News, nuggets and longreads 27 March 2021: Ireland, New York, Lancashire

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that we felt moved to bookmark in the past week, from Manhattan to Clitheroe.

The big story this week is the flying of a policy kite around vaccine passports for pubs: no certificate, no entry. It’s triggered some passionate pushback from… Well, almost everyone, from publicans to those concerned about creeping authoritarianism. As always, there’s a lot of deflection and bad faith argument, such as people who don’t care about disability claiming that’s why they’re opposed to it, not because they’re dog-whistling at anti-mask, anti-vaccine types. Do we have an opinion? Oof. It’s probably a bad idea, even if we don’t relish the thought of finding ourselves sat next to some berk who didn’t have a vaccine as an act of defiance to the lizard people.

Harvey's bottled beers: Sweet Stout, Blue Label, IPA, Brown.

Yvan De Baets of Brasserie de la Senne has provided Craft Beer & Brewing with notes on the beers that have inspired him, hinting at an emerging super-canon of classics:

The first three beers I’ve selected are, for me, some of the very best examples of styles and beer cultures that influenced my approach to beermaking. As a Belgian, I have, of course, been influenced by the beers of my homeland (perhaps most importantly by lambic) but maybe even more so by traditional English bitters—with their low ABV and super-high drinkability—and by German pilsners, with their clean palate and the precision used to brew them. Those are the main causes of what my beers are today—or, at least, what I’m trying to do with them. Funnily enough, both those brewing cultures deeply influenced Belgian brewing in the second half of the 19th century.

SOURCE: Good Beer Hunting/Breandán Kearney

For Good Beer Hunting Breandán Kearney has written an overview of the growth of craft beer in Ireland over the past few decades:

When Tom Delaney was born, on Dec. 1, 1982 in Roscrea, County Tipperary, there was just one independent brewery on the island [or Ireland]: Hilden Brewery in Lisburn, Co. Down. Then, Ireland was a bastion of religious conservatism. Now, its younger generations lean progressive, particularly in the Republic, where they have led the fight for legislation in recent years in favor of equal marriage and reproductive rights, and support pro-European, left-of-center policy in the face of rising global nationalism… In beer, Ireland has experienced a change of an equally dramatic nature. In 2002, the year that Tom Delaney moved from Tipperary to Galway as a 20 year old, there were in the region of 15 independent breweries on the whole island. At the end of 2020, 18 years later, there were around 150 businesses producing beer. One source suggests 99 breweries operating with their own kit, and a further 51 companies producing beer on contract.

We saw this being fact-checked live on Twitter shortly after the link was first published; even if the numbers were up for debate (they’re always tricky to pin down) the story is what matters here.

Pete Brown took advantage of the birthday of William Morris to talk again about the origins of the concept of ‘craft beer’:

The word “craft” goes back to at least the 10th century, but its specific meaning today was invented by Morris. Before the Industrial Revolution, craftsmanship was just the way things were done, the way they’d always been done. Arts and Crafts arrived at a time when industrialised productions had become the normal way things were done. “Craft”, in its modern sense, is an alternative, a choice, a reaction against mainstream industrial production, against the way things are normally done.

SOURCE: Corto website.

Opening a bar during a pandemic – what are you thinking? That’s more or less the question Katie Mather has been asked point blank on numerous occasions in the past year. Now, for Good Beer Hunting, she explains exactly what she was thinking, laying out every step on the path towards opening Corto in Clitheroe, Lancashire:

“Did you know you can get down under the flooring?” our always-happy landlady beamed, on a final visit to sort the fire alarms. No. We did not know that. We’d agreed not to mention the storage issues for our sanity’s sake, clueless about how we were going to overcome the challenge of managing inventory in such a small space. Tom had only just stopped having nightmares about having to fill the entire ground floor with bathrooms. “The hatch is under the stairs, in the cupboard.” When she’d gone, we pulled back a plywood plank covering the hole, and shone our phone flashlights into the void. A poured concrete floor. We lowered a set of ladders in and Tom disappeared for a while. When he came back he was laughing. “It’s massive,” he said, climbing out of the hatch, covered in cobwebs. “A proper cellar! We kept the faith.”

SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons.

For VinePair Aaron Goldfarb has written about ‘Manhattan’s forgotten first wave of brewpubs’, reminding us that craft beer was once “yuppie beer”:

On a Thursday night in November of 1984, the Manhattan Brewing Company opened its doors on the third floor of a former Con Ed transformer station on Thompson Street in SoHo — “on a block that soaks up lots of bad vibes from cursing Holland Tunnel travelers,” according to New York Magazine’s David Edelstein — four blocks from where Torch & Crown currently stands… The 5,000-square-foot space offered six copper brew kettles, including one that was 14 feet high, purchased from traditional European breweries located in the Swiss Alps, Bavaria, and the Black Forest of Germany. On opening day, the Emerald Society of the Police Department played a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” as a memorial to all the Manhattan breweries that had come (and gone) before it.

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

3 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 27 March 2021: Ireland, New York, Lancashire”

“It’s probably a bad idea, even if we don’t relish the thought of finding ourselves sat next to some berk who didn’t have a vaccine as an act of defiance to the lizard people.”

Congratulation; you’ve summed up my thoughts perfectly. And “flying a kite” is also spot on.

I patronized all these early locations or beers, and would say Chelsea was the best. It still brews, in the Bronx, having departed Pier 59 on the Hudson some years ago.

Its Sunset Red Ale, still made, was superb, a true trans-Atlantic style. And sometimes on cask including at The Gingerman on 36th Street.

In general though, quality today in craft brewing is much ahead of the first wave in NYC, imo. Of course that is true almost everywhere for craft, comparing the 90s to today.

I think Heartland continued largely on being a reliable, midtown restaurant chain, although it always made decent beers. Some seasonal specialities were especially good, like pumpkin ale.

The best way to describe all these to a UK audience is the London brewpubs back then serving fizzy US keg type beer: fresh, mild-tasting, aromatic malts, moderate hopping.

Finally, I don’t get the idea of dated styles. If a beer is well-made and earns a permanent audience, that is an accomplishment.

The point that most resonated with me was the change noted in the drinking age. That had a lot to do with removing part of the market for a MBC, I agree with that. There was too the factor of novelty in craft brewing then and the ceaseless trendiness of New York dining.

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