We kept up the usual pace this month, somehow, turning back to our long-term to-do list and the frequently asked questions at which we’ve been chipping away.
The other problem is the tendency of pubs to tell outright fibs about this kind of thing. It turns out that many such claims can be dismantled with a bit of work and you soon learn to ignore any information board that opens with it “It is reputed that…”
For the first time in ages, we reviewed some books. First, we looked at a pair of self-published eBooks by Pete Brown and Andreas Krenmair, drawing some conclusions about the future of beer writing:
When it comes to beer, most publishers seem hung up on the same handful of topics and formats: lists of beers you must drink, beginners’ guides, compilations of trivia and the occasional breezy personal memoir… Not needing to sell well is one of the great advantages of eBooks, however. If an eBook doesn’t sell, it’s disappointing. If a print publication is slow to move, that’s someone’s office or warehouse or spare bedroom piled high with boxes for years to come.
There are some related thoughts from Jeff Alworth here.
Next, we reviewed Historical Brewing Techniques: the lost art of farmhouse brewing by Lars Marius Garshol. We liked it quite a bit:
The farmhouse brewers themselves are under constant pressure to modernise and standardise. Why use that dirty old yeast your grandfather passed on when I can sell you a nice lab-grown dried variety designed for brewing? Making your own malt is a waste of time – just buy some… In that context, this book – and the half-decade of research that led up to it – feels like a just-in-time intervention. Stick to your traditions, Lars seems to be saying; you’re right, the modernisers are wrong; don’t let this die.
On 19 July, we highlighted the apparent dominance of family brewers when it comes to bitter, based on a numbers from a conversation on Twitter:
The only ‘new’ breweries represented at this top table were founded in 1981 (Woodforde’s) and 1997 (Marble)… If you tot up all the nominations for new breweries and treat them as a category, you get to about 14. (We don’t know all the beers named and some might not meet our definition of bitter.) That’s still not enough to beat Harvey’s, Landlord or Batham’s.
Then, on 23 July, we had to tut at the very brewers to which we’d given a big shout out when news broke of proposed changes to small brewers relief (SBR):
We believe the breweries lobbying for it have made a strategic error; and we, like others, might be less inclined to buy their beer or speak positively of them as a result… And we don’t really buy the ‘Poor us – we’re being undercut by these upstarts’ argument. It sticks in the craw somewhat to see breweries who own hundreds of tied pubs, to which they often sell their beer at above the market price, complaining about distortions in the market.
Back to the FAQ list, we revisited the research we did for Brew Britannia to give a straight answer to the question ‘Which was the first UK microbewery?’
A thing that used to be popular in pubs, but has more or less disappeared, is piling pennies on the bar to make a huge tower in aid of charity. We finally did the research to work out (a) when it started; (b) how it worked; and (c) when and why it died out.
Having visited some pubs, finally, we’ve found ourselves thinking about the apps many of us are now using to order our pints. Jess wrote up some thoughts on this drawing on her own experience working for a business that ran a large hotel-pub in Cornwall:
First, it’s interesting that we caught ourselves going back to the same pub twice because, among other reasons, “We already have the app.” Although the apps are reasonably easy to use, there is a bit of time required for setup and those of us nervous about data protection are reluctant to sign up with ten different apps… Secondly, the availability of an app really brings the ownership of a pub to the surface.
We’ve also started to ramp up posting on Patreon again with regular posts on our favourite beers of each weekend, sharing an article on saudade we wrote for Original Gravity in 2018 and adding some footnotes to posts we shared here on the main blog.
We wrote our usual 1,000+ words for our monthly newsletter – sign up here to get next month’s.
And, of course, we were all over Twitter with stuff like this mystery and satisfying crowdsourced solution:
Can anyone confidently identify this pub? Distinctive features: corner door, three-paned windows, J & T Usher branding. Looks like a town/city pub to us. https://t.co/xLytVfDttv
— Boak and Bailey (@BoakandBailey) July 6, 2020
I may have a pub for you to check. The Newbridge Inn in Bath, leased to J & T Usher in 1903.
The windows and drainpipe are in the right place, as is the street to the right and the door which may be the one that has the "Welton" poster. pic.twitter.com/vL6mpqFdbB
— Steve Fitzpatrick (@fitzpas) July 10, 2020
And that’s it. Next month, we’re actually going somewhere which might inspire something. We’ll no doubt be sharing a work-in-progress diary on Patreon as we go, anyway.