News, nuggets and longreads 31 July 2021: Troubled waters

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that struck as bookmarkworthy in the past week, from bar work to the politics of the pub.

First, some reporting from the frontline of bar work, where the BBC has found some depressing stories of people being encouraged to ignore NHS track and trace:

Ralph (not his real name) can relate to this pressure. He’s 27, works in a bar in London and has been told to delete the app, although he’s decided to go against his manager… “Having the app is the right thing to do and whether or not I’ve got a manager telling me to have it, I’m going to keep it,” he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat… Ralph has also been told to ignore being pinged, even after doing a shift with a colleague who tested positive… “The app said I needed to isolate for 8 days, so I told my manager straightaway. He said to come in, take one lateral flow test and if that’s negative to continue working.”

On a cheerier note, faced with the possibility of a second year without a Great British Beer Festival, CAMRA has decided to run it as a virtual event in pubs across the country, running until 8 August:

With the support of CAMRA branches across the UK, pubs will be staging their own mini beer festivals, beer tastings, tap takeovers, brewery talks, special events or just adding some guest real ales and ciders to the bar – to support the pub and brewing industry, and the GBBF ethos for great beer and cider, camaraderie and good fun.

Pandemic or no pandemic, we quite like this idea.

For Sourced, Anja Madhvani has written in-depth about IPA and ongoing attempts to grapple with the colonial legacy in beer:

India Pale Ale is now so far removed from its origins that it could be time to look for a new label for our brews. But to my mind, separating these beers from their colonial titles should only be done if it comes with loud and impactful education, both within our businesses, and across our consumer base. Statues can be placed in national museums to remind us of past actions, but if we lose the story of IPA, we lose another context through which to understand a troubled relationship between Britain and the wider world. If we wish to topple the statue of the IPA name we must first know exactly what it represents. This dismantling must be done with intent for better futures, and not for the masking of past wrongdoings.


Stan Hieronymus continues to provide detailed reports from his particular beat, namely the world of hops. This week, it’s a worrying update on the effect of global warming on hop growing entitled ‘There will be hops, but climate change is real’:

Steve Carpenter, chief supply chain officer, figures this is the 59th harvest that he remembers (starting when he was a 5-year-old following his father around). He talked about 1980, when Mount St. Helens erupted in May, covering young plants with hot ash. “What I’ve discovered when these events happen, none are as bad as they seem initially,” he said. Given time, and there has been time, hop plants are resilient. “If you have a hop contract I wouldn’t worry at all. At least right now,” he said. (Right now, he allowed, because much can happen in a month. Last year, it appeared there would be a bumper crop. Then late heat, a hundred-year blast of wind and smoke for nearby fires turned a boom harvest into a bust harvest. “In the USA, we really felt the effects of the climate crisis last year for the first time,” Alex Barth, CEO at John I. Haas, said in the BarthHaas annual report.)

St George flags outside a pub.

For the popular academic magazine The Conversation postdoctoral researcher Diane Bolet has shared notes from her research into the connection between the decline of community pubs and support for radical-right political parties:

I found that people living in districts with one such pub closure per year are more likely to support UKIP than any other party by around 4.3 percentage points. The effect is magnified under conditions of material deprivation… UKIP support was only tied to the closure of a certain type of pub though – what I see as “community pubs”… My research suggests there is an element of socio-cultural degradation at play too. Closing social places that are at the heart of local communities contributes to social isolation and feelings that one’s socio-cultural heritage is under attack. The loss of these places leads people who usually frequent them to question their place within society and may lead them susceptible to the “left behind” narratives that are the stock and trade of the radical right.

The old Courage brewery on the Thames.

Martyn Cornell has provided detailed notes on the sources of water for London’s brewing industry between the 16th and 19th centuries, highlighting in particular the importance of river water:

The Thames was one resource, of course, and despite the mythology that surrounds the river’s historic alleged unwholesomeness, brewers made use of its water to brew their beer for centuries: In 1509 the Bishop of Winchester (who owned considerable land alongside the river in Southwark – much of it occupied by brothels[1]) and the Priory of St Mary Overies granted a license to the brewers of Southwark to have passage with their carts “from ye Borough of Southwark until the Themmys … to fetch water … to brew with,” so long as the brewers did not try to claim the passage as a highway… [It] was written in 1839 that four London porter brewers were still using Thames water to make their beer, though that represented “not a sixth part” of the total production of porter in the capital, and “the breweries have in most cases private wells.”

Finally, from Twitter, a hidden architectural gem…

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 31 July 2021: Troubled waters”

That pub closure / UKIP support story is sad. Resentment and angry nostalgia are a powerful force in contemporary politics, and the loss of a community pub is something to be resentful and angrily nostalgic about.

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