News, nuggets and longreads 7 November 2020: Festbier, Fuggle, fierce creatures

How on earth can it possibly be a week into November already? Well, it is, and here’s everything on beer and pubs that’s grabbed us in the past week, from hazy beer to misty West Cornwall.

First, though, the big news is that it’s finally happened – a second national lockdown in the UK. Well, sort of. It’s much softer than back in March and we’re all a bit better at it so there’s already a sense of things being generally less disrupted.

Pubs, however, are once again closed. Initially, the legislation as drafted forbade the sale of takeaway beer – a lifeline for many pubs during the last round. After much lobbying from CAMRA, SIBA and others, that was amended, although the new rules are still fairly restrictive: pre-orders only, collection only, sealed containers.

The Prime Minister wants to open things up again from 2 December but he doesn’t sound massively convinced that will happen. Still, the ONS reports that infection rates might be stabilising, and the daily rates provided by the COVID Symptom Study project seem to show a decline, so… fingers crossed.

An ox.

For Belgian Smaak, Breandán Kearney writes about something we’d never noticed before – the tendency of Belgian breweries to put animals on their beer labels, from wolves to oxen:

The Flemish lion, black and yellow with red tongue and claws, takes centre stage in the logo of Brouwerij Verhaeghe, appearing on all of their beers. The Walloon rooster adorns the Belgian Pale Ale Le Coq (6% ABV), brewed by beer company Brasserie Gosselin F. at Brasserie de Blaugies. Indeed, it’s difficult to scan the shelf of a Belgian bottle shop without coming across an animal, whether it’s the iconic Orval trout, the delirious pink elephant of Huyghe, the Golden Dragon of Van Steenberghe, or the Belgian draught horse of Palm.

Dublin hop stout.

Liam at BeerFoodTravel has done some digging into the history of non-alcoholic beer in Ireland, prompted by a report of a tragic brewery death:

On a Sunday morning in January 1896 there was a freak accident at no 45 Stafford Street in Dublin, when an unfortunate individual named William J. Keogh tumbled out of the open and unprotected upper storey window while coming down a stairway and fell 25 feet into an internal courtyard while allegedly, and ironically as we shall soon see, under the influence of drink. A company called the Hop Stout Brewery was named as owners of the building at the inquest into his death… A company brewing non-intoxicating drinks is not something that many people would associate with late 19th century Dublin but the above mentioned brewery was just such a producer…

The Gurnard's Head.

SOURCE: Pellicle/Lily Waite.

This piece for Pellicle by Lily Waite has a structure that mimics the experience it records: a long walk finishing with a much-needed pint. The fact that it covers some of our old stamping grounds in West Cornwall makes it all the sweeter:

The Gurnard’s Head in an unmissable pub. Not in the way that reviews laud it—though the pub has indeed won many awards—but by virtue of it being painted bright yellow. Against muted browns and greens of the Cornish countryside, on a lane flanked by bramble and bracken, the pub stands out. It was a welcome sight, not least because it was only the third pub we’d been to since March 2020.

A milk carton of IPA.

The Beer Nut will occasionally hide a little industry commentary among the tasting notes on his blog. In this post, he draws a tentative conclusion from several weeks of drinking: the hazy NEIPA might be dead. (We pass no judgement on whether that’s good or bad news.)

Vintage illustration of pumpkins.

Helen Anne Smith at Burum Collective has been reflecting on seasonal beers and German-style Festbiers in particular:

I drank my first ever seasonal beer about six years ago, on my first date with my wife. I was a student at the time, I hadn’t a clue what craft beer was but I knew I didn’t like it. Yet there I was, sitting in a bar, on a dark and rainy night in late October, pint of pumpkin beer in hand… As much as I still love pumpkin beer, I have started to turn my attention to other beers which are considered seasonal, like Festbiers and Märzen. But how have they become associated with this time of year?

Fuggles illustration.

For Ferment, the promotional magazine for a beer subscription service, Hollie Stephens offers an update on the status of that most English of hops, the Fuggle:

Once the undisputed ruler of the hop fields of England, the Fuggle hop has seen a downturn in recent years. In the middle of the 20th century, Fuggles accounted for more than three quarters of the English hop harvest, but unfortunately this heyday for the classic hop appears to be in the past. Fuggle’s acreage in the UK has been threatened in recent years due to the crop’s susceptibility to Verticillium wilt… It is not just susceptibility to wilt that could threaten the future of this classic British hop, but demand too. As the COVID-19 pandemic places restrictions on the on-trade consumption of beer, the effect trickles down the supply chain to hop farmers.

Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 7 November 2020: Festbier, Fuggle, fierce creatures”

“although the new rules are still fairly restrictive: pre-orders only, collection only, sealed containers.”

Not quite – per The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 you don’t need to pre-order for drive-through, but do for delivery or takeaway. And there’s no mention of sealed containers in the legislation, it’s one of those things that some over-zealous licensing authorities are trying to enforce but there’s no legal basis for, although it is advisable just so that licencees are in the clear with respect to people congregating to drink.

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