Here’s everything on beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, including notes on dirty water, funky yeast and an old man’s socks.
First, a nugget of news: Cain’s Brewery in Liverpool has reopened. It’s one of those brands for which people have a particular fondness but which has been taken over, shutdown, restarted, shutdown multiple times in recent decades. We always enjoyed the beers from its 00s incarnation and were sad when it folded in 2013. Beers under the Cain’s brand are now being brewed by the Mikhail Hotels & Leisure Group and are apparently pretty good.
Martyn Cornell asks a big question: is there anything in the idea that people in the middle ages drank more than water?
The usual argument for debunking the Great Medieval Water Myth is that water sources in the Middle Ages were, in fact, generally perfectly safe to drink, and numerous accounts from the time say so. But there’s far better evidence to prove that the idea of peasants only ever drinking ale is total nonsense: the irrefutable fact that England simply could not grow enough grain for that to be even remotely possible.
Because Jeff Alworth has been watching and thinking about the US beer scene for so long it’s always interesting to hear his perspective on long-term trends. In the wake of the takeover of Stone by Sapporo, he’s been thinking about the lifecycle of a typical American craft brewery:
Roughly speaking… successful breweries go through something like this: Honeymoon period… Cool phase… Established phase… Awkward phase. I don’t know a single elder brewery that hasn’t gone through an awkward phase, though they can look very different. Some breweries may suffer declining quality or a lack of the kind of invention that marked earlier stages. They may get awkward in the way dads do—using slang (or marketing pushes) that are cringey. Maybe they don’t even shift what they’re doing much, but their relevance slides and they don’t seem to have an answer. (This describes Stone.) It happens to super cool little breweries and big breweries alike. No brewery can age without hitting a wall eventually…. Death, sale, or revival. Breweries can weather the awkward phase, but it’s a dangerous point.
This maps pretty well to UK brewing, too, we think. Try running BrewDog, Cloudwater or Tiny Rebel through those steps and see how neatly they fit.
At Daft Eejit Brewing Andreas Krennmair digs into a small but important detail: when a historic brewing source mentions an ‘English kiln’, what does it mean?
English kilns are mentioned in the context of Anton Dreher (who personally witnessed British malting techniques), and the Burghers’ Brewery in Pilsen, nowadays better known as Pilsner Urquell, is also often mentioned as having used one since 1842… But what is usually not answered is: what actually was an English kiln? Any kiln designed or built in England, or rather a specific type, and where does the association with England come from anyway?… I was very surprised to find an 1785 book about fuel efficient stoves with a description of what is called an English malt kiln (“englische Malzdarre”), including technical drawings. Essentially, this English kiln used hot air to kiln the malt, and it generated this hot air by directing its hot smoke through a maze of pipes that would transmit the heat to the air, without the smoke ever touching the malt itself.
Duncan Mackay, AKA The Pubmeister, has been to Stornoway where he found plenty of local character as well as, perhaps surprisingly, evidence of broader trends:
The Criterion was a classic old-fashioned local. Surprisingly they had Brewdog Punk IPA on draught here but we were told this was coming out soon due to low sales. An old man with incredibly filthy clothes sat on the same table and growled at us before taking his shoes and socks off. Even the pub dog recoiled.
At Quare Swally Roy provides notes on three Northern Irish examples of beer fermented with Norwegian kveik yeast – one of those fascinating little signs of the times:
An inviting floral aroma wafts around my nostrils and while I believe that kveik yeast isn’t really supposed to taste of anything, this one’s a bit drier and funkier than the others. Belgiany. Farmhousey. Add lemon and grapefruit tartness into the mix and I’m surprised. For a brew hopped with Azacca and Citra, I wasn’t expecting something so different to the previous two beers…
Finally, from Twitter…
For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.