News, nuggets and longreads 29 April 2023: The Criminal Code

Every Saturday, we pull together the best beer-related reading from the past week. This time, we’ve got moving breweries, Munich yeast and more.

First, from BBC Northern Ireland, one of those stories that shines a light on the less glamorous logistical side of the beer business, and the material value of things like casks and kegs:

Two men have been handed suspended sentences over the theft of empty beer kegs worth more than £250,000… Both men are involved in supplying kegs to the beer industry… Belfast Crown Court heard that, in 2019, County Down-based alcohol wholesaler Tennent’s NI Ltd reported to police their “suspicion of a large-scale theft of empty beer kegs” from its premises… A prosecution lawyer explained that all kegs sold by breweries remained their property, with buyers under contractual obligation to return the empty beer kegs, each valued at £66, to the wholesaler or the brewery directly.

A detail from a 1950s map of British breweries featuring Jennings.

For Pellicle Jacob Smith (a writer who is new to us) has reflected on the death of a historic regional brewery, Jennings of Cockermouth, whose beer is now brewed in Burton:

John Jennings, the son of a maltster, founded Jennings Brewery in the tiny Cumbrian village of Lorton in 1828. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, new breweries were not wholly unique enterprises during this time. Yet, as its high-quality ale gained renown beyond the local vicinity, Jennings began to set itself apart from its competitors. In 1874, the brewery moved from Lorton to a bigger site in the neighbouring town of Cockermouth to keep up with growing demand… Castle Brewery, as it became known, stood in the crumbling shadow of the town’s Norman fortress, upon the confluences of two rivers: the Cocker and the Derwent. This location provided the brewery with access to the finest Lakeland water. An attribute that would define Jennings’ beers for centuries to come.

Partizan Lemongrass Saison.
Partizan Lemongrass Saison c.2015.

The latest edition of Will Hawkes’s London Beer City newsletter is now available to read online (you should subscribe for early access) and has plenty of good stuff. That includes the news that Partizan is leaving Bermondsey for Market Harborough in Leicestershire:

The cost of the space on Almond Road in Bermondsey was exacerbated by a dispute with the arch’s owners – The Arch Company – that culminated in a risk that the brewing equipment would be seized. At that stage, Andy took advice and sold the brewery’s assets to Langton, thereby securing them from that prospect. This means he’s now employed by Langton, but he insists nothing else will change. “It’ll still be me making the Partizan beers on the same brew kit,” he says. (He didn’t want to discuss financial details.)… He seems very phlegmatic about what has happened, and to a degree that’s understandable. He hit 40 a few years ago, and moved to Suffolk with his partner and son last year… In that respect this is a classic London story; middle-aged people have always left for a different way of life. In another, though, it’s yet more evidence of how life in London gets financially tighter by the day, something we’ve known for years but that, in the aftermath of Covid lockdowns, has become ever more fraught.

A detail from the delivery docket showing 'Number of casks' and some pencil scrawl.

Picking up his ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’ project Liam K has been looking at an 1892 drayman’s delivery docket from Sullivan’s Brewery:

[The docket is for] a half barrel of Pale Butt from 1892, brewed by Sullivan’s Brewery which operated from James’s Street in Kilkenny on the site of an earlier brewery being operated by a Mr. Archdeakin in at least 1702… The half barrel of pale butt was delivered to a Laurence Long who had at this time a public house and grocery store on the corner of Barrack Street and the Castlecomer road, which is now known as Lenehan’s Public House… The drayman who delivered the cask on his route was a J.(?) Dowling and the cask number was 2574. This number ensured that the casks could be tracked and returned to the brewery. It would also be helpful if a full barrel of beer was stolen…

Inside the Bartons Arms

Paul Bailey (no relation) has taken pictures and written notes on The Bartons Arms, one of Britain’s most gorgeous Victorian pubs, in Birmingham:

The Bartons Arms dates from 1901 and was built for Mitchells and Butler who, even back then, were one of Birmingham’s premier breweries. The pub is built of stone and red brick in a style that is said to be inspired by the nearby Aston Hall and was regarded as the flagship pub of the Mitchell and Butlers brewery estate. The imposing exterior includes shaped gables and a tall clock tower, with the building occupying a site at the junction of two roads. It is one of the most spectacular survivors from the late Victorian era in the country, with one of the most beautiful pub interiors to match.


Finally, here’s something for the yeast geeks: ‘A new hypothesis for the origin of the lager yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus’ by Mathias Hutzler, John P. Morrissey, Andreas Laus, Franz Meussdoerffer and Martin Zarnkow, in FEMS Yeast Research:

Saccharomyces pastorianus, which is responsible for the production of bottom-fermented lager beer, is a hybrid species that arose from the mating of the top-fermenting ale yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the cold-tolerant Saccharomyces eubayanus around the start of the 17th century. Based on detailed analysis of Central European brewing records, we propose that the critical event for the hybridization was the introduction of top-fermenting S. cerevisiae into an environment where S. eubayanus was present, rather than the other way around. Bottom fermentation in parts of Bavaria preceded the proposed hybridization date by a couple of hundred years and we suggest that this was carried out by mixtures of yeasts, which may have included S. eubayanus. A plausible case can be made that the S. cerevisiae parent came either from the Schwarzach wheat brewery or the city of Einbeck, and the formation of S. pastorianus happened in the Munich Hofbräuhaus between 1602 and 1615 when both wheat beer and lager were brewed contemporaneously.

Or, in plainer language:

If you like lager, chances are you’ve got a 17th century brewmaster to thank for it. The commercial yeast used to brew most modern lagers was created when the pasty yeast slurries for a white ale and a brown beer mixed in a cellar of  the original Munich Hofbräuhaus—not to be confused with the beer hall there today—sometime between 1602 and 1615, according to a new synthesis of historical brewing records and genetic histories of yeast.

The covers of the two books mentioned below.

We’re looking forward to reading these two books from CAMRA publishing which, in our view, offer something genuinely new:

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