It’s Saturday and time for a round-up of writing about beer and pubs from the past week, including fast pours and missing monks.
First, some old news, with a recent update. Chatting to someone in the industry, who lives and breathes beer in a way we don’t these days, we were astonished to discover that Belgian brewery Achel no longer has Trappist status. Back in 2021, the two monks who supervised the brewing process, and thus underwrote its Trappistness, left. It lost the right to have the Authentic Trappist Product (ATP) label on the bottle. Now, in 2023, it’s been bought by a local entrepreneur which means… we’re not quite sure. But it definitely won’t be Trappist, and will probably become an Abbey beer. (Via @BelgianSmaak.)
For Pellicle Rachel Hendry has written about Scampi Fries, a snack so closely associated with the English pub that when lockdown kicked in 2020, we ordered an entire package for home, out of pathetic yearning. But like a lot of ‘traditional’ aspects of pub life, they’ve hardly been around five minutes:
As crisp-making technology progressed these flavour wars waged on with Smith’s producing some of the most iconic crisps known today: the monstrosity that is Monster Munch, the corrugated delight of Frazzles, the delicate crunch of Chipsticks. But it was their range of Moments – pillow-shaped cereal snacks that debuted in the 1980s – that were to become an instant pub sensation… The flavour drum is where the magic happens. Having just been fried, the scampi and lemon flavouring would be added, clinging to the fresh oil coating the shapes. There’s only one problem, when Jamie [Baxter] worked at the factory there wasn’t a single scampi flavouring in sight… “There was a Dover Sole flavour on the labels rather than scampi,” Jamie says.
Eoghan Walsh has been out with his Praktica exploring Brussels and, in particular, thinking about the pubs and bars that are no longer there:
Then our first child came. We went out less but I started exploring the neighbourhood more. If she was wrestling against sleep in her cot, I’d take her down the lift in the buggy and we’d walk endless circuits on the streets around the Vossenplein, her wrestling against tiredness, and me too… On these directionless walks I started taking more interest in the streets on our beat, and began to notice the accumulated contributions left behind by previous generations of Marollien newcomers. It was the abandoned cafés (or bars, pubs or estaminets – it’s never clear to me exactly what to call them) that most caught my eye. There was Le Foyer just down the hill from us on the corner of the Rue des Tanneurs and Rue du Lavoir, though the calligraphy on the window called it “Au Foyer”. The Foyer looked as if it could have closed a week ago or five years ago, it was hard to tell.
At Beer (History), Food, Travel Liam has shared an interesting nugget that feels like evidence of an alternate reality:
Ignoring the emphasising on ‘conditioned’ in the advert – which was possibly a way of making the kegged product sound more ‘legitimate’ – we will focus instead on the words ‘in half the time it used to take,’ and although it is unclear if they mean ‘new’ draught Guinness is now quicker to serve than when it was first launched in 1959 or just quicker compared to the older cask porter, we can see how at this time the speed of the pour and serve is seen as an important selling point by the marketeers in the company.
Stephen Jackson at Musing Anorak has checked in on the 16 stops on the Bermondsey Beer Mile which, it turns out, is still a thing. (Even if we never got round to doing it.) This bit struck us as especially interesting:
Based in Northamptonshire and producing some amazing dark beers they [Three Hills] to open a second, smaller brewery, in Bermondsey. An impressive range of their own beers is available with some guests thrown in for good measure… A [few] doors down is the London home of Manchester superstars Cloudwater. A nicely decorated arch coupled with an excellent beer selection, both their own and guests… Another few steps and you are at the premises of another non London brewery, Moor Beer Vaults & Tap Room is the London presence of the Bristol stalwarts.
I caught some flack a few years ago by complaining that the town of Shrewsbury lacks craft beer, and while it’s well supplied with the traditional stuff in cask and bottle, it’s useless as a destination to find out about trendy, murky, contemporary British brewing. I visited again over Christmas and discovered that, perhaps inevitably, craft has reached Shrewsbury. It’s in the form of Tap and Can, a pub beside the station in the familiar hardwood-furnished pseudo-dive craft vernacular. Still, there’s a decent cask offering among the kegs and cans, and that’s what interested me.
Finally, from Mastodon, an interesting blogging prompt, perhaps: what is the greatest beer bar in Europe?
…and from Twitter…