David by locals… Step inside and you’ll find wallpaper peeling above round tables stamped with the Scottish & Newcastle star. The interior is made up of various shades of brown; spindly chairs are darker, while a few nicotine ghosts linger in the tan ceiling. The bar is fairly short, its curve more pragmatic than elegant.

Make Mine a Marston's.

Last week’s big news was the takeover of Marston’s by Carlsberg. This week, Roger Protz asks a very good question: is there evidence that Carlsberg is, as some have claimed, ‘a good custodian of cask ale’?

Marston’s won’t stop brewing Pedigree, Banks’s, Hobgoblin and other big cask brands. The world-famous Burton Union rooms, where Pedigree is fermented, are called the Cathedrals of Brewing and are surely sacrosanct… But other cask ales may not be so lucky… Carlsberg had another famous ale in its portfolio, Draught Burton Ale. Its treatment of the beer should set alarm bells ringing at Marston’s.

Lights twinkling in a pub.

Back in 2015, Tom Lamont wrote one of the best ever pieces on pubs and pub companies for the Guardian. It’s been revived, now, as an hour-long ‘audio longread’ – give it a listen if podcasts are your thing, or read the original here.

Finally, from Twitter, these look good:

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