News, nuggets and longreads 25 February 2023: Humming liquor

From China to Corby, here’s a selection of the most interesting writing about beer and pubs weve encountered in the past seven days.

Say what you like about BrewDog, they’re certainly committed to giving us stories to put in the top slot in this round-up. Earlier this week they announced a partnership with Budweiser China to produce BrewDog branded beers for the Chinese market, as the Guardian reports:

BrewDog is focusing on international expansion after a difficult few years in the UK. The company, headquartered in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, lost its status as a ethically certified B Corp in December after complaints over its treatment of workers. BrewDog apologised to employees in 2021 after a group wrote an open letter accusing the company of creating a “culture of fear” within the business…. Watt said the company was focusing on international expansion in part because “the environment is very challenging in the UK”, in an interview with the Financial Times.

When we shared this story on social media many people replied with a variation on “So much for being punk!” Now, nobody has seriously made that claim for BrewDog in a long time, but this really does feel like they might be entering a new (final?) phase.

A brewery.

For Craft Beer & Brewing John M. Verive (a writer who is new to us) has dug into a perennially fascinating subject: the migration of brewing kit around the industry. In the UK, there’s a fascination with old Firkin brewpub setups, on which many UK microbreweries started out. Mr Verive writes about the movements of various hunks of stainless steel around US breweries in the past few decades:

It was a sweltering day in Bozeman, Montana, when the trucks showed up to the construction site for Bunkhouse Brewery’s new location. On board was a used brewing system that would be the center of the tasting room, and the gear had made a long overland journey from Destihl Brewery in Normal, Illinois… That was only the most recent stop for the 10-hectoliter brewhouse that had been built at Beraplan in Munich, Germany, almost 30 years earlier… The brewery had traveled halfway around the world and seen three decades of service. Retooled by resourceful brewers at each stop on its journey, the venerable gear has plenty of life left in it. Made largely from stainless steel, brewing vessels are durable by design. There are no junkyards filled with moldering brew kettles and disused conical fermentation vessels.

A smiling person leaning on a bartop in a traditional English pub.
Ali Ross at The Coach & Horses. SOURCE: Will Hawkes.

In the latest edition of his monthly newsletter London Beer City Will Hawkes provides an update on The Coach & Horses, a classic Soho pub whose reputation was long tied to that of its landlord:

Ali Ross, General Manager at the Coach and Horses, says the carpet – produced by Axminster, naturally – was laid after Fuller’s took on the pub in 2019. It’s much the same as the one that was there before, she adds, except less grubby. As a metaphor for this most famous and infamous of Soho pubs, that’s perfect, so let’s run with it… Before Fuller’s took it in-house, The Coach had two landlords in more than half a century. From 2006 until 2019, it was Alastair Choat; before then, it was Norman Balon – and if you’ve any interest in London pubs, you’ll know exactly who he is. “London’s Rudest Landlord” was his reputation, and he encouraged it. According to Jeffrey Bernard, journalist and not-very-bon-viveur, he had it printed on the pub’s promotional matchboxes.

A black and white photo of small boats laying a pipeline in the English Channel.
Operation Pluto, 1944, via Wikipedia.

At Beer et seq. Gary Gillman has taken an excursion into the post war English pubs with notes on The Pluto in Corby, Northamptonshire, and its unfortunately typical story:

One might think the name had a Space Age inspiration… But the heavens had nothing to do with it. If anything, the reverse was true: the name came from the briny depths of the sea – the English Channel, specifically… How could that be? Pluto was an acronym for Pipe Line Under The Ocean, as Lost Pubs tells us. Alright, but why the Midlands, why not for a pub by the Channel, or another English seaside, at least?

A pub window with frosted glass.

The Pub Curmudgeon has gone off-brand observing that, actually, from where he’s sitting, things don’t look too bad for pubs, at least in terms of footfall:

I’m well aware that my pattern of pubgoing is hardly representative, but in the year so far I’ve visited a wide cross-section of pubs and seen levels of trade ranging from being the sole customer through nicely ticking over to standing room only. It seems no different from how it was pre-Covid. The one pub where I was the only customer was one that I’m confident would have been busy at other times. Unsurprisingly, two of the busiest ones were branches of Wetherspoon’s.

We’ve said before, and will say again: if pubs have a problem at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be a lack of willingness on the part of drinkers.

A painted sign on a pub wall: real ale and real food.

Related: the BBC has a story about a practical step some pubs are taking to manage costs and profits – closing their kitchens and taking food off the menu:

Family favourites like fish and chips, steaks and roast dinners were once hailed as money-makers for pubs… But industry data suggests drinks-only pubs, which are owned by a chain, had stronger sales than gastropubs for every month of 2022…

(It’s illustrated with a photo of veteran pub blogger Jeff Bell, AKA Stonch, now landlord of The Ypres Castle Inn in Rye, mistakenly named throughout as ‘Jeff Buckley’ when we read the article.)

Finally, from Twitter, something to provoke thoughts…

…while on Mastodon, beer got a moment in the sun…

A post from FediFollows

#Beer Picks of the Day

➡️ @boakandbailey - All about beers and pubs, based in England

➡️ @beerladiespod  - Beer Ladies podcast about craft beers, history etc

➡️ @brewsite - Beer blog founded in 2004, based in Oregon USA 

➡️ @thomas - Brewer & founder of the server

➡️ @brewedculture - Beer historian, writer, communicator

➡️ @robfrominternet - Brewer & host of online beer show

➡️ @fourpriests - Small indie brewery in Cheshire, England

➡️ @agoodbeerblog - Blog by Canadian beer writer

4 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 25 February 2023: Humming liquor”

I like to spot the old DME equipment, made by an outfit in little Prince Edward Island, Canada which operated under water, surviving (like the province as a whole) on perpetual government grants obtained not doubt through political influence. Spotted a set up in small Oswego New York once. When it finally went under around 2018, I guided a few journalists and maybe a creditors to a helpful bankruptcy trustee pal of a pal who explained the whole mess.

I was looking at north Wales brewery Geipel‘s website last night (looking for information about stockists near me) and in the history blurp it says:

“The brewhouse itself was manufactured outside Munich and comes to us by way of a defunct brewpub in Nagano, Japan.”

which is similar to one of the examples in the article.

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