News, nuggets and longreads 2 September 2023: Scandal Sheet

This week’s round-up of good writing about beer and pubs includes notes on flammable pubs, Blackpool FC and farming.

First, an update on the ongoing scandal of the burning down and demolition of The Crooked House pub.

This week, two men were charged with arson and later bailed. If you want a recap of the whole saga, and updates, we suggest following Laura Hadland wherever you like to do that sort of thing, and bookmarking her constantly maintained blog post on the subject. She also added to her update the news of two more pubs mysteriously burning down, this time in Croydon.

There’s also an interesting article by John R. Bryson for The Architects’ Journal which draws out from this case some general lessons to be learned about listing and planning:

There is an ongoing and real threat to the identity of all UK villages, towns and cities that comes from the planning process and building regulations. Supporters of the planning process would argue that it is sensitive to place, but this sensitivity fails to protect what can be labelled as the essence of a place… Himley’s essence was directly linked to the presence of The Crooked House, and yet the planning process failed to protect this structure or even to formally recognise its importance.

(Via Beer Today.)

Beer pumps at The Backstage with beer from Weetwood and Moorhouses.
SOURCE: Jane Stuart.

One half of this blogging team followed Leyton Orient pretty seriously for some years and her attention will always be grabbed by a story that combines pubs, beer and lower division football. Jane Stuart writes a Blackpool FC fanzine and is also an expert on the pubs of Blackpool. In her latest blog post she (a) writes about the experience of selling fanzines at a match; and (b) gives us part four of her rundown of ‘Blackpool’s Best Boozers’:

Backstage is a micropub within the same building as the Waterloo. As the latter is a live music venue, Backstage offers a separate venue in which to enjoy some fab beers away from the noise of the soundchecks… This place is shaping up to be a right little belter. I mentioned above about love going into a place reaping dividends and there’s no pub in Blackpool with more love gone into it than this one. You really must visit.

Detail from a vintage beer ad with a blindfolded woman tasting a beer and saying "This one has the touch!"

Courtney Iseman proposes an experiment: what if instead of ordering beer from a menu, by name or style, we could describe what we want to drink to a trained barperson and let them choose for us?

This summer, my friend took me to Sauced, a chic and popular-with-the-young-people wine bar in Williamsburg… One go at the bar, I knew I wanted something sparkling and bone-dry, which are arguably more typical, straightforward wine descriptors. So, perhaps it’s not a huge shock I ended up with something dead-on with what I had a hankering for. But my next go, I was much more loosey-goosey with my order. “I want something red, but good chilled, jammy but not sweet…maybe some spice or funk but not necessarily, like, farm-y.” In case it’s not obvious, I know more about sparkling wine than non-sparkling—I do like red wine but know next to nothing about it, other than what flavors, aromas, and mouthfeel I want. The bartender thought for a beat and delivered to me something absolutely perfect.

Text illustration: LAGER

At Good Beer Hunting Owen Racer has written about the complex relationship New Orleans and the US Gulf Coast has with beer, with water, and with the environment:

[Brewer Dave] Reese says Biloxi’s climate “is made for Lagers.” In a taproom strewn with llama paraphernalia, with the southern sunlight and humidity seeping through the fully ajar garage door, and sweat pooling at the brim of my hat, the truth in that statement could be sipped directly from my glass. Even in New Orleans, where the rye whiskey-based Sazerac may be a tempting treat, a Lager scratches a persistent itch for which Bourbon Street can’t compete. In a region famed for its Creole and Cajun cuisine, the straightforward, mild, and typical low bitterness of Lagers are the ideal palate cleanser between a pound of crawfish and shucked oysters.

A person walking through a vast field of barley with the Long Man of Wilmington on the hillside in the distance.
SOURCE: Lily Waite/Pellicle.

Who said that writing about beer is really writing about agriculture? Someone clever. Maybe Stan Hieronymus. Anyway, for Pellicle, Mark Dredge gives us a detailed report on the sustainable farming methods behind Sussex’s Long Man Brewery:

“I tell this to my children: I’m just feeding the worms,” Duncan Ellis says. “If you feed the worms, they’ll look after the soil.”… Across 3,500 acres on the South Downs, Duncan, the third-generation farmer at Church Farm in Litlington, East Sussex, grows oilseed rape, wheat, and barley, with much of the latter used for malting. In 2012 he co-founded Long Man Brewery on his farm, using his barley in all the beers. That’s a rare story on its own––Small Brewery Grows Own Malting Barley––but the real story is the way Duncan farms.

We’ll also be adding this to our collection of signals around sustainability in brewing.

A bright orange Theakston's brewery branded snowmobile parked in a pub beer garden.
SOURCE: Martin Taylor.

Having run out of Good Beer Guide pubs to tick Martin Taylor has now moved onto notable pubs not in the GBG, such as the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire:

You know, Britain’s highest pub, the one that people pay to be snowed in at every January (or June)… It was packed, and staff were having to disappoint successive customers with the words “Sorry, no food. No, not even sandwiches”. They should have had the chicken parmo for breakfast like normal people… Hard not to love, and the Black Sheep and Old Peculier were superb, despite a scary number of pumps.

Finally, from Instagram, Mark Johnson visits an interesting looking pub outside Manchester:

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

3 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 2 September 2023: Scandal Sheet”

“Himley’s essence was directly linked to the presence of The Crooked House.” What a load of sentimental tosh. The pub was over a mile from the village centre, at the end of a dead-end track, with no houses anywhere near. Most residents of Himley probably never even clapped eyes on it from one year to the next. People are projecting all their feelings of loss over the decline of pubs onto this one case.

Maybe, but the cause célèbre is often just what you need to drive change on issues like this. (Is your contrarianism eventually going to lead you to argue that, actually, it’s good when developers set fire to pubs?)

That’s true. A single example, even if it’s not the best example, can be more powerful and persuasive than a whole mass of statistics.

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