News, nuggets and longreads 9 September 2023: What’s going on?

Here’s all the great writing about pubs and beer we bookmarked in the past week, from Doom Bar to Lady’s Well.

As longtime Doom Bar ponderers we’re intrigued by the news that Sharp’s (Molson Coors) is launching a keg version.

For years, now, it’s been one of the cask ales you see in pubs where cask ale isn’t a priority, as a sort of token gesture.

We can imagine many of those publicans welcoming a version that lasts longer and needs less care – but will it wash with drinkers?

Probably, to be honest, if it tastes more-or-less the same, but fresher.

And Doom Bar is famously quite a keggy cask beer anyway. (Via Darren Norbury at Beer Today.)

And here’s a bit more news, from our own neighbourhood: the couple behind plans to restore and reopen The Rhubarb Tavern have launched a crowdfunder.

We’ve already donated, as have, at the time of writing, 137 other people.

If you’d like to see the last pub in Barton Hill reopen, do consider chucking them a few quid.

A wooden barrel with metal hoops.
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

From Brussels Eoghan Walsh brings news of an interesting development: the birth of a new gueuze, from the Brussels Beer Project. This is quite a big deal, as he explains in the intro to his piece of oral history:

[The] Dansaert Gueuze – a blend of one-, two-, and three-year-old Lambics made to the Oude Geuze specifications set down in EU law – is not just a milestone for BBP. It’s a landmark beer for Brussels too, because it’s the first of its kind to have been made in Brussels by a new producer for several generations. Lambic, indigenous to Brussels and once one of the city’s dominant beer styles, was virtually extinct by the early 1990s. There were only two lambic breweries left in Brussels, and only one – Brasserie Cantillon – still making beer the same way as previous generations of brewers. In fact, such was the complete eradication of the Lambic tradition in the 20th century that it’s entirely unclear who preceded BBP as the previous newest Lambic brewery.

A drawing of a large Victorian brewery.
Lady’s Well Brewery, James J. Murphy & Co., Cork.

Liam K at Irish Beer History continues his collection of 50 significant objects with a beer mat from 1969 advertising Colonel Murphy’s Stout:

In July 1968 the Watney-Mann brewery group quietly test marketed a batch of Murphy’s draught stout brewed at The Lady’s Well Brewery in Cork on a target audience in 20 of their Manchester pubs.1 This soft launch must have been a relative success as it in turn led to a bigger campaign in June of 1969 when Watney-Mann were joined by Bass-Charrington – both giants of British brewing at the time – in trialling and marketing that same Irish stout in their pubs in the hope of unseating Guinness’s grip on the bar counters of Britain. Now under the guise of ‘Colonel Murphy,’ it was trialled in 500 of their pubs in Manchester and Brighton, with the hope of launching it in 8,000 pubs across the island in the future. The name change and choice seems a strange decision, as nitrogenated draught Murphys had just been launched in Ireland the previous year with attractive, trendy branding.

The Crooked House before its demolition.
SOURCE: Peter Broster under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The burning down and demolition of The Crooked House, “Britain’s wonkiest pub”, has made it a cause célèbre, as Roger Protz pointed out in a post this week:

The wreckers of the pub have served a purpose by default. They have turned the spotlight on not only one pub in the Black Country but also brought to attention similar acts of violence against other licensed premises… In 2017 changes to planning laws in England were meant to provide extra protection to pubs by stopping them being converted or demolished without planning permission. But the law has been honoured more in the breach than the observance, as a scribe of Stratford-upon-Avon once remarked… Research by CAMRA has shown that more than 30 pubs this year alone have been converted or knocked down, with or without permission.

Part of the solution, he argues, could be the appointment of a pubs minister in government with “sweeping powers to overhaul planning laws and close loopholes”. An interesting suggestion.

Black Sheep bottle cap.

James at The Last Drop Inn has been thinking about brewery closures in the UK and the new type of brewery takeover, when firms with ‘capital’ in their name get involved:

For people in Yorkshire, recent months have seen two major independent breweries sold to Private Equity firms… Acorn Brewery from Barnsley now belongs to the P.E. firm Sonas Capital… For a slightly different reason, Black Sheep Brewery was recently bought by Breal Group… Both my wife and I have both worked in the food production industry for a company which went from being family-owned to part of a P.E. empire. And the speed and scope of cultural change when the P.E. boys took over was unbelievable. These companies basically only exist to trade and turn a profit. They care only about the bottom line, often at the detriment of staff morale and product quality. Of course, both Sonas and Breal are making all of the right noises…

From Mikey Seay on Substack, here’s a fun game: what’s the best six pack of beer you can put together for the least money? He managed a nice little bundle for less than $20, with a multibuy discount and some other tricks:

Tall Boys are your friend when getting the most from your beer money – especially when they are doubles… You can find, also, some DIPAs priced the same or only a little but more than their single counterpart… I challenge you this week to create the most banger six or 12 pack for your buck too – you’re probably going to need a place that has Sierra, or whatever the Sierra in your town is, it definitely helps.

Finally, from social media, a particularly beautiful sweater:

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