News, nuggets and longreads 3 December 2022: the Friday of months

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from ethics to language.

First, some news. For The Guardian Mark Sweeney and Rob Davies report that BrewDog has lost its ethical B Corp certificate:

BrewDog is understood to have been subject to an investigation by B Lab after staff submitted complaints following a BBC documentary, Disclosure: The Truth About Brewdog, which looked at the brewer’s workplace culture… B Lab says it investigates “material, credible and specific claims” against a company on the grounds of either “intentional misrepresentation of practices, policies, or outcomes claimed during a company’s certification process”, or “breaches of the B Corp community’s core values”.

BrewDog has apparently described this as having voluntarily “stepped aside” from B Corp.

And a little more news – not insignificant, in our view: St Austell has taken a minority stake in another Cornish brewery, Harbour Brewing. Over the years we’ve often wondered why this doesn’t happen more often. Having already absorbed Bath Ales, could this be a sign that St Austell is decisively making the move towards being a Whitbread or Watneys? Historically, these “protective umbrellas” offered to smaller brewers by big ones tend to turn into empires as the decades pass.

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

For The Conversation Victoria ‘Professor Pub’ Wells and Nadine Waehning have written about the particular pressure under which pubs find themselves at the tail-end of 2022:

A licensed venue closed every hour in Britain during the third quarter of 2022 and the nation’s pubs are “vanishing” at an alarming rate. Such troubles show no signs of easing, with hopsitality industry bodies warning more than one-third of the sector is at risk of failure in early 2023 due to the rising cost of doing business… Pubs are trying to adapt to survive in this increasingly difficult environment. Some are trying “dining in the dark” events during which venues turn out the lights and operate by candlelight. Others have launched work from pub packages designed to entice people to “work from home” at their local rather than their kitchen table. With these initiatives, businesses are trying to attract new customers or even just offer something different to entice cash-strapped regulars.

Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

Echoing the piece above, Tandleman continues to monitor what’s going on with Samuel Smith of Tadcaster and its extensive pub estate, which seems to be having some trouble:

I was told, recently, that no fewer than 120 Sam Smith’s pubs are closed through lack of people to run them. (You can often find them listed in trade adverts for managers) This is an astonishing number given that all of them are managed houses, and while they attract a smallish salary, not much above minimum wage, but they do have heating, lighting and rent thrown in on top.  This is not an entirely unattractive package in these dodgy times, so why is there a problem in finding the right people to run them? … Humphrey has been known to descend from Tadcaster and close pubs, immediately with customers still inside, and sack managers on the spot for allowing any minor breach of the rules. These cases have been documented in the press and include alleged shortfall in stock among other things.  I also believe from web sources that he himself has been the victim of irregular behaviour from his managers and with his low tolerance of misdemeanour, this may go some way to explaining vacancies, as does a culture of fear.

Text Illustration: JUICY JUICY against hazy yellow-orange

For Punch magazine (not The London Charivari, a different one) Courtney Iseman has provided a guide to the language of modern beer, from cottles to boss pours:

The days of simply deciding between an IPA and a lager are gone. Now, it’s deciding between a high-density, hop-charged IPA with Thiolized yeast and a side-pull Czech-style pilsner in a mlíko pour… When a need arose for vocabulary to talk about what one sees, smells, tastes and feels in a beer, the practical place to look was wine. But although the general terminology translated – this smells fruity, this tastes funky, this feels dry – wine’s more esoteric jargon didn’t fit… This need for more words to describe how categories have expanded and evolved is joined by the development of slang (“gushers,” “freshies”) and subcultures (“hazebros,” “tickers”) that have likewise expanded the dictionary. So, what does it mean to be fluent in beer today?

A pub window with frosted glass.

Liz Chambers is co-landlord of one of our favourite pubs in Bristol, The Hare on the Hill, but we haven’t seen her behind the bar for a while. Now we know why. In an article for Good Beer Hunting funded through a new grant designed to increase diversity in British beer writing, she explains how chronic illness has affected her, and others in the industry:

When a crash comes on, I have no choice but to withdraw – to slink back to my familiar bed and wait for it to pass. It is there that I listen to the comforting – and sometimes stressful – sounds of the hubbub of the pub below me. I’ve learned to distinguish whether certain regulars are in the bar by the intonation of their laughter. Since living above the pub, I’ve become well acquainted with the seasonality of the two sycamore trees and slice of sky that make up the view from our bedroom window… But there is, too, constant guilt about being so much in bed in a society that values activity, and a strange form of shame that isn’t helped by the widespread misunderstanding around chronic illness and invisible disabilities.

Finally, from Twitter…

…and from Mastodon:

A Toot by Brian Alberts: “Early 20th century french language ad for Spaten, via the Heritage Library in Paris.” Picture shows “artistic rendering of three people raising glasses of beer in a toast. The French tagline calls Spaten the ‘healthiest of aperitifs’”.

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

4 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 3 December 2022: the Friday of months”

It is an odd hallmark of todayism that words are claimed to be new and necessary when they are just what’s been used newly reordered and/or largely generic replacement slang. “Crisp” for example has been loved and condemned by turns for decades. “Juicy” is as useless as “hoppy” but as code it lets you know you’re in the club.

I’m intrigued to learn from that glossary that a 16-ounce can (‘tallboy’) is “now standard in craft beer” – that’s 473 ml, a size I’ve never seen anywhere. OTOH, the ‘stovepipe’ of 19.2 ounces (“the next big can’) equates to 568 ml, a.k.a. an imperial pint.

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