News, nuggets and longreads 28 November 2020: train beer, steam beer, hedgehog glasses

Here’s all the writing on beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from women in brewing to the minutiae of European beer history.

It’s been another grim week for those who worry about pubs, between the expected continuation of restrictions across most of the country and the ongoing failure of the government to provide targeted support.

The opposition is lobbying for it, though, which probably means Rishi Sunak will roll over and do it eventually… But only when publicans are at the absolute ends of their tethers, of course.

We’ve written to our local MP, which is about all you can do. We didn’t use the CAMRA form letter, though, for two reasons: form letters get thrown, unread, into a big bin marked CAMPAIGNS; and we don’t agree with the idea that there’s much of a debate to be had about the ‘fairness’ or science behind closing or restricting pubs. It makes sense to us. What doesn’t make sense is failing to accompany restrictions with grants, ideally based on previous years’ trading figures.

Beer while waiting for the train.

SOURCE: Kirsty Walker/LSTB

Christmas has come early in the form of a new post from Kirsty Walker at Lady Sinks the Booze. In ‘The Pints I Have Missed the Most’ she reflects, in typically witty style, on the social contexts in which we drink and how those, more than beer itself, is what’s missing from our lives:

The ‘missed the train’ pint… Since getting a promotion and a pay rise I have done what many working class people do and tried desperately to avoid working class people. Instead of the bus (albeit the wifi enabled fancy express bus with nightclub style lighting) I now get the train, and pay over a ton for a monthly season ticket. Of course since privatisation there are three different trains home and because I’m tight I will never pay extra to get a different company’s train if I miss mine. Hence I will spend £9 on beer, to save the £5.60 train fare.

German text about Dampfbier

Andreas Krennmair has turned his attention from Vienna beer to another historic style: Dampfbier. Does the origin story that crops up in style guides and popular guides really stand up to scrutiny?

So, the story of Dampfbier (lit. steam beer) goes like this… a 19th century Bavarian brewer who didn’t have a permit to brew with wheat malt instead brewed one with only lightly kilned barley malt and fermented it with a Weißbier yeast. As the beer was vigorously fermenting, it looked like steam coming off the beer, hence the name “Dampfbier”… The problem here is… if a beer style’s origin story sounds too good to be true, it probably is not actually rooted in history.

Tubinger hedgehog beer glass.

Adapted from Wikimedia Commons.

Also digging around in the details of German beer history is Kevin Kain of Casket Beer who has been exploring the history of a very specific type of beer glass:

With recent growth in lager production in the craft beer industry, breweries, media outlets and retailers often use a [British dimple mug] when depicting lager styles of beer… This seems odd as the similar Tübinger Kugel glass, traditionally used in Germany and Czechia, is appropriate and readily available… The origins of the Tübinger are connected to the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in the mid to late 1800s. It was here that a glass called the Tübinger Igel, a stout, handled mug, was created for the Hedgehog Academic Student Association (Akademischen Studentenverbindung Igel.) Igel means hedgehog, and the bumpy texture is designed to match accordingly.

A box of beer.

Pedro Cotzier at The ElektroKemist has returned to blogging after a bit of a break with a long piece in which he attempts to decide which twelve beers should go into a mixed case summing up the current British beer scene:

Okay, so I have also borrowed a little from the section of the Wine Show, where Joe Fattorini tasks his two oenologically green co-hosts with going forth to pick a brace of wines (usually there are only around three iterations from a region they choose from, with each of the wine-seekers selecting a champion) from which he selects for a slot in a velvet-lined case. This in itself is not completely original in the genre which is somewhat associated with ‘Desert Island Discs’ ubiquity… However, with the wine that is picked there is a sought after sense of place, a provenance or a root into a community’s history. This is a criterion I certainly am going to uphold, as putting together a case of beers solely on quality is just a cold headed exercise in opinion and subjectivity.

Suzy Denison

SOURCE: Suzy Denison/Beervana

Jeff Alworth has decided to address a problem in the way brewery histories are recorded: why is a bloke always the hero of the tale? With that in mind, he has provided editorial support and space for Suzy Denison to explain her role in the founding of American craft beer as we know it today:

It was 1975. My oldest son had been accepted at Stanford and I was about ready to get out of Chicago and decided that we would just pick up and we’d all move to California. After unsuccessfully looking for a job in San Francisco and a place to live in Marin County, a friend said, “Well, why don’t you just take a break from looking for work and houses and go up to the wine country? It’s so beautiful.” So my daughter and I went to Sonoma and we drove around the Plaza and just fell in love with the town. And I said, OK, this is it. I mean, it was a pretty crazy, immediate decision… Then a new friend suggested, “You really should meet this guy, Jack McAuliffe. He’s interesting and he’s fun and he wants to put a brewery together. We should all go down to San Francisco to the Edinburgh Castle. It’s a great pub with fine beer and a bagpipers.”

BrewDog bar sign.

On LinkedIn, James Watt of BrewDog has written an interesting piece highlighting times when he got things wrong. It amounts to a bit of an extended humblebrag but, still, there are some fascinating details we’ll be filing away in case we ever get to write an update to Brew Britannia:

Sometimes it is really important to do things that just don’t scale. That should have been the case for Overworks, our sour beer facility. But we mistakenly misread the market for sour beers and put together an amazing facility that was simply far too big. Consequently, we were under pressure from the outset and ended up making far too many different sour beers than we could hardly even keep up with what was going on.

And finally, from Twitter, there’s this delightful bit of kitsch.

For more good reading (or, this week, quite a bit of the same reading with different commentary) check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 28 November 2020: train beer, steam beer, hedgehog glasses”

Yes, I was a bit worried this week that’s we would overlap too much. Need to renew my focus on the central Asian former Soviet scene. Interesting thought about the great white male problem in brewery histories. It is compounded by the need in the US to construct a narrative of overcoming personal crisis (see politics and TV sports coverage) as the key to success to the detriment of the factors of availability of resources, greater societal change and technological advance. So we are stuck with hero tales, few of which lack gaping holes.

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