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News, nuggets and longreads 4 March 2023: Daffodils

Here’s a round-up of all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve found interesting in the past week, from ‘plubs’ to Guinness purism.

Those with an eye on sustainability have long argued that the UK would benefit from bringing back bottle deposits, encouraging consumers to put containers into the recycle-reuse system. It seems to work well in Germany, among other places, where it’s not uncommon to see freelance litter pickers collecting bottles from the street. Scotland has attempted to lead the way but, so far, the scheme has attracted controversy, as reported by the BBC:

One of Scotland’s most recognisable drinks brands is among hundreds which have not signed up to a controversial new bottle recycling scheme… Dougal Sharp, the founder of Innis and Gunn, questioned the legality of the scheme and raised concerns about its costs to businesses and consumers… A total of 664 producers had signed up to the deposit return scheme by the Tuesday deadline… It was initially estimated that about 4,500 producers would need to register… However First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that number had now been revised to “below 2,000”.

A key point, though, is that the largest multinationals have signed up. As with tax administration that’s important because it covers off the largest part of the market with relatively few touchpoints.


A cask label for Robert Perry & Son Ltd of Rathdowney.
SOURCE: Liam K.

Liam K at Beer (History), Food, Travel has started a cool new project: ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’. He admits this was directly inspired by Eoghan Walsh’s similar series on Brussels from last year, which in turn was a riff on something the British Museum did years ago. It’s a good format, well worth borrowing, and Liam’s already given us several great entries. This is from the third in the series:

Unlike bottle labels, which are a relatively common find for the small number of Irish breweries that survived into the first few decades of the 20th century, cask labels seem to be much rarer. This is of course because they were produced – and needed – in smaller quantities, and because they ultimately ended up back in the brewery who issued them or they became detached from the casks during handling or cleaning, but they do become available at times and facsimiles litter the internet on various sites, perhaps from stock acquired from closed breweries. It is at this point even difficult to know which breweries used them and which used coloured rims to differentiate their various beers – like Guinness did – or used other methods. This relatively rare survivor measures 164mm (6 7⁄16″) in diameter and possibly dates from the late 1920s or the 1930s.


The ornate but decaying ceiling of a pub.
The Crown & Kettle, Manchester.

At dance music blog All My Friends Liam Donoghue has written about ‘The rise of Manchester’s plubs’ introducing us (and maybe the world?) to a new word:

A Plub, simple. I’m going to use it to describe any space that hosts club events or electronic music where you might not normally expect it. If the place serves scampi fries too that’s a bonus… Clubbers seem to want a bigger range of options than just your standard 11pm – 4am party… People want to go to interesting parties in interesting spaces. That’s not to say there’s anything bad with your “traditional club” but venues add so much to the character of an event that if you can run a party in an old boozer it can have such a positive, lasting impression on all the dancers there… Could age also be a factor? Or is it just that I’m getting older? Now that I’m 32 I’d much prefer a fun day partying on till 11pm than a big gomping night out till 6am!


The exterior of L. Mulligan. Grocer.
SOURCE: Lisa Grimm.

Lisa Grimm’s overview of Dublin’s pubs and bars at Weird Beer Girl continues to provide fascinating nuggets of insight, beyond its basic utility. This week, it was L. Mulligan. Grocer., where Guinness is an issue:

I’d not been in long when a man came in and ordered a Guinness; upon being told they did not serve Guinness, but did have some alternatives from smaller local brewers, the man simply turned and walked out without another word. I was somewhat slack-jawed, but was told it happened not infrequently – indeed, I’ve now seen similar behaviour (and worse) at a number of local pubs – this is something we will be revisiting as a theme in this series. Don’t get me wrong, I like Guinness, but I find that specific type of Guinness Enthusiast very odd indeed, and they are legion – but I digress.


A sign pointing to a beer festival car park.

In the context of some debate about beer festivals – do people want or enjoy them? – Jeff Alworth at Beervana explores one approach to making them work in 2023:

As we approached the Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon a Saturday ago, the roar of thrash metal rattled windowpanes. It was the band Help!, who describe themselves as practitioners of “noise punk”—but the guttural vocals and slashing guitars sounded more like the arrival of Asmodeus and his demonic entourage. This was Fort George’s—and possibly the Pacific Northwest’s—signature event, the Festival of Dark Arts, and it struck a fittingly black note… This year’s event sold out in less than five minutes. A lot of people were turned away, and those who managed to get in the queue early enough crowed about their golden tickets. (Full disclosure: I paid full freight and received no perks.) This was 2015-level enthusiasm, and it contrasted sharply with earlier announcements that the Oregon Brewers Fest and Holiday Ale Fest—two decades-old stalwarts on the annual calendar—were canceling. Possibly for good… How do we reconcile these conflicting data points? Why are some fests dying or dead, while the Festival of Dark Arts was the hottest ticket in the state?


Adrian Tierney-Jones is delighted to be back in the beer garden and sitting in the sun has made him reflect on the seasonal moods of the pub, which is the theme of his next book:

This doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed my winter in both country and city pubs, listening to regulars telling tall tales or jokes best left in a Christmas cracker, whilst watching another log placed on the fire and being bewitched by the orange sparks of eternal flame. In one pub I recall a local’s friendly young pug trying to get on my head as I sunk deeper into the comfortable old sofa. I have enjoyed malice-free pints of dark and strong beer, slowly sipped and muttered to myself gosh-is-my-glass-empty-again and wandered back to the bar for another. There has been solitude as well as sociability in the pubs I have visited, the slow tick-tock of time in a quiet afternoon bar in Glasgow where winter was a gentle ghost that took you by the elbow and led you to pastures green.


Finally, from Twitter…

…and from Mastodon:

@GayOldTime@masto.ai

The Beer That Made Milwaukee Bi-curious ????”Vintage ad for Schlitz beer. An illustration shows three people in the rain. A man covers another man and his beer with an umbrella. The two men lock eyes. A woman, presumably the first man's wife, looks on with shock.”

(We found this by following the hashtag #beer; following hashtags is one of Mastodon’s best features.)

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 4 March 2023: Daffodils”

Beer festivals will never die. They existed before CAMRA and craft, well outside Germany I should add, and will exist after. Some specific events may decline for a variety of reasons – the demographic ages out, or moves on, or…

Beer is social and pub- or tap-level is just one dimension, quite literally. Craft has a certain perspective that seems so anti-social, in many ways.

Indeed no likes more than I do to sit alone with a beer and parse it to the nth degree but beer is bigger than that – much – and always will be.

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