News, nuggets and longreads 25 March 2023: Expresso Bongo

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Steel City to the importance of FAQs.

First, something chunky to read: the 2023 SIBA Craft Beer Report is out, with lots of interesting stats. For example…

“A growing number of consumers believe that genuine craft beer should be produced by an independent brewery. Only 3% believe it can be made by a global brewer… There has been a significant fall in the overall number of consumers ever drinking beer, especially among women, and more than a fifth of consumers say they no longer drink any alcohol… Pub visits fell sharply with more than a fifth of all consumers not visiting a pub in the last 12 months.”

A slice of bread.

The latest edition of Will Hawkes’s newsletter London Beer City is now online. For March, among other things, he’s been thinking about Toast, the company that makes beer from waste bread. In a conversation with the founder he digs into its funding (some from Heineken), marketing strategy (‘buyer personas’) and business model:

Toast’s value-based culture… has, I think, made it more accessible, easier to grasp, for those not in the beer world. It’s very popular in non-pub hospitality of all kinds, from Wahaca to Sadler’s Wells to British Airways. For restaurants in particular, Toast makes a lot of sense: a good quality beer which demonstrates the operators have a social conscience, and doesn’t interfere with the serious business of the wine list, where the profit margin lies… While the impact of bread on the flavour of the beer is limited (typically, bread replaces 25 percent of the malted barley), I’ve always thought the implied message of Toast, that you can make great beer out of old bread, was a difficult one for the brewing industry. What happened to the ‘finest malt and hops’?

Beer taps at the Samuel Jones, Exeter.

Courtney Iseman asks a good question: what information needs to be on a brewery’s website? As in, what do people (or ‘users’ in professional jargon) expect to find there?

As many people pointed out, being able to check tap lists ahead of time is crucial in decision-making. Remember, for both better and worse, this country is absolutely saturated with breweries. Your city might have ten different options, maybe more. You could have three taprooms within walking distance—idk, I don’t know your deal, but the point is, many of us don’t just have the one taproom that’s our only choice every time we feel like venturing out into the world to drink on-premise. And traveling ups the stakes plenty: you’ve got X amount of days in a certain city and so can only visit X amount of breweries.

A pint of Guinness.

Pellicle editor Matthew Curtis has given himself an opportunity to opine on what is weirdly turning out to be one of the big topics of 2023: Guinness. Specifically, he’s been thinking about how he feels guilty for liking it:

The Fiddlers Green is closing down… The time I’ve spent inside this pub, typically most weekends since pubs reopened after lockdown ended in May 2021, gave me fresh perspective, gradually tearing down the bias I had created. It reminded me that pubs should be egalitarian spaces, their quality not merely defined by what beers are on tap. Most of this time was spent drinking pints of Guinness. In fact, because I loved visiting the Fidds’, I probably drank more of it than any other beer over the course of 2022.

The Rutland Arms pub

For Ferment, the promo magazine for a beer subscription service, Pete Brown has written about Sheffield and its place in British beer culture:

When the history of the British craft beer revolution is written from a safe distance, it will likely be traced to London and 2010-12, when an explosion of new breweries hit the capital… By that golden boom time, Sheffield – a city less than a tenth the size of London – boasted over thirty breweries… By 2016, Sheffield boasted one brewery per 32,000 people, compared with London’s one for every 112,000. Real ale never faded from view here – most pubs stock at least one pale ale in what has become the city’s defining style: below 4% ABV, hop-forward on the aroma, but clean and balanced – the kind of beer you end up drinking four pints of when you only went in for one.


After a bit of a pause (the last post was in 2021) Knut Albert Solem is back with an update on the brewing scene in Norway, which might serve as a sign of wider disturbances in the force:

The last two decades have given us a large number of breweries in Norway, peaking at almost two hundred. Some hobby projects have come and gone; but now the number of quality brewers is dwindling… While the energy prices have hit all across Europe, we were probably taken more by surprise than most.  Our hydroelectric power plants have traditionally given us plenty of cheap electricity, now we face prices on the European level in most of the country. This has been a blow for many industries, but some of the breweries were hit really hard.

Finally, from Twitter…

…and also have a look at the #Beer and #BeerWriting hashtags on Mastodon.

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