News, nuggets and longreads 29 October 2022: boos, boggarts and wrongreads

Every Saturday we roundup the best of the past week’s writing about beer and pubs. This time we’ve got ships, sours and Scottie Road.

The issue of the week for CAMRA is plastic beer glasses. Specifically, it has called for the Government to let publicans decide whether to serve beer in plastic glasses rather than allowing local licensing authorities to make it compulsory. This sounds like a good idea to us. Quite apart from the environmental issues around single-use plastic, there are few things as disappointing as finding a lovely beer, and a lovely beer garden, and then being forced to sip out of a cheap-feeling beaker.

At Good Beer Hunting Brian Alberts has done what he does best: found a story from the history of American brewing we haven’t heard before, and told it well. This time it’s about an American brewer struggling during prohibition discovering that his own government, through one of its agencies, was selling beer brewed in Europe:

[The] Shipping Board… appealed unsuccessfully to U.S. Attorney General Harry Daugherty for permission to sell liquor in international waters. If U.S. jurisdiction ended three miles from the coast (today the boundary is 12 miles), they argued, surely Prohibition should too. The Justice Department disagreed, ruling that American laws applied to American ships wherever they sailed. Congress, dominated by prohibitionists, refused any legislative recourse. Foreign ships, meanwhile, operated without alcohol restrictions… This was very bad for business… American travelers, it turned out, were not so patriotic as to choose a dry American ship when they could drink freely aboard a British ship instead.


For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Matt Curtis has written about the increasing use of the German term Helles to describe all sorts of British lagers. Is it a problem that they don’t stick to a particular style? And why are they using it?

In serious beer terms, Pilsner refers to a specific style of pale lager that emerged from the city of Pilšen, in the Czech Republic. It is generally characterised as being bold in flavour, with a robust backbone of malt balanced by a sharp bitterness, giving it both palate-priming and thirst quenching qualities. Around the 1990’s, “Pilsner,” often shortened to “Pils,” became a pervasive term in the marketing of British lager. This was not done to specifically reference the original style, but because it sounded cool. It felt sophisticated to be among friends, enjoying an ice-cold pils. And if you ordered a “pilsner” you knew damn well you were going to be served a cold lager… Why does this matter? Because I believe lager is once again shifting its identity to maintain its dominance in the UK.

(We’ve written about this in the past, too.)

Detail from a 1943 advert for Lifesavers depicting fruit on a tree.

For The Washington Post, no less, Ruvani de Silva has written about the rise of ‘fruited sours’ in American brewing:

Rhodes likens the distinction between drinking traditional mixed-fermentation sours and fruited sours to “going from listening to classical music to pop.” Sonia B. echoes this sentiment, describing fruited sours as “fun and easygoing … a more everyday, every-person drink.”… With hundreds of U.S. breweries now producing the style in volume, it’s only a matter of time before most drinkers encounter their first fruited sour. Yes, these really are beers, and yes, they are here to stay. Drekker’s Bjornstad quotes Arthur O’Shaughnessy and Willy Wonka; “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Beer, he believes, “is whatever we can dream it to be.”

This is a point we’ve made in the past: cynics think of these beers as way out there when, actually, they’re extremely accessible to people who find the beeriness of beer off putting. We don’t mind them existing. You don’t have to drink them.

Liverpool c.1907.

For the BBC Daniel O’Donoghue has written about Liverpool’s Scotland Road, AKA Scottie Road, which once had 200 pubs but is about to reach zero:

Previously surrounded by rows upon rows of tenements, ice cream parlours, tailors, grocers, pubs and cinemas and a stone’s throw from the childhood home of one of the city’s most famous daughters, Cilla Black, the Throstles Nest is now a lone outpost from a bygone era… On the night Liverpool faced Rangers in the Champions League, the sort of football match that would have previously seen thronging fans pack into the pub, just three people were in its saloon bar… Landlord Kevin McMullen, who has owned the pub for 40 years, has vivid memories of its heyday… “You wouldn’t be able to see the door for people,” the 78-year-old said… Referencing the bustling Barcelona street of bars, he said the road had been like “a poor man’s Las Ramblas”.

A sign for a pub cellar in wonky old writing.

It’s almost Halloween so let’s finish with a spooky story from Liam at Beer Food Travel, about a pub-cellar-dweller:

The few tiny pieces of bread he found upstairs are soon eaten and his ever-present thirst rises – his need for drink urgent and greedy. He goes to the part of the cellar where the barrels labelled ‘XX Stout’ are kept and removes an old piece of twine from around his neck, on which is tied his most important possession. It is a long narrow tool, pointed and with curved threads at one end, and a handle on the other – a gimlet. He pushes the tool into the hard timber of the barrel and twists it from side to side before turning it clockwise and letting the threads find purchase as the tool drags itself into the oak until it pushes through the stave and spins freely. He removes the tool and quickly puts his mouth to the spurt of black frothy liquid that erupts from the hole…

Finally, from Twitter…

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 29 October 2022: boos, boggarts and wrongreads”

“…. they’re extremely accessible to people who find the beeriness of beer off putting. We don’t mind them existing. You don’t have to drink them.” There is an issue with this point of view in a market with limited shelf space. As these propagate other drinks disappear. And others adapt. So even if you can find a gose it’s fruited. The porter must have coffee or plum. Dubbels and plain old pale ales have disappeared. It’s like going birding and seeing little but invasives like starlings and house sparrows.

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