Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that struck us as especially noteworthy in the past week, from The High Numbers to Ian Nairn.
First, something beautiful to look at and play with: David Fletcher makes photorealistic 3D models of pubs using photogrammetry. We’ve featured a few of these over the past year or so but now he’s collected them all together. Go and have a look, spin ‘em around, zoom in and out. It’s great (bittersweet) fun.
At Belgian Smaak Ashley Joanna provides a portrait of Axel Brück, a security guard who runs a brewery on the side:
Twenty-five years ago, prompted by a love for saving older, storied, country homes, Axel moved from the German speaking municipality of St. Vith in Belgium to a seventeenth century house located 15 kilometres to the south in the tiny village of Richtenberg… As he began to meet and befriend the other twenty-three inhabitants of the village, he was inspired to create something special for those in his new home. The Richtenberger beer was born, a Belgian Blonde Ale of 6.2% ABV brewed with pilsner malt and wheat malt, the addition of coriander and bitter orange peel, and hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand.
For Good Beer Hunting Mark Dredge has written about the continuing importance of Fuggles and Golding hops from Kent worldwide, even – especially – in the age of craft beer:
Fuggle and Golding have defined British Ale since the Victorian Era… As a result, Fuggle and Golding have a somewhat old-fashioned reputation, resigning them—almost—to their role in traditional Bitters, and not in exciting IPAs. Only they are in your IPAs… Look at the hop family tree. The direct descendants of Fuggle and Golding—the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—include Citra, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Nelson Sauvin, and so many others, meaning that almost every beer you drink will have something in it that leads back to these two hops.
And here’s a worrying footnote from Eddie Gadd, a Kentish brewer and advocate of local hops:
One result of lockdown has been plummeting beer sales, resulting in plummeting hop usage. And since hops are grown seasonally, in advance, the world hop markets are now stuffed to overload, contracts are getting ripped up and prices are teetering on the edge of financial disaster. And all this came barrelling home yesterday with the devastating news that our local hop grower, and dear friend, is shutting down and ‘grubbing out’ his plants. We’re all in a state of shock, and the very soul of our brewery is taking a battering.
Last week’s piece about Untappd at Good Beer Hunting prompted some interesting follow-ups. For Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer it triggered a memory of how Untappd’s parent company, Next Glass, started life:
Next Glass 1.0, circa 2015, was something different. It was one of several drink recommendation apps that came and went about that time. Some got tagged as the “Pandora for beer.” For First Glass, that made sense because it took a scientific approach similar to Pandora when collecting data… Next Glass mapped the chemical makeup of individual beers, forgoing any effort to quantify a beer based on its descriptive characteristics. The app used an algorithm to blend the attributes of the beer in question with what it knew about each consumer and assigned a number predicting how much the consumer would like that beer.
Keith Greywood at Bacchanalian, meanwhile, presents a British gloss on Kate Bernot’s original piece:
Local to me is the Hop Stop Bottleshop… I thought Hop Stop’s bar used a display which showed Untappd ratings, but after speaking to owner Mike, he revealed it is an in-house solution. Although they did use Untappd’s premium service for bars, this has lapsed as they’ve shut the doors of the bar for lockdown… I asked Mike if they’ve used apps like Untappd to select beers, and he said they mainly use it as an information source for their weekly order form. Hop Stop stocks a wide range of styles and beers from different regions, including lots of great lager and classic English ales – both types of beer which are not too hot on the Untappd global rating lists… There’s a difference between buzz, hype, perceived popularity and actual popularity and how important a beer really is. A crazy, unusual beer which has 100 beer geeks foaming at the mouth to give good scores is not really comparable to a good quality lager that is sold by the caseload – both in terms of drinkability, profit or in actual impact on a wide scale.
At Manchester Estate Pubs Stephen ‘Modern Moocher’ Marland provides notes on and photos of The Victoria Hotel, Urmston, “a brick and wooden shuttering box, the most austere of Sixties architectural styling”:
“The ‘crazy piano’ phenomena is coming to Manchester for the first time with the launch of The Boogie Piano Bar… Party-goers throughout the globe have taken to the new-style piano bars for a good sing-song to the latest tunes, as well as classic tracks, and now Britain’s second city will have its first crazy piano venue… ‘You have live music and can enjoy a crazy sing-along… it’s not what people think of from a stuffy old school piano venue.’”
Here’s a type of article or blog post we’d love to see more of: Alan Wells is in his 70s and has produced a personal recollection of the pubs of Leyton and Leytonstone for the Leytonstoner website. Why is this important? Because people tend to undervalue their own experiences and memories, so they don’t often write them down. And because pubs aren’t Important, so they disappear both physically and from the collective memory – and that’s especially true when it comes to the cultural aspects of pub life. Fortunately, thanks to Alan, we now have nuggets of information like this:
Our first local was The Greyhound on Lea Bridge Road. The building is still there, although it hasn’t been open for over twenty years… I recently walked past and suddenly thought about the last drink I had there with my dad, who died forty years ago this year. There was also a seafood stall outside – and I can still smell the pots of cockles and whelks beloved of my many aunts, a little tipsy a couple of drinks in… Over in E11, I was lucky enough to catch The Who, then called The High Numbers, in the room on the top of The Red Lion in Leytonstone High Road in the early 1960s. They only made one single as The High Numbers, ‘Zoot Suit’, which is worth a bit now on the rare singles market. (No, I don’t have a copy.)
(Ah, the Red Lion…)
Finally, from Twitter, something truly amazing – a piece about pubs by Ian Nairn from 1962 that we’ve never seen before, with fantastic illustrations.
For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.