News, nuggets and longreads 15 May 2021: drinking in, calling out

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from sexism to classism to taking back dodgy pints.

From Monday 17 May, drinkers across most of the UK can sit inside pubs if they don’t fancy braving beer gardens.

This is big news for establishments such as our old local, The Drapers Arms, which hasn’t been able to trade as nature intended since late last year. It also means some pubs which have been scraping by with outdoor drinkers can start to do some serious business.

This is the riskiest step in the unlocking process so far – sitting in poorly-ventilated spaces with other people is how this thing spreads – and of course there’s a potential spanner in the works in the form of a ‘variant of concern’.

What’s more, many working in hospitality haven’t been vaccinated and some feel understandably concerned.

But, still, it’s hard not to be excited at the prospect. We’ve got Monday off work. We’ll have to see how we feel.

A screengrab of @ratmagnet's Instagram stories.

If you have a Facebook/Instagram account, you can read a series of ‘stories’ (collections of images on rolling slides) of first-hand experiences of sexism in the beer industry collated by Brienne AKA @ratmagnet. It’s not the easiest format to digest but worth the effort because, although it starts with the kind of everyday irritations any woman working in or around beer has experienced, things soon get heavy. There are numerous accounts of sexual harassment and exploitative behaviour, often occurring at beer festivals, in which names are very much named. The breweries and brewers involved are as far as we can tell (we haven’t read every single slide) mostly American but there’s a point here that applies universally: in the 21st century, if you behave like this, people will find out.

Beer cans in a supermarket.

At Burum Collective Ruvani De Silva offers a forthright opinion on craft beer in supermarkets:

While some independent bottle shops have cited understandable concerns about how this may affect their market share, a more significant and concerning backlash has come from many craft beer drinkers who seem to feel that craft beer does not ‘belong’ in supermarkets and its supply should be restricted solely to independent specialist bottle shops… While no-one, least of all Cloudwater and their collaborators, are denying the importance of indies to the beer trade, this small but angry group of nay-sayers seem to feel that the sanctity of their hallowed turf has been threatened, and are acting up with a vitriolic degree of barely-concealed classism.

Now, as we said at the height of all this a few weeks ago, it does worry us that we’ve got to a point where saying “I’ve got concerns about the business practices of multinational giants such as Tesco and the effect on independent businesses” is somehow regarded as “punching down”. But, yes, it is important to keep those criticisms focused where they belong, rather than pointed at people who are just trying to get by in a world where pay has been stagnant for more than a decade.

Tasting notes

Boring bastards love to sneer at beer tasting notes, overlooking the fact that (a) they’re useful in various ways and (b) fun to write. Anthony Gladman has some tips on how to do it better and makes the case for why you might want to:

[What] if there is no audience other than your future self? In that case, you need to concentrate on what matters most to you. And you can use all the shorthand you want, as long as you’re confident of remembering what it means next week, next month, in five years… But again I think it’s worth spending a little time trying to set down a few words that also capture how you felt about the beer. What did it remind you of? Where would you want to drink this beer? Who would you want to drink it with? If you write better tasting notes, you’ll find that it’s easier to remember that particular beer when you read them again in the future.

Cask ale

For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Katie Mather provides a guide to appreciating cask ale in the pub, from tasting it to taking it back:

Take your cask drinking to another level by taking in what you can smell and taste. Good pints will have you thinking about all sorts of things: freshly cut citrus fruit, or deep malty chocolate ovaltine. Bright summer days, or rich whisky evenings… What I’m saying is, please do not reduce your beer drinking experience to a fault-detecting exercise. There are so many delicate flavours at play between malt, hop, water and yeast before you even add fruit or other adjuncts like chocolate or coffee there to be enjoyed. An obsessive search for technical faults can mean that brewers’ leaps of inspiration can be forgotten.

Eric Krings and his friends.
SOURCE: Ashley Joanna/Belgian Smaak.

From Ashley Joanna for Belgian Smaak comes another snapshot portrait of a ‘human of Belgian beer’ – this time, Eric Krings, a 32-year-old, who is renovating the family home at Atzerath:

For the two years it took to renovate the house, Eric kept crates of beer stacked high along the inside of the house, and lined the refrigerator there with as many of his friend’s favourite beers as he could. Regulars included the Tripel and Strong Pale Ale from Brauerei Nova Villa, a tiny local brewery 12 kilometres away in Neundorf which recently installed four new 7HL fermentation tanks; Bavik Super Pils from Brouwerij De Brabandere; Cristal—the pilsner of the Belgian province of Limburg—from Brouwerij Alken-Maes; and the Belgian Ales, Duvel and La Chouffe from the Duvel Moortgat group of breweries. Days were filled with work and sweat; nights with beer and laughter.

Finally, from Twitter, the ghost of a space-age pub in Sheffield:

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

5 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 15 May 2021: drinking in, calling out”

My wife started a sub for Beer 52 in lockdown, despite me not being a home drinker, and I think we’ll keep it going. I’ve no interest in reading about breweries and seeing photos of cans of beer, but Ferment is a lovely magazine to flick through, and I was surprised by some of the off-piste suggestions in this month’s features on Yorkshire cities, including some weird art near my new Sheffield home I’d never heard of. Can’t see them writing about the estate pubs in Brightside, though !

They make a real effort to commission writers from all over the place, writing about towns and cities that don’t otherwise get lots of coverage. Katie’s piece on Preston from a couple of years back, which went quietly viral, set a good precedent.

Nice photo of Hollybush. Looks like it was taken from the front door of my son’s house!

Meh. I think I’m normally one of the less cynical people in the online beer bubble but even I’m getting a bit squicky about the way cheap beer is being treated as an important class / accessibility issue now that Cloudwater are getting criticised for selling to Tesco in a way that it wasn’t when Cloudwater were punting festival tickets at £60 a session or, come to that, when they were telling everyone they wouldn’t sell into Tesco because cold-storage and freshness were too important to them.

Addendum – this in response to the topic as a whole and the general atmosphere on Twitter in the days after the Cloudwater news, not to Ruvani’s piece which seems very genuine.

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