News, nuggets and longreads 26 February 2022: Beastly nostalgia

Here’s all the most interesting and informative writing about beer from the past week, including pieces for and against nostalgia.

First, some interesting insight into the planning processes behind pub closures from The Bristol Post. Apparently, when a developer tells the council that a pub isn’t viable, they don’t do anything to verify those claims. This would certainly explain the general local confusion over the suggestion that The Rhubarb couldn’t possibly make any money.

Illustration: a pub door spilling light.

At Pellicle Stephanie Shuttleworth has written about Oldham in Greater Manchester and what your hometown pubs mean to you:

Loss is a part of the human condition, but pubs aren’t human. Too often we have lost public drinking places to changes in licensing law, austerity and gentrification. Yet through the sharing of our history, those pubs don’t have to be lost forever. At least not entirely… Memories of best bitter, long since finished, become our own and take on a significance that the original drinker couldn’t possibly understand. For example, I have a memory of an event that occurred around 50 years before I was born.

The Blue Boy pub, Lockleaze, face on, in 2017.
The Blue Boy at Lockleaze in Bristol in 2017.

Architectural historian Matt Bliss is interested in pubs, especially the late 20th century incarnation, and with that in mind has some thoughts about CAMRA:

CAMRA’s architectural project, along with that of the ‘pub’ itself, is a profoundly nostalgist one. It, like the branding of most British beers (you don’t find this with, for instance, East Asian beers), is reliant on notions of the Good Old Days… Post-war pubs have not been so lucky to escape demolition or receive approval from CAMRA; so-called ‘flat-roof’ pubs were referred to by Historic England in 2015 as a “severely threatened building type”. The snobbish hierarchies of use and design that have poisoned so many efforts at preserving twentieth century architecture are again present in pubs; modernist pubs, by not being fortunate enough to stock ‘real ale’, or moreover not looking like they would, are consigned to the scrapheap by one of the only organisations with the clout to save them.

If you’ve read our 20th Century Pub and/or Brew Britannia you’ll know that this is exactly the kind of stuff we find most interesting and we’re grateful to @planning4pubs for flagging it.

A half-seen face.

Vienna Lager expert Andreas Krennmair may literally have written the book on the subject but that doesn’t mean his research has stopped. This week he wrote about Meindl, the fourth man on the famous trip Anton Dreher and Gabriel Sedlmayr made to Britain in 1833:

Searching for beer brewers named Meindl from Braunau first got me to a list of members of the “association for the support and promotion of industry and commerce in Inner and Upper Austria”, listing a “Meindl Georg”, a “civil beer brewer” from Braunau. So we now have a first name, Georg, that should help us quite a bit more… My first findings when searching for that name weren’t particularly cheerful, though: Georg Meindl, brewer from Braunau, was put under legal guardianship in July 1840 because of his “proven stupidity”.

A vintage map of Belgium (detail)

Looking into the rise of Belgian pils Eoghan Walsh tells us something about general trends in European beer in the 20th century:

Brewers were happy to brew these beers at scale, and Belgians were happy to drink them. As breweries expanded and streamlined production, and beer became increasingly commodified, industrial Pils brewing became Brussels’ dominant business model. And, for a while, it was a successful formula. In the ‘60s and ’70s Wielemans was regularly producing 500,000 hectolitres of beer annually. Vandenheuvel could fill 42,000 bottles an hour. And Léopold went on a minor buying spree, hoovering up smaller breweries in Overijse and Bruges. In 1969, at the peak of pils mania, the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the central Brussels Danish Tavern – serving Tuborg and Carlsberg – was attended by King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium, and Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark.

Cubes of cheese in a Belgian pub

For VinePair Evan Rail has summed up part of the experience of the past couple of years for many of us: attempting to recreate the experience of eating and drinking abroad at our own kitchen tables. This was certainly a habit we got into:

Other traditional beer snacks are much less complicated to make — and yet often just as effective in terms of alleviating feelings of beer-based wanderlust. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, beer lover Brendan Green has been enjoying lockdown ales paired with cheese and celery salt, a common combination in many beer cafés in Belgium… “My wife and I visited Brugge three years ago, so when I started using celery salt at home, she had a real Proustian moment, and the habit formed,” he says. He usually selects a mild, semi-hard cheese like Emmental, Jarlsberg, or the traditional Gouda, and cuts them into bite-sized cubes served with cocktail toothpicks, just as it’s done throughout Flanders and Wallonia.

Finally, from Twitter…

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 26 February 2022: Beastly nostalgia”

Matt Bliss is wrong to say “by not being fortunate enough to stock ‘real ale’” as CAMRA’s National Inventory very much does include pubs that don’t serve real ale, and of course that is something that can change overnight anyway. But it is only human nature to get more exercised over saving things they actually like. They have also made efforts in recent years to include untouched post-war interiors.

And isn’t all architectural preservation in a sense nostalgic?

On the subject of beer snacks, try addictive cabbage. A very easy to make Japanese snack that does exactly what it says on the tin. Oh, and both Karen and I are with Brendan on the subject of celery salt!

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