News, nuggets and longreads 2 October 2021: Kent, kruks, krisps

Here’s all the most interesting writing around brewing, beer and boozers from the past week, from the hops to hospitality.

It’s been a while since we had a Portman Group packaging kerfuffle but Tiny Rebel has found itself being told off once again:

Tiny Rebel Brewing was found to have breached rules including appealing to underage drinkers, sexual references and causing offence… The Newport brewery also fell foul of the Portman Group’s rules on marketing drinks as clearly alcoholic… Tiny Rebel has withdrawn four beers from sale and said it was working closely with the regulator… The Portman Group said it received complaints from the Metropolitan Police, Alcohol Focus Scotland and a member of the public, leading it to review eight beers.

When you’ve built a brand around bright colours, graffiti and comic book art, we suppose there is constant tightrope walking to be done. But there might also be something in this observation on the market the brewery is targeting:

A barperson at work.
SOURCE: Rowan Heuvel/Unsplash.

For Good Beer Hunting Helen Anne Smith, who works in hospitality as well as editing Burum Collective, has written about the treatment of staff in the industry:

Earlier this year via Twitter, I conducted an informal survey on Typeform for those employed in the hospitality industry in the U.K. Across 100 responses from people working in food and drink in England, Scotland, and Wales, only 40% of workers reported that they felt they were fairly paid for their work. Just 33% of workers were paid above Real Living Wage, with 32% of workers paid the Real Living Wage and 35% of workers on or below the government’s ‘living wage’… Those responses may represent a fraction of the country’s hospitality workers, but these hostile conditions have long been considered an industry norm.

There’s lots to think about as we go out and about to pubs and bars this weekend.

Vintage illustration of hops.

The English hop-growing industry is changing, says Will Hawkes in a piece for Pellicle which paints a picture of the relationship between hop growers and brewers in the hop fields of Kent:

The past is ever-present here. Close to the gardens are the corrugated-iron remnants of a row of hopper’s huts, where, Anna says, around 300 residents of Silvertown in East London used to stay every year during harvest. Cockney ashes have been scattered nearby… Crucially, the hop gardens sit on rich, fertile Brickearth soil, windblown loam and silt, deposited during the Ice Age. The Thames Estuary is just three miles away, and the hops, which grow on a gentle east-facing slope, are frequently buffeted by wind. This proximity to the sea is part of what makes East Kent Goldings what they are, although [hop grower] John [Clinch] regards it as a mixed blessing. “They can end up a bit bashed and brown,” he says. “The German hops are always pristine! They must get no wind there.”

Pub snacks

Trying to recreate the feeling of the pub during lockdown last year we realised how important pub snacks were. Tearing open packets to share, salt and flavourings on your fingertips, the way they change (and usually improve) the taste of the beer… Now, for the Guardian, Tony Naylor has written about how pub snacks have changed, from ready salted crisps to wasabi peas:

In the past seven years, the snack menu at Sheffield micropub the Beer House has been on quite a journey. If you like a bag of peanuts with your pint, it’s one you’ll recognise… Owner John Harrison’s original snack range was simple: pickled onion Monster Munch, KP nuts and Walkers crisps. Today, salted almonds are his biggest seller and his selection includes Snyder’s jalapeño pretzel pieces, pork pies, olives and sausage rolls, the latter sourced from fellow independent businesses in Sharrow Vale. “It’s rare to see people eating crisps now,” says Harrison… In a recent analysis of 1.5m orders, the app ServedUp found that hand-cooked and healthier baked crisps, olives and cashews are enjoying soaring sales in pubs, as pickled onions and salt-and-vinegar crisps decline.

An old map of Brussels.

At Brussels Beer City, Eoghan Walsh continues to explore the history of the city’s beer through artifacts and objects. This week, he told us about the Bierkruk:

Even before French troops entered the city in 1795, Brussels’ political power was at a low ebb, its apogee as the imperial capital of Charles V’s globe-spanning empire long past… Brussels remained beholden to the demands of its sclerotic artisan guilds, constantly fighting the attempts by Austrian governors to introduce modernising economic reforms… Lace and porcelain makers continued to ply their wares with the favour of the court… Turn of the century beer drinkers in the Heideken or any other of the city’s many taverns and cabarets would have been intimately familiar with the output of the latter. Just like Charles himself, who gave pride of place to his four-handled beer mug, the earthenware tankard was the drinking vessel of choice for the Bruxellois. Brussels’ faïence factories concentrated on the production of utilitarian ceramics for an emerging bourgeois clientèle.

Augustiner beer hall sign.

We’ve been yearning for Munich lately and so were delighted to come across Franz D. Hofer’s latest post on Augustiner, its history and its place in the city’s drinking scene:

The Augustiner Bräustuben is both a beerhall exuding Gemütlichkeit and current location of the Augustiner-Bräu brewery. It’s a classic beer hall with character to spare, more down-home than other beerhalls in the city. And no wonder it has a rustic feel. This lively and sometimes raucous drinking establishment occupies what was once the brewery’s stable for its dray horses. Transformed from barn to beerhall in the mid-1990s, the green cast-iron columns and orange-brick vaulted ceilings of the building recall both the shape of the stable and the industrial architecture of the nineteenth century. Post-equine touches such as the gleaming copper kettle repurposed as a bar leaves no doubt about what you should order once you find a seat. The Lagerbier Hell here is served from a wooden cask, which makes the place popular with beer aficionados.

Murphy's Irish Red sign.

Liam at BeerFoodTravel has completed his three-part epic on the history of Irish red ale, reaching a neat conclusion:

I am happy to reiterate that there is no link between the three Irish Red Ale eras, although a red coloured ale of sorts probably existed in all of these times… I am also happy to repeat what many knew already, which is that Irish Red Ales (in capital letters like that) as a moniker for a group of similar-ish beers is a very new term… But I am most happy to report that the same group of beers brewed by some of the many microbreweries on the planet are one of my favourite styles, so let us not fixate too much on the subject of labels and just drink and brew more red ales, although I fear it is too late to stem the arguments – and also that I might just have made things worse…

Finally, from Twitter…

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