We’re meant to be on our way to Germany about now but, guess what? Our second bout of COVID-19. But that means you get a round-up this week, like every other Saturday. This week, we’ve got brown ale, Bradford pubs and bad pints.
First, some news from Northern Ireland. A couple of years ago we had a tiny glimpse into its complicated, restrictive licensing laws as we got updates on the attempts of a former regular at The Drapers to open a micropub in his hometown. Now, the BBC reports that recently introduced rules on on-site sales (for taprooms, essentially) are so restrictive they aren’t working:
Bullhouse Brew Co opened its new permanent taproom in east Belfast in June, with Boundary Brewing due to follow by September… But both companies opted to go through the lengthy process of obtaining a traditional pub licence.
“The local producers licence is very restrictive,” said William Mayne from Bullhouse Brew Co… You are only allowed to open them twice a week basically – 104 times a year – but only from 16:00 to 22:00 and you can only sell your own products… People come in looking for other products – guest beers – or we do collaborations with breweries in England and we want to bring their beers over and we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Articles that tell the story of specific significant beers are right up our alley. For Pellicle Emmie Harrison-West has written about Newcastle Brown Ale, a huge global brand with a complicated history:
To locals it’s known as “Broon” or “ah bottle ah dog” (pronounced “derg”) – lovingly named after the saying “I’m off to walk the dog,” which naturally meant “I’m off to the boozer,” instead. To everyone else in the UK who felt a fool for attempting to imitate the Geordie dialect (trust me, you can’t) it was a bottle of “Newkie”… The pub I was in was my dad’s favourite—Newcastle’s former Union Rooms, in a renovated French chateau-style building. The listed building dates back to 1877 and was home to Newcastle’s Union Club. You couldn’t walk 10 yards of the swirling yellow-and-burgundy-carpeted local without being stopped by one of my dad’s friends, telling you they hadn’t seen you since you were “this high,” and gesturing with an outstretched palm.
Pub historian Paul Jennings, author of The Local, has written for the Telegraph & Argus about a long-lost Bradford pub:
[The Empress] was a magnificent example of a late Victorian gin-palace style pub and its opening in June was featured in detail in the local papers. The Bradford Illustrated Weekly Telegraph, for example, describing it as ‘equal in its kind to any in the country’ and ‘modelled in the style of first-class London houses’, no expense having been spared… The classical exterior featured granite columns and stained-glass windows. The chief entrance led through a vestibule and thence to a broad passage with mosaic floor, tiled walls and archway. The first-class bar had counter and cabinet work in Spanish mahogany, walls decorated with Japanese paper and deep red Lincrusta dado. In the saloon bar, in addition to the mahogany woodwork, were mirrors, coloured glass and electroliers giving ‘a very bright effect’.
Last weekend there was a Channel 4 programme in the ‘Inside the Superbrands’ series looking at Guinness. I can’t say I was expecting too much from a rather tabloidy format, but in fact it turned out to be surprisingly insightful… One thing that took me by surprise was that it featured the Shit London Guinness Instagram and Twitter account… which highlights poor examples of Guinness served around the capital – see photo above. You might have thought this was bad publicity, but in fact a Guinness representative said that “as soon as we see a post on that account, we aim to be round there within four hours”. It’s performing a valuable quality control function… And I couldn’t help thinking that cask beer wouldn’t half benefit from quality control that even remotely approached that standard.
He’s done it – Eoghan Walsh has given us 50 posts telling the story of Brussels beer through its objects. The final post in the series is about the city’s newest coolship:
In December 2021, Brussels Beer Project publicly announced what was both the worst kept secret and the most unexpected recent development in Brussels beer: they had started brewing Lambic. They did so in a quintessentially Brussels Beer Project manner – by wheeling one of their coolships onto the Grand Place and parking within a couple of metres of the Brouwershuis, the centuries-long seat of brewing power in Brussels… This would all have sounded preposterous to a Brussels beer drinker in 2012 still acclimatising to the city having not one but two local breweries. But a lot can change in ten years, and within a decade of Brasserie de la Senne’s arrival in 2010, the city’s new brewers were confident enough in their métier to take on the city’s native brewing tradition.
A book compiling these posts is out next week and we’ll certainly be buying one, and taking it with us next time we go to Brussels.
Did you know there’s a traditional English pub on board the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic liner? Paul Bailey (no relation) provides some notes on his long-running blog:
There was a bar at one end, which customers could sit, and drink at if they wished, and leading off towards the bow, were a number of alcoves, furnished with comfortable, leather-type, bench seating, and each with its own table… Named the Golden Lion, and complete with its own hanging sign, the pub was a popular part of the ship, providing not just a place where passengers could sit and relax, whilst enjoying a drink, but also somewhere they could be entertained…
Finally, from Twitter, another beautifully crisp historic image from one of our favourite local accounts…
For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.