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News, nuggets and longreads 5 February 2022: The Growlery

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from questionnaires to dating apps.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has launched a survey asking for input from members and non-members alike on inclusivity, diversity and equality: “This survey is designed to collect feedback on… How we run our beer festivals… How we recruit members and volunteers 

How we organise and run our meetings and events at branch, regional and national level…”

Unfortunately, as tends to happen when large membership organisations try to do the right thing in public, it’s ended up becoming one of those culture war issues, as summarised by Pete Brown:

The comments below the articles about CAMRA’s latest outrage in this week’s national dailies are damning… Well, it seems they have been “overrun” by “woke communists”… In doing so, the supposedly real-ale-supporting organisation has revealed that, far from wanting to preserve one of our greatest cultural assets, its secret agenda is to destroy Britain itself… Obviously, CAMRA is not powerful enough to do this on its own. It’s obviously become part of a global conspiracy.

At Casket Beer Kevin Kain tells the story of the evolution of the growler (take away beer container) and its part in his own family story:

Evelyn and Howard Smith welcomed twin girls, Lorraine and Roberta, into the world on November 14, 1949, at Mount Vernon Hospital in Mount Vernon, New York. One day later, Ruth Kain gave birth to her son, Michael, four years to the day after the birth of her first son… Over subsequent years, the Smith family would recall how Ruth requested and received beer shortly after giving birth. It was brought to her in a takeout container from a nearby bar. Some might say it was too soon for a drink, but certainly any new mother is entitled to a cold one… While the story is cute, what most grabbed my attention was the takeout container.

A bottle of Bellevue Gueuze
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

Eoghan Walsh has reached number 28 in his series on the history of Brussels beer: a bottle of pasteurised gueuze. As always in these pieces, he evokes a strong sense of place and carries us through time:

Lambic, because of its archaic production methods, is more vulnerable than most beers to environmental fluctuations. Hot summers can spoil Lambic as it ferments in wooden barrels, by encouraging the propagation of unwanted microbes and unwanted flavours. And once this Lambic has been blended and bottles as a Gueuze, hot summers can cause these bottles to spontaneously pop their corks and even explode… Which is exactly what happened in the summer of 1949. The temperature reached 36℃ in parts of Belgium, and in Brussels three million bottles exploded in the cellars and storerooms of the city’s Lambic breweries. There was one brewery that escaped the heatwave largely unscathed. And Brasserie Belle-Vue managed this because their Gueuze was not like the others.

SOURCE: Matthew Curtis/Pellicle.

For Pellicle Martin Flynn has profiled Katie Marriott, the founder and owner of Nomadic Brewing in Leeds:

In 2015 Katie was studying for a chemistry postdoctorate at the University of Glasgow, having previously achieved her PhD in the impressive-sounding “origins of life”… Originally from Northampton, Katie formerly sat on the committee of Leeds University’s Real Ale Society and has been a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) for many years. Although, in terms of production experience, she’d never attempted so much as a homebrew. This, alongside the years spent on her postdoctoral qualification, mean Katie’s decision to return to Leeds and work as a brewery assistant could have been described as a sizeable gamble. But by late 2016, she was a brewery owner.

A pub window with frosted glass.

For the Financial Times Mia Levitin has written about a new (old) challenge to the dominance of dating apps – the pub:

Thursday’s pitch is old-school: “Just a bar. Like any other bar,” reads one invite to a drinks party in Notting Hill. What’s remarkable about its popularity (the app had nearly 86,000 downloads last month) is that the bars had been there all along; all that singles were missing was the courage to converse… After beginning to date in London, it didn’t take long to clock that the English require large quantities of alcohol to make a move. In our continued quest for a friction-free existence, dating apps evolved in part to mitigate the risk of rejection: Tinder’s paradigm-shifting feature was the “double opt-in”, which only allows users to message once both parties have indicated their interest by swiping right… But while technologies emerge to solve a problem (ie finding people to date), they invariably create new ones in turn (having to get off the couch to meet them)… 

(It wasn’t paywalled when we checked but you might want to try approaching via a private browser window, or through Google News.)

A sign reading Prague, Praga, Prag.

It’s never been easier to view historic newspapers online and it’s a great way to learn about the history of beer and brewing in your neighbourhood. At Fuggled, Al Reece has been exploring Prague, where he used to live, via the Austrian National Library:

I discovered that on the same street as my last apartment in Prague was a malting company… Leopold Schmied was a malt manufacturer at an address that is today the address of the Autoklub České Republiký. It is fun to think that less than a five minute walk from where I lived, malt was being made. A dark malt for Munich beer, a Bavarian style black malt to be used with the dark Patentmalz for Bock. The pale Patentmalz made for full bodied beers with good foam retention apparently, and there was roast malt for brown beer, porter, and so on and so forth. Hmm…malt being sold specifically for porter brewing in late 19th century Bohemia? There’s a whole world of intrigue right there…

Finally, from Twitter… who knew about the book Ronnie Corbett ‘wrote’ on pubs? (We’ve got our own copy now.)

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