News, nuggets and longreads 21 October 2023: Berlin Game

Even on holiday we’ve been keeping an eye on what’s going on in beer writing. Here’s our pick of the best reading from the past week, including micropubs, pub etiquette and Bavaria in Berlin.

First, some interesting news: a new survey suggests that hospitality businesses are still struggling to recruit while, at the same time, 42% of hospitality workers are thinking of quitting the industry.

This tracks with our experience in the past few months where pubs and bars feel quietly wrong: closed when you expect them to be open; understaffed; or staffed by people who don’t know the ropes.

And the most competent bar staff, we notice, seem to turn up at different venues every other week, presumably because they’re able to pick and choose where they want to work.

(Via @BeerNouveau on Bluesky.)

The exterior of a pub on a busy London street.
SOURCE: Lily Waite/Pellicle.

For Pellicle David Jesudason has profiled a micropub in South London, The Shirker’s Rest, which we’ve heard of but never visited, despite New Cross being an old stamping ground:

The Shirker’s owners (Duncan Hart, Dave Crewdson, Graham Dodds, Andy Stockbridge, Andy Grumbridge and Ben McNamee) love micropubs despite my valid concerns… These are the ones inspired by Martyn Hillier, who opened Butcher’s Arms, also in Herne in 2005 in a formerly unlicensed premises, such as the Walmer’s Freed Man (a former post office) or the Four Candles in Broadstairs—but the Shirker’s owners wanted their version to be more inclusive. More modern… “They were bastions of ‘un’ modernity,” Andy Grumbridge tells me. “You weren’t allowed to use your phone—some micropubs would have phones nailed to the walls. And, even though they won’t admit it, they started as predominantly male spaces. Some grew up a bit and became more open, such as the Fez in Margate.”

Roadworks in Brussels.

We’re passing through Brussels tonight and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t conscious of it being a sometimes chaotic city. It’s the only place we’ve ever caught a pickpocket in the act, for example. After a shooting incident earlier this week Eoghan Walsh wrote a heartfelt reflection on the city’s nightlife and how it has been affected by this and similar incidents in the past decade:

I realise I’m sitting more or less in the same place, doing the same things, I was the first time the Belgian government told us to stay indoors and be alert for possible terrorists in the streets of Brussels. November 2015 was when “lockdown” entered the Brussels lexicon, in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris. I remember wild rumours circulating on Twitter about possible attacks happening or about to happen in Brussels. I remember following at a distance the clear-outs of bars and streets in the centre of town, checking in regularly with Ryan Heath’s feed for updates about what was going on. I remember the gallows humour on twitter as people checked in on each other and shared photos of their and other people’s cats as fear sublimated into a kind of giddy anxiety and everyone tried to keep the dread at bay.

Four large steins of Spaten lager (detail from a poster c.1920s.)

As we said last week, we love inspiring other people to write blog posts. This week we nagged Andreas Krennmair to write down some of the fascinating things he was telling us over a few beers in Berlin. The result was a post about Bavarian beer halls in the German capital which might feel like manifestations of chain-pub culture but are, in fact, historic in their own right:

An 1891 tourist guide to Berlin lists a number of “beer palaces”, many of which were owned by or at least serving beer from Bavarian breweries… Similarly, the 1898 Baedeker guide to Berlin lists several more… Some contemporary publications commented on this as a “Bier-Kulturkampf” (beer culture war) between the classic Berlin beer culture of top-fermented white and brown beer and the newfangled Bavarian beers that made an impact on Berlin architecture. The most prominent beer palace in that regard was probably Spatenbräu on Friedrichstraße 172.

(See also: London, which had its own Spaten beer hall, and others.)

Illustration: a quiet corner in a quiet pub, with table and stools.

James at The Last Drop Inn has notes on how to be a good citizen in the pub. He’s called it ‘The Unwritten Rules’ and provides a list of mildly irritating behaviours, like this:

Sampling a beer should be reserved for people who want to enjoy the same beer over the course of a couple of hours. Sampling a beer to decide whether you want to sample a beer is exploiting a loophole. Particularly when you’re going to have a sample of six beers, which you’re then going to have a half of each of anyway. What you’re really doing there is having seven halves for the price of six.

There are things in this post that will make some of you bristle. If you’re a CAMRA member or serious cyclist, and sensitive about some of the negative stereotypes, perhaps give it a miss.

We enjoyed this long piece on ‘48 Hours Drinking and Eating in Lille’ by Grace Weitz for Hop Culture. Sure, it was a sponsored trip, and we generally ignore those, but the fact is that we (a) added a few items to our to-visit list off the back of reading this piece and (b) learned some things from the article, like this:

Aurélie Baguet, co-founder of L’Échappée Bière, a beer event and tourism group in Lille… says she now counts 250 breweries in the region and thirty-five in the metropolitan city identified as “héritage bière,” an earned label that designates the brewery or beer bar as taking steps to welcome tourists… Moreover, within the last decade, the original families of both Motte Cordonnier and Célestin bought back or revived their breweries, starting from scratch and recreating a modern identity for their historic family breweries.

Finally, from Instagram, another glance downward in a branch of Wetherspoon…

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

5 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 21 October 2023: Berlin Game”

I’m not sure why the guy from that pub in West Yorkshire has chosen to write a snarky post about the irritating behaviour of some of the regular customers there when the solution lies, literally, in his hands: just stop handing out samples and removing sparklers.

He’s a barman rather than the owner so perhaps stuck with a policy he can’t influence.

If you’re a CAMRA member or serious cyclist, and sensitive about some of the negative stereotypes, perhaps give it a miss.

Eh, I’ve seen worse.

I was amused by the little sideswipe about how his pub’s annual inclusion in the Good Beer Guide “doesn’t … fetch many CAMRA members into the pub”. Who does he think keeps on nominating it for the GBG?

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