News opinion

News, nuggets and longreads 18 February 2023: The Pylons

We’ve rounded up the most compelling articles and blog posts about beer and pubs from the past week, including trends, taprooms and signs of the times.

For the Financial Times Oliver Barnes reports on the energy crisis and pub closures:

“Energy costs are simply a pub killer,” said Steven Alton, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping, which represents independent pubs. He estimated that up to half of venues were suffering because they were locked into fixed-term energy contracts as prices peaked last autumn in “a grossly unfair and uncompetitive [energy] market”.

(We can see this one fine but you might get caught by the paywall.)

Keg taps.

At British Beer Breaks Phil Mellows observes a new phenomenon: brewery taprooms that live on even after the breweries that built them have folded. He lists several examples and says:

Businesses do fail, of course. That’s capitalism. But they include some high-profile shockers. Earlier this week, Southampton’s Unity Brewing gave up, announcing on Twitter that the accumulation of lockdowns, rising costs and falling sales made it “impossible to continue”… But hang on. It says here “The Unity Bottleshop & Tasting Room… will continue to trade… under a new brand.”

A stained glass window with a map of India and a train full of people, some with turbans.
A stained glass window at The Red Lion. SOURCE: David Jesudason.

In the run up to the launch of his guide to Desi pubs, due in May, David Jesudason continues to post interesting stuff via his Substack newsletter. This week, it’s a portrait of The Red Lion, West Bromwich:

The Red Lion’s big surprise is the custodian, Satnam Purewal, the son of original publican Jeet, who is a forward-thinking trailblazer and has shaped the pub to fit his personality. Being a sociology and psychology teacher he’s, as you’d imagine, an articulate advocate of the power of desi pubs. (“Pubs create social cohesion,” he told me. “And that’s the best thing about pubs.”)… But he also has created a modern, family and female-friendly pub. The novel features include a retractable roof, a quiet room suitable for children with autism and table service, which was brought in during the Pandemic but has ensured women avoid “the male gaze” of bar flies.

The shuttered front of Juno.
SOURCE: Lisa Grimm.

We’re continuing to enjoy Lisa Grimm’s notes on the pubs of Dublin, a city we really would like to visit at some point. This week she wrote about Juno, of which her “expectations were not high”:

When the new signage appeared, I assumed ‘Juno‘ was a nod to Seán O’Casey, born just down the road. As there is now a cocktail called The Paycock on the menu, that would seem to track. I’m not sure there’s a hard-and-fast rule that every pub in Dublin needs to be mentioned in Ulysses and/or has a Brendan Behan anecdote, I am all for bringing in other local writers… In the summer of 2022, the doors began to occasionally open on weekends; as I walk by several times a day as a matter of course, it was important to stop in to investigate, For Science. At the time, only the main bar was open, and the single craft-y tap was a Brewdog one, but the Guinness was in good shape, and the décor was a good start – freshly-painted all around, with framed pictures and art that celebrated Dublin… without veering into theme pub territory…

A 1960s pub.
An Oldham pub.

We enjoyed this brief tour of the pubs of Oldham by Duncan ‘Pubmeister’ Mackay, with an emphasis on what’s changed:

The excellent closed pubs project lists 140 premises in Oldham, some with unusual names: the Filho Inn; Gold Diggers Arms; Help the Poor Struggler; and Turn of Luck. 3 different premises were called the Spinners, well it was a mill town. I love this picture. It’s most famous publican was Albert Pierrepoint, better known as a hangman, so probably not someone to argue with over last orders. One of several hundred he executed was a customer, James Corbitt, with whom he had sung duets in the pub. Pierrepoint caused a stir in his later autobiography when he said he was opposed to the death penalty, writing “if death were a deterrent I might be expected to know”.

A windmill in Amsterdam.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, in 2018.

Ron Pattinson has broken away from his usual beat to leave a useful record for future beer historians, observing changes in the Dutch beer scene in recent years:

IPA started turning up a few years back. But relatively mainstream ones, in the form of Brand or ‘t Ij. More recently, crafty stuff has been appearing. OK, Oedipus, now owned by Heineken, isn’t true craft any more. Some of the others are more worthy of the description. (If you think that it still means something.)… Great you might say. Not so much for me. Because they no longer sell any Trappist beers. As elsewhere in Holland, the range of Belgian beers available is being trimmed back. There’s still Leffe Gulden Draak, Kasteel, La Chouffe, Duvel and Tripel Karmeliet on offer. Even Duvel Tripel Hop. But that’s about it for Belgium.

Photographer Marge Bradshaw has an interesting project underway “exploring the experiences of women working in the micro pub and brewery trade”. The first is a portrait of Rachel who says: “I feel like I have to work twice as hard because I’m a woman and I have to battle with some people’s perceptions of me and the business… So when I did my cellar training I put my certificates on the wall, and I really shouldn’t have to do that.”

Finally, from Twitter…

…and from Mastodon:

A post from Adrian Tierney-Jones: “Good visit to Manchester and Liverpool pubs this week researching my next book - haven’t drunk so much cask beer for ages - here are some pix.” With pictures of cask ale and traditional pubs.

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