News, nuggets and longreads 19 August 2023: Mask of the Phantasm

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Stockport to ‘swiggability’.

Do you remember when we did our bit of ‘futures thinking’ earlier this year and highlighted sustainability as a key theme? The news that Robinson’s, a 185-year-old very traditional brewery, is training its entire team in ‘carbon literacy’ strikes us an interesting signal:

The training has been introduced as part of the business’ net zero roadmap across its brewing, bottling, and pub estate business. It has achieved 40 certified employees and become a bronze carbon literate organisation in the first six weeks… Carbon Literacy is defined by The Carbon Literacy Project as “an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community, and organisational basis”

A decaying Victorian pub building with weeds growing from its roof and graffiti on its wall.
The Rhubarb Tavern in 2023.

Our local pub, The Rhubarb Tavern, has been closed since 2019 and under threat of conversion and/or demolition. Now, after a concerted local campaign to save one of a handful of historic buildings in a publess neighbourhood, it’s beginning to look hopeful:

Two Bristol musicians plan to take over a derelict city pub and turn it into a thriving community hub. Tara Clerkin and Sunny Paradisos have lived in Bristol for the past 15 years and are well established on the local music scene… Tara and Sunny have long harboured a dream of opening a pub and music venue and have looked at several properties in recent years. But they have now agreed terms with the owner of The Rhubarb Tavern… “[The] owner has allowed us a couple of months to crowdfund. If we hit our target, we’ll sign the lease, the owner will do some repairs to the building to make it watertight and we’ll do the rest… It has been a gradual process and it’s quite daunting but it seems increasingly likely now. We’re aiming to crowdfund between £40k-£60k to renovate it and get the business up and running.”

A found poem created by scribbling out words on the page of a book: "Excitement in the air quickened and sank... excitement tightened."

Courtney Iseman has been thinking about what still gets her excited about beer as part of an ongoing conversation about the general low mood in beer in 2023:

Downstream hop products continue to advance. What yeast can be genetically engineered to do continues to advance. Sustainable sources of grain continue to advance, and ways to add complexity to flavor in malt do, too. Don’t kid yourself. Just because invention feels slow in real time doesn’t mean it’s happening. This is the kind of thing you may not realize until you look back 10 years from now—“Oh, wow, we didn’t even have X style of beer in 2023!” Granted, it might be happening at an even slower rate because of the nature of the industry right now, but it’s happening.

The Cooper's Brewery logo.

We’d sort of forgotten about Cooper’s, Australia’s contribution to the typical craft beer line-up of British bars and pubs c.2008. We used to drink it at The Union, Meantime’s pub in Greenwich, but haven’t encountered a bottle for years. Rob Horner’s portrait of ‘Australia’s only native beer’ for Good Beer Hunting fills in some gaps in our knowledge and highlights its cultural importance:

Topher Boehm is the founder and head brewer at Sydney-based mixed fermentation specialist Wildflower Brewing & Blending. Though he originally hails from Texas, he fell under the thrall of Sparkling Ale during a stint working in mainland Australia’s tallest mountain range. “I was working in the Snowy Mountains on a sheep station for a bit, and that’s what you’d have at the end of the day—every generation would be drinking the same beer,” he says. “In the States, where we do have a particularly strong craft beer culture, there was nothing like that.”

Illustration: The Fog.

The latest edition of Katie Mather’s newsletter The Gulp is a short love letter to a specific beer: Rivington Brew Co’s Never Known Fog Like It, AKA Fog:

Why do I love it? Why does anyone love one hazy Pale over another? I believe Never Known Fog Like It is the culmination of years of NEIPA experimentation. Since I began writing about beer in 2018, the desire people have for hazy juicebombs has never waned, and yet, to me, there has largely been no development in the subgenre. I try newcomers with interest, and yet nothing tops Fog for me in the specific category I’ve created for it—a comfortably swiggable beer at a warming 5.2% ABV, not sessionable to the likes of me, more a treat after a long day. A beer to look forward to. A standard, a trusty sidekick, a partner in crime.

A scientist looks at flasks of colourful liquid.
Science, as depicted in the Bell Telephone magazine, 1967.

For Craft Beer & Brewing Kate Bernot has written about thiols, a particularly intense aroma compound found in hops. In recent years, brewers have been “adjusting the thiol dial” using thiol extracts, with mixed success, she explains:

A few years ago, NoDa Brewing co-owner and head brewer Chad Henderson was happy to sit by and watch as the thiol hype train barreled past him. Sure, he knew these compounds—often smelling of ripe tropical fruit—were part of the matrix of contributors to hop expression. Yet when he smelled them in isolation, he thought they were overly sulfuric and off-putting. And, when he tasted other brewers’ initial experiments with thiol-boosting Phantasm powder, he found them to be a bit too one-note… So, it took some new perspective via thiol-optimizing yeasts to turn him from skeptic to true believer almost two years ago—and help him design two of the North Carolina brewery’s most celebrated new beers in the process.

“Phantasm powder”! Phrase of the week, that.

Finally, from Pellicle, a gently amusing cartoon about things left in the pub by David Bailey, including this panel…

A cartoon panel showing the three different types of abandoned crisp packet: the tear and share, ripped wide open; the triangle of sadness, folded into a neat little triangle; and the nice guy bowtie, tied in a knot.
SOURCE: David Bailey/Pellicle.

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 19 August 2023: Mask of the Phantasm”

“What yeast can be genetically engineered to do continues to advance…” “…it took some new perspective via thiol-optimizing yeasts to turn him from skeptic to true believer…” and “…the desire people have for hazy juicebombs has never waned, and yet, to me, there has largely been no development in the subgenre…” combine to create a nice juxtaposition. I’m pretty much on team Katie.

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