News, nuggets and longreads 10 June 2023: Blue Velvet

It’s hotting up out there and the beer gardens and beer festivals are getting busy. Here’s some suggested reading for your next trip to the pub or taproom.

First, a couple of news items:

  1. Carlsberg Marston’s is aiming to sell Ringwood, one of the original British microbreweries which it took over in 2007. In case you haven’t noticed, the era of buy-outs is over; we’re now in an age of divestment.
  2. Stockport’s Thirst Class Ale is the latest UK brewery to announce its closure. This is a brewery we’ve (a) definitely heard of; and (b) has plenty of fans among those who know about beer. The latest tally of closures is available at Beer Nouveau.

The cover of a Penguin edition of At-Swim-Two-Birds.

At BeerFoodTravel (the blog’s official name now has a few additional qualifiers) Liam K has written about the famous ‘pint of plain’. It’s part of his series addressing the history of Irish brewing through 50 objects and this time the object is a book:

There seems to be a tenuous – or at times blatant – connection between certain generations of Ireland’s most well-known writers and our beer and general drinking history. Be it Joyce, Behan, Beckett or in this case Flann O’Brien, there is always something mentioned or alluded to in the text that directly or indirectly links back to a past of public houses, or lost beer brands, or a long-forgotten part of our drinking culture. At Swim-Two-Birds is certainly an interesting book, and although it might not be classed as overly challenging compared to other novels such as Joyce’s Ulysses, it is by no means an easy or simple text for most readers to get their heads and hearts around given the writing style, storyline and movements of the characters. But that tradition – for want of a better word – of drink being an almost integral part of Irish literature is there from the start in O’Brien’s book, as there is a mention in the opening pages to a mirror bearing the names of ‘Messrs. Watkins, Jameson and Pim’ and their ‘proprietary brand of beer’ (presumably O’Connell’s Ale) which the book’s narrator uses as a shaving mirror in his bedroom.

A detail from an advertisement showing a cartoon lion with a pick over its shoulder and a miner's helmet: "After a good day's work for Britain... that's when beer is best."

Gary Gillman has beaten us to a subject we’ve had on our to-write list for years: the history of the ‘Beer is Best’ advertising campaign of the 1930s. It’s fascinating to us because the newspaper adverts were ubiquitous at the time, and the slogan lingered on for years after the campaign had ended, absorbed into the culture as folk wisdom. Here’s the first part of Gary’s investigation, with parts two and three also available on his blog:

One of the most successful generic advertising campaigns is generally considered to be “Beer is Best”, launched in Britain at the end of 1933… The program was introduced to arrest stagnating beer sales and re-ignite the beer interest in a younger demographic… The campaign was financed by a charge placed on members of the Brewers’ Society, in proportion to their output… It continued for decades. Some discussions suggest the campaign ceased at the outbreak of war on September 3, 1939, but it continued, by my survey, until the end of 1940… By this I mean, print ads continued to appear bruiting the advantages of beer, not placed by a specific brewery, hence arranged by the Brewers’ Society’s publicists.

A barperson at work.
SOURCE: Rowan Heuvel/Unsplash.

Why don’t websites hire bar staff to write about pubs? That’s not quite the question asked by this long reflection by a writer on her career as a waitress but it’s a reasonable extrapolation:

I’ve been privy to countless conversations about how intellectual labor is labor, about how someone needs to do the sitting around and thinking and theorizing, with the thought underlying this being: and it certainly wouldn’t be the people who carry things for a living… Why don’t websites hire service people to write about food? How do ‘restaurant journalists’ exist, when servers who are also artists are standing right here? A book critic once told me, “a website could never be staffed by service people, the quality of the writing would be too low,” and I wanted to laugh. I suspect it’s easier to teach a waitress to be a writer than an intellectual to be a waiter.


For Pellicle Paul Crowther has written a recipe for a ‘Mexican lager’ with some vital context provided by a brewer in Mexico. We’re always excited to hear about interesting beer mixes which, remember, are a totally normal thing common in many beer cultures:

“[Vienna lager] came over with imperialism and they stayed popular. Pilsners and Viennas are what 99% of people are drinking,” [Mariana Dominguez of Cervecera Macaria, based in Mexico City] explains. “We’ll even mix the two together 50/50 in a glass, that’s called a Campechana.”

We also liked this:

“If you go to the beach you will get given a lime, but you just squeeze the juice into the beer. The first time I saw anyone stuff the wedge into the bottle I was in Edinburgh, I was so shocked.”

Jaipur can
SOURCE: Thornbridge.

We liked Keith Flett’s thoughts on Thornbridge Jaipur as it turns 18 and would strongly agree with his conclusion:

It remains a craft flagship beer that has crossed over into the mainstream in can and bottle format. I’ve seen it piled high in Lidl from time to time which is a useful benchmark for that… On Monday evening after chairing a socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in central London a few of us took the short walk up the road to the Euston Tap for a post-seminar debriefing. Scrutinising the cask list I spotted Jaipur and of course ordered a pint. As usual it was a well balanced and in particular hugely drinkable experience. Just as enjoyable and remarkable as that first pint I had.

Finally, from Instagram, a rather good painting of a rather good pub…

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 10 June 2023: Blue Velvet”

Thanks for mention of our Beer is Best series. There is in fact much grist for the mill there, would hope to see your take as well. On the point of working in pubs and writing on pubs, there are certainly examples in North America.

It makes sense as the arts, which takes in broadly all kind of writing, so often doesn’t provide a living income. I don’t agree that writers can’t be trained to wait as easily as the reverse, it’s more down to the particular person.

In my series you drew attention to, a worker in a pub wrote a pretty good letter to the Bury press, so an example in that direction, from the past.

From the arts side, the Canadian Jane Siberry memorialized her days in waitressing in her 1980s song Waitress:

Signature line: And I’d probably be famous now If I wasn’t such a good waitress, waitress, waitress…

(She did become famous anyway).

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