Every week we bookmark a bunch of writing about beer and pubs and then, on Saturday morning, we round it up. Today, we’ve got everything from Spanish bars to dining cars.
First, some numbers. SIBA has released stats on brewery numbers in the first quarter of 2023 and it’s not looking too scary:
Covering the period from the start of January to the end of March, the tracker shows some regions increasing their net brewery number. Overall, the UK figure is down by just four on the start of 2023 — a 0.22% change… It’s a much better picture than many in the industry would have predicted, given the mounting pressures on small independent breweries… “It is very positive to see some areas of the UK now in growth, and a national figure which has beaten the odds to remain relatively stable, despite the challenges faced by brewers,” said SIBA chief executive, Andy Slee.
Steve Dunkley is keeping a list up to date too.
We’re always excited by a detailed portrait of a specific bar or pub. For London in Bits John Bull has written about Bradley’s, a sort-of Spanish bar on a small spur off Oxford Street:
Back in the 1950s, Hanway Street wasn’t the periphery of Soho life, it was briefly its heart… Then, Hanway Street was Soho’s Spanish Quarter. Full of bars and coffee shops from which the sounds of flamenco and Spanish guitar rang out, and occasionally something newer and (if your parents were to be believed) something more dangerous: skiffle… Yet that Spanishness was not quite what it seemed. It owed its origins to three Greek-Cypriot brothers, the most important of whom was the oldest – Milo Popopocopolis. Also known as Milo Popocopolis. Or Mike Prince. Or Milo the Greek. Or The Golden Greek… Milo, if you have yet to guess, was a wrestler.
It was exciting to see a post from Kieran Haslett-Moore pop up the other day. He’s been a constant presence in our feeds for as long as we can remember. This week, he wrote with some passion about the state of beer in 2023:
Food has progressively been getting sweeter, softer and more easily palatable through the generations. Wild versions of vegetables are hard going, stone ground heirloom grains make breads you have to chew. Each technological development makes for easier to digest foodstuffs. The human urge is for sweeter, richer flavours. In the late 70s and 80s craft/microbrewed beer formed a little counter-movement to that march of history. The beers were seen to be less sweet, more wholesome, the people involved in the scene were often also involved in the organics, slowfood , and wholefood movements. Beer was part of the revolution. What we have seen over the last decade is beer succumbing to the tide. Beer has been pulled into line with the rest of food. Sweeter, richer, less hard edges. It is neither a surprise nor a coincidence that these changes have seen big growth for the sector.
Ron Pattinson is in wistful mood and has been thinking about the questions he wishes he’d asked older people when he was younger:
Not about anything really important. Just what beer had been like when they were young… Then I jumped forward. Maybe I should do that. Answer the questions I would have like to have asked. But about my experiences 40 or 50 years ago. Because things have changed a lot… When I started visiting pubs around 1972, most of the pubs in [Newark] were supplied by the former Holes brewery. But a couple were still supplied by Barnsley: the King William IV and the Wing Tavern. The latter being the only pub in town with hand pumps. Well, working ones. It served one cask beer, the magnificent Barnsley Bitter… The vast majority of pubs sold bright Holes beer. That is, rough-filtered, but not pasteurised and served through electric pumps, without extra CO2 pressure. The result was a halfway house between cask and keg.
He’s now up to part five of this series. It’ll make for an interesting book at some point, no doubt – a sort of oblique memoir.
For his Substack newsletter Adrian Tierney-Jones has written about the importance of the pub in our lives, and the idea of the universal pub:
I once made a recording in a pub that I used to visit three to four times a week and so could call it a local. It was 21 seconds of people’s voices, a mass of voices, no melody or separate voices, just a chorus of those who visited the pub one Friday afternoon and took shelter from the rain… If you listened carefully you would have been able to pick out individual voices, but there was a lack of meaning in what these voices were saying. During the recording I heard a dog barking outside but there are no dogs to be heard here. There is just a mass of sound, a bumpy journey of voices, the up and down of cadences, the tone-deaf and the warp and weft of humanity’s sound when visiting the pub.
Travel addicts will enjoy Evan Rail’s notes for The New York Times on dining cars in Europe, with their schnitzels and beer:
I wasn’t the first passenger in the dining car en route to the Czech Republic’s eastern city of Ostrava, which was how I hit my first snag. I wanted to order an updated Czech classic, pork roast with grilled zucchini and spinach, but the charmingly goofy young waitress happily informed me that the last two portions had been ordered by the burly gentlemen nursing the first of many bottles of Pilsner Urquell beer at the next table over… I opted for goulash, as well as another schnitzel — pork this time — with potato salad. As the barren fields of the central Czech countryside gave way to the snowcapped hills of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, I cooled down with one of the train’s unique drinks: a New England-style pale ale from the craft brewery Pivovar Chroust, brewed in partnership with another local maker, Pivovar Falkon, exclusively for the JLV dining cars on Czech trains and available nowhere else.
Finally, from Twitter, a fascinating thread…
…and we’d also recommend you have a nose around Mastodon’s beer-related hashtags.