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News, nuggets and longreads 24 February 2024: Pretty Flower

Here’s our pick of the week’s writing about beer and pubs, with breakfast pints, social awkwardness, alder wood, and more.

First, some sad news from our old stamping ground of Penzance: The Star Inn at Crowlas is closing, getting a tidy up, and going on the market along with the attached brewery. If you followed us during our time in PZ you probably got sick of hearing us go on about Potion 9, the brewery’s flagship beer. When Pete Elvin, the genius behind the brewery died at Christmas, we did wonder what might happen next. And perhaps this was in the back of our minds when we wrote about learning to embrace change in our newsletter last weekend.


A pub clock.
Not a Dublin pub.

For Totally Dublin Michael Lanigan has written about the 6 pubs in Dublin that are allowed to open early in the morning, thanks to old licences. Accompanied by evocative photos by by Malcolm McGettigan it’s packed with small incidents, characters, and salty dialogue:

Inside the Wind Jammer, the deep babel of a few dozen male voices chattering boomed through the barroom, and the bright white lights emanating from its chandeliers sent a jolt through each punter stepping in to escape the drowsy city… “I can tell you a lie about the milkman,” said a man in his early fifties, wearing a black pork pie hat and perched on a stool at the rounded marble counter, a large bottle of Bulmers before him… “This place is a nice friendly shop,” the man in the pork pie hat said. “I’ve seen taxi drivers drop off Americans in here, off a flight. They’d be awake all night and are looking to get a beer. So, I’ve been in here, fucking nine in the morning with a singsong, drinking with cunts from New York.”

(We’re grateful to The Beer Nut for sending us the link to this story, which we’d have otherwise missed.)


Stools at the bar in a pub.

At Pints of Cask Make You Strong Ross Cummins has written just the kind of over-analysis of the pub experience that we enjoy. Working out where to sit, or where not to sit, is something that happens mostly subconsciously, so it’s interesting to see the thought process laid out in agonising detail:

Could we sit at the bar? Not really, one person maybe but not two with winter coats, and a camera bag et al. We did want to sit in the lovely cosy bar area, and there was a small table available. We hesitated though. Instead of one of us immediately sitting in the empty space, in the beautifully traditional British way, we took in the pub, stunning as it is, and got cocky. Just as our pints were being placed on the bar a definite regular walked in, taking off his coat in the process. We assumed he would take the available seats.


The garden at Wiper & True with tower blocks at Lawrence Hill in the background.

Anthony Gladman’s piece about Wiper & True for Pellicle grabbed our attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s one of our local breweries, and the new taproom described in the article is one of our nearest licenced establishments. (Though still not very near.) Secondly, it centres on a beer-cider hybrid – a concept that seemed significant to us back in 2014 when our book Brew Britannia came out. Then, it was Wild Beer Co’s Ninkasi. Now, it’s Orchard Ale:

Technically speaking, Orchard Ale is a graf: a beer-cider hybrid that sees both wort and apple juice blended and fermented together. (The name ‘graf’ actually comes from a fictional beverage invented by author Stephen King in The Dark Tower series of novels.) Wild yeasts do their work with as little intervention as possible from the brewers. The finished drink sits somewhere between a cider and a lambic. It has the crispness of a Somerset cider but with a softening background sweetness from the malt which saves it from being too dry… It’s like drinking the brewery’s deepest roots. The apples come from an orchard Michael planted in 2010 with his wife, Francesca—he made cider long before he ever brewed beer.


Schlenkerla Cap

Here’s a post at Blog-Ums-Bier by Ralf in German (thanks, Google Translate and ChatGPT!) that provides tasting notes and background on the growing range of beers from Schlenkerla in Bamberg:

Recently, I found myself curious about [Schlenkerla’s cherry-wood smoked beer] Weichsel, and pondered the different types of wood that could be used to smoke beers. Then, out of nowhere, Schlenkerla releases their own twist: a dark beer with malt smoked over alder wood. So, what’s the verdict on the Alder? That sounds as if I want to taste the wood itself. And honestly, when it comes to Schlenkerla, that’s not far off. Their standard beer, Märzen, is famous (or infamous) for its distinct ham-like flavour. This brings us to the topic of wood: just as ham is smoked with carefully chosen wood – often juniper for raw ham, and beech for the more delicate sausage varieties – Schlenkerla Märzen also incorporates beech smoke. So, the aroma of beech smoke is something you’re likely familiar with… Alder, on the other hand, is something we don’t really know about.


The spire of Big Ben with the Millennium Wheel in the background.

Having both worked in Westminster when we were younger we were interested to read Kate Whannel’s piece for the BBC about about the history and fate of division bells in pubs around Parliament. We both recall a time when we were in the St Stephen’s Tavern and the division bell rang, prompting David Blunkett to rush past and out of the pub with his guide dog. Anyway, it turns out they’re endangered, and no longer ringing as once they did:

The bell in the Marquis of Granby, once a favourite spot for Conservatives, portentously stopped ringing just before the pandemic shut pubs across the country – and hasn’t started back up since… Pub manager at the Marquis of Granby Jo does want to get it back up and running. “I like having it, it is unique to this area, unique to Westminster, but trying to get it fixed is a nightmare.”


Finally, here’s an interesting looking book by Dr Christina Wade that we’ve ordered and look forward to reading:

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 24 February 2024: Pretty Flower”

Alaskan Brewing in the US has had a smoked porter using alder wood for many years now. Alder is local to Alaska and used by the Indigenous community for preserving fish. The beer has a limited distribution and can be hard to find, but is very good.

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