Here’s everything on beer and pubs that’s grabbed our attention in the past week, from unmalted grain to boozers on film.
First, something about the Dreaded Plague that helps understand exactly why we need to be clear-headed about pub-going, and especially sitting indoors surrounded by others. In this piece, Dana G. Smith summarises what we know about how the virus is transmitted, several months in. Good news: you probably don’t need to be terrified by passing close to someone in the street, or disinfect your bananas. Bad news:
Being outdoors is the ultimate ventilation, and for months public health officials have recommended that people socialize outside rather than in. However, with winter and colder temperatures coming, indoor air filtration and adherence to masks will become even more important… “The important thing on the public side is air handling, reducing the number of people in enclosed indoor spaces, and wearing a mask,” says Bhadelia. “[Aerosol transmission] explains why indoor settings are so much more important and contribute so much more to new infections than outdoor settings do.”
Related: there’s been a change in the rules around contact tracing that we missed and, it seems, many pubs may have also have overlooked. Venues now need to take details for every individual in a party, not just one contact per group.
It’s always a good week when there’s new Will Hawkes to read and this time, we got two pieces together:
- A profile of London brewery Anspach & Hobday for Pellicle which made us think we ought to give them another look, having filed them away as fine based on previous experiences.
- Notes on the persistence of cask ale in pubs in South East London and Kent at a time when you might expect them to be quietly dropped.
Apparently having run out of other people to fact-check, Martyn Cornell has turned inward, questioning a claim he has made himself:
It’s an excellent idea for a historian never to make a claim that cannot be backed up with actual evidence. In particular, it’s a terrible crime to assume, without verifying. Forgive me, therefore, Clio, muse of history, I have sinned: for many years I have been asserting that British brewers were banned from using unmalted grain when Parliament introduced a malt tax in 1697 to fund William III’s wars against the French. Alas: when I finally got round to doing what I should have done at the start, checking the actual statute, there was no such clause.
Burum Collective continues to do great work giving a platform to fresh voices, this week sharing an interview with Heather and Michael who run Out and About, a non-profit in Sheffield dedicated to making beer more friendly and inclusive LGBTQIA+ people:
Michael: We realised that we weren’t really getting anywhere by just going to the same places that we already knew like places that were already inviting and friendly. So we have to get start going to different pubs and make sure that there’s not just four pubs in Sheffield that you can go to if you’re queer.
Heather: I wouldn’t put somewhere on that list that neither of us had been to or had no experience with because I wouldn’t want to take the risk and have people going to an event there. If something did happen, it would be on our backs. But even by getting to different parts of the city and stuff and having the pubs that might be a risk seeing what we’re doing in other pubs… it might help perpetuate a culture.
Michael: What we’re really keen to do at some point is have a bar at Pride in Sheffield, that serves proper beer, not just corporate lager and Guinness.
Here’s an amusing snippet from Barm/@robsterowski, adding to the evidence for the argument that the craft v. industrial argument has been going on in beer since long before CAMRA turned up:
The steam-powered breweries increase constantly in number and it seems they shall quite soon squeeze out the other breweries, or force them into imitating them. As in so many other [trades], the machine seems to make manual labour almost redundant in the brewery. The question must be asked: which beer is preferable, that produced by steam or by hand? Experienced beer conners prefer the latter.
Jeff Alworth has been thinking about the language used to market beer and reached an interesting if unsurprising conclusion: the names breweries give to beers matter, and people are drawn to ‘cool’ words more than dorkily technical terminology. For example, even ‘hoppy’ may be a turn-off:
Very simple terms like “ale” and “lager” exist at the outer edges of most drinkers’ knowledge. Hop and malt varieties, unusual style names, foreign beer terms—most of these fly over the aver drinker’s head. Ingredients and process, used routinely on labels, are murky even among avid drinkers. Beer is incredibly complex. Hops offer bitterness—but so does roast malt. They are fruity, sweet, and aromatic, but so are fermentation compounds, and sometimes malt, too. Put “hoppy” on a label and you invite confusion. The result, of course, is that the beer doesn’t sell. Some adventurers seek the unknown, but most drinkers will opt for something familiar.
And finally, from Twitter, a quick run through the portrayal of pubs on film – a favourite topic of ours.
Whether it’s the local hostelry in Whithnail & I or Trainspotting, @London_Lou raises a glass to the big screen boozer, a familiar fixture in film that reflects the full spectrum of British life #InsideCinema pic.twitter.com/BuLzW2MMfz
— BBC Arts (@bbcarts) September 16, 2020
For more good reading, check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.