Every Saturday morning we put together a round-up of the best writing about beer and pubs from the previous week. And once a year, we sift through that to find the best posts and articles of the year.
In 2022, Pellicle and Good Beer Hunting (two households, both alike in dignity) continued to dominate.
They provide platforms for heavier bits of beer writing – stuff that might take some time, effort and money to put together – and present it beautifully.
Close behind is Ferment, the widely respected magazine that comes with the monthly box from a widely disliked beer subscription service. In particular, it provides a platform for Matt Curtis, who edits Pellicle, but doesn’t tend to feature his own writing there.
Where does that leave blogs? As in, proper blogs, written by enthusiasts, or semi-professionals, and published on platforms they own.
They’re still about, and they’ve been joined by a new beast: newsletters on Substack, or similar, which perform essentially the same function, but right up in your inbox. Will Hawkes’s excellent London Beer City is one notable example.
We try to feature as much of that stuff as we can, and would love to see more. Let us know if you’ve got a beer blog we don’t know about.
Putting this piece together, we totted up which writers had featured most often in our round-ups.
Forty-three got mentioned in more than one round-up, and these people all ended up in more than five:
|Ruvani de Silva
We’ve got our own preferences and biases, of course, but what these people all have in common is that they:
- sit their arses down and write, regularly
- tell us things we don’t already know
- take us to places we’ve never been
- show us new perspectives
- tell compelling stories
- have their own unique voices
Now, here’s a list of 20 substantial pieces of beer writing from 2022 that, looking back, we especially liked.
There’s also a focus on writers who didn’t feature every week. It’s all too easy for that one fascinating one-off contribution to The Discourse to come, go, and be forgotten.
They’re ordered chronologically, earliest to most recent, and each writer is limited to one entry.
Magic from the Baltic coast | Charlotte Cook | February 2022
“When most people think of Estonia, their minds tend to conjure up images of a post-Soviet wasteland inhabited by concrete tower blocks and spluttering Ladas. That, or they imagine an icy landscape filled with impenetrable pine forest and permafrost. Most people don’t know what language they speak in Estonia, never mind much about its culture and people, and least of all about its burgeoning and unique craft beer scene.”
The Campaign for Real Architecture | Matthew Bliss | February 2022
“CAMRA obviously conducts architectural preservation as part of its mission, since preserving the function of a building necessarily preserves the building itself. Buildings and their functions are awfully hard to separate most of the time. If you change the function, you usually have to change the building… But CAMRA’s architectural project, along with that of the ‘pub’ itself, is a profoundly nostalgist one. It, like the branding of most British beers (you don’t find this with, for instance, East Asian beers), is reliant on notions of the Good Old Days.”
Why bootleg Moe’s Taverns are all over Latin America | Tamlin Magee | March 2022
“For anyone in Latin America, visiting one of these unlicensed bars is a lot cheaper than flying to California or Florida to the official Moe’s Tavern at Universal Studios. ‘For many, our bar is the only chance to live the Simpsons experience, since our customers often don’t have the means to visit the official Moe’s Tavern,’ says Nicolás González Milano. In 2017, he and a group of friends at ‘differing scales of Simpsons fanaticism’ opened a Moe’s Tavern in the Ituzaingó district of Buenos Aires, which has served fans who can’t travel across the globe.”
The pub with no beer (fiction) | Kevin Barry | April 2022
“He took up the cloth and dampened it in the sink and ran it along the bar top. He brought up a quiet shine. The intention of the polishing was to approximate soft labor. Daily the bar top was polished to show its grain and the nicks and scratches of its great age. The pub had been his father’s for the long shift of four decades. His father in turn had taken it from a bachelor uncle. For three generations behind this bar much the same set of thick, knitted eyebrows had insisted on a semblance, at least, of decorum. The sunlight crept by slow inches across the floor. It was the moment, in more usual times, of the primary school’s letting out and he missed the high excited chatter from the yard across the way. Neither loudness nor drunkenness in this barroom had ever been tolerated.”
I want to see mountains again: the banked beers of Teesside, North East England | Reece Hugill | April 2022
“Unique and beautiful things rarely come from boring places… In the industrial glow of lower North East England, along the banks of the River Tees, a tiny handful of pubs still serve beer the way my grandad, and his dad used to drink… Half-full glasses are pulled from the bar-back fridge, topped up feverishly from the hand-pull. Placed in front of me are two ridiculous looking pints of ruby-red cask beer. Foam cartoonishly mounded a full four inches higher than the brim of the glass. Wobbling and bubbling, alpine peaks and whips of pure white.”
