News, nuggets and longreads 17 July 2021: objects, culture and fairy tales

Here’s all the writing about brewing, beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past seven days, from coolships to Scotch Ales.

First, we ought to offer some brief notes on Monday’s further relaxation of COVID-19 regulations in England but, ugh, what’s left to say? We’ll be continuing to be careful – masks on public transport and indoor spaces – but perhaps taking advantage of the relaxation to skip some of the more theatrical stuff, such as wearing a mask to cross the two metres between our table and the street at the local beer garden. Others, like Martin Taylor, will be glad to see bar service return – with sensible caveats. It seems as if most people are in a similar frame of mind, at least according to new survey results from the Office for National Statistics.

A woman shouting through a loudspeaker
SOURCE: Patrick Fore/Unsplash

The story about sexism, bullying and harassment in the UK craft beer scene isn’t going away. A month or so on and it’s still on the front page of the BBC news website

“They are almost a victim of their own success,” said Erika Percival, chief executive of advisory firm Beyond Governance. “They grow, they’ve got great ideas, they’re really entrepreneurial… Then it gets to a point where you end up with a challenge of having structures that work with a small number of people but not with a large number of people.” That’s why it is key, she said, to have corporate governance measures in place. It means “you have got the right structures so that you can intervene at the right points in time before decisions are made and move along too quickly and you can’t go back”.

…and it was also the subject of Radio 4’s The Food Programme last week.

Marble, one of the UK breweries which attracted criticism, issued this statement on Thursday, which seems to have hit the mark:

The roof at Cantillon brewery in Brussels.

We’ve long been advocates of long-term projects as fuel for blogging so were pleased to see that Eoghan Walsh at Brussels Beer City has launched ‘A History of Brussels Beer in 50 Objects’ starting with ‘#1: Cantillon Coolship’:

It is not particularly old. Nor is it particularly impressive. But Brasserie Cantillon’s coolship is living history. As the vessel where Lambic’s alchemical brewing magic begins, it symbolises Brussels’ unique centuries-long brewing tradition. And as Brussels’ last active coolship, it binds that heritage to the city’s modern beer scene… Five metres squared, 30 centimetres deep, and housed in an attic room, the coolship was built out of salvaged spare brewery parts and installed when Cantillon started brewing in 1937. It is essential to the mythology of brewing Lambic, Brussels’ indigenous beer style.

Montana on a map.

At Beervana, Jeff Alworth asks whether regional preferences still exist, with reference to a print-only article by Kate Bernot which reveals that, in Montana, Scotch Ales live on:

Unlike Kate, I wasn’t able to access Nielsen’s state-level data. Through a bit of clandestine back-channeling, I was able to find a source willing to make a dead-drop in the tailpipe of an abandoned Camry on Burnside containing Nielsen’s regional data. (In fact it arrived, less atmospherically, as a series of screenshots in my inbox.) Regions are far less helpful because they average across states. One wouldn’t be able to easily discern this Montana Scotch ale phenomenon by looking at the Mountain region (eight states), where the style is the 20th most popular, two slots below fruit/veg beers. Nevertheless, one can see quite a few interesting tidbits by comparing the regions. Preferences do vary.

A glass of saison.

Joe Stange has written about saison for Craft Beer & Brewing, kicking off a thoughtful piece with the rhetorical equivalent of an air-horn:

Let’s get this much straight: Saison is not a style. It’s a story. Maybe that won’t sit well with some brewers who like to see the wider beer world through a codified set of style guidelines. Such guidelines make sense for competitions (as long as the guidelines evolve with the times). But when it comes to learning about beer, they’re shorthand—a poor map. The map is never the territory. That’s true for any style of beer, but it’s especially true for a story. Rather than an imperfect map, any static description of saison is more like a rough sketch from a single chapter of a fairy tale. What’s really cool is that this fairy tale is essentially true.

Now, that’s how you sell a piece and grab your readers.


We hadn’t heard the word ‘Gullah’ until we watched High on the Hog on Netflix last week; now, at Good Beer Hunting, Jamaal Lemon opens a three-part exploration of the historic beer culture of Charleston, South Carolina, with a Gullah proverb – “Mus tek cyear uh de root, fa heal de tree.

Thanks to my enthusiasm for beer and brewing, I’m always excited to check out taprooms and alehouses wherever I go. That weekend was no different. I called one of my buddies, and we linked up at a brewery. Three hours later, we’d popped into three different spots, all within a quarter-mile radius. While standing in line waiting to order another pint, he nudged me and muttered a question: “Where are all the Black people?”  Depending on who you ask, there are two ways to answer that question, though neither gets at the whole truth. Going to breweries is some white-people shit. Alternatively: Black people don’t drink beer… In Charleston, one of the many reasons there are so few faces of color in breweries is homegrown, tracing back some 150 years—though less than a mile away from where we stood that day—to the Schützenfest.

Finally, from Twitter, the beer writing equivalent of one of J.G. Ballard’s condensed novels…

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 17 July 2021: objects, culture and fairy tales”

I realise that, several weeks ago, I somewhat poo-pooed your idea of conducting a lateral-flow test before popping out to the pub (far too much Big Brother, for my liking, as well as destroying any spontaneity), but I am with you on the sensible precautions.

The current situation won’t stop me from going out, but I will continue to wear a mask in shops and on public transport, and I don’t see myself attending any events likely to attract large groups of people. This effectively rules out beer festivals (if there are any planned, or live music events).

Like everyone else I want to see the end of this pandemic, as quickly as possible, but without rushing. Fingers crossed the sensible amongst us outnumber the reckless.

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