News, nuggets and longreads 8 August 2020: politics, pool tables, Palestine

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs from the past week that grabbed our attention, from the the Himalayas to South London.

We’ll start with a lovely piece from Owen Amos at the Beeb about how the world’s smallest and most remote Irish theme pub at Namche Bazar, Nepal:

The pub’s pool table was brought in this way. “And ours is an old, classic Indian table, with huge marble slates,” says [pub-owner] Dawa [Sherpa]… “Three or four slates, each one weighs maybe 120kg. We can’t hire mules or yaks because the paths are too fragile. It’s all carried by porters – humans – with great carefulness.” They even import Guinness, expensively, via Singapore.

Berliner Kindl Weisse.

Ben Palmer is an interesting chap. He’s British but has been studying brewing in Germany and recently took a role as student research assistant at the brewing research centre VLB in Berlin. Moving to a new city has prompted him to fire up his blog and begin recording his impression of its pubs and bars:

Berlin is the craft beer capital of Germany, probably. I am too lazy to count but the city is probably home to about 20-30 breweries and numerous craft beer bars and bottle shops etc. Some brewing companies have their own production facilities with tap rooms, whilst others adhere to the “Kuckoo”, or contract brewing model. But frankly, I’m less excited about internationalised beer culture these days. I don’t really want to drink IPA in a dimly lit bar in Kreuzberg surrounded by English-speaking expats. So I have set myself the goal to seek out some authentic Berlin pubs, beer gardens and brewpubs and gain an insight into local beer culture.

Alex Morris

Alex Morris. SOURCE: Helen Anne Smith/Burum Collective.

The Burum Collective is an interesting new project dedicated to giving those working in pubs and bars a place to express their views on the beer industry. This week, it shared notes of a conversation between Helen Anne Smith and Alex Morris, both of whom work for Brewdog:

Helen: How have you found working in beer, have you enjoyed it?

Alex: Yes, in terms of the people I’ve met, the friends I have made and the community around me in craft beer has been amazing. I’ve been pretty much obsessed with every single person who has worked in our bar, they have always been amazing and I don’t think the job attracts bad people. But it’s weird how the craft beer community at large isn’t like that to me? It’s still very much a white man’s world inside of a white man’s world and I think that that’s very clear with some of it’s attitudes… but like I said I don’t think I have ever personally been a victim of that in terms of the craft beer circles that I’m in, I think everyone is great.

Black is Beautiful label.

Another interesting project: Oli is a post-graduate researcher who works in the pub and beer industry in Bristol and has been expressing frustration at the lack of critical left-wing commentary for some time. Now they’ve started their own blog, Ferment the Rich, to address that gap. We’ll be honest, some of it goes a bit over our heads, but there’s no denying the passion and erudition with which Oli writes:

Solidarity is not merely an act of charity. Solidarity is not done, and cannot be poured out in, half measures. Nor, despite many breweries bandwagoning of recent social movements and initiatives, does it just come in 500ml, 455ml, 440ml, or any other can sizes of Imperial Stout, a beer style whose name and history is already openly steeped in the racist legacies of whiteness… [While] we live within and under the domination of racialized capitalism, efforts to work against the system from within often ultimately face either cooption or corruption. I imagine and hope I am not the only one reminded here of Audre Lorde’s timeless adage that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

Garage pub.

SOURCE: Dirty South/Deserter.

At The Deserter pseudonymous author Dirty South provides notes on turning his garage into a pub during lockdown, the scourge of gout and the hunt for decent relatively low-alcohol craft beer:

Word had got round that we were opening a boozerie and though we had yet to secure the radiogram, horseshoe-tossing and bikini-revealing Big D peanut board that we hoped to launch with, we were under pressure from thirsty punters… A few neighbours stopped by and a funny thing happened: The talk became quite indiscreet; different in tone to the barbeques, street parties, or doorstep distance drinks we occasionally attend on our road. Less guarded, funnier and ruder – like a pub. But while everyone was tucking in to the booze they’d brought, I was forced to explore small beer – ale around the 3% mark, lest I invite another painful crystals-forming-on-joints incident.

Guidelines from a pub.

SOURCE: Martin Taylor.

As a counterpoint to our slightly down-in-the-dumps note on people acting like dicks in the pub last weekend, Martin Taylor provides an optimistic summary of how things are going based on his extensive pub-crawling during July:

Covid compliance rules are generally clearly set out and almost universally followed. If anything, the smaller wet-led pubs have enforced the rules harder, with temperature checks in Selby and Portsmouth… Completion of the Track and Trace paperwork seemed rather optional in Spoons, but since I’ve learnt how to use QR codes it’s been easy to record my details on-line… I’ve always felt safe in pubs. And if I didn’t feel safe, I’d have left.

A street in Palestine.

SOURCE: Library of Congress.

You might want to set aside some time for this one: Gary Gillman has concluded a multi-week trip down a research rabbit-hole investigating beer and brewing in Palestine during the period of British colonial control from 1920 to 1948. A round-up of each individual blog post is available here:

Beers from numerous sources were imported to Mandate Palestine in the 1930s. As demographic background  [the 1931 census shows the] total population that year was 1,035,821 which included a small number of H.M. Forces… The permanent residents comprised Muslims, Jews, and Christians plus small numbers of other denominations. It is beyond our scope here to examine alcohol patterns in the various groups but the British presence, which increased after 1934 due to the Arab-Jewish conflict, likely formed a disproportionate part of the market.

For Craft Beer & Brewing magazine Joe Stange has dug up an interesting recent relic: a recipe for Helles from 1967. There’s something alluring about these beers from just out of reach, when the collective imagination says things were just a bit better, before they got a bit worse:

It comes from Brauerei Erharting in Upper Bavaria, courtesy of Florian Kuplent, founder and brewmaster of Urban Chestnut Brewing in St. Louis, Missouri. Kuplent started his career at Erharting in 1994 and later copied the recipe from the brewery’s archives… We’ve translated the recipe into English and then into homebrew-ese, scaling it down to 5 gallons (19 liters). It essentially follows a Hochkurz decoction mash, with no protein rest. Nice and simple—as simple as double-decoction gets, anyway. Also note the long boil.

Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

We can’t help but be fascinated by full-on Art Deco pubs and this beauty is a rare survivor – just.

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 8 August 2020: politics, pool tables, Palestine”

“Imperial Stout, a beer style whose name and history is already openly steeped in the racist legacies of whiteness” … that blew any credibility they were striving for right there. Ahistoric nonsense. And that’s ignoring the idea that “whiteness” itself is “racist”.

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