News, nuggets and longreads 11 September 2021: Takeovers and startups

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from Kölsch to Dortmunder.

First, a bit of good old-fashioned brewery takeover news from Australia: Lion (Kirin) has bought Stone & Wood outright. Now, we’d never heard of Stone & Wood until this week, and gave up reporting every single global takeover a while back, but this is interesting because…

Meanwhile, there is evidence that BrewDog (settle down, stop booing) might be entering a new phase. As reported by Beer Today, it has entered into a joint venture with Asahi under the name BrewDog Japan:

BrewDog is looking to boost its sales in Asahi’s home country of Japan sixfold in five years. It already has a bar in Tokyo, but could set up a brewery there, too… BrewDog is also reported to be considering an initial public offering (IPO) in London, and is being advised by Rothschild.

A brewery.

For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Sarah Sinclair asks what it’s like to launch a UK craft brewery in 2021 compared to a decade ago:

In many ways, being a craft brewer is like being the hero of a Greek tragedy. There’s a strictly prescribed, formal journey these characters must undertake, from disillusionment with an existing career, to brewing 30-litre batches in their garage as a means of escape. An act of extreme faith and vision propels our hero into the heady days of a new commercial brewery (in which they must complete legendary trials: finding a distributor, losing an entire batch to an unreliable mobile canning line etc). Even as they ride high on a wave of hype juice, we the audience are looking out for the fatal flaw that will perhaps bring them low in Act 3 (and we’ve seen plenty of those lately).

Früh am dom

For Craft Beer & Brewing Jeff Alworth has written an overview of Kölsch, a beer style that, as we know it, isn’t as old as people might think and which definitely isn’t ‘an ale’:

This close forebear held onto its bitterness all the way into the 1960s, though in other ways it closely resembled modern Kölsch. At that point, local breweries still made other beer styles, but a culture was beginning to form around the pride of hometown Kölsch. By the 1980s, Kölsch had become so popular that Köln’s breweries banded together to protect it from lesser imitators. In 1985, two dozen of them signed a document called the Kölsch Konvention. It stipulated certain benchmarks to prevent the beer’s debasement… Americans sometimes call these “hybrid” beers, but the Germans have a better term: obergäriges lagerbier, or top-fermenting lagered beer. To call them hybrid is to suggest an awkward in-between state, but Kölsch is nothing of the kind – it’s exactly as it’s meant to be.

Eoghan Walsh’s tour through the history of Brussels beer continues with a post on the 18th century Brewer’s Oath which gives us a glimpse into the culture of guilds:

The brewers’ guild, like all of Brussels’ medieval artisan guilds, was a monopoly, a position they leveraged for self-enrichment. They also used it to occasionally flex political influence, having – alongside the other guilds – been granted consultative input into Brussels’ governance in 1421. Each guild was a member of a nation, a grouping of similar trades; brewers were part of the St. Jacques nation alongside bakers and pastry bakers, millers, coopers, cabinetmakers, tilers and wine traders. As well as the right to a say on administrative matters, the guild used their monopoly position to determine the quality, quantity and price of raw materials, the price of beer, the way it was brewed, and how it was sold. 

(This is a great example of how a project can enliven and sustain a blog; if you want to start or restart a blog, coming up with an angle like this removes the biggest obstacle – the lack of ideas, the blank page.)

Dortmunder -- no.

At Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, Ron Pattinson highlights a curious nugget from European beer history:

Style Nazis… Actual real Nazis. Not just people I disagree with. Ones with swastika armbands and NSDAP membership cards… Because in the countries occupied by the Nazis, they really did start interfering with style names. They weren’t happy with German-derived names being used for Dutch beer. In particular, Dortmunder.

Finally, from Twitter…

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 11 September 2021: Takeovers and startups”

Do people really “go to the pub” all the time?

I laughed too, but on reflection this is quite a good question. Does the typical British pub drinker go to pubs more often than the typical American bar drinker? Is the British pub user more typical of the population than the American counterpart is of theirs?

I suspect the answers are less clear-cut than they used to be. I’d been watching Cheers for quite a long time before I realised that the clientele wasn’t meant to be a slice-of-life selection of the local characters, such as you might see in the Rovers’ or the Queen Vic; Norm, Cliff and even Frasier – initially at least – are propping up that bar because they’ve got nowhere else to go. But pub life’s changed a lot since I started going to them. With the denormalisation of daytime and weekday drinking, I wonder if the typical British pub regular looks less like Percy Sugden and more like Cliff Clavin.

Some people of course frequent bars here in the Cheers way, but as one fairly familiar with English pubs and their culture, up to Covid-19 anyway, I would say the ethos of pub attendance is very different in England (which I know best vs other parts of UK). The idea of patronizing a local and knowing the landlord or manager is not North American in the same way, partly because most bars here are also restaurants.

Of course it depends what part of the country, and what demographic, but that has been my general impression, based too on travelling frequently at one time in different parts of North America.

Of course this alone does not mean North Americans drink less than the Briton. One would need to look at per capita and other comparative data on consumption.

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