Chloé | Katrina Kell | April 2022
“Chloé, the French nude by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, is an Australian cultural icon… [In] 1908, Henry Figsby Young bought Chloé for £800 and hung the famous nude in the saloon bar of Young and Jackson Hotel, opposite Flinders Street Station in Melbourne… Enjoying a drink with Chloé at the hotel has been a good luck ritual for Australian soldiers since the first world war… The ritual of having a drink with Chloé at Young and Jackson Hotel, opposite Melbourne’s busiest railway station, began after Private A. P. Hill, who was killed in action, put a message in a bottle and tossed it overboard…”
‘..it Makes Me Want to Shut Down, Cover Up’ | James Green | May 2022
“This article seeks to provide a detailed account of emotional labour adopted by female bartenders when faced with unwanted sexual attention at work. In the field, I implemented an ethnographic research design and maximised opportunities for data collection through the use of interviews with eight participants and participant observations while employed at the same venue. Drawing on previous theoretical thought, the data gathered will outline the learnt, and most common, forms of display rules barstaff demonstrate while engaging with unwanted interactions, and, from the viewpoint of the female barstaff, the expected display rules envisioned by some male customers.”
Why we should all be raising a glass to the 160th birthday of the working men’s club movement – even if they aren’t | Pete Brown | June 2022
“On 14th June 1862, Unitarian Minister Henry Solly convened a meeting which founded the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union. At the time, philanthropists and reformers of all stripes were desperately trying to ‘improve’ the working man – some out of genuine concern for his plight, others because millions of men were about to get the vote for the first time and therefore needed to be ‘civilised,’ so they voted for the ‘right’ people… Solly recognised that if he wanted to attract working-class men after a gruelling, monotonous, ten- or twelve-hour shift, they needed a place where they could relax as well as being lectured to. A club, rather than an austere institute, was his model.”
A History of Brussels Beer in 50 Objects // #48 Support Local Breweries T-shirt | Eoghan Walsh | June 2022
“Brussels’ hospitality industry has a long history of entanglements with public health emergencies. In 1866, 2732 people died in Brussels’ last deadly cholera outbreak (1.5% of the population), with city authorities forced to cancel that autumn’s annual festivities. Their contemporary successors had to deal with COVID-19, arriving with a bang on March 12, 2020. That evening the Belgian government announced the nationwide closure of hospitality businesses, as the country registered its first COVID-19 deaths and case numbers rose exponentially… The reaction of many in the industry was panic.”
Beer Myths on Beer Mats? A Closer Look at the Legendary Marketing of Smithwick’s and Kilkenny Ales | Liam K | June 2022
“Smithwick’s brewery – or the St. Francis Abbey Brewery to give it its proper name – is an establishment that I am mildly obsessed with for a number of reasons… But is there a nagging issue, a grey murkiness that muddies its history, which means that the brewery has lost more than it has gained in the promotion of ‘Brand Smithwicks’ and becoming for the most part a single product within the portfolio of a much larger global company? This is a subject I have written and commented about before, both in a short history on brewing in Kilkenny and in a piece on the dubious history of Irish Red Ale, but I have never explored these legends one by one…”
The Ten Pubs That Made Me Part 1: Fernandes’ Brewery Tap | Mark Johnson | July 2022
“Wakefield operates under the famous One Degree of Separation system when it comes to locals. You cannot have a volatile break-up with a partner in this city as they will always be in your life through others. You either remain friends with your ex or you leave the city for good… That is the crux of Wakefield; it never really wanted you anyway… There is a pub here, however, that makes my top ten list of pubs that aided my beer journey.”
The broon dog that walked so that others could run: celebrating 95 years of Newcastle Brown Ale | Emmie Harrison-West | July 2022
“‘Bottle of Broon, please,’ I said, smiling nervously to the barman, hoping he wouldn’t ask for my (clearly fake) ID. He didn’t seem bothered I was dressed as a cowgirl… I was 17 and on my first night out in my hometown, Newcastle upon Tyne, when I first tried the fabled Newcastle Brown Ale… To locals it’s known as ‘Broon’ or ‘ah bottle ah dog’ (pronounced ‘derg’) – lovingly named after the saying “I’m off to walk the dog,” which naturally meant ‘I’m off to the boozer,’ instead. To everyone else in the UK who felt a fool for attempting to imitate the Geordie dialect (trust me, you can’t) it was a bottle of ‘Newkie’.”
Britain’s most remote mainland pub | Daniel Stables | August 2022
“Our journey began at the end of the road. The longest dead-end road in Britain, in fact. It took two hours of knuckle-whitening jags around hairpin bends and past sheer descents, on a 22-mile taxi ride from the town of Fort William in the western Scottish Highlands, to get to our starting point of Kinloch Hourn… In the company of two friends, Carl and José, I was embarking on a journey to the most remote pub in mainland Britain. Accessible only by sea ferry or by a two-day, 18-mile hike across the Scottish Highlands from the small settlement of Kinloch Hourn (or an even longer, 28-mile yomp from the hamlet of Glenfinnan), the Old Forge sits in the village of Inverie, on the southern coast of the Knoydart peninsula. ‘Walking in’ to the pub is a rite of passage in the outdoors community, and one we were keen to tick off, thirsty in equal measure for adventure and the extreme satisfaction of a pint well earned.”
