News, nuggets and longreads 10 July 2021: brewers, startups and dives

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from baby breweries to Belgian baths.

The big news is that the UK Government has declared its intention to remove remaining coronavirus restrictions in England from 19 July, including requirements to wear face masks while moving around pubs, and the ban on bar service. Some people are delighted. Others are apprehensive, given the direction of travel of the daily statistics. Based on some of the pubs we’ve visited lately, this won’t actually make all that much difference: masks have been slipping, literally, for some time now. One piece of anecdotal evidence: Ray’s parents had been hoping to come to Bristol for a pub trip later this month but are now feeling hesitant, having found the presence of some rules reassuring. It seems to us that it’s more than restrictions keeping people away from pubs.

Roger Protz has been speaking to Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, about the future of pubs and of cask ale:

“Cask has taken a terrible hammering,” he says. “The beer market is no longer a cask market. It’s a changing demographic – young people are not drinking cask and brewers are putting their money behind craft beer.” If Hobgoblin and Wainwright’s are now Marston’s top brands, what’s the future for such famous beers as Banks’s Mild and Bitter from Wolverhampton and Marston’s Pedigree from Burton? “Banks’s and Pedigree haven’t performed well,” he says bluntly. “The market is changing and the Banks’s market is disappearing. There are no mild drinkers left – the industry has gone.. We’re working hard to ‘premiumise’ the sector with branding and glasses, which means we will have to charge more. People will pay £7 for a pint if it’s part of a good experience.”

For Pellicle Laura Hadland (author of the recently published official history of CAMRA) profiles Brewster’s Brewery and its founder, Sara Barton, in Grantham, Lincolnshire:

Sara looked to the past for inspiration to create Brewsters’ visual aesthetic. Art Nouveau was characterised by the use of long sinuous lines that ran organically without rules or restriction. Visual representations of women were common, and were adopted by Brewsters to represent female emancipation… A typical figurative Art Nouveau image was used on the packaging; a successful design at first, but as uneasiness about sexism in the industry became a growing topic of discussion it was seen as inappropriate by some. Ironically, the flowing, flimsy garments of the Art Nouveau heroine which attracted negative comment were originally a statement of her independence from the stifling girdles and restrictions of Victorian society… Sara was not deaf to the complaints. The messaging needed to be clearer.

For Ferment, the promo mag for a beer subscription service, Nicci Peet has spoken to the founders of four ‘lockdown babies’ – breweries that started up during the pandemic – including Newtown Park in Bristol:

Starting a brewery in a pandemic might seem like an impossible task, but for Newtown Park it was an advantage. They could design everything around the market at the time; not just how they were going to sell and package their beer, but also staff levels and operations to ensure they weren’t over-committed. A canning line was a must, but not just for survival. “We wanted to build a direct-to-consumer brand, no matter what we did,” says Michael [McKelvaney], so having a canning line was important to them long term. “It was challenging being a brewery in small pack from the start. It’s a very tricky thing to do. Building a market direct-to-consumer is also tricky, so we’ve done it the hard way” he adds. 

We enjoyed this rattle through ‘The 10 Best Dive Bars’ dive bars by Grace Weitz for Hop Culture. The dive bar is a peculiarly American concept and even in listicle form, it’s hard not to get a scent of issues around gentrification and identity:

Delux Cafe has defied all odds in the South End neighborhood of Boston. As chain restaurants and bougie dining groups moved in, driving up rents and the price of eating and drinking, South End’s small businesses started being driven out. But not Delux Cafe. Located at 100 Chandler Street, the dive bar has remained for over five decades as a place to grab a cheap can of ‘Gansett. While the hole-in-the-wall has changed hands and names a few times during its historic run, it’s always been a place for locals to bathe in the glow of Christmas lights, revel at the collection of album covers on the wall, and enjoy a cheap pint or two.

At Brussels Beer City, Eoghan Walsh provides a vignette of the kind of institutional bar where people watch football, play pool and drink cheap lager:

Conversation turns distractedly to football. The barman says Busquets is too old. The lean player rolls around the name of the Czech goalscorer. The stout one in seesawing tones condemns the corrosive decadence hampering Belgium’s performance. The barman rouses himself, crosses the room to the bar. He reaches into a mini fridge, skips past the Orval, Goose IPA, and Karmeliet, and returns to the billiards table with two more dripping bottles of Jupiler… A tangle of bedraggled children run up the stairs, announcing the end of this evening’s swimming class and trailing in their wake the sweet-salty memories of afterschool Monday afternoons, stinging red eyes and shaming side-long looks. The barman gets up to dole out Haribos, paprika chips and Cote D’Or chocolate to children with the means to buy them.

Finally, from Twitter…

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 10 July 2021: brewers, startups and dives”

The feeling expressed in that blogpost was essentially one of relief, not delight. You are relieved when you get something back that you had once taken for granted.

So long, Banks’ mild, it was nice knowing you… Independent breweries, we miss them when they’re gone – maybe not immediately, but sooner or later.

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