News, nuggets and longreads 11 February 2023: Share of throat

Another week, another collection of articles and blog posts about beer and pubs, including notes on marketing, forestry and ‘the third place’.

There’s been a lot of chat about Guinness since an announcement last week of its remarkable performance in the UK beer market. For Marketing Week Mark Ritson digs into the mechanics of its success, and longevity:

Even in the darkest days, the Guinness team kept their focus on “winning the first pint” when pubs reopened. The nature of long-term brand building is such that you cannot just turn it off and then back on again at a moment’s notice when demand restarts. The brands that kept their brand burning during the darkness of Covid were the ones that grew the most when the market eventually returned.

(Some of the beer history might make you twitch, though.)

BrewDog bar sign.

We’re including this next piece mostly because it’s just fascinating to us to what extent BrewDog is under attack from every angle. That forest that’s such an important part of their green credentials? People who take an interest in forests don’t seem terribly impressed:

The income statement for the Lost Forest in 2021 shows very little activity and appears to support the claims made in the Guardian article last March… that BrewDog was not investing what it had claimed at Kinrara… The money raised by investors to buy Kinrara is shown by the accounts as owing to BrewDog… It is difficult to understand WHY the overall debt of the company would be increasing, even if only slightly, if BrewDog was making a real investment in running the property.  But the net effect of the debt is that the Lost Forest has negative equity, i.e. is effectively bankrupt.

A pub table.

Katie Mather has been thinking about the difficulty of taking up space in the pub and the obligations it brings:

If I stay for the afternoon with my notebook with just one pint, because my budget for that day was a fiver on random spends, I’ve started to feel something I never used to experience: guilt. It’s self-imposed—nobody at the pub is willing me to buy more. But I know, as a patron and a bar owner, that it costs so much more to keep a pub open right now… When we have no public spaces to utilise, when our homes aren’t the ideal space for us in that moment, we turn to what we have. And what we have is MacDonald’s. Pret A Manger, Wetherspoons… Yes, Wetherspoons. I’m a former employee and I fucking hate that guy. But I can’t deny that Wetherspoons offer something most pubs do not—anonymity. A strange USP, when pubs in their best incarnations are places of warm, personal hospitality.  But it’s this detachment from life, this formation of a pub-as-liminal-space that makes a Wetherspoons pub so welcoming to many.

A 1960s mural with pearly kings and queens and a policeman in a helmet.
Not one of David’s photos.

At A London Inheritance David Sweetland shares his father’s photographs of London, taking new ones for comparison. This week he went to Peckham in South London to look at pubs in particular:

The Kentish Drovers is an old pub, but not the one in the above photo. The current location of the Kentish Drovers was originally a bank, and the pub is now a Wetherspoon’s. It was originally on the opposite side of Peckham High Street, in an area which unfortunately was covered by a very large advertising hoarding so I have no idea if any of the original pub building remains… The earliest reference I found to the Kentish Drovers was from the Morning Chronicle on the 4th of November, 1805, when the leasehold of a cottage was being offered for sale at an auction at “Mr. Mills’s, the Kentish Drovers, Peckham.”

The Apple Tree pub, a grand, imposing building.
SOURCE: Dermot Kennedy.

More photography: Dermot Kennedy’s excellent Pub Gallery blog has a substantial piece on Harry Redfern’s pubs for the Carlisle State Management scheme with plenty of shots taken on location, and a good summary of the history:

The Apple Tree, completed in 1927, was Redfern’s first new pub for the scheme and the first where he was able to fully implement his ideas for the ‘model pub’. It’s a large five bay building with a terracotta ground floor and red brick upper floors with gabled towers at each side. The pub was different in having bars on both the ground floor and first floor, and the layout was uncompromisingly class based. Downstairs were three main bars, the 2nd Class Mens, 2nd Class Mixed and 2nd Class Women’s. There was also a ‘Weekend Bar’ which as the name suggests was opened to accommodate the extra customers expected at the end of the week. Upstairs had the 1st Class Mens and 1st Class Mixed, plus a large kitchen and wash-up area for the food offer that was a key concept of the model pub. Also revolutionary were the indoor toilets on both floors.

Pilsner Coke logo.

Al Reece (Velky Al) at Fuggled has been digging in the German-language archive of the Austrian National Library again, this time looking into the spread of Pilsner in the 19th century:

According to one Doctor Wilhelm Windisch, writing in Wochenschrift für Brauerei, Pilsner and Dortmunder are both “light beers” but of “very different types”, and Dr Windisch poses the question “which is the nobler of the two”? Windisch then goes on to sing the praises of the Dortmunder, saying… that Dortmunder is “always clean”. The German here is “es stets blank”, “blank” can translate into English as “bare”, “shiny”, or “pure”, though a Czech possibility is the word “čistý”, which in English can translate as “clean”. Given the context of later in the quote about a yeasty flavour, I think Dr Windisch is talking about the classic clean flavour that we associate with lagers in general.

Finally, from Twitter, an interesting question that prompted many interesting responses…

…and from Mastodon:

A post from "Remember that time in 2018 when Magic Rock Brewing's double IPA, Neo Human Cannonball, was possibly the best beer in the UK?"

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