News, nuggets and longreads 17 October 2020: memory, colonialism, beer styles

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that struck us as especially interesting in the past seven days, from Egypt to European beer styles.

We usually put some news at the top here but, frankly, the news around beer and pubs has been variations on the same few themes for weeks now. Further restrictions on opening are either here or imminent, depending on where you live, and everyone is struggling. Even so, we reckon the industry is making a mistake by lobbying against lockdown – it’ll just damage trust. Ah, well. Let’s have some distractions.

Breakfast now being served.

Jordan St. John has written about a confusion of sense and memory that we haven’t experienced and don’t quite understand, which makes it all the more fascinating:

Since about April, I’ve been getting periodic involuntary flashes of autobiographical memory; awfully specific granular moments of sensory memory brought on by some random set of variables in my environment. It’s the kind of thing Proust wrote about, essentially a limited kind of Hyperthymesia, which in my case seems to be focused specifically around moments with food and drink… I’ve had a pint of Otley 01 (no longer exists) at The Rake in Borough Market with black pudding and mustard flavoured crisps. I’ve had a pint of Fuller’s Steam Effort (a 2018 one off with Redemption) at The Harp Covent Garden triggered by the consideration of whether to put Anchor Steam in the online version of the George Brown course. I’ve had a mixed grill at the Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich, and had to consult with my dining companion from February of 2008 on which kind of mustard he thought might have been on the table (we think Keen’s).

A nose.

SOURCE: Alexander Krivitskiy at Unsplash.

Sticking with sensory perception, Stan Hieronymus provides his “biannual reminder” that less is more when it comes to the perception of hop character in beer:

Researchers at Kyushu University found that the olfactory sensory neurons can exhibit suppression or enhancement of response when odors are mixed, meaning that perception is not the simple sum of the odors… “It has been previously considered that each odor ‘activates’ a specific set of receptors, and that the response of neurons in the nose to odor mixtures is a simple sum of the responses to each component, but now we have evidence in mice that this is not the case,” said Shigenori Inagaki, the lead author of a paper published in Cell Reports.

A bar window in Egypt.

SOURCE: Omar Foda/Photorientalism.

For Good Beer HuntingOmar Foda, a writer who is new to us, delves into beer and colonialism in Egypt in the 20th century:

Erik Carl Kettner had a dilemma. The Dutch employee – appointed by Heineken to head up the recently acquired Pyramid Brewery in Cairo – wanted to teach his charges about the Ten Commandments of Management. It was necessary to convey the importance of efficiency, organization, and training; to prioritize communications, supervision, and discipline… So he held a competition among the department heads to see who could reproduce them best. After collecting the answers, he announced the winners to the whole company: the ‘Awad brothers, who were in charge of the brewery’s cellars… This contest was well-meaning, but, in general, the moves Kettner and Heineken would make in response to the ground shifting underneath them would only inflame relationships within the company. The working environment would quickly turn toxic.

The photo above comes from another piece by Foda on Stella beer which is also worth reading.

Pasteurising process at Watney's c.1965.

Gary Gillman shines a light on brewing scientist John Lester Shimwell and his views on pasteurisation, published in 1937:

“No one, surely, would contend that pasteurised, carbonated beer is better than unpasteurised, naturally-conditioned beer, and it is therefore perhaps not untrue to say that the quality of beer, as at present retailed, is just as good as bacteria and yeast will allow it to be, since pasteurisation is enforced at the dictation of yeasts and bacteria.”

Price list in a pub.

Did you know renowned beer writer Tim Webb had produced a comprehensive guide to European beer styles, available online via the European Beer Consumers’ Union? No, neither did we until @thebeernut pointed it out to us. It’s a work in progress, we gather, and will no doubt keep the pedantic busy for a few hours.

A nugget from Ron Pattinson: notes from 1943, on a strong ale from Essex, that give us a glimpse into what vat-ageing brought to the party: “a pine-apple flavour developed and the beer was ready for consumption at the end of two years”.

Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

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

6 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 17 October 2020: memory, colonialism, beer styles”

“We reckon the industry is making a mistake by lobbying against lockdown.” You two have obviously never run your own business; certainly not one in the hospitality sector. Pubs, bars and restaurants have invested heavily in making their establishments safe places for people to drink, eat and socialise in (not that the nanny-state approves of the latter).

When individuals have put their heart, souls and often their houses on the line, in order to keep their businesses afloat, comments like yours are both unhelpful and downright discouraging.

We are going to have to live with Coronavirus for some time to come yet, so you cannot keep people locked away for months on end, whilst shut ting down viable businesses. Not unless you wish to cause far worse damage to the economy, people’s standards of living, their general and mental health and a host of other unforeseen issues, just to control a virus which, like most others, spreads via human contact.

We’ve drunk in a fair few pubs, though, and as drinkers, that particular strand of lobbying makes us feel less confident and less safe.

In our view, the pressure ought to be on the Government to provide more notice of lockdowns/restrictions, explain the science behind them in clear terms, and provide compensation to businesses forced to close through no fault of their own.

All anyone can do is look at the evidence available and make their own judgements; our interpretation is that people sitting indoors with other people is likely to increase the spread of the disease, especially when case numbers are rising and prevalence is high.

I agree that the onus should be on HMG to explain the science behind their reasoning, but quite often the science simply isn’t there in the first place.

I was chatting to a couple of virologists I know, the other week – I don’t always move in such hallowed circles, but both confirmed one of the main means by which the virus is spreading is via family gatherings. People’s guard is down whilst with visiting family members. You don’t expect your guests to wash or sanitise their hands before they enter your home, and it’s often hard to maintain a respectable distance from them.

Then there’s the hugging, and possibly even the kissing – again this is normal, ingrained family behaviour, and it is difficult to remember not to act in this fashion.

Pubs, and other parts of the hospitality trade, do in the main follow a strict set of guidelines, which we all know, so I won’t repeat here, and yet this sector is being scape-goated, not just by government, but by the press.

HMG then come up with yet another, totally disproportionate set of regulations, in order to be seen as doing something, and so the madness continues.

There are already ample measures in place to slow down the spread of Coronavirus, without the need to shut down whole sectors of the economy. Mask wearing, frequent handwashing, and maintaining a reasonable distance from one’s fellow humans, ought to be enough – as Sweden has demonstrated, but picking on pubs to placate the mum’s net brigade is not the way to go!

Sweden isn’t a success story – they’ve had nearly 600 deaths per million (to date). Better than the UK, but much worse than most European countries – Norway, their most obvious comparator, have had 52.

The big question is whether physical contact and close proximity is essential for transmission, or whether just as much – or more – infection comes from air circulation in poorly-ventilated spaces. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that this what’s happening – three early outbreaks have been traced to an office, a bus and a restaurant. In none of these places was everyone who was infected in contact with, or even close to, the carrier.

If this is the case, neither pubs nor restaurants are safe places to be for any length of time – and that the only way they could be made safe is by being really well ventilated, either by leaving all the windows open(!) or major investment in artificial ventilation. Which means that “why are they singling out pubs?” is still a good question, but the question is why restaurants aren’t being closed.

Sadly the lunacy continues,I have the misfortune to reside in Wales,where its ‘government’ is imposing a lock down which will start at 6.00 pm on Friday 23rd October. If there was a dire medical emergency which justified a lock down then it should start immediately and not allow enhanced virus spreading over the next few days as people gather for last drinks. The truth is that the outbreak of disease is probably reaching a peak from where it will decline rapidly and the moron in Wales wants to claim the credit for this by claiming it has happened because of the lockdown. The taxpayer is picking up the tab for this pointless posturing.

John, it’s not only the taxpayer who will be picking up the tab for this latest piece of nonsense from the Welsh First Minister, it is business owners, shopkeepers and publicans who, together with their staff, will pay the price.

Gesture politics at its worst!

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