News, nuggets and longreads 30 April 2022: All about beer

Every Saturday we round-up the most enlightening and interesting writing about beer and pubs from blogs and beyond. This week we’ve got notes on punks, nudes and ‘Spoons.

First, news of brewery closures and brewery struggles. It seems that Manchester might be a place to watch for signs of a post-COVID wobble in the market. This week, it was announced that Beatnikz Republic has ceased trading:

We tried our best to make it through COVID, but the negative impact over the last two years has proven too much. From the initial shock, to constantly starting/stopping production due to the various lockdowns, to lower sales this year, the financial implications have been disastrous. Our ability to export in volume had also reduced due to increased transport costs; and now with increased utility, ingredient and packaging costs, it’s simply not possible to continue.

…and we’re still trying to work out what’s happening at Cloudwater which would seem to have quietly made at least some redundancies in the past month or so. (Nothing has been formally announced.)

Llandudno station. SOURCE: Matt Curtis/Pellicle.

For Pellicle Adrian Tierney-Jones has profiled Wild Horse Brewing of North Wales, arriving at the brewery by way of Memory Lane:

“What’s your local ale, Punk?”

“Er… Wrexham Lager?”

Genial laughter rippled around the table, followed by the interrogators ooh-ing and aah-ing over their pints of Theakston’s Old Peculier. I held onto my Holsten Pils. I was in the Lake District with my college’s mountaineering club, and we were in a pub that seemed to have been cut out of rock. I was 19. Some of the older lads, mainly from Yorkshire, were into cask beer and one always had a Good Beer Guide for our various weekend trips. Hence the good-natured question. My nickname wasn’t a big mystery, by the way, I was a punk.

An advert for Solan beer.
An advertisement for Solan beer from Victory: the weekly for India Command, September 1945.

At Beer et seq. Gary Gillman has written about a fascinating historical nugget: the construction of a mock Tudor English pub at Avadi, near Madras, in India, in 1945 – just as British rule in India was coming to an end:

“At dusk, lights gleam through the windows, and a notice over the door reads that the pub is kept by T. H. Loseby, who is licensed to sell beer, spirits and tobacco “to be consumed on the premises”… A homely atmosphere permeates the place—homely talk, laughter, tobacco smoke, and the smell of beer. By the side of the old-fashioned fireplaces, oaken settles are set into the walls. Chairs and tables are tastefully set out on the clean flagged floor. There is a special nook in one room set aside for dart players.”

The carpet at the Imperial, Exeter.

Every six to nine months, certain topics in beer must be gone over again – that’s the rule. BrewDog used to be one, although maybe that tradition is diminishing. Sparklers is another. CAMRA, of course – good or bad? And, of course, Wetherspoon pubs. This time, it was the turn of Tandleman to trigger a discussion about the superpub chain, which ranged across Twitter and his own comment section:

I suppose that the argument that brewers are devaluing their own product is some kind of abstract, perfect world thought, as the evidence, rather is that many breweries – most breweries – are not so indignant about the issue that they won’t sell. The inconvenient truth is that they are all scrabbling for outlets and the real reason for their supplying JDW, is that if they don’t, someone else will.  There are a lot of brewers out there with beer to sell. Likely there are more brewers than we really need to supply the market, but nobody likes to admit it. Oh, and JDW pay the agreed price promptly.  You make beer – you have to sell it. Not much outrage there.

A sea of wooden casks.

At British Beer Breaks Phil Mellows provides notes on Britain’s newest qualified cooper, Euan Findlay:

In a ceremony that goes back to the 14th Century, when barrel-making, you might imagine, was a vital part of the economy [he] celebrated the completion of his five-year apprenticeship by being rolled around the yard by fellow coopers in a specially-made 56-gallon Hogshead… Theakston, family-owned since Simon Theakston bought back the firm from Scottish & Newcastle a decade ago, is one of only two breweries with its own cooperage, the other being Sam Smith’s in Tadcaster.

An engraving of people in front of a painting at a gallery.
Chloé on display at the National Gallery of Victoria, 1883, via Wikimedia Commons.

At The Conversation Katrina Kell tells the story of ‘Chloé’, an 1874 painting by French artists Jules Joseph Lefebvre, which hangs in a Melbourne pub and is an important symbol of Australian culture:

Henry Figsby Young bought Chloé for £800 and hung the famous nude in the saloon bar of Young and Jackson Hotel, opposite Flinders Street Station in Melbourne… Enjoying a drink with Chloé at the hotel has been a good luck ritual for Australian soldiers since the first world war… The ritual of having a drink with Chloé… began after Private A. P. Hill, who was killed in action, put a message in a bottle and tossed it overboard… When the bottle was found in New Zealand in January 1918, his message read: “To the finder of this bottle. Take it to Young and Jackson’s, fill it, and keep it till we return from the war.”

Finally, from Twitter, news of the return of an important beer publication:

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