News, nuggets and longreads 10 December 2022: The Rise and Fall

Every Saturday we round up the best of the week’s writing on beer and pubs. There’s a glut of grim news, so we’ll get that out of the way.

Solvay Society has announced it is closing. Slaters has announced it is closing. Twisted Wheel has announced it is closing. Wild Beer Co has announced it is going into administration. And that’s just this week. At Beer Nouveau Steve Dunkley is keeping a list of 2022 UK brewery closures. And Yvan Seth, once a particularly thoughtful blogger, now a beer distributor, is at the end of his tether:

It does feel as if that ‘shake out’ people have been gloomily predicting since about 2007 might finally be happening. Back then, of course, 700 UK breweries was seen as unsustainable. As of the most recent counts, there are about 2,400. So some closures are to be expected, and wouldn’t be considered remarkable in any other industry. It’s just that we’ve been spoiled with decades of up, up and away. And, of course, each closure represents the end of someone’s dream.


Lars Marius Garshol has been thinking about ‘The Early History of Hops’. In a typically forensic post he digs into what we know, what we don’t know, and what we might reasonably assume about “where and when people started using hops in beer”:

Hops have been growing wild in Europe for a very long time. Once the glaciers retreated after the last Ice Age, hops seem to have spread northwards to cover most of the continent. In Sweden hop pollen has been found already from 9000 BCE. Because of climatic changes hops may at times have retreated southwards again, but overall hops appear to have covered most of the continent… There are also early signs of hop cultivation in Norway, from around 500 BCE, and signs of it growing wild well before that. Today hops grow wild in Scandinavia up to the Arctic Circle and beyond. So it’s clear that hops grew across most of Europe long before beer brewing even began.

A shot from Toute Une Nuit: two people sit with glasses of beer in a Brussels bar.
SOURCE: Fondation Chantal Akerman.

Every decade or so the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine conducts a poll of film critics and crunches the numbers to come up with a list of the best films of all times. Last week, there was general surprise when it presented Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles in the top spot. “Brussels, you say?” piped up Eoghan Walsh at this point. His latest post highlights another film by the same director:

Toute Une Nuit is… a series of disconnected fragments of a muggy night in Brussels. In fact, it appears to be a film about insomniacs and romantics sweating in various parts of the city. There is a lot of dramatic hugging, characters dance in empty rooms to Italian disco ballads, and its latter half largely revolves around people sitting next to open windows listening to thunder and the street below… Akerman described Toute Une Nuit as “a film about Brussels” in which she wanted to show the “incestuous” city inhabited by her close circle of friends. This meant the schools she went to, the old tea rooms she visited with her mother, living rooms, bedrooms, the back seat of cars – and the cafés they drank in, where several early scenes are set.

The Shades, Hartlepool, closed and boarded.
A closed and boarded pub in Hartlepool.

Mark Johnson has picked up his series of ‘The Ten Pubs That Made Me’ with notes on the pubs of Hartlepool:

I don’t know where to begin.  I didn’t quite understand my love for Hartlepool when I departed the train earlier in the day. I didn’t fully process it until a long walk along the sea front to Seaton Carew, the morning after these pub visits. Something finally clicked whilst my shoes dug into the blackened sand. My time living in Hartlepool represented the final months of my life in a unique hovel of happiness that existed before depression consumed me in a way that I couldn’t rescind. Everything after that time has been a fight and a struggle. This town represents a simpler, freer time to me, almost as though it was part of my childhood. The Jacksons Arms is the public house physical form of that; sat in the front bar area that you could see from my flat window with a pint of well-kept Reverend James.


Salt? In beer? Gary Gillman has unearthed an interesting lost beer style, ‘Tipper Ale’:

As noted, the asserted secret to Tipper Ale was salt, a recurring subject in historical beer studies. Hence the beer was characterized by terroir, if you will allow the expression given Newhaven is a coastal and harbour town… Numerous sources state the salt came in by use of brackish water in brewing. An article in the Eastbourne Herald of January 11, 1941 stated the beer was confected of “malt, sea water, and ordinary thin water”.

That’s part one. Part two is here and there’s also a part three and four.

A 19th century advertisement for Toluca beer.
“Drink Beer from Toluca or Don’t Drink.” Source: Wiecherspedia/Casket Beer.
A 19th century advertisement for Toluca beer.

At Casket Beer Kevin Kain has attempted to tell the story of so-called ‘Mexican lager’, treading carefully around the available sources and some complicated cultural politics:

The history of the lager brewing industry in Mexico begins with Santiago Graf at Cervecera de Toluca y México. Toluca, or what became Toluca, was founded in 1865 by Agustin Marendaz. Both Graf and Marendaz were of Swiss origin. Marendaz was making a type of ale called Cerveza Sencilla when Graf acquired the brewery in 1875 (some accounts say 1879), but it would be a few years before lager would be produced… Due to the construction of a rail line between Texas and Mexico shortly after Graf took over, he was able to import the first ice machine into Mexico to his brewery in the early 1880s. This allowed him to produce the first lager made in Mexico as far as I know. Dates in the records vary a little, but it’s possible the actual brewing of lager beer began in 1884 or 1885, and the release of the beer to the public was in 1885 or 1886.

Finally, from Twitter, more news, highlighting that it’s not just small breweries facing challenges…

…and there’s this from Mastodon, if you’re after a board game for Christmas:

A Mastodon post from Carrie Shanafelt: "Beer & Bread was fun! I enjoyed it more than @mxtiffanyleigh #boardgame #boardgames" There is a picture of a board game.

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