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News, nuggets and longreads 20 February 2021: smoke, disruption, trends

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out to us in the past week, from opinion on lockdown to reflections on smoke.

In the UK, the COVID-19 numbers are mostly and consistently heading in the right direction which has, of course, prompted calls for a Great Reopening. Tandleman wants to see pubs open soon, but not right now, and with due consideration for how pubs actually operate in the real world. Having originally titled his post ‘Get them open NOW!’, or something along those lines, Paul Bailey (no relation) is in a similar place.

Matt Curtis, on the other hand, urges patience:

We tend to agree with Matt – slow and steady makes sense, as long as there’s support in place to keep pubs afloat in the meantime. We’re almost there, and can you imagine what it would be like to reopen only to have to close up again a month later? If we’ve learned one thing in the past year it’s that those reassuring downward trends can turn in the blink of an eye.


Illustration: Victoriana.

Something Jeff Allworth said this week struck us like a lightning bolt:

There is every reason to believe the year-plus Covid disruption will have long-lasting effects on the alcohol market, and I wonder if we won’t use 2020-‘21 as a convenient place to divide the “craft era” with whatever we’re about to inherit. It will mean reckoning with this era, attempting to make meaning out of how we got here. We are a species of story.

Almost a year ago, we used the phrase ‘great disruptor’ to describe the pandemic and, yes, we’ve seen plenty of evidence of it accelerating trends already underway and putting a sudden full stop on slow decline.


King Narmer of Egypt, via archive.org.

We’re 20th century kids, really, and don’t seem to have the heads for keeping track of the debates and disputes in beer archaeology. Nonetheless, like everyone else, our reaction to the news of the discovery of a 5,000-year-old brewery in Egypt was, “Wow – that’s cool!”

A joint Egyptian-American team discovered the brewery in Abydos, an ancient burial ground in the desert. They found a number of units containing about 40 pots used to heat a mixture of grain and water to make beer. The brewery is likely to date back to the era of King Narmer, according to the Supreme Council of Antiquities. It says it believes the find to “be the oldest high-production brewery in the world”.


Detail from a 1943 advert for Lifesavers depicting fruit on a tree.

For Ferment, the promo magazine for a beer subscription service, Mark Dredge has been thinking about trends and where beer might be going. Cleverly, he’s sourced his intel from the current cohort of students at Heriot-Watt – what do they expect to be brewing in years to come?

So what about the beers we’ll be drinking? “Something I’ve found very exciting in the last few years is a real shift to beers that are a lot more accessible,” said Caitlín [McErlean]. A lot of other people also used the word ‘accessible,’ and all of them used it in relation to hazy IPA, fruit sours or flavoured stouts – accessible seems to now mean a knowable non-beer ingredient, or a beer which has an abundantly fruity hop character.


Smoke on a Cornish moor.

At Appellation Beer Stan Hieronymus has been thinking about hops, smoke, wheat and the almost-lost beer style Grodziskie:

Beers change over the course of 500 years, so let’s forgo any discussion about what the “most authentic” version of Grodziskie might be. The givens are that it is made with smoked wheat malt and it is low alcohol. Sometimes it was hoppy, and sometimes it included barley… The version from Grodzisk is not quite as hoppy as one from Live Oak Brewing in Texas and a bit drier, but they are cut from the same cloth. They are about smoke and hops… But that smoke, that’s important. Oak smoked wheat malt does not smell like beechwood smoked malt or English peated malt.


Meux's Original London Stout advertised on a derelict pub building at Finsbury Park, North London.
Meux’s Original London Stout advertised on a derelict pub building at Finsbury Park, North London.

Joe Tindall is after a bit of help – do you remember drinking beer from Friary Meux? If so, drop him a line or comment on his post.


Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

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

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