News, nuggets and longreads 12 December 2020: awards, Aldi, a hero’s life

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that struck as as especially noteworthy in the past week, from Proustian memories to lethal sandwiches.

We wouldn’t usually have much to say about the British Guild of Beer Writers annual awards unless we’d won something and feel the need to awkwardly acknowledge it but this year’s list of winners is pleasingly different with gold tankards for John Stooke, Emma Inch, Lily Waite, Jaega Wise, Natalya Watson, Claire Bullen and (of course) Roger Protz. Lily Waite deservedly took the top prize and was named beer writer of the year.

Aldi craft beer.

We enjoyed these notes on Aldi own-brand craft beers from the Beer Nut for several reasons. First, the sheer flair with which he puts in the boot:

I needed to complete the set, of course, so also picked up Memphis Blvd. As Aldi’s answer to Elvis Juice it’s an IPA with grapefruit. Not that I’m a big fan of Elvis Juice or anything, but hey – 6.5% ABV and for buttons. It’s a lovely coppery red colour, but the fun pretty much ends there. There’s awesomely epic amounts of grapefruit and epically awesome amounts of bittering hops and they do not get on. The result tastes like an equal mix of orange peel and vomit, with a nasty dry metallic rasp for bad measure. While I don’t particularly like Elvis Juice I do particularly hate this.

Secondly, though, there’s a real point here: we’re all for making interesting beer affordable and accessible but doesn’t it also have to taste good? Or at least kind of OK? Otherwise, it’s just another kind of rip-off.

The River Ale House

For Deserter ‘Dirty South’ writes about the craving for real ale and how the growler has come into its own in 2020:

[At] some point in the week, the living ale becomes an itch that nothing else can scratch. Which is why I set off the other night in the direction of the River Ale House, in East Greenwich, with hope in my heart, a skip in my step and nowt in my growler… I made it to the River Ale House, delighted to see Trevor and his lovely assistant (Dave? Steve? Geoff?) dispensing fresh local beer with their customary cheer… As I left, I saw a man waiting outside with two growlers and a massive bucket. Clearly, I had much to learn.

Heineken sign

For Good Beer HuntingEoghan Walsh has been thinking about his late mother, cheap lager and the emotional associations of food and drink:

In the memory, I’m sitting in the front room of my family home in Cork, my forearm resting stickily on the lumpy pleather arm of our sofa… The TV throws shadows around the darkened room, as the dum dum dums herald the start of the London-set soap opera “EastEnders.” Next to me on the little wicker footstool is a triumvirate of Pringle tube, bottle of gas station pinot noir, and a hefty can of Heineken. Next to them is my mother, sitting in her customary chair in the corner of the room, glass cradled in her hand, feet tucked up underneath her and eyes focused on the latest drama in Albert Square.

Hops against green.

Hollie Stephens has written about wild hops in New Mexico for Pellicle – specifically, their ability to thrive with little water. As she points out, this could be helpful in coming years…

The hop bines I’m looking at—while not at their most majestic—are very much viable and alive. It seems like a miracle. For other varieties, surely such water deprivation would leave nothing but a shrivelled brown mess? “If I had Chinook or Cascade and had the same situation where I lost water, they would probably die” Brian [Lock] agrees. As we climb back into the Mule, I’m bristling with excitement for what I’ve just seen; hops deprived of water for many weeks that are alive and well. As we fight climate change whilst trying to make fantastic beer available to everyone regardless of geography, these hop varieties could be a game-changer.

Scotch egg.

This piece on the legal meanings of ‘a substantial meal’ by Jed Meers, a lecturer at the University of York, is a fascinating read, digging into the assumptions around class and culture that influence licensing decisions:

Tying alcohol consumption to a sit-down meal is a long-standing technique from the temperance playbook. Perhaps the best-known example is New York’s so-called “Raines Law” ­– legislation at the turn of the 20th century that required establishments to serve a table meal with any alcoholic drinks on a Sunday. It soon become synonymous with the “Raines law sandwich”; the cheapest possible composition of “waterproof ham” and “tough bread” that could charitably be described as a meal. According to hearings in front of the prohibition-era American Congress, establishments placed these on the table at the start of service to comply with the legislation and they “stood on the table, untouched, until Sunday was over”. These sandwiches were so hardy, Carson even recounts a story of them being weaponised in a bar room brawl, where “a man snatched up a venerable Raines law sandwich and brained his adversary with it in one blow”.

(It was actually published a couple of weeks ago but we only noticed it yesterday.)

A hobbit hole.

SOURCE: Lucas Grewez via Unsplash

The excellently-named Exit Pursued by a Beer is a new blog to us and this post explaining the ‘craft beer drinker’s journey’ with reference to the monomyth of Joseph Campbell tickled us:

Imagine a youth, has not yet started to drink. Perhaps they occasionally have a sip of their parent’s beer or are allowed a small glass of wine on special occasions. They receive a call to adventure – perhaps an invite to a party. They receive guidance from an older, wiser entity – perhaps an elder sibling buys them a six pack of the beer they like? The youth crosses a threshold from the natural world – their normal home life – into a world of independence and raucous celebration…

Finally, from Twitter, there’s what we suspect will be among the first of many such appeals:

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

3 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 12 December 2020: awards, Aldi, a hero’s life”

I read The Beer Nut’s piece and … I think there is just something about the Williams Bros beers that he doesn’t like. I remember a previous blog post by him about their Aldi specials (and commented on his blog) and I couldn’t believe that he was drinking the same beers I was drinking. Maybe something terrible happens to them on their way across the Irish Sea. But I think it is more likely that there is something specific (the house yeast?) that he just doesn’t get on with rather than them being “bad” beers. I could drink my way through pretty much the entire Williams range any day of the week, but, to take another local to me brewery, I’ve never (the strong beers excepted) been that taken with Harvieston’s brews. Maybe it would be interesting for you to try a few (and also a few from their Drygate co-project) and see what you thought?

I had been meaning to comment earlier that my review does not necessarily mean the beers are bad. I have seen Memphis Blvd getting good press, so fair point there, TMP.

I don’t have anything against Williams Bros, however. I cut my beer-drinking teeth on Fraoch and Alba, for one thing.

We haven’t tried these specific beers but have had quite a few cans from Aldi and Lidl in the past year. Didn’t really think much of any of them, unfortunately, and so couldn’t quite be bothered to write them up.

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