News, nuggets and longreads 13 August 2022: Good day sunshine

There’s been plenty of great writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from longform reflections on the place of pubs in our culture to nuggets dug up from deep storage.

UK breweries FourPure and Magic Rock were acquired by multinational Lion in 2018 and 2019 respectively, but it seems it didn’t ‘take’. Lion announced a while ago that it intended to resell its two acquisition and now they have a buyer – Odyssey Inns. No, us neither. It seems to be a relatively new UK outfit and is led by Stephen Cox, co-founder of Devon’s Utopian Brewing. This interests us because we’ve wondered for a while whether UK craft breweries might consider combining as an alternative to selling up to international corporates. This is sort of that, by a roundabout route. Let’s see how it goes.

The Southampton Arms

For Pellicle David Jesudason has written about The Southampton Arms, a North London pub that appears near the top of many lists of must-visit London pubs:

All things considered, this Parliament Hill-slash-Kentish Town boozer is a god-tier London pub. And it owes its success to its locals of both corners, the regulars who love to gaze at its stunning wooden bar, and its landlord Nick Bailey, who sees himself more as a “custodian” with a “steady hand on the tiller.”… The Southampton Arms was bought in 2009 by Pete Holt, founder of Hackney Wick’s Howling Hops Brewery… “The pub [before] was quite dangerous,” Nick says. “There wasn’t this Victorian style. It was dark. But one of the remarkable things is that some of the people who drank there stayed.”

Completely by chance, we made our first visit in a decade to The Southampton Arms this week so it was interesting to read more about its history and significance. It is a great pub and one that’s worn in well, too.

SOURCE: Bar Corto/Katie Mather.

Veteran industry journalist Phil Mellows has spotted a trend: growing beer scenes in smaller towns in the north of England. For British Beer Breaks he writes about Clitheroe, mainly, but also expands his view:

The craft beer revolution was something that happened in the big cities, really, but in these less obvious destinations you can find some amazing stuff going on, and the modern mingles somehow more comfortably with surviving traditional pubs, and all within walking distance… Take Wirksworth, a quiet market town in Derbyshire. The Royal Oak, a small stone-walled terraced pub opposite the boutique Northern Light Cinema, has long championed good cask beers. And now the Feather Star, a local micropub and record shop, has moved into one half of the town’s old coaching inn, the Red Lion. It has created a quirky, inclusive, modern pub with a craft beer wall behind the handpumps. And when you’ve ordered your pint, or two-thirds, you can carry it carefully across the gateway where the coaches used to head to the stables at the back, and into the Umami Restaurant, a separate, yet complementary business.

An Edwardian pub on a busy junction.
The Three Horseshoes, Southall, in 2016.

Guess what? It’s a double Jesudason week. For Good Beer Hunting he’s also written a long, wide-ranging, heartfelt piece centred around Southall in West London. It’s about pubs, his relationship to alcohol, racism, murder, riot and family – a tough but compelling read:

I walked over to the Scotsman nearby. There, we met local resident Gurlochan Brar, who was more than happy to talk about the Hambrough Tavern, permissiveness in Southall, and his daily alcohol consumption  he got the bartender to confirm that he does indeed drink 20 pints of beer each day before hitting the vodka and Cokes. Luckily, we caught him on his first of the day… Brar, who is also called Terry or Tosh, was about 18 years old when the riot sparked outside the Hambrough. The Hambrough Tavern was a white pub in those days, he said, but Brar would go in because most of his mates weren’t Asian, and it wasn’t uncommon for other Brown people to drink in there. But that accord was disrupted on the day of the 4-Skins gig… “As the skinheads were walking to the pub, they spat at a little Sikh boy and he went home and told his brother,” he said. “Word spread like wildfire, and the next thing you know it’s all fucking kicked off. The police tried to crack down on it but some guys [stole a] police van and drove it into the Hambrough Tavern and that’s when it caught alight.”

(Our money’s on David for Beer Writer of the Year, if we can say that without jinxing it for him.)

Melbourne in the 1850s. SOURCE: Australia’s Defining Moments

It’s a bit of a raw genealogical research dump but the latest post from Martyn Cornell, about a rogue member of the Guinness family, is well worth picking through. For one thing, it reminds us how big the world used to be, and how easy it might be to disappear:

Arthur and his family arrived in Melbourne, Victoria in October 1853. The city was in the middle of a boom, after gold had been discovered in Victoria. By the middle of 1856 Arthur Benjamin Burke had found a job as a brewer at the Union Brewery… Allen & Co. decided to use Arthur Benjamin’s family links by cheekily renaming its premises the Guinness Brewery, Melbourne, and announcing that it had engaged as a brewer “Mr A.B. Burke, nephew of the famous Arth. Guinness, Esq, and who for many years was assistant brewer to the firm of Arthur Guinness, Son and Co of Dublin.” As a result, the brewery declared, it could “with confidence offer an article similar to Guinness’s Dublin Stout.”… Presumably Burke and the brewery owners felt that, since they were almost 11,000 miles from Dublin in a straight line, 14,000 miles by sea, they were far enough away that no one at St James’s Gate would notice they had stolen the Guinness name.

The Beer of the Future surrounded by atomic light.

Stan Hieronymus has been rummaging again. This time, he found a set of predictions for the future of beer from 1998 which were actually pretty good – especially a couple of ‘out on a limb’ suggestions:

8. Great availability of craft beer in cans

9. Non-alcohol craft beers

Finally, from Twitter…

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

4 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 13 August 2022: Good day sunshine”

Both David Jesudason piece’s are great, but the GBH Ricky Reel one is excellent. The way he constructs the story keeps you engrossed in what is an important topic.

Perhaps Wirksworth is not such a good example of the phenomenon. It’s a very small town and most of the pubs are closed in the afternoons; those that are open are not really very good. The Royal Oak, mentioned in the piece, opens at 8pm every day except Saturday, when it opens at 5pm. Access is limited to a single bus service between Derby and Bakewell via Matlock – there is no train. Nearby Belper is a better one, with more pubs than you would think justified by the size of the town, and even when the trains are on strike there are great bus services. Not just the pubs in town, but several on the outskirts and in villages roundabout are worth a visit.

A negative experience might give a hint of what’s going on: last weekend I visited a new pub in Belper (well, new to me) called the Old School House Inn. The words “cask ale” are etched on the windows, but there’s no real ale on the bar. As the owner explained “every other pub in town has got cask ale – I haven’t”. He was actually quite rude about it; it seems like he tried to enter the market but it was already saturated. (Having no customer service skills probably didn’t help.) My next pub was called Bang, a cafe bar that in most places wouldn’t have real ale: four beers and a cider.

“Our money’s on David for Beer Writer of the Year” – very possibly, he’s writing some fascinating and important stuff, but it won’t be a simple choice, I suspect. “This is a golden age for British beer writing” – discuss, using one side of the computer screen only.

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