News, nuggets and longreads 25 November 2023: Space and time

Here’s all the standout beer and pub writing of the past week, from Burton upon Trent to Belgrade.

First, some (boring) news: there was a Budget on Wednesday and various measures relating to beer and pubs were announced. The summary by Darren at Beer Today did the job for us. TL;DR the Government thinks it’s been very helpful; industry bodies think it’s better than it could be, but still not enough; others think it’s a stitch up designed to help only the biggest operators. We could copy and paste this summary, to be honest.

The exterior of The Coopers Tavern, a Victorian pub in red brick.
SOURCE: Pellicle/Jack Spicer Adams.

Despite having been to Burton, we missed The Cooper’s Tavern, which is one of those cult pubs you need to visit before you die and so and so forth. For Pellicle Neil Walker, former beer blogger of the class of 2011, and now SIBA comms man, profiles the pub and explains its significance:

The Coopers Tavern is a true ‘public house’. Once a residential home with narrow doors and tight internal rooms, the large cream sign on the front reads ‘Bass & Cos Coopers Tavern’ in faded brown font, painted directly onto the Victorian brick and revealing its true purpose. Here since the early 1800s it was built to be a head brewer’s house, but a few decades later it was being used as overflow storage for speciality malt by the William Bass Brewery. By 1826 it was cellaring Bass’ famous Imperial Stout and by no small coincidence began being used by senior members of the brewery as their own personal pub.

Five Points brewery kegs piled high

For The Grocer James Beeson has written about what he calls “the ‘second wave’ of craft brewers” in the UK, providing an interesting perspective on the ebb and flow of the story of British brewing, with input from brewer founders and owners:

London’s Five Points, Brixton and Fourpure all came into being a decade ago, as did Berkshire’s Siren Craft Brew and Yorkshire’s Northern Monk… All five have – at various stages – been listed with national grocers. Two have been bought out by multinational brewers (with one returning to independence last year) and all have played a part in growing the reputation of small, independent British breweries in the last decade… The year 2013 was a good time to get into beer… Craft beer fever was taking hold, and all five of these businesses experienced rapid growth in their first five years of existence. Bermondsey’s Fourpure caught the eye of Australasian outfit Lion, which snapped up the business in 2018 (it returned to independence last year), while Heineken took 49% stakes in both Beavertown and Brixton the same year.

The city of Belgrade with baroque an modern buildings staggered up a hill from the river.
Belgrade by Nikola Aleksic, via Unsplash.

For The Guardian Camilla Bell-Davies has written about the Kafana pub culture of Belgrade, Serbia:

Kafanas are Serbia’s tavernas: a restaurant, pub and music venue operating from morning to late night. Regulars come for a lively breakfast before work, families throw weddings and celebrations here, business deals are cut and sorrow drowned in dark corners. They were so central to people’s daily lives that friends and the postman would come to find you at your local kafana, not your home… Sadly, many traditional kafanas closed down in the 2000s, partly because of their reluctance to prioritise profit-making over letting regulars sit at one table all day. However, much like struggling British pubs turning to gastronomy, kafanas have adapted their offerings to survive, heralding a culinary comeback.

Andrew Campbell's The Book of Beer, 1956.

A few years ago, we were all but obsessed with finding out more about Andrew Campbell, author of an important early book about beer called, er, The Book of Beer. Before the days of the British Newspaper Archive we struggled to find reliable information beyond a passing mention of someone involved in the theatre of the same name. Now Gary Gillman has pinned it down and settled the question once and for all. What a relief! (We can’t copy quotes from Gary’s blog, hence the odd break in format here.)

A watercolour of a brewery with men in frock coats, a woman in a bonnet, and a horse-drawn dray loaded with barrels.

Still on the subject of satisfying resolutions to niggling mysteries, Liam K at Irish Beer History has been trying to identify an Irish brewery from an old picture for years. The breakthrough he needed was to realise that it wasn’t in Ireland at all:

I was scrolling through a website when a painting’s image jumped off the cover of an old book at me. It was an angled photo but it was unmistakably ‘my’ Irish brewery. There it was, with the dray carts and tower, impossible for me to mistake for anything similar as I had spent so much time studying it… The arresting issue was the title of the book. It was a 1980s printed facsimile of A History of Southampton by Reverend John Silvester Davies… Southampton? In England?

Old London Pubs Calendar 2024 by Lydia Wood, with a drawing of the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping on the cover.
SOURCE: Lydia Wood.

Will Hawkes’s marvellous email newsletter about London pubs is also available online, a month behind. The October edition has lots of great stuff, including some gloves-off commentary on Cask Marque. But our favourite item was about Lydia Wood who is drawing every pub in London – quite a big job!

If you had to describe the archetypal London pub based on the ones you’ve drawn so far, what would it look like?

A corner pub, slated roof, a couple of chimneys, bricks on the top half, painted bottom half, leaded windows, lantern lights, pub name signage, swinging sign, double doors, hanging flower baskets, a potted plant either side of the entrance, window reflections of the street opposite.

Finally, from social media, another Christmas gift idea…

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

5 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 25 November 2023: Space and time”

Thanks for your comments on my Andrew Campbell work. The advent of newspaper archives such as B.N.A. has increased the effectiveness of such inquiries, certainly. I find too that using certain word combinations and methods when searching can bring up results where nothing else will.

The Campbell situation, more broadly, illustrates how evanescent social and cultural history is, of any kind. Two or five years pass after an influential person dies or another (Michael Jackson say for beer) rises in the firmament, and people forget quite quickly the luminaries of what seems a distant time. It can be true of breweries and brew styles as well.

By the way, I added a “no copy paste” feature to the website a while back, as an additional security feature. It is inconvenient in a case such as this one, but overall I feel useful to have. Many websites do this now.

All best wishes.


So, are the pair of you going to shell out $60, to acquire a copy of Andrew Campbell’s book?

I must say this is the first time I’ve heard of either the book, or the author, and whilst I’m intrigued, I wouldn’t want to pay that amount, especially without a sneak preview.

I was fascinated by this book when I first came across it in Wimbledon Library in 1972; although it had been published only 16 years earlier, the picture it painted was so different from the beer scene in the early seventies that it might have dated from Victorian times. I acquired my first copy a couple of years later – for 20p, I think.

Much had changed in terms say of branding, industry consolidation, the onset of keg beer, and gains of lager, on that level. For an understanding of the core British beer types, it continued (imo) to be very relevant, and this clearly influenced Michael Jackson, the emphasis on pub culture as well.

This is a good place to mention that in early 2010 Ron Pattinson wrote a series of blogposts analyzing Campbell’s approach to beer styles, showing the continuities to later times, and where in his view Campbell strayed. Here is an example, on lager: (These posts are easy to find by a search, eg “Barclay Perkins and Andrew Campbell”.

His posts extract portions of the book for commentary and may interest those who cannot get their hands on a copy.

A reminder, finally, that my blog series on Campbell linked in B & B’s post links in turn to a short article, a dozen pages or so, which Campbell wrote for another publication. It is a kind of condensed version of “The Book of Beer” and forms a kind of sneak preview as Paul termed it in his comment above. Also, many British libraries surely must contain copies of the book. As would Oxford Brookes of course.


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