Here’s everything about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from #BlackLivesMatter to the mysteries of bitter.
For Good Beer Hunting, beer writer and broadcaster Jamaal Lemon provides a succinct, cutting summary of his experience as a black American, from worrying about how to teach his son to present himself to the world to being the odd man out at craft beer events:
My great-great-grandfather Ernest Barber Sr. was born in Catawba, South Carolina on April 15, 1889. His grandfather was born in 1845, and his grandmother in 1830. They, too, lived, worked, and died in Catawba, but they were born into slavery. Ernest Barber Sr. died in 1976… I was born in January 1979… Slavery in America is only a few generations away from all of us—in my case, its direct reach extends to three years prior to my birth. Most Americans mark their birth year by a TV show they remember, or a popular song. I mark it by how far away slavery was from my body.
Dr. J Nikol Jackson-Beckham has been reflecting on the purpose behind her Craft Beer for All project. Perhaps beer doesn’t feel hugely important at this particular moment, she suggests, but…
it is in the banality of beer that I see its greatest potential to affect positive social change. Systemic anti-black racism is not born of malicious intents, spectacular violence, or complex conspiracies. Rather, it is continuously reproduced in everyday acts of carelessness and comfort, quiet omissions and revisions, and unthinking webs of justification that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives–webs so well made that when malicious and spectacular acts of racist violence are set before us, we swaddle them–excuses drifting from our lips like lullabies. I can think of no better tool, no better place, no better community than craft beer to do the everyday work of unraveling American racism.
At Craft Beer Amethyst, Ruvani urges the US craft beer industry to opt-in to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and to mean it:
No one is dying in the beer industry. It’s not our fault that ignorant, brutal police officers and other individuals are committing racially motivated murder. What possible relation could this have to our own lack of diversity and inbuilt reluctance to do anything about it? Everything. Absolutely everything… Whether you work in the beer industry or are a regular beer consumer, this is your landscape, your everyday, your home-from-home. This is the world that you inhabit, the world you see as normal, and if that world is not reflective of the wider world at large it becomes easy to forget that other people, different people, exist. If they cease to exist through their absence, then their concerns, needs and ultimately their voices disappear from that landscape and unconscious bias self-perpetuates in their absence.
Will Hawkes continues his series of pieces on how UK beer businesses are handling the curtailing and mutation of their operations as a result of COVID-19 with notes on a South London bottle shop. These articles are good because they’re so specific and real:
Rich Salthouse, 35, has some insight on this subject, as the co-owner of Salthouse Bottles, a bottle shop, and Joyce, a bar, both situated in Brockley, south London. While Joyce (which opened last year) has been shut throughout, Salthouse Bottles has been busier than ever during lockdown… It’s interesting that a shop set up to cater almost exclusively for beer drinkers has moved so firmly in a more general direction. Wine plays a big role now; by £ value, it’s a bigger seller than beer (although, of course, wine tends to be a lot more expensive than beer). During lockdown, bread, as Salthouse says, was the best-seller by £; eggs were second. In terms of beer, Villages, based in nearby Deptford, has sold best, followed by Augustiner.
John Clarke, editor of Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA’s excellent Opening Times magazine, has marked the 30th anniversary of its rebirth by dissecting the first issue in its present run, from June 1984:
The lead article was about Boddingtons Bitter. An iconic beer, even before it was dubbed ‘the Cream of Manchester’, there was continuing concern that it had lost much of its old character. It’s fashionable these days to blame the decline of Boddingtons Bitter on Whitbread after they bought the brewery but, as I never tire of telling people, Boddingtons managed to cock this up entirely unaided… So, what happened? Boddingtons insisted the recipe hadn’t changed… One theory is a yeast infection meant that a new strain had to be used which was perhaps less efficient at doing the job. For what it’s worth, my theory is they cut down on fermentation time to produce more beer, but who knows?
At Brussels Beer City, Eoghan Walsh tells the story of Constant Vanden Stock, the 93rd greatest Belgian of all time, whose interests combined football and brewing:
As patriarch of the Belle-Vue brewery he transformed the Lambic industry, ushering in modernisation and pushing traditional Lambic culture to the brink of oblivion. As the president of Anderlecht football club, Vanden Stock was lionised as a folk hero, bringing the club glory at home and in Europe as he entertained Belgian royalty in the presidential suite of the stadium which carried his name… The consequences of his market moves in football and beer from the 1940s through to the 1990s are still being felt today, and after he had retired from running Belle-Vue, Vanden Stock sat down with Belgian journalist Hugo Camps to set down the events of his life. What came out of these conversations was a sort-of autobiography, the title of which sums up Vanden Stock’s story: One Life, Two Careers.
In the mainstream media, the two big questions about beer and pubs are:
- When and how will pubs re-open?
- Will there be enough to drink when they do?
The Pub Curmudgeon has observed that the apparent mobilisation of some breweries, as reported by the Sun, might suggest they’ve privately been given notice of government plans to relax lockdown rules for pubs ahead os schedule.
Elsewhere, the Wetherspoon chain has carried out a canny bit of lobbying by releasing images of a ‘COVID-ready pub’, complete with hand sanitiser stations, screens and disposable menus. It looks, frankly, a bit bleak – like a special ward in a hospital.
Finally, from Twitter, via @DrAdamChapman, there’s this delight:
I’m reading a book on the history of River Thames by the current Emperor of Japan, and it includes a lovely digression on him being taught how to order a pint in a pub. pic.twitter.com/PS0aFkLn65
— Ned Donovan (@Ned_Donovan) May 30, 2020
For more reading, though only a little more this week, check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.