News, nuggets and longreads 31 October 2020: Pubs, clubs, festivals

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that’s grabbed our attention in the past week, from aerosols to online events.

As is now customary, we’ll start with the grim stuff: Spanish newspaper El Pais justifiably went viral this week with one of the best explanations yet of why indoor spaces are a problem for COVID-19 transmission. With some brilliant illustrations, it conveys the risks attached to hanging out with family at home, going to bars and attending classes – in that order. It’s not cheerful news but it is, at least, clear, and that’s a start.

Outdoor beer festival.

SOURCE: Nicci Peet/Good Beer Hunting.

For Good Beer Hunting, one of our neighbourhood beer writers, Nicci Peet, provides an illustrated account of how Bristol went about staging its annual craft beer festival in September this year:

Everything feels muted: quieter, more relaxed. There is still laughter and chatter but it’s somehow softer, maybe because the music has been turned down. That’s not to say the mood is subdued—everywhere I turn, there are smiling faces, and people talking to their friends across designated tables. Single-use cups start stacking up after being decanted, a visual record of how many beers everyone has tried. And there are still so many yet to drink… I don’t know what I’d been expecting from a beer festival in late 2020, but the reality is both stranger and more laidback than I’d imagined. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, and all we can do is adapt to it.

Poperings Hommelbier

SOURCE: Breandán Kearney/Belgian Smaak

For Belgian Smaak, in association with Visit Flanders, Breandán Kearney provides an in-depth look at a cult Belgian beer, Poperings Hommelbier, and Brasserie Leroy:

The cities of Poperinge and Ieper are located in the north western reaches of Belgium in a region known as the Westhoek (“hoek” means “corner”). It’s a place with a diverse range of breweries: think, among others, Trappist Westvleteren, De Struise, Kazematten, Deca, St. Bernardus, Vandewalle, and De Plukker. The two cities enjoy a friendly rivalry dating back to the 14th century when politics forced a division of commercial activities. Ieper were exclusively permitted by authorities to work in the lucrative industry of linen production. Looking for alternatives, the inhabitants of Poperinge took to hop farming, even though it offered less opportunity for wealth. Neither city has forgotten the story.

The wall at Pogge

SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City

Staying in Belgium, Brussels Beer City author Eoghan Walsh tells the story of a Belgian cafe preserved as part art installation, part museum exhibit:

The canny drinker might have already spotted a glitch or two in the image. The rules for billiards are tacked up behind the bar, but there’s no billiard table. Shiny enamel adverts for Brasserie de la Senne hang alongside more age-worn examples from Campbell’s, Carlsberg Beer, and Whitbread – unexpected but not necessarily unusual. And what about those orange and green illustrations dotted around the bar’s three walls, tagged with the word Pogge, sitting awkwardly alongside the pastoral landscapes and photos of dear departed punters. The bar feels dusty, and yet there is grime on the windowsills. And then the more jarring dissonances. Those windows are absent of window panes, for one.

Calculating the best seat in the house.

We’ve already linked to it once this week but we can’t omit this excellent piece from publican Rowan Molyneux on the experience of trading under ever-tightening restrictions:

There’s a regular who’s been particularly resistant to booking, and he’s just walked through the door. We’re full, all tables occupied, apart from a couple of stools which are reserved for ten minutes time. As my colleague is politely apologising, the guy is looking around at the tables where there are plenty of seats free, but are already occupied by our other regulars. One household per table here generally means one person per table. The majority live alone and pop in here to see their mates… He makes a gesture of frustration and walks out to try his luck down the road. My colleague shrugs at me. Should have booked, we agree… We both know that you shouldn’t have to book to come to the pub.

A social club.
Conservative Club, Bath.

Tandleman reminds us that pubs aren’t the only venues struggling this year with a shout-out for social clubs:

In the midst of all the rightful angst about the way our pubs are suffering in this pandemic, I was brought up sharp by a letter, hand delivered, from my local Cricket Club, of which I am a member. While I won’t give away figures too much in case they are confidential to members only, I will say that in the case of my club, the loss of income since March is now in six figures, leading to a potential loss of approximately half that amount by April 2021… The income has not only been lost through gate money – a small part – but through the ban on events such as wedding receptions, birthday parties, christenings, funerals etc. Annual events such as fireworks displays, beer festivals and more have had to be cancelled. Bar takings have been decimated. I could go on, but it is a grim picture and one that for the foreseeable future doesn’t look like improving.

Beer culture summit.

Stan Hieronymus has flagged an interesting online event running from 11-14 November – the second annual beer culture summit. Speakers include Dr. J Jackson-Beckham, Garrett Oliver, Randy Mosher and Kate Bernot. Even after all this nonsense is over, we suspect online events will become a more regular part of our lives because, let’s face it, we would never have made it to Chicago, but we might splash for a ticket to listen to interesting speakers from the comfort of our own sofa.

From Twitter, there’s this:

For more good reading, including a tiny picture of us, check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up.