News, nuggets and longreads 12 August 2023: Disco inferno

It’s been another busy week in the world of beer and pubs. Here’s what we’ve been reading to make sense of it all, from crooked pubs to Bavarian beer.

The week’s top story – one that has gone global – is yet another tale of the controversial demolition of a historic pub. The Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire, was famous for being on the wonk. Last month, it was acquired from Marston’s by a then unknown buyer.

Shortly after, it burned down, and what remained was knocked down. Since then, the sense of outrage has escalated from local to national to international.

The police are treating the case as arson, while the buyers have become very much known with pieces exposing their ‘lavish lifestyle’.

The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has called for the pub to be rebuilt, brick by brick. As historian James Sumner observes, you can’t actually ‘restore’ a historic building from rubble, but forcing the culprits to try could be a powerful deterrent.

The Red Hook brewery logo.

If you’re still hanging on to the idea that big global brewers are acquiring craft breweries, it’s definitely time to move on. This week AB-InBev dumped another 8 of the breweries it acquired in its buying spree of the past decade, including Redhook and Widmer.

They’ve been bought by a company called Tilray Brands which, with this acquisition, reports Kendall Jones, “becomes the fifth-largest craft brewer and fifteenth-largest overall brewer in the United States”.

Imagine if you set up a brewery with the idea that you might be able to cash in after 5 or 7 years – this latest twist in the tale must feel like a spanner in the works. Jeff Alworth has insightful thoughts, as always.

A pub window with the words GASTRONOMIC PUB FOOD
A London gastropub in 2022.

The July edition of Will Hawkes’s excellent monthly newsletter is now available to read online (just as the August edition lands in our inboxes – you should sign up!) and is crammed with news and insider information. The lead story is about beer in restaurants and, again, underlines the idea that 2023 hasn’t been disastrous for hospitality, even if it’s hardly been fun:

Luke Wilson, owner of 10 Greek Street, and Nick Trower, founder of Biercraft, a company which specialises in distributing beer to restaurants… understand the current state of beer in London restaurants, and the impact of Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis… So how’s it going? Not too badly, judging by the health of their two beer businesses. Braybrooke, based in Market Harborough, is in the process of doubling the size of its brewing equipment under head brewer Alexis Inglis Arkell; Biercraft, which supplies beer for about 350 accounts – of which around 200 are restaurants – recently took on a refrigerated storage unit in Old Oak Common, previously owned by wine company Jascots, part of a project to bring logistics and deliveries in-house.


Here’s an interesting nugget from Phil Cook at Beer Diary: the New York Times crossword has fairly frequently used the handy three-letter word IPA as an answer. But what can we learn from how the clues have changed over the years?

[There] were fifty puzzles… dating back to 2012,2 which lead people to IPA in various ways, often with a simple Hoppy brew or Bitter beer, briefly – but sometimes name-dropping specific brands (Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, and Sam Adams), or alluding to the fact there are other sub-types with Bar offering with “double” and “triple” varieties, or with dubious lines like Alternative to a pilsner. The crossword-solving public weren’t assumed or expected to know about hazies until May 2022 and that seems like some kind of sign that it’s crossed into a new state of acceptance or legitimacy or something.

Alexandra Palace 1979

Ron Pattinson continues to mine his memory, and the memories of others, to get down in writing details of beer culture in the 1970s. In a recent post, he recalls working as a volunteer at the then brand new Great British Beer Festival on more than one occasion:

It was a nightmare year. There had been a fire in the palace and, at short notice, they set up tents instead. Which would have been OK, if it hadn’t been wet. Despite the duckboards, mud oozed everywhere… On the other hand, the first year at Alexandra Palace was: on the stage, bring your own sleeping bag. Being young and stupid, I didn’t realise how unacceptable that was… The food provided was obviously on a very tight budget. Instant mash, really cheap sausages. There was plenty of free beer, though.

The covers of Cask by Des de Moor and Bavarian Brewing in the 19th Century by Andreas Krennmair.

There are a couple of new books out you might want to buy. We’ve bought our copy of Des de Moor’s Cask: the story of Britain’s Unique Beer Culture (CAMRA Books, £17.99). First impressions: it’s a chunky, thoughtful single-focus book which feels definitive. We’ll be writing a proper review shortly.

There’s also Andreas Krennmair’s latest on Bavarian Brewing in the 19th Century which tells the story of Bavarian beer in granular detail, with lots of original source material and references. We’ll also be reading and reviewing this, having bought a copy for Kindle at £4.99.

Finally, from Instagram, this lovely shot by photographer Niall McDiarmid:

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 12 August 2023: Disco inferno”

Did you visit the Crooked House on your Black Country tour a few years ago ?. Despite now being “famous” I don’t know many who’d ever been and my own visit was almost accidental 20 years back !

No, probably one of those pubs we’d have got to eventually, but not worth a detour.

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