News, nuggets and longreads 23 September 2023: La Règle du jeu

This is all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from college keggers to the rules of the game.

First, some positive news, for a change. Amélie Tassin, who we were once fortunate enough to meet in a pub in Edinburgh, has launched a mentorship programme for women working in the UK beer industry. “Redressing the gender balance in the beer industry is a question of safety for all of us,” she says in the article above. “The more women are seen as legitimate in the beer industry, the less we’ll face problems of sexism and harassment… Beer is for everyone and can be made by everyone. There’s women working at every position in the beer industry, not only sales or marketing.” 

Collage illustration of a kegger with a beer keg, cars, and archive photo of people serving beer.
SOURCE: Good Beer Hunting/Colette Holston.

Brian Alberts has written a piece about the 1970s’ biggest kegger for Good Beer Hunting and, in so doing, answered a question raised by watching American TV and film: what the hell is a ‘kegger’?

In spring 1979, University of Montana (UM) president Richard Bowers met with a student, Bob McCue, to deliver some bad news… The eighth annual Aber Day Kegger—where nationally known musical acts, roughly 1,000 kegs of beer, and up to 10,000 young revelers came together on a Montana hillside—would now be the last… From 1972 to 1979 [it] grew from an improvised beer bash into one of the most iconic college events in the American West. It was a simple concept—combine friends, great music, and unlimited beer to support a good cause. The only problem was that it continually got wrapped in outsized complexity. And as the Kegger grew in size and attention, its momentum and friction alike followed nationwide shifts in youth drinking culture, beer marketing strategies, and generational politics whose ebb and flow made the party possible, then unmade it just as easily.

A maker's mark on a brown beer bottle.
A verification mark on a pint bottle. SOURCE: Irish Beer History/Liam K.

At Irish Beer History Liam has written about the legendary status of the pint bottle, as part of his ongoing series ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’:

In Ireland the pint bottle… is remarked upon and reminisced about in equal measure as it slowly disappears from the fridges and shelves of the bars in this country. There are still many who appreciate its legacy, history and heritage, even if much of these elements are misunderstood, and there are those who enjoy and savour the taste and flavour of a beer poured the ‘proper’ way from a pint bottle into a ubiquitous flared pilsner glass, or just ‘A Glass’ as it is called in Irish pubs. At this point in time there are just a few beers still available in this Imperial measure and method of serve – the Diageo brands of Guinness, Harp, Smithwicks and Macardles, while Bulmers cider is also offered in pint bottles.

It’s been a while since we encountered a ‘fresh hop’ beer but Jeff Alworth’s thoughtful piece on the subject has us curious. He digs into the trend for fresh hop lagers, what makes a fresh hop beer taste and feel different, and the problem of knowing if the one you’re drinking is actually any good:

We’ve always known that one component of fresh hops is a quality that can be described as “green” or “chlorophyll”—basically, the plant side of the equation. It’s not purely flavor, either. It’s the chalky, rough, living quality of a freshly-picked vegetable. And a big part of it is texture. It’s a fuller, more abrasive feel on the tongue… Fresh hops roughen things up. Fresh vegetables sometimes have tiny fibers or spines that pop just after they’re picked. As a fresh hop pilsner lands on my tongue, it’s as if I can feel that roughness. The threshold for this quality is pretty low, too. It seems that if you can taste the hops (rather than just smell them), you’ll notice their texture… You may ask yourself, well, do I want to feel my hops?

A glass of hazy golden beer next to a colourful can labelled "Sour New England Vanilla Marshmallow IPA".
SOURCE: The Beer Nut.

This is your periodic reminder that The Beer Nut writes the best tasting notes in the game. This week, he turned his attention to a selection of beers from Lithuanian brewery Sakiškių Alus, chosen “purely on the grounds of… perceived strangeness”:

How do you even approach something called Sour New England Vanilla Marshmallow IPA? Cautiously, I guess. It’s orange and only slightly hazy, so doesn’t look like a New England IPA and therefore can’t be trying too hard to pretend to be one. The head disappears quickly. Sourness is the main feature, beginning with a tartly citric aroma which unfolds on tasting into a clean and zesty mandarin and satsuma spritz. This is lightly carbonated and extremely refreshing, seeming less than its 5.5% ABV. Any masochist who actually wanted vanilla or marshmallow from it will be disappointed, but maybe they’ll enjoy that. I found a beer that hits the main points of sour IPA rather well, even if it doesn’t offer much by way of complexity. I’m glad I chose it.

A quill pen.

Steve Dunkley is a brewer, cellarman and, now, also a beer writer. Well, he’s been a beer writer for a long time, but now he’s describing himself as such, professionally speaking. In our experience, he’s someone who puts a lot of thought into what he writes, and reflects the perspective of the smaller, independent end of the market. So, we were interested read his manifesto for beer writing, published in his blog this week:

1. Don’t Lie.
I think this is very important. We may get things wrong, but if we don’t deliberately do so then I think we can hold our heads up.

2. Don’t believe everything you’re told.
If we get a press release that sounds a bit fanciful, then maybe it’s better to double check some things before republishing it. A few extra minutes to do a quick online search, or a quick call to someone we know who knows about the subject could save reputation.

3. Respect each other.
If we’re adhering to the first two we can hold our heads high, but we must also believe that our contemporaries are too. If we believe that we are doing good, we should also believe that others are too.

Finally, from social media, something delightfully seasonal…

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