News, nuggets and longreads 20 August 2022: Punk’s not dead

It’s Saturday morning which means it’s time for a round-up of all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from an epic take on IPA to mild in space.

CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival continues, somehow, to be a magnet for controversy. This year there were frustrating reports of sexist behaviour which made women feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. You might or might not be able to read this piece at The Telegraph by Emmie Harrison-West, depending on how lucky you are with the paywall:

In a now-viral tweet, I described what it felt like to be a woman at beer festivals. Though I got called ‘a snowflake’ by one man, and was advised by a woman ‘to learn how to defend myself,’ the response has been overwhelmingly positive – including from Camra… On Twitter they publicly condemned this behaviour – recognising that GBBF ‘was not the positive, inclusive and safe environment that Camra aspires to provide.’… ‘We issued our public statement because this isn’t something which can be ignored, and we are committed to providing inclusive, welcoming festivals,’ Catherine Tonry, Camra’s festival organiser, told me.

A milk carton of IPA.

At Pellicle Matt Curtis has laid down the law on the definition, or definitions, of IPA. At 5,000+ words it earns its ‘essential guide’ title. There’s lots to grapple with but we especially enjoyed this from the intro:

To the educated beer connoisseur—very much a minority, even among beer drinkers themselves—the language of IPA comes instinctively. They know their Citra from their Nelson Sauvin. But to the majority of people, labels like NEIPA, DDH, and the other myriad terms associated with one of beer’s most argued-over styles, are ultimately meaningless. You could even go a step further and suggest they’re a form of gatekeeping; if beer is truly for everyone, why go to such great effort to make it so fucking complicated? IPA used to mean “strong and hoppy”, now it could mean pretty much anything. Today’s breweries are as comfortable using it to label what is essentially an alcoholic fruit smoothie as they are for a beer that tastes like licking a goat.


Why do we associate Mexico with lager? And when breweries outside Mexico brew a ‘Mexican lager’ what exactly do they think they’re doing? Jess Keller Poole has dug into all this for Beer is for Everyone:

The use of lime in Mexican lager goes back to the use of clear bottles made famous by Corona. Clear bottles allow UV rays to interact with the alpha acids in hops, making the beer taste and smell “skunky.” The acidity from limes helps cover the off-flavor. But still, we receive limes with UV-protected canned beer as the association of Mexican lager and limes has been established. More recently, the term Mexican lager is loosely used in craft beer. Is it a Vienna lager of past traditions? Is it a corn-adjunct light lager? Or a marketing term? Just look at how many of your local craft breweries brew a Mexican lager with no real grasp on what it is or should be. Without a solid definition of the style, modern breweries can really do whatever they want with the term. No matter the recipe or serving technique, the association of crisp, light, refreshing lagers and Mexico is rooted in both American and Mexican culture. 

A billboard advertising BrewDog.

Martyn Cornell has done some excellent number crunching based on new data from YouGov. It’s one of those pieces that comes as a much-needed reality check:

There are some fascinating facts to be extracted from the YouGov “Most Popular UK Beer and Cider Brands” survey for Q2 2022, not least the fact that James Watt, Beer Twitter’s most hated villain, runs one of the UK’s most popular craft beer brands right across the age spectrum, from 20-year-old Millennials to Baby Boomers in their 70s… There are a few surprises in the lists – wot, no Meantime? Why so few German brands? – but I suspect this is a factor of the list of brands YouGov asked people about, which was very probably driven by the brands its clients asked to be included. That would explain why a number of obscurish (to me) US brands are in there. There are also quite a few total unsurprises, such as the way Baby Boomers go for traditional brands, and Millennials love ciders.

Illustration: The Fog.

In her newsletter Hugging the Bar Courtney Iseman has written about how her relationship to beer changes with the highs and lows of her mood. In particular, she observes that hazy IPAs are a kind of low-investment comfort food:

I realized I’d gone back to just ordering the hazy IPA. And when I did have that realization, it brought up questions about my present feelings toward hazy IPAs. Does this mean they don’t really bring me much joy, certainly not compared to the joy of trying something totally new or zeroing in on what makes a simple pilsner perfect? Does this mean on a subconscious level, I don’t think hazy IPAs are worth any kind of analysis, so they won’t distract me or demand attention I’m apparently conserving to be sad? Why are hazy IPAs my default “I can’t even” beer?… I don’t mean to hate on you, hazies, we’re cool. But I am thrilled to be getting excited about doppelbocks again.

The Grey Horse, Manchester.

Mark Johnson has been blogging about beer for a decade. To mark the occasion he has answered a bunch of questions from readers and friends resulting in what feels like about 20 blog posts at once:

What’s the one beer style you would consign to the depths of space? And why is it mild?

Haha. My transition through beer began from a love of Guinness and Murphy’s. When I played football for a pub team, the post match pint order was “Ten Carlings and one Guinness.” The first cask beers I enjoyed were stouts and milds. Then I went a bit more amber. The last style from the bar that I found enjoyment in were the pale and bitter styles that I love now.

My point is that I loved mild when I was 18 and so believe that it has its place. What doesn’t have a place are the bogus claims, from people who have never taken a sip, that it is a style they have long heralded. I applaud the people that don’t like it sticking to those opinions, rather than people chasing something because of some flipping influencer.

Finally, from Twitter…

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 20 August 2022: Punk’s not dead”

Schreckenskammer – one of the few Kölsch’s that have eluded me, despite numerous visits to Cologne, but there’s a possibility of a business trip next March. Can I track it down this time?

As for the IPA navel-gazing, Jonny Garrett sums the whole thing up nicely in his excellent “A Year in Beer,” a book I have just finished reading.

His “An IPA is a strong beer” succinctly sums up Matt’s 5654 words here ( though I’ve not read them all ) without reference to the fact that ‘session strength’ IPAs, such as Greene King’s, have now survived longer than the ‘proper strength’ nineteenth century ones did.
I’m amazed that one of his three examples of an English IPA is Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale which was originally brewed in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II” and is described “This strong barley wine is reminiscent of the “October Ales” which were brewed in domestic brewhouses during the sixteenth century”.

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