News, nuggets and longreads 3 June 2023: six easy pieces

Once a week we round-up all the blog posts and articles about beer and pubs we’ve bookmarked. This time there’s trains, micropubs and cans in the garden.

First, some news about sustainability in brewing. Bristol brewery Wiper & True has collaborated with Gadd’s of Ramsgate in Kent on a beer brewed using ‘carbon capture’ technology. We don’t usually get excited about collaboration beers or press releases about brewery upgrades but this feels like an interesting signal. Even in these challenging times, breweries are investing in making themselves more sustainable, and we suspect this is something to which consumers will respond positively. It certainly makes us more likely to buy W&T beer.

A map of the Penistone ale trail.

We enjoyed exploring Yorkshire’s Penistone Line Ale Trail via a write-up by Scott Spencer at Micropub Adventures which we hope he won’t mind us calling proper, old-fashioned blogging:

[The] Penistone Rail Line which runs between Barnsley and Huddersfield. The first part of the line opened in 1850 between Huddersfield and Penistone, with the other part following later. It is designated as a ‘Community Rail Line’ and covers a 27 Mile Route (from Sheffield to Huddersfield)… After changing trains at Barnsley and hopping on board the train to Huddersfield, the first stop on the Penistone Line was Dodworth… The pub I called into here is called “Dodworth Tap”, formerly known as the Station Inn, but opened in July 2020 after the amazing renovation work which makes the pub look so good.

Read it for the photos and descriptions of enticing-sounding pubs; stay for the twist at the end when a surprising beer gets a surprisingly glowing review.

Drink Fresh! (Terms and Conditions Apply.)

We’re always interested to hear Tandleman’s views on the politics of cask ale. In his latest post he offers his thoughts on a supposedly new category of ale developed by Devon brewery Otter:

Every so often something comes along claiming that it will solve a particular problem… ‘Fresh ale’ is the latest thing, it seems. What’s that, you may well ask? … It is a new keg beer, that’s what. And you’ll not be at all surprised to find out that it is “different and exciting.” … It’s a keg beer with lower carbonation… positioned to fill and bridge the so-called gap between younger and older drinkers, lager and ale drinkers and traditionalist and modernisers.  We have been here before, and they have failed before. In Lancashire parlance, they are neither nowt nor summat, and will almost certainly be seen as such by the drinking public.

We’ve also now been around long enough to have seen a few similar gimmicks over the years but there is something slightly intriguing to us about this one. We’ve been asking for years, “Yes, but why does cask ale taste better?” And the best answer we’ve been able to synthesise includes (a) lower carbonation and (b) a slightly higher temperature. All that’s missing in ‘fresh ale’, potentially, is the staling effect of oxygen, which can be pleasing, to a point.

A jumble of pubs.

For The Guardian Rich Pelley has written a piece based on a conversation with a pub manager. It’s part of the newspaper’s ‘Badly behaved Britain’ series. The argument (worryingly close to the ‘broken Britain’ rhetoric of 20 years ago) is that the pandemic caused a fundamental change in our collective behaviour, from singing along at the theatre to an increase in hostility. But pubs have always been rowdy, unruly places, as we dedicated considerable space to explaining in our book 20th Century Pub. Still, it’s always good to hear from people working on the hospitality front line, even if their words are mediated and anonymised:

On another occasion, three friends came in just before last orders. The next time I looked over, there were only two of them. I offered them plastic glasses to take away and asked if their friend wanted one, too. “Oh, he’s already shot off,” they said. The next day, I came in to open up, went down to the toilets and found him asleep in a small gap under the staircase. He crawled out, said: “Thank you!” and left in a hurry. That was quite a surprise.

A man pouring a beer from a keg font.
Mason Nathaniel at The Peasant’s Revolt. SOURCE: Justin Mason.

An exciting development this week has been the return from stasis of two beer blogs. First, Justin Mason has written a new piece for Get Beer, Drink Beer after a break of four years. He’s been moved to write again by The Peasant’s Revolt, a micropub that’s opened in his hometown of Brentwood. The story is interesting for several reasons, not least the openness with which it discusses the economics and relationship politics behind the business:

Mason Nathaniel grew up in both Poplar and Bow in East London where his drink of choice was a lager top. On a trip to Newcastle with his mates he met Harriet, who would later become his wife. They both worked in recruitment, however Harriet’s father just so happened to be Mark Hall, owner of The Split Chimp Micropub in Newcastle and The Split Chimp Ale House in Whitley Bay… Mason admits that Harriet was, and is the driving force, “the power behind the scenes”, it was her that encouraged him to open the micropub, provided the backing, and still holds down a full-time job in recruitment so that this dream could become a reality.

A brightly coloured can with the text "42 grapefruit DDH pale ale" next to a Duvel glass full of hazy yellow beer.
SOURCE: Ruari O’Toole.

And Ruari O’Toole is back after a three-year break proving that tasting notes on cans drunk in your garden can be entertaining if you’ve got a way with words:

A can of Brew By Numbers 42 Grapefruit DDH Pale Ale sits before me on my scruffy, beaten up old garden table, in my scruffy and  beaten up old garden… The head is foamy and boisterous from my unskilled pour, a better man would have delivered a razor sharp perfect head for the photograph. A better man wouldn’t have been put off by the wasp and several flies that immediately appeared on opening the can either… The flies and wasp don’t smell of anything that this reporter can deduce but the scent from the open can is of massive fresh grapefruit. Perhaps a continental version of this reporter, who lives somewhere with groves that aren’t of the Byker variety, could easily deduce if it really does smell like grapefruit plucked straight from the tree, sliced open with an Opinel knife and squeezed into a glass.

Finally, from Twitter, a data point…

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 3 June 2023: six easy pieces”

[‘Badly behaved Britain’]

Not sure the person quoted is a pub manager, tbh. The article opens

This is my first job out of university. I didn’t have any interest in working in hospitality; I needed to pay back my student loans while I looked for work that was more relevant to my degree.

(Which is a weird thing to say – you don’t pay back your student loan in a low-paid job, and you won’t really make a dent in it out of your salary unless you’re earning more than the threshold plus the total amount originally borrowed, i.e. £80K+. (Sorry, kids!). But anyway.)

And I wonder, when they say “the pandemic changed everything”, how many years they’ve got to compare with. (I guess it could have been their first job out of university twenty years ago…!)

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