News, nuggets and longreads 22 October 2022: the entropy tango

After a couple of weeks off, here’s a bumper round-up of all the writing about beer and pubs that caught our attention lately.

SIBA has published a substantial report on the UK beer market (PDF) based on surveying its members. The primary theme is an assessment of the impact of Small Breweries’ Relief on the 20th anniversary of its introduction but what really grabbed us is the section on which styles/types of beer are growing/decreasing in popularity. Mild, bottle-conditioned beer, strong bitter/IPA, pale golden bitter and traditional brown/copper are all “out of favour”; while lager, craft keg, unfined cask beer, gluten free beer and lower-alcohol beer (less than 2.8% ABV) are growing.

A big yellow sign that says GRONINGEN
SOURCE: The Beer Nut.

The Beer Nut has been on tour in the Netherlands and is sharing his notes city by city. This is the kind of stuff you might want to bookmark for reference if you find yourself travelling that way. Here’s a bit from his post about Leiden:

Leiden is my usual base for the Borefts beer festival at De Molen in nearby Bodegraven. I usually stay by the station for ease of departure and haven’t really done a proper beer tour of the city. Or hadn’t, until I arrived a day early for the 2022 festival so had some time to explore… One of the local breweries is the delightfully named Pronck. I found a couple of their wares at the Stadscafé van der Werff. I picked the Citra Rye Ale to begin, a hazy orange 5%-er. From the name I expected bitterness in spades but it’s actually light and fruity, with fresh mandarin and mango instead of grapefruit and grass. The rye’s contribution is a kind of aftershave-like spice, but nothing more severe than that. Overall, this is a delightfully juicy fellow, very much in the modern New England style and done very well.

A billboard advertising BrewDog.

In her newsletter Hugging the Bar Courtney Iseman provides a helpful summary of the current situation with BrewDog, a brewery which, like her, we’re a bit fed up of writing about:

It’s tempting to replace an entire paragraph of commentary on this with just one, long, absolutely exhausted sigh. I know the two are not related, but it feels like news that BrewDog’s Vegas location is close to opening and that an Atlanta outpost just opened, as well, feels like it’s riding the tailwinds of James Watt’s victory in his lawsuit against Emili Ziem for harassment and fraud. You hate to think he’s feeling like things are really turning around, don’t you? That he’s enjoying some smug satisfaction because newspapers are reporting on the one instance in which he may have been deceived, and surely that supports his claims that every person who’s ever had a negative thing to say about him and/or BrewDog is also a con artist, and anyway onward and upward…

The premises that would become North Bar, Leeds, before its refurbishment. (SOURCE: North Bar.)
The premises that would become North Bar, Leeds, before its refurbishment. (SOURCE: North Bar.)

For the Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog Anthony Ramm has written about the city’s craft beer scene, drawing on the archive collection to illustrate his post:

Today… beer in Leeds is largely associated with independent breweries like North Brewing, Northern Monk, the Kirkstall Brewery, Wilde Child, and a whole host of others around the city, its suburbs and towns – from Farsley to Methley. Most, if not all, of these would be described in some way as being part of the ‘craft beer’ movement that has become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years… Leeds, in fact, had already played a large part in the development of craft beer: Michael Jackson’s classic 1977 book The World Guide to Beer is often credited with kickstarting a more serious and intellectual approach to brewing, having “a special influence on the popularisation of the brewing culture in North America” – where craft beer and brewing is usually said to have begun. Jackson was born and raised in Leeds.

A man working with a small brewery.
SOURCE: Popular Science, 1936

At Beer et seq. Gary Gillman makes an interesting observation about the small pilot breweries installed by large industrial brewers during the 20th century:

[A 1961 film provides] depictions of the “Pilot Brewhouse” at the Burton visitor centre and a wall-mounted schematic of its operation, to guide visitors… By viewing that and observing a more human scale of brewing, visitors could link modern brewing to its roots in home, pub, and subsisting family regional firms… In its way, the Pilot Brewhouse of Ind Coope ca. 1960 did something similar. It brought a human dimension to all the engineering and Goliath scale around visitors, showing that brewing could be conducted in a plant that would fit the homes of many, or their club down the road.

A decaying sign with a horse's head and some of the letters from the word BREWERY.
SOURCE: Ed Wray.

One of the great things about studying beer and pub history is that you start to tune into towns and cities in a different way. At Ed’s Beer Site Ed Wray writes about eyeballing an abandoned brewery in Thorne, South Yorkshire:

Darley’s Brewery closed before I’d started drinking, which perhaps explains why I’d never heard of it, though I couldn’t help but feel saddened to see such a lovely building boarded up. And it got me thinking of the other tragic losses we have only recently suffered in Britain: the closure of Jennings and Caledonian Breweries. I have been round both of them, Jennings is a wonderful tower brewery and Caledonian had one of the most amazing things you can see in a brewery: open copper coppers! Nowadays pumps are much cheaper than building breweries in a tower and no one is going to build their boiling vessels out of copper, let alone leave them unenclosed. When such things are gone they are never going to return so I mourn every loss. 

Fragmented planks with holes drilled in them.
SOURCE: Heidi Eltoft, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet.

Lars Marius Garshol (buy his books, subscribe to his newsletter) has been trying to work out whether some thousand year-old planks unearthed by Norwegian archaeologists might have been used for brewing:

In March 2021 Norwegian archaeologists posted the photo above on Facebook, asking their followers what they thought these planks might have been used for. The planks had been found during an archaeological excavation in the centre of the Norwegian city of Trondheim in the 1980s, but nobody had ever figured out what they had been used for. The planks were thought to date to the 12th century… People suggested various uses for them, such as a grain sieve, a game board for playing a game with pegs, a lice board, and so on. One very vocal group insisted that the planks looked exactly like the boards that form the drying surface on top of a såinn, the traditional malt kiln still being used by farmhouse brewers in Stjørdal today. Stjørdal is roughly a 30-minute drive from Trondheim.

A jumble of pubs.

Vittles has launched a new regular feature: a London pub guide, with multiple contributors, covering one section of the city each week. It’s behind a paywall (we’re subscribers) but a taster of the first section is free to read, in which Andrew Kersley sets out the philosophy behind the project:

How do you define a great pub? The more you think about it, the more nebulous a question it gets. If you were to ask my dad, all that matters is the selection of real ale, and whether any is made with Trent water. There are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to just assessing the pour of a pint of Guinness. My brother says he judges pubs on whether they have hanging hooks beneath the bar.

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 22 October 2022: the entropy tango”

So say goodbye to pain and woe…and we’ll stop Entropy Tango!
I spotted the brewery straight away and I even managed to generate mild interest in my normal friends, but I quickly abandoned going on about the significance of the slats in the roof as that was just going too far!

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