News, nuggets and longreads 21 January 2023: The dolce vita

Here’s all the news and commentary from the world of beer that’s caught our attention in the past week, from Fat Tire to lemonade.

First, let’s look at the collective attempt to gauge how good or bad things might be in brewing and hospitality in the UK right now.

  • Tandleman observes that pubs feel a little busier than might be expected – but asks if it will be enough to balance out increased operating costs?
  • David Jesudason is worried, not only about the possibility of mass pub closures in 2023, but also by the apparent complacency of the commentariat.
  • Katie Mather feels the reckoning is here: “It’s the middle of January 2023 and what I thought might happen is happening – hospitality businesses are counting up their Christmas and New Year takings, falling short of their targets, and closing up shop.”

Fat Tire
SOURCE: New Belgium Brewing.

Stan Hieronymus asks a good question: ‘Why do people suddenly care (again) about Fat Tire?’:

I spent more time Tuesday looking at Twitter than I have in the last two weeks, maybe a month, working my way through various threads, wondering when those commenting last drank Fat Tire, or why they spent so much time typing words about the can, or if the rebrand will help New Belgium recharge Fat Tire, or in another words if “high quality, low impact” (a reference to the beer’s zero-emissions production process) will create more connections than “Follow your Folly” once did, or why a brewery should be obligated to make a legacy beer exactly like it always has even if it quit using the exact same ingredients maybe two decades ago, or for that matter exactly what a legacy beer beer is, or . . . whew . . . exhausting.

Wait, back up: the story is that an important American craft brewery, New Belgium, has rebranded and reformulated its flagship beer, Fat Tire.

Kate Bernot offers a to-the-point summary of what’s happened, exactly, and why it matters – “Since a peak year in 2016, Fat Tire has lost -52.2% of its volume in chain retail nationally.”

And Jim Vorel has tasted the old and new alongside each other.

The sign on the Brasserie de la Senne brewery

How is making beer like making art, or not like making art? And how is tasting beer like looking at art, or not? Eoghan Walsh has been reflecting on this question with Brasserie de la Senne in mind:

Alcohol features sporadically in Picasso’s works and judging by two of the still lifes in the Brussels exhibition he must have been a Bass drinker. But it was his late-era variations on the Old Masters that most caught my eye because earlier that same month, across town and in a very different discipline, Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne was involved in his own reinterpretation of a (modern) Belgian classic. To celebrate the 20th birthday of the brewery’s Zinnebir, De Baets had commissioned three brewers – Nino Bacelle at Dottignies’ Brouwerij De Ranke, Daniel Thiriez of the eponymous northern French brewery, and Brasserie de la Mule’s Joel Galy – to produce their own variation on de la Senne’s flagship.

Peveril of the Peak

It’s a treat to have new writing about pubs from Katie Mather via Pellicle, for which she is an associate editor. It’s an account of a crawl around Manchester not drinking beer, but enjoying the pubs no less for that:

The Nag’s Head is an ideal pub if you love tall tales, wild overheard conversations, and the privacy of darkly varnished wood and heavy furniture. We become emotional, then giddy, then serious—at one point I take out a notebook and make business plans I will never activate. We hug, and we tell each other not to be silly. We have personal revelations. It’s not the lime and lemonade that’s encouraged this… Mulligans is a place for the living, and for living in. We talk with our hands, getting into topics we can’t believe we’ve never spoken about before in our many years of friendship. The live band starts, and we get another round of drinks and Taytos. Soon we’re dancing, totally sober, raising our arms and shouting along with the folk songs we know.

Four large steins of Spaten lager (detail from a poster c.1920s.)

Al Reece at Fuggled has been digging in the archives of the Austrian National Library again. This time, he’s found notes on a debate about drinking vessels from the 1890s:

According to one Dr Schulze, writing in 1890, “””you shouldn’t drink beer out of beer glasses”. Schulze went on to state that the traditional German bierkrug was far superior as it protects the liquid from the deleterious effects of sunlight. This fact might seem fairly obvious to us here in the first quarter of the 21st century, but in late 19th century central Europe, this was cause for much concern and investigation.

A pen on a table next to a beer mat and glass.

We’ll finish with a bit of blogging about blogging from Mark Johnson:

I do not think that beer writers, especially those of us who do this as a free hobby, are mandated to research and write about what you think they should be covering. Blogging is still about writing about what you want or at the very least feel comfortable doing. If you want certain topics discussed – start that conversation your bloody self and stop blaming others for talking about *shrugs* anything else that they want. If you want paid writers to cover it then create that publication and get those stories commissioned. You have the power. You just want others to do the work.

Finally, from Mastodon

Post from Kathleen Weessies
"Why roller skates were invented? 1851 description of delivering beer without upsetting the foam in Berlin. From Scientific American."

…and 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 21 January 2023: The dolce vita”

Interesting juxtaposition of the “ the apparent complacency of the commentariat” and the boring, rose tinted tales of the Fat Tire saga. The alienation of the consumer from information related to the product being consumed seems to be an actual goal in the semi-pro scribbly set. This brand not only is simply a failure in its recently past form (one of the dullest beers I’ve ever had, certainly when compared to actual ambers actually from Old Belgium) but the brewery was scandalously involved in utter hypocrisy, now universally unmentioned, involving the allegedly ethically pure former owners at the time of sale just 3-4 years ago. I presume somewhere a military dictatorship’s officers’ mess is happy with how this has all turned out.

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