News, nuggets and longreads 3 October 2020: Beer Orders, Bridgnorth, black market sahti

Here’s all the best reading about beer and pubs from the past, including pieces on racial equity and robot waiters.

First, a bit of what looks suspiciously like good news: people are still opening interesting pubs and bars.

The bit of Bristol where we live (for the moment…) has just got its first proper, full-on craft beer bar. Sidney & Eden is a spin-off from local specialist beer shop Bottles & Books and opened a few weeks ago. Every time we’ve walked past, it’s been as close to rammed as current circumstances permit.

There’s also Katie and Tom Mather’s project in Clitheroe, this new micropub and several others that have passed through our timeline.

A knackered old pub sign.

For VittlesPaul Crowther provides a neat summary of what went wrong with the 1989 anti-monopoly Beer Orders, focusing on how it all but destroyed three beloved regional beers:

You might think the disconnection of Newcastle Brown, Boddingtons and Bass from their birthplaces was a justified casualty in the breaking up of the Big Six because it would surely lead to smaller, local breweries taking their place, de-monopolising the market? Well, that’s not what happened; in fact, the opposite happened… Allied Breweries merged with the Danish company Carlsberg, the fourth largest brewer in the world responsible for 6% of all beer sold worldwide. Grand Metropolitan merged with Guinness to form drinks giant Diageo, which now focuses on its spirit brands and is the world’s second largest distiller.

A sahti brewer.

An award-winning sahti brewer. SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol.

Farmhouse brewing expert Lars Marius Garshol went to a sahti brewing competition in Finland and, once everyone had got a bit more talkative after a few brews, gathered some interesting intelligence:

Several people claimed that out in the countryside some of the sahti brewers sell their beer illegally, and that this trade is of considerable proportions. Some of the illegal brewers sell as much as 50,000 litres a year, they claimed. Even though it’s illegal the locals tend to quietly accept it, and usually there is a code of honour involved. No selling to under-age drinkers, for example.


SOURCE: @hauntedeyes at Unsplash.

For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Katie Mather reflects on what we can learn from the suggestion that robot waiters should have been deployed during lockdown:

What a great idea, if all you credit serving staff with is the physical act of bringing your food and drinks to the table without major incident… Do bar staff enjoy their work? I can’t speak for everyone, but I do. But can it also be the worst? Absolutely. And does it pay well? Hahahaha.

Further reading: a bit we wrote a few years ago on the persistent fantasy of the robot bartender.

Illustration: "Odd One Out".

For PellicleDavid Jesudason provides a summary of what is actually being done – first steps – towards achieving making the beer industry more inclusive, speaking to a slew of influential figures:

Prof. Sir Geoff Palmer — Professor emeritus in the school of life sciences at Heriot-Watt University and human rights activist: A black person is sometimes not even aware of the options. I wasn’t. I got my A-levels and I took a degree—I took botany because I thought it was easy! The most dangerous place for racism is in the interview room. Somebody could look at that [Edward Colston] statue and say they defaced my statue, I’m not going to have them in my place. That’s how racism works, it’s as simple as that. The fact is all the prejudices of the person who is interviewing will influence that decision.

Holden's Brewery.

Tandleman provides an honest account of the fretting and excitement that surrounds every pub trip these days, especially if there’s any travel involved:

I was the only one that had been to Bridgnorth before, but my tales of Black Country beer, cheese and onion cobs the size of a baby’s head and pork pies convinced them that this fine market town in Shropshire was the place to be. To sweeten the deal we stayed at the Golden Lion, run by Holden’s Brewery, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, nothing actually. This is a tale of more or less unfettered joy. Of ale supped and food scoffed.

Finally, from Twitter, an extremely tickling image:

You’ll find more good reading with commentary in Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up.