News pubs

News, nuggets and longreads 5 September 2020: Colonialism, Steinbier, cycling

Here’s everything on beer and pubs from the past week that struck as particularly readworthy, from hot stones to vans full of wort.

First, a bit of news that we suspect offers a hint of things to come: villagers in Halse, Somerset, have raised £330,000 to buy and preserve their local pub. We wrote about community pubs in 20th Century Pub and have long thought there’s more mileage in the idea. The coronavirus crisis has put many pubs in sudden, sharp danger; it has also made people reflect on the fondness they have for pubs and their importance in communities.

A colonial diamond mine in South Africa.

For Good Beer Hunting beer historian Tom Acitelli provides an overview of how colonialism spread aspects of European beer worldwide, squashing local drinking cultures in the process:

The first professional European brewer arrived in what’s now Namibia and South Africa in 1694, when Rutgert Mensing schoonered in from Amsterdam. He brought with him a lot of technical knowledge, as well as the support of the Dutch authorities who had begun colonizing the area 40 years before. Mensing quickly set about building a brewery in a part of present-day Cape Town… He found an already-growing market. In the decades ahead of Mensing’s arrival, the Dutch and other European colonizers had begun to recreate the Ales that were popular back home, so much so that that same area of Cape Town became known as the “Tavern of the Sea.”

Beer taps.

At Burum Collective editor Helen Anne Smith sets out something of a manifesto for both the website and her current project interviewing queer people in the beer industry:

The title of this piece is in reference to my twitter bio. It has been ‘queer and works in beer’ for about a year now because even though it’s a small thing, hopefully someone who is in beer or someone who wants to work in beer will see it and will know that they aren’t alone. Over lockdown, I realised it wasn’t enough, I needed to do more, be louder, be prouder, fight for those who need it… I will continue to work as hard as I can making the bar that I work in a friendly and inclusive environment, I will keep signal boosting on twitter, start raising money for local charities and to get Burum Collective to a point where I am able to step back from blog content and be able to pay people from queer and BIPOC communities to write and tell their own stories. But whilst I continue to apply for grants, work hard and save money; I need the beer industry to step the fuck up.

A Steinbier brewery.

Historical brewing expert Andreas Krennmair has turned his attention to another obscure but glamorous beer style – Carinthian Steinbier, brewed with hot stones. His commentary is based on an interesting new (old) source:

Carinthian Steinbier is interesting because it survived for a fairly long time, until 1917 to be exact, despite repeated attempts to completely supplant it with what was called “kettle brewing”, i.e. brewing involving metal kettles. During other research, I recently stumbled upon a 1962 article that is probably the most detailed description of Carinthian Steinbier tradition that I’ve found so far… In Die Steinbiererzeugung, ein ausgestorbenes Gewerbe in Kärnten (lit. “stone beer production, an extinct industry in Carinthia”), Josef Grömmer discusses Steinbier brewing in Carinthia, the common brewing practices over time including the last few surviving breweries up to the demise of Steinbier in Carinthia.

A caravan.

SOURCE: Lily Waite/Pellicle

For PellicleLily Waite offers a profile of Mills Brewing and its unorthodox, untidy approach to the process:

To transfer wort from kettle to fermenter, Jonny Mills has to pump it out of the door of the brewhouse, through a small garden, over a fence, and into a 1000 litre tank in the back of his van. A fraction of a second later, he has to race the wort to the van to ensure the hose doesn’t slip from underneath the brick balanced carefully atop it, and douse the inside of the van in hot, sticky liquid… Once the wort is safely in the tank, the van then slowly sloshes and wobbles its way a half-mile down a bumpy country lane, to a tumbledown outbuilding in an overgrown yard in the neighbouring town of Berkeley. Here, the wort is slowly transferred to an old open-top fermenter, and if the recipe so requires, a bag of hops is weighed down with the cumbersome steel door from a tank the next room over.

Brighton Pavilion.

A useful bit of local intel: Joe Tindall at The Fatal Glass of Beer has provided a round-up of the breweries of Brighton. It comes with bonus reflections on what it means for a brewery to really be from a place:

Basing your brewery in Brighton is a great idea, from a marketing perspective. It’s a popular summer destination, so you have that association going for you; it’s well known for its bohemian character, so there’s that, too. There are recognisable landmarks like the Laines, or the skeleton of the burned out pier that now eerily shadows the slick, pointless i360 tower. You could draw on these in your branding… Not such a great proposition financially though. Rents are high, second only to London. So you can see how one might form a dastardly plan to claim, or at least heavily imply, to have a brewery based in Brighton, whilst taking care of the inconvenient of business of brewing beer somewhere cheap in the Sussex countryside.


For Ferment, the promotional magazine for beer subscription service Beer52, Eoghan Walsh of Brussels Beer City writes about the entanglement of beer and bikes in Belgian culture:

“If the scent of Belgium is that of a good ale, then the defining sound of the nation is the swish of bicycle tires on wet roads, the whistling of wind through spokes, the juddering thrum of steel frames on cobblestones,” English author Harry Pearson wrote of the twin obsessions of his adopted country in his book on the subject The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman. It is in Flanders where the twin obsessions of beer and cycling have been elevated to totems of national (or should that be regional) identity. And more often than not, just as with my visit to a chilly late-winter Ghent, they come together. While beer is a year-round passion in these parts, it is impossible to exaggerate the degree to which cycling saturates Flanders from the beginning of the classics season with the Omloop in late-February, through to the one-two punch of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix races on consecutive Sundays in April.

Finally, from Twitter, we couldn’t resist this pocket history of a pub, from Victorian to prefab to post-war:

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 5 September 2020: Colonialism, Steinbier, cycling”

Not sure about Acetelli’s assertion that “there is little evidence that indigenous fermented drinks were enjoyed or consumed in any meaningful way by the colonialists.” In Pete Browns bookon IPA he details the issues rlated to East India merchants and the local palm booze. Perhaps he is extrapolating from the Grrman experience in Africa.

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