News, nuggets and longreads 4 February 2023: Baby’s in Black

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, including notes on the meaning of Guinness and Manchester estate pubs.

First, some news about Guinness:

Check out the discussion beneath Roger’s Tweet, too. Some interesting observations from both publicans and drinkers. Surely stout isn’t going to be the hype style of the 2020s, is it? We wouldn’t complain.

A group of Asian drinkers on a night out.
SOURCE: David Jesudason.

David Jesudason continues to explore desi pubs in his newsletter, ahead of the publication of his book on the subject. This week, the focus was on the Century Club at Forest Gate and its founder, Peter Patel:

“In the Indian criminal world… we were known as a police pub… I wouldn’t say it was organised crime… More a bunch of thugs getting money off the Asian businesses… The boss will send all of his lackeys in and then he would come down to my club like he’s not associated with these guys. He’ll say ‘Give me £500 or £1,000 and I’ll make sure they never come down again’. But I’d been living in East London since 1972 so I knew what the score was.”

A pint of Guinness.

‘Nine ways of looking at a pint of Guinness’ by Ana Kinsella for Vittles is a reflection on the power of marketing and its role in making people mythologise what is, after all, a big commercial beer:

The conundrum is that the more popular Guinness becomes, and the further it travels, the more likely it is that its image will be subject to mistreatment. Pity the drinkers confronted with pints served in the wrong glass, or the right glass topped with thin and bubbly heads, or thick, wedge-like heads, or no head at all. The images on Shit London Guinness, a viral Instagram account, compile the worst pints of Guinness served to drinkers – particularly Irish drinkers, who are forced to seek out their favourite pints in London and further afield. All look abhorrent to me, something like the booze world’s version of the uncanny valley of almost-humanity. They’re Wario Guinnesses, laughing at me wickedly from my phone’s screen.

A farmhouse.
SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol/Craft Beer & Brewing.

For Craft Beer & Brewing Lars Marius Garshol offers detailed notes on a Scandinavian beer style so obscure even he’s only had a sip:

The “probably” there may sound odd, so time for a confession: I’ve barely tasted it because gotlandsdricke is not easy to find. When my family and I holidayed there in 2015, I managed to get one day off to investigate the beer. However, despite six months of preparation, I found only a single brewer—and when I met him, he didn’t really have any beer. He had thawed some frozen wort from his freezer and started fermenting it just two days before I arrived, so it wasn’t finished… It’s not clear exactly how many brewers there are on the island, but there must be at least 100.

Stools at the bar in a pub.

Adrian Tierney-Jones has recorded an incident of pub life from Aberdeen for Beer Insider:

Maybe I have that sort of face that attracts certain people, but the slapping man then sat next to me and said something which I could only catch was that his daughter had died. I said I was sorry and then he asked if he could have a drink from my beer. ‘No mate,’ I laughed and he slapped his fist against his hand and I could not understand his words. He was aggressive but for some reason I didn’t feel too threatened, feeling that it was all show… ‘What the fuck is that,’ he said pointing at my Kindle…

These things do happen in pubs, don’t they? But people mostly either ignore them, forget them, or edit them out of memories – and their writing. In fact, here’s a little bit from Mass Observation we quoted in 20th Century Pub, from c.1937:

Large tough guy with masses of hair held down by a hairnet sits at table with group of 4 (1 woman) puts his head in his hands and complains of being tired. They talk about trade being bad. Hairnet suddenly takes a small live tortoise out of his overcoat pocket and threatens woman with it. She screams a little.

A big yellow sign for UNDERDOG on a pub wall.
SOURCE: Lisa Grimm.

We’re enjoying Lisa Grimm’s notes on Dublin pubs at Weird Beer Girl. This week she turned her attention to The Underdog, using AI writing tool ChatGPT to get the blandest possible description, against which she could then argue:

It is worth emphasising that The Underdog is still Dublin’s only true ‘craft beer bar’ – somewhat surprising for a capital city, certainly, even a relatively small one, but there is no other direct comparison. While the various Galway Bay pubs – many of which we will be visiting individually as part of this series – do a great job of showing off their own beer, as well as some fine guest taps, and it’s also true that there will be a few other pubs and bars covered that can be counted on to have some good, non-macro options, nothing else really fits the definition as squarely as The Underdog. It’s one of a kind.

A 1960s estate pub.
SOURCE: Alan Winfield.

Stephen Marland’s photo essays on Manchester estate pubs are always a bittersweet pleasure. The Ark Royal in Harpurhey is now a church but Marland uses the words of the late Alan Winfield to bring it to life, alongside a collection of images:

“There was the usual two rooms inside, I had a drink in the bar room which was quite busy on my Friday afternoon visit, there was also a more comfortable lounge… The pub was a Robinsons tied house, there were two real ales on, I had a drink of Robinsons Bitter which was a nice drink, there was also Robinsons Mild on.”

Finally, from Mastodon

A post from Giles Booth showing Aldi fake Proper Job beer called Proper Hoppy IPA in very similar packaging.

…and from Twitter

A Tweet with a meme format image of a woman saying; ‘So you see, that’s where all the trouble began.. *looks at picture of the smiling man on the front of an Augustiner Helles bottle* That smile. That damned smile’

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

3 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 4 February 2023: Baby’s in Black”

That’s quite an achievement for Diageo/ Guinness; at the same time, it is telling because even at its best Guinness Draught is a rather light-tasting drink. It has been so since at least the 70s. I will never forget the relative letdown when I first tried it then, in comparison even to bottled Guinness Extra Stout (and then say, Anchor Porter of San Francisco, or one of the Australian stouts, Carbine say).

So the achievement has come in my opinion at the price of an assertive palate.

It is not enough for me to encounter occasionally the almost-craft quality of a particularly good pint of Guinness (and I have experienced that).

For my regular patronage, it would need in body and taste to match the still-worthy bottled Guinness Foreign Extra or Special Export Stout. Not in alcohol but taste.

Mass appeal vs. critical acclaim, we suppose. We find it reasonably tasty, to be honest, and that unusual, pleasing texture is hard to find in any other beer.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my first pint of Draught Guinness, in many years. I was in Scotland, at the time, so it was a “distress purchase,” but apart from being too cold (it wasn’t even the Extra Cold version), it wasn’t that bad.

I know what you mean about that “texture” thing, Ray.

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