News, nuggets and longreads 29 August 2020: Festbier, Horner, Chinese beer

Here’s everything that struck us as especially interesting in writing about beer and pubs in the past seven days, from industry morale to questions of national identity.

First, as the dust begins to settle (for the moment, at least) Lily Waite has asked people in the beer industry to look back on the past six months and reflect on the stress and strain of it all:

For some back at work in the on-trade, the break from the tedium of lockdown is a blessed relief. “For me the struggle was boredom,’ says Paul Crowther, who returned to work at The Yard House in Tynemouth at the end of June. ‘I’m used to working a lot and being outside the house and the monotony of my routine was unbearable; I was very happy to come back to work not for money but to get out of the house.’

Demolition of the Windsock

Geoff Quincy has wrapped up his epic history of The Windsock at Dunstable, a pub remarkable for its architecture, with the tale of its demise:

The Windsock was a bespoke building. By 1983 many of its original features and fittings had been tampered with or were wearing out. The Windsock had been built and was in its early years occupied by a large wealthy brewer. Under their ownership it was maintained by their site contractors who dealt with ongoing maintenance, repairs and gardening. Once the building was in private ownership these resources were no longer available. As a result the grounds, road surfaces and external skin of the building were very obviously showing the signs of nearly 14 years of exposure to the weather and desperately needed an overhaul if not entire replacement.

Lederhosen on display.

Jeff Alworth has been thinking about Festbier, or Oktoberfestbier – he gets into all that – and has concluded that it might be “the finest of all lagers”:

It’s an expressive and varied style that offers more flavor oomph than many lagers. Yet it remains a quintessential session beer, with all the crisp lager character found in pilsner or helles. The pleasure of drinking them in the soft sunlight of early autumn amid a crowd of revelers is hard to beat… We’ll have to do without the crowd this year, but at least we have the beer.


Still on German beer styles, Evan Rail has written about the resurrection of Horner Bier in an unexpected place:

The only beer style name-dropped by Mozart himself, Horner Bier was one of the true oddballs of pre-lager Continental brewing: Instead of barley or wheat, the long-extinct beer from Horn, Austria, was made with 100 percent oats. Not bitter nor malty, Horner Bier was sour, thanks to the addition of potassium bitartrate, a.k.a. cream of tartar (though how that actually worked has long been lost to history, along with the rest of the beer’s production secrets)… With a shoutout in Mozart’s lyrics to “Bei der Hitz im Sommer ess ich,” it has been an obscure point of obsession for many writers who cover Old World brewing, by which I mean me.

Whisky bottles.

For Pellicle Jemma Beedie has written about the Scottish half-and-half – a beer ordered with a dram of whisky for company:

Jen Laird, co-owner of The Grail—a specialist off-license in Doune, a historic village on the outskirts of Stirlingshire—explained: “From what I can gather the standard whisky measure was a quarter gill, which would make it close to a modern standard measure (35ml).” The Dictionary of Scots Language suggests that the phrase “a wee hauf” meant half of a half gill, so whichever way we look at it, it is poetic beauty.

Chinese beer.

SOURCE: Eric Prouzet via Unsplash.

Rick Green has been studying beer in China and has produced a long piece setting out his thoughts on what makes a beer truly Chinese, or not:

Most people outside of Asia, when asked what is Chinese beer, will probably say, “Tsingtao”. This is likely due to the fact that in 70 countries and territories outside of China, every Chinese restaurant carries this beer. Although Tsingtao Lager is a Chinese brand of beer made in China, is the beer really Chinese? If beer has only to be made in China to be called, “Chinese”, then wouldn’t that also apply to Budweiser, Carlsberg, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Goose Island?

And finally, from Twitter, there’s this desirable item:

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

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