News, nuggets and longreads 21 August 2021: AOL, shandy, Fantôme

Here’s all the writing about brewing, beer and pubs of which we took special notice in the past week, from lager top to uniquely funky saison.

It has been suggested that the story about sexism, harassment and bullying in beer-related workplaces had just gone away – that people have got bored and moved on, with little or no action taken. But last night another open letter appeared, this time addressed to the management of the West Berkshire Brewery:

It alleges “bullying, racism, homophobia, sexism, sexual harassment, a disregard for staff’s physical and mental wellbeing”.

What’s remarkable about this wave of callings-out is that it isn’t stopping; each time it happens with regard to one workplace, employees and former employees of another are inspired to speak up.

Barr shandy.

For Pellicle Jemma Beedie asks “Is the UK going through a shandy renaissance?”

The origins of the name are delightfully obfuscated by a combination of legend and poor documentation. Shandy is a shortening of shandygaff. Difford’s Guide suggests the “shandy” part of shandygaff comes from mid-19th century slang. Shant of gatter translated to “pub water” – a pint of beer… There is also a possibility that shandy comes from the Scots word, chanty, meaning chamberpot. This would, in turn, mean that shant of gatter is more correctly read as “piss-water”; a fair cop, if the lager of 1850 was anything like the poor offerings we suffer in our chain establishments. The mass-market lager that isn’t improved by a splash of lemonade doesn’t exist.

As is quite often the case with articles at Pellicle, we started out rolling our eyes but, by the end, were half convinced. Certainly that John-Smith’s-Bitter-Lemonade combo sounds tempting, if only as a reminder of childhood.

The early beer internet.

Stan Hieronymus has been digging around in the remains of the early beer internet and reminds us how fragile and fleeting digital media can be:

Backing up a bit, in September 1994 All About Beer Magazine published a story headlined “Tapping the Net.” This was about the time the Netscape browser launched. Thus AABM provided, first, a primer for those who recently received an AOL CD in the mail, and second, a guide to resources that remind us there was/is more to the internet than the web. Not surprisingly, I can’t link to the story because AABM didn’t begin publishing online until 1996… By 1997, a few beer sites operated out of their own domains, which makes them much easier to find using the Wayback Machine.

If you want some UK context, here’s our attempt at something similar from 2015, with a focus on the Oxford Bottled Beer Database.

Lager beer in the 19th century.

For Craft Beer & Brewing beer historian Mike Stein of @LostLagers provides notes on pre-prohibition beer in America:

In Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, there is a historical marker honoring what is believed to be America’s first lager brewer. It reads, “In 1840 John Wagner brought lager yeast from his native Bavaria and brewed the nation’s first lager beer.” In many ways, Wagner was a saloon or brewpub brewer. His brewery was in the back of his house, his boil conducted in a kettle on a crane over an open hearth. Wagner’s home brewery was likely in line with those that came before him in 1840, even if—according to another Philadelphia brewer—Wagner was the first to use Bavarian lager yeast… Whether or not Wagner definitely was the first lager brewer in America, his lager predates the world’s first pilsner, commemorated two years later in Bohemia. There is little doubt among beer historians that America’s first lagers were darker than the popular pale, pilsner-style beers of today.

Illustration: a pint glass.

A writer who’s new to us, Ryan Bradford, wants to know when the hell beer became $7 a glass:

Truthfully, I don’t even know what craft means anymore. If a brewery is large enough to be poached by Anheuser Busch, does it still count as craft? Or are they just banking on people embracing an artisanal craze which allows the market to charge whatever it wants? This is the same phenomenon that allows places to get away with charging $10 for toast or charge exorbitant prices to flip your own pancakes. This is how we got $14 cocktails and chode bars with $2,000 annual membership fees… Side note: Whenever this subject comes up, I always think back to Ian MacKaye’s response regarding people buying $28 Minor Threat shirts from Urban Outfitters: “Do I think it’s absurd? Yes, I certainly do. Motherfuckers pay $28, that’s what they wanna pay for their shirts.”

We’ve all been debating the price of a pint for years and the problem is that nobody has any money. But we do think there’s something in this suggestion, in terms of inclusivity:

I’m not saying all beers have to be cheap, but would it hurt for each bar and brewery to offer a single $5 lager? That’s all I want. And then I’ll shut up.

Fantôme Saison.

Dany Prignon, founder of cult Belgian brewery Fantôme, is thinking about succession planning and is in search of a protege, according to an interview he has given to the Beer Idiots:

He is vague about what he wants to do. But first he needs to find an investing partner, who will work alongside him for a while to learn the methods that have made Fantôme so famous… “I think it is time for me to officially grow old,” he said.

Anyone fancy it?

Finally, from Twitter, a global truth…

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday and the (temporarily?) revived Monday round-up from Stan Hieronymus.

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 21 August 2021: AOL, shandy, Fantôme”

“As is quite often the case with articles at Pellicle, we started out rolling our eyes but, by the end, were half convinced…” Bravissimo! Double bravissimo for noting Stan’s stealthy return.

I can’t entirely calibrate what the UK cultural equivalent of a $7 beer is – I presume that’s for a weedy US pint? – but that’s about the equivalent of a fiver (UK) a drink, which for me is ‘a bit pricey (i.e. ‘craft’), but not ludicrous, as long as the beer’s good’ territory. (In a US taproom are you expected to tip on top of that?)

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