News, nuggets and longreads 14 May 2022: Orwellian

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from Gloucestershire to Gateshead.

First, following on last week’s news that Kelham Island is to close, Roger Protz has spoken to the current owner, Ed Wickett, son of the founder. His comments provide some insight into the pressures under which brewers find themselves at present:

“We’ve done our best to absorb increases as much as possible but we had to pass some of the price rises on to stay viable. But if you tell a publican who’s been taking your beer that the price of a cask that was £75 last month is now £85 they put the phone down on you.”

The Sally at Ham. SOURCE: Lily Waite/Pellicle.

For Pellicle Lily Waite has written about The Salutation Inn at Ham, Gloucestershire, which she argues is “a pub of dreams”:

It’s not necessarily that it’s some pitch-perfect, utopian amalgamation of pub-ly ideals—everything to everyone all of the time—and nor is it entirely without foibles, but it is wonderful… It is, though, Orwellian, in the sense of the famous essay, The Moon Under Water, on the perfect pub. Had George been compelled to write a rural sequel (after all, as he notes, “The qualities one expects of a country pub are slightly different”), the pub described may somewhat resemble The Salutation.

(We quite like this use of Orwellian to mean really nice rather than totalitarian dystopia.)

Mild cask

Phil has been crawling round Manchester in search of mild, as he reports at Oh Good Ale:

Mild Magic – CAMRA’s annual campaign to promote mild around Manchester – is back for 2022; slightly to my surprise, I’m even taking part myself. (“Look how the figures are falling at the moment” did battle with “Look at all the people who’ve been posting pictures of their positive tests”; it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but optimism eventually won… The main difference with previous years, as far as I’m concerned, is that I’ve decided to have a pint where possible. The weekday afternoon trade tends to be slack, for obvious reasons, and in previous years’ MMs I’ve sat in quite a few pubs and bars that were otherwise completely empty. If I was going to be the only customer a bar had in half an hour, I didn’t want to seem like a cheapskate into the bargain – especially post-pandemic. Also, it’s mild – a good mild should be pintable, even to the point of being a “disappearing beer“.

SOURCE: Microbus/Instagram.

At Craft Beer Newcastle Robin Cowlyn makes the case enthusiastically for Gateshead as a beer destination:

And on to Microbus. Boy, what a surprise! I expected the cool stylings, the VW Camper bar front and places to sit, but what wasn’t expected was the quality and depth of the serving… On offer was a remarkable variety of beer styles from small breweries both local and from across the country, served on point. The beer’s condition is so good that those who don’t prefer sparklers will not be disappointed… The space itself is light and airy for what is a simple railway arch, with the occasional rumble of trains to be heard… No matter how good the environment is, it’s the beer that ensures you will return, and it was excellent. Bright, sparkling, full of flavour… There is a real feeling of being welcomed into this bright sunlight space and there is also Harriet the pub dog (always a good sign, in my opinion).

Robin also has a Substack with the unedited notes from which the above post derived, if you want more of the same.

A brewery.

For Ferment, the promo mag for a beer subscription service, Matt Curtis has provided a sober reflection on the state of UK brewing in 2022:

Part of me wanted to sugar coat this, and tell you it’s not going to be so bad, but I’m afraid that would be dishonest. Breweries and bars you love are going to downsize, or close down, and there is very little we can do to stop this rot… But due to the size of the US beer industry, I’ve learned that what is happening there is an early indicator of what will happen to the global beer community. In previous writing for Ferment I’ve talked about the supply chain, and due to its size the US is often at the start of this, in particular for products such as hops, and aluminium cans, to name a couple of examples.

A jumble of pubs.

For the same publication Anthony Gladman has been reflecting on the magic of the pub crawl:

A pub crawl turns any evening out into an occasion. There’s an idea in films and books called the MacGuffin. Put simply, it’s an excuse that allows the rest of the story to unfold around it, like Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Pub crawls have been used as MacGuffins by film makers (Edgar Wright, The World’s End) and authors (Muriel Spark, The Ballad of Peckham Rye), but they also fulfil this role fiendishly well in real life. There’s no real reason to traipse from one pub to another except that doing so elevates your night out into a story.

Finally, from Twitter…

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