News, nuggets and longreads 17 December 2022: Cold as ice

This is probably our last weekly round-up for the year but there’s plenty of good stuff to be found among the gift guides and end-of-year reflections.

First, something that is apparently news to those outside the beer bubble: according to Will Smale for the BBC, those beers with Italian and Spanish labels and names are (gasp!) probably not brewed there:

What makes Budvar increasingly rare among lagers sold around the world, is the fact it is only brewed in its country of origin… By contrast, if you look at the list of the 10 best-selling beers in the UK this year, all lagers, eight of them are foreign brands which are brewed under licence in the UK – Carling (originates in Canada), Fosters (Australia), Birra Moretti (Italy), Coors (US), Stella Artois (Belgium), Carlsberg (Denmark), San Miguel (Spain), and Amstel (Netherlands).

On a related note, Pete Brown has put together a list explaining who owns which UK craft breweries:

Many leading craft brands have now been acquired by the giants. That’s just how it is… However, if one of your motivations for drinking craft beer – or just as importantly, cask/real ale – is that you want to support small, independent businesses, it’s not always obvious whether or not the brand in front of you is the real deal. Big corporations pay a lot of money to acquire the cool cachet of craft brands, and they’re not always eager to tell you the truth.

A bar selling Budweiser.
SOURCE: Dan Diav on Unsplash.

A few weeks ago, there was considerable glee when it emerged that Budweiser’s sponsorship of the World Cup hadn’t actually entitled them to have their beer sold at games. Now, for Good Beer Hunting, Omar Foda unpicks the story – is it quite what it seems?

Qatar’s banishment of alcoholic beer from most of its stadiums can be seen as an implementation of this middle path: keeping beer, and other alcoholic beverages, cordoned off from Qatari society, and punishing those who cross that boundary… But it is not enough to understand the alcohol ban merely within the context of Qatar’s contemporary legal structures. Rather, this power-play with beer – which so shocked the American and European commentariat – can also be seen as a subversion of the old colonial order.

Glühbier, Dresden, 2008.

Point: Christmas markets and pop-ups are tacky, expensive, and steal valuable business from pubs and bars. Counterpoint: Shut up, they’re fun. Courtney Iseman’s newsletter Hugging the Bar has offered a constant flow of interesting reading this year and her seasonal update is no less enjoyable:

I really get into holiday pop-up bars. The Miracle chain of these that has infiltrated dozens of cities worldwide has admittedly—unfortunately—made the whole thing feel a little manufactured and borderline sad theme restaurant, but the drinks are still great and do get you in the spirit. More importantly, there are still plenty of places working independently to transform their bars into winter wonderlands ranging from elegant to tacky.

A handpainted sign advertising darts with a the mascot from the ITV gameshow Bullseye.

For New Statesman Katharine Swindells has written about the trend for games-focused bars and pubs:

The office Christmas do has taken a competitive turn. Partygoers who once made do with a pub and a pool table are increasingly heading to high-tech darts bars, shuffleboard tournaments, bottomless ping pong, boozy bingo, drunk golf and immersive board games. As the pub trade struggles to recover from the pandemic, “experience bars” are becoming more common… The neon-lit ping pong bar Bounce opened in London, in 2012, while the high-tech darts bar Flight Club opened in 2015… State of Play Hospitality, now also owns Puttshack, a minigolf experience, and Hijingo, which promises “multi-sensory futuristic bingo”.

Shipping container: KOLN.

Martin Taylor usually writes about English pubs but has been giving a blow-by-blow account of his trip to Cologne over the past week or so. It’s fun and will make you want to go. We especially enjoyed this piece about Lommi’s, a legendary venue we didn’t make it to on our own recent trip:

Mrs RM eyed up the cute corner table. “No, that’s a table for four,” said the Kobe, politely. And placed us on an identically sized table by the door… Perhaps you tire of it after a week, but the sight of the tray of Kolsch glasses being filled from the barrel is a joy.

Finally, from Twitter, an incredible war story…

…and from Mastodon, this week, just a list of people you might want to follow if you’re there:

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

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