News, nuggets and longreads 20 June 2020: criminality, Cologne, crisps

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from fraud to scampi fries.

‘Furlough fraud’ has become a buzz-phrase in the past few weeks. Generally, it takes the form of claiming compensation for furloughed staff from the Government but then asking, or allowing, those staff to continue working. In hospitality, however, there is talk of a rather nastier practice, as reported by Bar Life UK:

On Tuesday this week I called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for comment on a story about employers withholding furlough pay from their employees. The first words out of the press officer’s mouth, before I had even finished asking the question, were: “That would be a crime.”

(Via @CraftBeerCommie.)

A view of the imaginary bar.
SOURCE: Steven Bracki.

A bit of eye candy: Graphic visualisation artist Steven Bracki lives in Glasgow and recently tackled a long-term project: creating realistic 3D renderings of a bar based on the much-admired Glasgow Subway, AKA The Clockwork Orange. It looks, we’re sure you’ll agree, cool as hell.

Beer hall, Cologne.

For PellicleHollie Stephens has written about drinking in Cologne in the run up to the city’s famous carnival:

While waiting for the rain to stop, I had the opportunity to learn what the Carnival is all about from some locals. Put simply, it can be summarised in a single word: debauchery… “I remember leaving one bar at 6am last year, at the end of Carnival”, a fellow patron told me. “After serving all day and all night, they went to lock the doors, and then realised that they were gone. The doors were solid oak, and someone had taken them. They brought them back, after one more drink. They just didn’t want the night to be over.”

Schlenkerla Cap

As Germany continues to ease of out lockdown, beer historian Andreas Krenmair has been able to do something that will make many of jealous: he went on holiday to Bamberg. Usually focused on the lagers of his native Austria, this trip prompted him to think about the traditions of low-alcohol beer in German brewing:

One thing that I had noticed in the weeks before the trip, particularly on Instagram, was that Brauerei Heller, the brewery behind the well-known Schlenkerla smoked beers, had launched a new low-alcohol beer, Heinzlein. I was intrigued about it, because I knew this beer type under various different spellings (“Hainslein”, “Heinzele”) of the same name… In historic beer literature, this beer type is already mentioned in the early 19th century as typical for Bamberg. In the 1818 book “Das Bamberger Bier” by Johann Seifert, it is described as being brewed from the third runnings, boiled with hops, left to cool in the brew kettle overnight, and fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast like the regular beer made from the first and second runnings.

Fermenting vessels
SOURCE: Will Hawkes.

Will Hawkes continues his series of investigations into how beer businesses are handling the unique challenges of lockdown, this time looking at breweries. The subject of his case study, the Park Brewery in Kingston, isn’t one we know, but the story seems somewhat universal:

Having ceased brewing between late February and late April due to the Covid-19 lockdown, this wife-and-husband team – Frankie and Josh Kearns – recently began re-brewing for cask, in the expectation that pubs might open on July 4, as widely expected… The problem is, of course, that the government has so far confirmed nothing – no opening date, no updated distancing regulations – so brewers like the Kearns are taking a punt. If pubs are to open on July 4 with cask ale, then the beer needs to be made now. But if they don’t open…

Two specific steps they’ve taken chime with what we’ve heard from other breweries: first, accelerating development of an ecommerce website and, secondly, buying their own canning line using government-backed stimulus loans. No wonder some indie retailers and publicans are getting twitchy.

Scotch egg.

Matt Curtis has been conducting important research: which are the best pub snacks? The results of his study are available at Ferment, the magazine of retail subscription service Beer52:

Pork scratchings are also supreme in their snackability, but with all their fat, salt and own inherent weirdness (sometimes they are hairy) they can be a little heavy on the palate unless shared. When it comes to a bag of something crisp and salty that can be devoured on one’s own, nothing is finer than a packet of Smith’s Scampi Fries. In terms of pub crisps, these are practically fine dining. Flavoured to mimic the salinity of the noble langoustine – perhaps the finest of all shellfish, and livened with a touch of lemon, each Scampi Fry is the perfect primer for another sip of beer.

Beer glasses held aloft.

We love a blind-tasting, and blind-tastings of lager are often especially illuminating. Jeff Alworth at Beervana has been comparing pilsners and was startled by his own inability to identify beers he thought he knew well:

One also finds humility in the exercise. Of the eighteen beers we sampled, I knew half pretty well and several very well. In some cases I was on the right track, but in others I was thrown off. Breakside’s pilsner, as an example, seemed completely new to me. I’d had to buy a six-pack of Von Ebert and had a couple the night before the tasting. It is characterized by a distinctive herbal hop I thought I would recognize instantly. It did not. I looked for it in each of the eighteen beers and never found it—even when I was tasting it.

Finally, from Twitter, one of our neighbours wonders when somebody will think of the pub dogs.

For more good reading, have a look at Alan’s round-up from Thursday.

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