News, nuggets and longreads 6 November 2021: The rules of the game

Here’s all the writing about brewing and boozing that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from rural Kent to urban villages.

After a year defined by stories of bullying, harassment and poor behaviour by brewery management, many have been left asking: “So, what next?” Well, the formation of a dedicated union for brewery workers would seem to be a pretty big step. How breweries respond to this will in itself be an interesting test of their values. The Brewery Workers’ Union is on Twitter as @BreweryUnion.

Vintage illustration: a man playing cricket.

At Pellicle, David Jesudason has written a piece about race, sport and pubs that proved to be particularly and unfortunately topical this week:

The White Rock… is a beautiful country pub that has a cosy wood-beamed lounge and a huge beer garden. I say beer garden, it’s more of a playing field. And in this huge green expanse (Kent’s real nickname should be the “beer garden of England”) I saw two poles and a strange wooden box… I discovered that the box was the ‘trap’ and I demanded to see the ‘bat’, which looked like an antique table tennis paddle. Just looking at it caused the pub regulars to stare, and the sudden urge to impress them overwhelmed me. It was time to pick the wooden bat up to which my teammates agreed and, of course, we decided to play for beers.

SOURCE: Brussels Beer City/Eoghan Walsh.

Eoghan Walsh continues his exploration of A History of Brussels Beer in 50 Objects with the story of the Zagemanneke, which sounds extremely useful:

There’s always one. The droning know it all. The bloviating self-promoter. The mean drunk wheedling their way from conversation to conflict. The pub loudmouth is a familiar archetype, but the owners of Brussels’ 19th century drinking establishments knew how to handle them… They would stand a marionette with a narrow stand – wooden or metal, with a red nose and workman’s attire – on the bar’s edge. A curved saw or metal sheet protruded from the marionette, arcing below the countertop and weighted at the end. Confronted with a whining drinker, or sensing an impending conflagration between customers, the barman would tap the head of the marionette. It would commence see-sawing, indicating to the querulous drinkers that their behaviour was repetitive, tiresome and unwanted.

SOURCE: Mine’s a Pint/Reading and Mid-Berks CAMRA.

For Mine’s a Pint, the magazine of Reading and Mid-Berkshire CAMRA, Zoë Andrews has written about a crawl around the pubs of The Village:

People talk about a particular area of Reading, just off Watlington Street, as ‘The Village’… The Eldon Road Conservation Area does feel like a village, perhaps more so than ever due to the past 18 months. The area has pulled together, helping one another out, sharing resources and generally keeping each other’s spirits up… We’re incredibly lucky to have three pubs within this small area, but all of them have changed hands or risked closure in the last few years – like anything else, you have to use them or risk losing them. We are very fortunate, for instance, that locals stepped in to save The Retreat just before the pandemic and that it retains all of its character after a beautiful renovation… This said, the village has lost many pubs over the years.

Neon sign: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co

At Appellation Beer Stan Hieronymus remembers the great barley wine mania of the mid-1990s:

Because priority No. 1 was always to fulfill demand for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, in 1995 the brewery decided to produce only 35 percent of the Celebration they’d need to “satisfy everybody,” and did not ship it east of the Rockies… Fans took extreme measures to get some. Ken Fichera, a Brooklyn accountant, used his frequent flyer miles to fly from JFK International Airport to San Francisco and back in the same day to pick up four cases of Celebration. (You remember when we all could just wander onto a plane with a case of beer and put it in the overhead bin, right?)

King Narmer of Egypt.

In a rather ambitious move, Ferment, the promo mag for a beer subscription service, has dedicated its most recent issue to A Brief History of Beer. The article that stood out to us, because it’s so far from our beat and, frankly, hard for us to get our heads round, is Jo Caird piece on early Egyptian beer:

When Dr Matthew Adams lectures on the Ancient Egyptian brewery he and his team discovered in the sacred city of Abydos earlier this year, he likes to show pictures of crowded sports stadiums… While previously discovered Egyptian breweries might have been able to produce up to 1,000 litres of beer in a single batch, the Abydos brewery could have turned out 22,000 litres, enough to give a pint to almost every ticket-holder at a sold-out match at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge (capacity 40,834)… “Even in modern terms,” says Matthew, a senior research fellow at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and co-director of the North Abydos Archaeological project, “this is basically industrial scale production.”

Finally, from Twitter, an excellent Christmas gift idea:

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

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