News, nuggets and longreads 27 November 2021: Mega-City One

Here’s all the writing about brewing, beer and pubs that intrigued or informed us in the last week of November, from architectural faux pas to supermarket draught.

There’s a planning row brewing in Manchester. This time, it’s not that developers want to demolish a historic pub but, rather, change its context. The Briton’s Protection is a cult favourite. As Jim Cullen reports at Beers Manchester, however, plans to build an enormous tower block right next to the 19th century pub could lessen its appeal:

Quote “We have been working with our leading Manchester-based team to design a scheme which will complement the neighbouring buildings – including the much-loved Briton’s Protection ……” I nearly choked on my beer! And the next absolute zinger? “Throughout the design process we’ve been focussed on designing an ambitious yet complementary scheme…..” Now I don’t know about you, but “complementary”? DOES THAT LOOK COMPLEMENTARY??? IT’S A PUB SANDWICH!!!

Tricky one, this. Cities do grow and develop and pubs surviving at all can feel like a miracle. And we think of The Albert on Victoria Street in London. That’s become a tourist attraction in its own right precisely because it is an ornate Victorian jewel surrounded by towering glass and concrete.

Keg taps.

Staying in Manchester, Ross from the Beernomicon podcast talks about his changing relationship to both taprooms and “old, reliable” pubs:

Over the past years, as I’ve gone through my own craft beer journey (as arsey as that sounds) I’ve wanted the craftiest of craft places. Exposed brickwork, big bronze piping leading to bold lightbulbs, concrete bars, fucking endless uncomfortable chairs, picnic tables, 10-20-30 beers on tap, countless Phoebe Bridgers songs playing out; I wanted that. And god forbid there would be a taproom in an industrial estate, damn, now you’re talking. Get on Uber and lets go sit in a drafty brewery with one toilet. Heaven… Going to new taprooms in new cities you felt like you had discovered a secret society.

Cask ale

To make it viable, cask ale needs to cost more, say some. Like hell does it, says Tandleman, in a brief but punchy post:

Yes, folks, a perishable product, often kept badly and served in appalling condition, should cost more, to save it. Such logic would make a cat laugh. For the umpteenth time, what you need to do with cask beer is keep it well and turn lots of it over. This increases quality and confidence, which then means more sales. A virtuous circle. Maybe when everyone does that, then we can talk about price. Until this happens, then charging more to make it better, just isn’t on.

And here’s a chaser from the frontline:

A brewery.

For Culture Matters Keith Flett has been thinking about how, in practice, people can go about drinking beer ethically. Never a knee-jerker, he understands the complexity of this conversation:

Modern beer has built an image of itself as progressive, against discrimination and for equality. The reality is often very different… Craft beer, as a visit to any bar, taproom or event will underline, is predominantly about middle-aged, middle-class, white blokes. This is not surprising as the beer is usually far from the cheapest around, and so attracts those with disposable incomes and ample leisure time. Whereas those who actually work in the largely non-unionised and not well-paid bars that sell modern beer, or the breweries that produce it, are often not from that demographic.

The Tavern on the Hill
SOURCE: Stephen Jackson.

The very idea of a Blackhorse Beer Mile seems mad to us – and especially to Jess, who grew up in Walthamstow when Blackhorse Road really wasn’t the kind of place to have a ‘scene’. We did notice a while ago that something was going on in E17 but Stephen Jackson’s write-up of the crawl tells us things have come a long way since then:

A short bus ride from the tube station dropped me a brief walk from the first stop of the day, Tavern On The Hill. Previously a pub known as the Warrant Officer it has been taken over by Wild Card Brewery and now offers a range of their beers, both cask and keg, in a back street pub. Now I won’t say that I’m overly keen but they had to unlock the doors for me, the first customer of the day. It was a pleasant surprise to find that Wild Card had a cask offering and it would have been rude not to try it and as Best Bitters go it was pretty good, and in excellent condition. This is a classic old style pub and it is good to see breweries taking on places like this alongside their brewery taprooms.

Tiger Beer
SOURCE: Chris Taljaard on Unsplash.

Every now and then we like to dip into the marketing trade press to see what people who sell and advertise beer are thinking. This week, we enjoyed an interview with Sean O’Donnell, global brand director for Tiger Beer, by Amit Bapna of The Drum:

Asia is a huge continent, which makes marketing beer here super interesting. On-premise consumption (bars, restaurants, hawker centres) in many Asian countries is significantly greater than in many Western markets. The experience that beer brands can create in these venues can be very creative… Secondly, the biggest beer occasion in Asia is with food, again quite different to many Western markets. When you think of many Asian foods you think of spicy and hot, so beer’s role and taste profile is different. In general, Asian beer brands are less bitter and more refreshing than beers in the West, hence craft beer in Asia is only very small in scale.

We suspect people who know more about craft beer in Asia than us will have something to say about that.

Finally, from Twitter, a sign that recently announced changes to draught beer duty might be prompting changes in the market:

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

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