Campaigners face uphill battle to save two BS5 pubs from redevelopment | Alex Turner | August 2022
“Walk down Church Road from St George Park and it feels as if this part of Bristol is bucking national trends towards pubs closing. As you leave the park there’s the recently opened Red Church, then the Fire Engine, Dark Horse and George and Dragon… But wander through the sidestreets towards Barton Hill and a different picture emerges. Within 10 minutes you pass the former Three Crowns, Hauliers Arms, Hop Pole, Swan and Russell Arms. All have closed within the last decade or so, with most turned into housing… Now, two of the area’s most recently departed pubs face the same fate. They are St George’s Hall on Church Road, and the Rhubarb Tavern in Barton Hill.”
Go West: resistance, Ricky Reel, and the real Southall | David Jesudason | August 2022
“Southall is so varied, so personal to me, that it is hard to describe it to people who are unfamiliar with it. The best I can say is: Imagine a town that has somehow managed to recreate many aspects of daily life in South Asia – it’s often dubbed “Little India” – but appears distinctly harmonious, with Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian residents all living side by side… Southall is, unsurprisingly, the place to buy South Asian ingredients in London – you can find everything from huge bags of spices to Indian spirits like Old Monk. Large-scale wedding celebrations regularly spill out onto the streets. And it’s also the place to eat a hearty, South Asian meal, whether at traditional restaurants or British-Indian “Desi” pubs, even though it’s overlooked by many Londoners in favour of Brick Lane’s heavily commercialised curry houses.”
The essential guide to IPA | Matt Curtis | August 2022
“To the educated beer connoisseur – very much a minority, even among beer drinkers themselves – the language of IPA comes instinctively. They know their Citra from their Nelson Sauvin. But to the majority of people, labels like NEIPA, DDH, and the other myriad terms associated with one of beer’s most argued-over styles, are ultimately meaningless. You could even go a step further and suggest they’re a form of gatekeeping; if beer is truly for everyone, why go to such great effort to make it so fucking complicated? IPA used to mean ‘strong and hoppy’, now it could mean pretty much anything. Today’s breweries are as comfortable using it to label what is essentially an alcoholic fruit smoothie as they are for a beer that tastes like licking a goat.”
No one gets to tell anyone they’re tasting beer wrong, actually | Courtney Iseman | September 2022
“It seems like every few months someone thinks (incorrectly) that the world desperately needs to hear his (because let’s be honest, it’s probably an older white dude) opinion on some beer descriptor, and will log on to Twitter-dot-com to fire off some embarrassingly overzealous judgement on the word in question. It’s one of the gross but stubborn elements of craft beer culture that seems like it will just carry on until we’re all on our deathbeds wishing we didn’t waste so much goddamned time on arguing about adjectives.”
Dual identity, death, and decolonization | Ruvani de Silva | September 2022
“English IPA should, by all logic, stick in my throat, yet I continue to devour and praise them. I know full well the excessive damage the British East India Company, purveyors of said IPA did to the Subcontinent, how rich they became from plundering our resources and labour, and how that wealth still circulates among the British elite… How can I, armed with full awareness of the damaging nature of its marketing, enjoy a bottle of Bengal Lancer? And yet not only was it one of the first English IPAs I really rated, I still regard it as an excellent example of the style. Can we separate the beer from its history, its heritage? Can I disconnect my love for it from my own history and heritage?”
‘Beer for all, or for none’: The Busch-Lasker controversy of 1922 | Brian Alberts | October 2022
“It was May 1922, and August A. Busch Sr. needed a break. A long one. So he did what America’s wealthiest dynasts do, and treated the word “summer” like a verb… Reaching the coast, Busch boarded the SS George Washington, a passenger liner about half the size of the Titanic. However, as soon as the ship passed into international waters and out of United States jurisdiction, something peculiar happened. The staff threw open cabinets stocked with European beer, liquors, and wines, and opened not one but five bars throughout the ship. It was as if Prohibition never existed at all… As you might imagine, this upset Busch more than a little.”
Gay men drink craft beer, too: on lad culture, stereotypes, and beer’s cultural barriers | Damian Kerlin | November 2022
“My first introduction to beer was through my dad: When I was young, I used to ask for a sip from a freshly opened bottle. I liked it cold – the colder the better. But as I got older, I stopped drinking beer and instead ordered what felt representative of me: vodka and Coke, gin and tonic, wine… I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but now that I’m older, I understand why my drinking preferences changed. It’s not because I stopped liking beer—instead, I wanted to fit in with my peers, those who I drank with and wanted to emulate. I came to see beer as macho, laddy and rough, just like vodka and Coke was chic, sophisticated. Even the glasses in which the two were served seemed to confirm that: one a chunky pint glass, the other a small, light tumbler.”
For more, do check out the backlog of our weekly round-ups. Stan Hieronymus has put together a list of his favourite writing of the year and Alan McLeod has done the same, with additional thoughts on the state and future of beer writing.