News, nuggets and longreads 26 August 2023: Endless summer

Here’s all the best reading about beer and pubs from the past week, in our humble opinions. This time we’ve got post from Ireland, hop houses and Birra Italiana.

First, a story we missed last Saturday: for The Guardian James Tapper has written a summary of the challenges facing UK breweries in 2023. It’s full of familiar names and voices and offers a good, balanced view:

“There are brewery shutdowns every year. That’s just normal business,” said Yvan Seth, founder of Jolly Good Beer, an independent distributor of craft beers. “But there’s more shutting down this year than in the previous eight years of doing business… We’re seeing less of the crazy beers – the triple IPAs and the 10% pale ales, cans for more than £10, that kind of thing. So we’ll see lower-strength beers and less hypey hops.”

In related news, Barnsley’s Acorn Brewery has sold to Sonas Capital and Brew by Numbers has completed its sale to Breal Capital. How do we feel about companies with ‘capital’ in their names owning breweries? It doesn’t feel hugely reassuring to us.

A Victorian halfpenny postage stamp.

At the now formally renamed Irish Beer History Liam K provides a new entry in his series ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’, focusing on a postcard sent from a Dublin stout exporter to Bedford, England:

Mountjoy brewery was founded in Dublin in 1852 by a group of Irish and British businessmen and was one of the largest stout exporters in the city – and country – in the late 19th and into the early 20th century. It was a part of the large Findlater mercantile empire that was well known in the food and drink industry in general. In the late 19th century Mountjoy Brewery only brewed porters and stouts according to Barnard’s description of the brewery, and it appears from advertisements in British papers at this time that they were sending Extra XXX Stout, Extra XX Stout and X Stout in that direction and their brewings were widely available in many towns. One of the most popular products was called ‘Nourishing Stout,’ which was also marketed as Crown Stout.

A pub window with frosted glass.

For his Substack newsletter Adrian Tierney-Jones has written about pubs and their part in the mourning process:

These words were written a few hours after I had heard that my mother had died. It was not a surprise as my brother had told me the night before that she was unresponsive. She died on the day of Imbolc, the start of spring according to pagans, a day I would celebrate with a few quiet thoughts. It had been expected but despite all my protestations that I would work once I had heard the news I couldn’t so I took myself off on my bicycle and took refuge in a pub, in the Poachers in Ide just outside Exeter. I wanted some countryside without having to cycle too far. Inside the main bar with the sofas and armchairs, I sat, one of which contained the slumbering form of the pub’s boxer, whose Churchillian face reminded me of our long-dead Monty, uncannily like him but slightly smaller.

The sign for Le Cirio, a bar/restaurant in Brussels.
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

‘Diaspora Season’ continues at Brussels Beer City with a new piece by Eoghan Walsh about Italian expats and their beer:

Almost the first thing Anne Morelli does when we’ve taken our seats at Le Cirio is correct my pronunciation. Morelli is a historian whose work has focused on the histories of religion and migration. She’s chosen to meet at Le Cirio – said, she says, with a hard “c” like cheerios rather than a soft “c” like cereal – for a drink (a Schweppes tonic for her and a traditional half-and-half for me) because of its personal and wider significance. Directly across the street from Brussels’ old stock exchange building, Le Cirio is the sole survivor of the first generation of Brussels’ Italian cafés. It was, in fact, already open for a half-century by the time Morelli’s antifascist Italian grandparents arrived in the 1930s seeking political asylum.

Barrels of Koelsch on a counter top in Cologne.

Martyn Cornell shared a two-part post this week (part one, part two) which opens with an endearingly honest admission about how an organised European beer tour can help fill in “gaps in your beer CV”:

I, for example, had never drunk Kölsch in Cologne. Call myself a beer writer? I know, right? What’s worse, I’ve just handed over a manuscript to a publisher with a chapter talking about the history of Kölsch. “Mr Cornell, you write about this beer, but what is your actual experience of drinking cold Kölsch in a Cologne bar while a grumpy Kobe marks your beermat?” “Errr …” So when I saw Ron Smith of the beer travel company BeerMBA in the US was organising a trip that took in Cologne, Dusseldorf and several other places I had not yet been to, including almost a complete set of Low Countries brewing abbeys AND St Bernardus, one of my favourite breweries, I decided this was my chance.

A New York hop house among trees.
SOURCE: Melissa Jones/Pellicle.

For Pellicle Kevin Kain has written about the history of hop growing in New York and the distinctive ‘hop houses’ the industry left behind:

The style of hop house that’s now home to Schoharie’s Wayward Lane Brewing is the most ubiquitous in New York State, and a little investigation of these structures shows design features unique to hop house architecture. Particularly on the inside… Head brewer and co-owner Adam Rosenthal was giving me the tour, pointing this detail out to me as we transitioned from his brewery’s second-floor office into the barrel room. Though on the same floor, in a sense, the barrel room is several feet higher than the office level and the doorway to access it is approximately three feet wide by five feet high… Hops were brought to this elevated room after they were harvested for drying and bleaching (the bleaching was done to prevent the growth of mildew and improve the appearance of the hops).

Finally, from YouTube, a relic of the 1980s in which the Belle Stars advertise Suntory beer in Japan:

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