This week’s round-up of good writing about beer and pubs is brought to you from a hotel room in Birmingham and includes tomato beer, solo drinking and Mr Blobby.
First, though, a recommendation: if you haven’t explored the BBC’s new Rewind archive website yet, get stuck in. There are thousands of clips of local news and documentary programmes including many which touch on beer and pubs. It’s currently only available in the UK.
At Burum Collective Rashmi Narayan provides an overview of the craft beer scene in Bangalore in southern India which, she tells us, “is often referred to as the country’s beer capital”:
Back in the 1980’s Bangalore’s eminent pubs such as Guzzlers and Pecos were like trendy tourist attractions, where on weekends many would drive from neighbouring cities such as Mysore, Mangalore and Chennai merely to go pub-hopping. The most characteristic of them all was Dewar’s, which was a regular haunt for British soldiers in the 1940’s and survived decades in its dilapidated condition before closing its doors in 2013. There was no music played, frail wicker chairs were scattered about on its red oxide floors and photos of gods and goddesses adorned its walls.
For Good Beer Hunting Jerard Fagerberg is tackling a big, uncomfortable topic: alcohol addiction, soberness and the challenges of making beer your hobby, or your living. In this first post in what is set to be a series he talks to a former beer writer who gave up writing about beer, and has had ups and downs in his attempts to give up beer:
When you’re a beer writer, alcohol is almost a secondary intoxicant. There’s also the access. As [Norman] Miller says, the service. Each sip of beer is a duty to an audience. That’s why Miller’s wherewithal inspires me. Discontinuing his column meant that Miller had to sacrifice a piece of his identity. This was a man who was stopped in the streets and addressed as “Beer Nut.” People bought T-shirts with his face on them. Wormtown Brewery named a Chocolate Coconut Stout after him… When my dad quit drinking, he immediately threw himself into another obsession: coffee. Most alcoholics get caught in these replacement cycles. For Miller, he’s taken on a hobby of collecting spices. He drinks seltzers (mostly Polar) with the same omnivorous curiosity that drove him to beer 16 years ago. He’s reading horror novels at a rate that wouldn’t be possible with nights spent bellied up at the newest taproom.
The Beer Nut has been doing his bit for the war effort by drinking Ukrainian beer, providing the usual entertaining tasting notes as he goes:
First is Rebrew, who have a tomato gose called Pomo d’Oro. From the artwork on the can it looks like there’s chilli in this one too. I mean, how could I not? It looks like a tomato cocktail in the glass, pale and murky brownish-red, but with a lively sparkle too. The aroma is very herbal, like a heavily basiled pizza sauce. A glance at the ingredients tells me there is indeed basil, as well as rosemary, coriander and paprika. Still, the savoury tomato is at the centre of the flavour, with the pepper and herbs seasoning it around the edges. It’s not sour, however, and even shows a touch of lemonade sweetness. You don’t need me to tell you this isn’t a beer to be taken seriously.
In her Substack newsletter Hugging the Bar this week Courtney Iseman reflects on the specific things bars and taprooms can do to make solo drinkers, and especially solo women, feel comfortable and welcome. Built around observations from time spent on holiday in New Orleans, its conclusions are remarkable practical:
I felt better [at Port Orleans] because the layout there was pretty lovely… with cozy touches and featured lots of pockets and corners to take refuge in. There was bar seating at NOLA Brewing, so I felt quite at ease. I also felt super comfortable at Brieux Carré, where one of the beertenders spotted me exiting my Uber and waved… My time exploring the city in general was good proof that tone goes a long way, and even a brewery without the space or resources to make a perfect taproom space can make up some of that by intentionally welcoming guests… And my time exploring breweries was good proof that the simplest design decisions go a long way, like smaller table options and/or bar seating if it’s possible.
We enjoyed Shonette Laffy’s guide to country pubs near Bristol and will be doing our best to visit as many as possible, assuming we can get to them on public transport or on foot. The Druid Arms at Stanton Drew sounds especially exciting:
Thought a viaduct in a pub garden was impressive? How about a series of stone circles dating from 2500 BC? The Druids Arms can probably boast the most historic pub garden features in the country, if not the world. The pub itself has a cosy fireplace to warm yourself in winter, or the aforementioned garden to enjoy in summer.
Finally, from Twitter…
For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.