News, nuggets and longreads 15 April 2023: Memories of Green

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs we bookmarked in the past week, including some big questions about who is and is not welcome in the pub.

Let’s start with some news. And, good grief, what news. The White Hart Inn in Grays Essex has a substantial collection of racist dolls on display. As part of an investigation into a hate crime, the dolls were seized by police.

This story went national when the Home Secretary was said to have criticised Essex Police for sending several police officers to make the seizure, as part of her ongoing insistence that resources should not be spent on ‘non-crime hate incidents’.

Even if you refuse to accept that the dolls are discriminatory in their own right, of course it turned out they were the tip of the iceberg. For example, the landlord of the pub had been photographed wearing a T-shirt promoting the far right Britain First political party, and ‘joked’ about lynchings in relation to the dolls. In other words, what you suspected they might mean in this context was exactly what they were intended to mean.

At this point, people began to ask how on earth the pub had gained multiple awards from the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and a listing in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide – a listing which actually mentions the dolls, in slyly euphemistic terms. After a delay, CAMRA made a statement (thread)…

You should Ruvani di Silva’s piece on why this story matters, and how exhausting it is for black and Asian beer writers to bear the burden of dealing with stories like this:

As a Brown woman, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring situations like this. I can’t let burnout and exhaustion make me immune to instances of racism. Because if I ignore this woman and her gollywogs I am accepting, countenancing even, a direct attack on myself and every other person of colour who wants to go to the pub and not be subjected to racism. For us, engaging is not a choice, DEI is not an optional issue. If we bend under defeat we will break under subjugation.

A 1960s mural with pearly kings and queens and a policeman in a helmet.

Now, let’s have a palate cleanser: an uplifting article about how welcoming and tolerant even the most unlikely pubs can be. It’s by Lily Waite for Pellicle and is called ‘God bless your transsexual heart: the pub as an unlikely sanctuary’:

I struck up a friendship with one barman, an almost-caricature of a London geezer who in the same breath told me how he’d thrown someone off a multi-storey car park whilst telling me if anyone had a problem with my being trans, he’d “sort them out”. My hackles were (are) always up: I’d expected, via my own prejudices as a sheltered middle-class kid from the Cotswolds, hostility from Ray because of who I was, and indeed, who he was. Instead, I had fierce support from a supposedly violent bloke who regularly offered us disco biscuits by the bagful. He called me Princess; I couldn’t tell if he wanted to fuck me or just found me intriguing. We drank Guinness together.

An old photo of a busy city street.
Cairo in 1934. SOURCE: Library of Congress.

At Beer et seq. Gary Gillman has posted a week-long series of posts about beer in Egypt in the 1930s and 40s. The first part introduces us to the Brasserie Parisiana and Crown Brewery’s double malt Märzen beer:

Brasserie Parisiana, sometimes called Café Parisiana, was a swank nightspot on the ground level of Cairo’s Windsor Hotel. It was owned by a group of ethnic Armenian families, and appealed to a mix of Egyptian bourgeois and elite as well as business visitors and tourists… The Parisiana has been the subject of a number of memoirs or retrospectives. They assist to evoke its unique cosmopolitan character, characterised by a riot of national origins and ethnicities, and all greased by money, the international lingua franca…

A plaque on a pub that says "Perfect draught Guinness served here".

This continues to be the year we think and talk about Guinness and its outsized place in pub culture. Most recently, Liam K at {Irish} Beer {History} Food Travel gave us his thoughts on a product that some love, some hate, and others have complicated feelings about:

Now let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with draught Guinness. Taste-wise it isn’t dreadful or crap or any of the other words that some have called it. It’s certainly – and ironically – plain for a stout, but no doubt that is its appeal to many. Like Coors, Rockshore, Smithwicks and a host of other macrobrewed beers it is the simplest of its genera and that makes perfect sense, as most people aren’t like those of us who feel the need to talk almost constantly about what we are drinking. Macrobrewed beers are the lubricant to the cogs of conversation and social enjoyment for the vast majority of beer drinkers, and drops of anything thicker would jam the mechanism or at least slow it down – and I’ve come to appreciate and understand that at least.

At this point, we’ll also flag a post by Mark Johnson, which we somehow missed when it first came out a few weeks ago, titled ‘My life in Guinness: drink what you like’:

Long standing drinks have memory. They have nostalgia. ‘One and done’ products could never understand. Annual releases can never truly create a connection. When my Nan passed away in 2016, I wrote about the relationship between her, my mother and Irish stouts. Every time I open a can, I am transported to a hundred moments from childhood and early adulthood. There are moments around my Nan’s electric fire on a Wednesday afternoon or the kiss goodnight my mum would give me when my dad and her returned from the pub on a Friday night, after the babysitter had put me to bed.

Lederhosen in a shop window in Munich.

A piece by Katie Mann for BBC Travel made us want to get on a train immediately and head for the place ‘Where people drink beer for breakfast’:

It was Saturday morning at Gaststätte Großmarkthalle, and it felt like Friday night. The wood-panelled rooms were full of people, dirndl-clad waitresses carried trays of drinks and the volume was slowly rising… Located in the south of Munich, this pub pulls in a crowd for a classic Bavarian breakfast: a Weißwurstfrühstück (literally: “white-sausage breakfast”). The meal consists of its namesake white sausages, as well as soft pretzels and sweet mustard – all washed down with a wheat beer… While the breakfast is available across Munich, Gaststätte Großmarkthalle consistently tops local rankings. The inn is run by a brother-and-sister duo, Ludwig Wallner and Gabi Walter, who took over the business from their father in 1999.

Finally, from Twitter, a classic Belgian brewery puts its baseball cap on backwards…

We’re also posting on Mastodon and NEW Substack Notes, which the newsletter platform insists is not a Twitter clone. It’s early days and, as ever, a lot will depend on who decides to join yet another new platform. Maybe we’ll see you there?

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 15 April 2023: Memories of Green”

Regarding the German place, it can be tricky to figure out if a pub/bar doing weekend breakfasts here is also willing to serve alcohol with them. A bloody Mary goes very well with a full English if you’re not someone who needs their caffeine. Only a minority make it clear by having a “breakfast cocktails” section.

Unless it’s Wetherspoons where you just have to wait until 9am.

On the CAMRA decision, I believe they did the right thing. People can argue that everyone’s level of offensiveness is different, but coupled with the landlord’s online postings, there can hardly be any serious doubt as to the intent. The tweet by CAMRA mentioned its values and policies (which I haven’t read), but will it take a similar approach to sexist posters? I’ve not visited the pub myself, but I saw a picture of a poster in what I assume is a GBG listed pub, as it’s from Retired Martin’s blog pre completion, which says: “Men: no shirt, no service; Women: no shirt, free drinks.

Exciting jolt of recognition seeing the Coach & Horses in the main image, being a very short distance from me! Not that I’ve ever been inside; since the end of the first lockdown they’ve had a somewhat paradoxical ‘regulars only’ rule plastered on the door.

Comments are closed.