News, nuggets and longreads 16 March 2023: Hole in my Shoe

Every Saturday we round up the best beer writing from the past week. This time, we’ve got pandemic memories, solo drinking, and Dublin pubs.

First, some news, from the ever-reliable Beer Today: Rooster’s has acquired Daleside, another brewery of a similar vintage, also based in Harrogate. Why is this interesting? Because small real-ale focused breweries don’t often merge or take each other over, even though it might make sense for them to do so. Daleside used to have quite a reputation back in the days of Michael Jackson. We occasionally found their beers in corner shops in East London. But they’ve disappeared from the scene somewhat in recent years, and now it seems their management team is ready to retire. We expect more of this in years to come.

Shutters with a paper sign attached with tape: "Sorry, closed until further notice".

“Four years ago,” writes Jeff Alworth at Beervana, “the world stopped.” In his post reflecting on the pandemic he considers the longer-term changes it seems to have made to hospitality and our drinking habits:

This is a blog about beer, so let me use this small part of society to illustrate what I mean… The multi-year shift to packaged beer sparked a wholesale conversion to cans from bottles, which are nearly extinct now… Drinking habits changed, and draft remains well below its 2019 baseline. Consumption may be down overall… Younger drinkers who never had the party-hearty experiences of early generations may never fully embrace alcohol… Delayed by government intervention, far fewer breweries closed than expected, but even four years on, Covid closures continue… Thanks to service industry staff getting tagged “essential workers,” many left the industry. That sparked a sharp wage spike that was long overdue, but it did impact breweries already struggling with dropping sales…

We’ve been thinking about some of this, too, especially in relation to young people and their relationship to alcohol, and the fact that people in the UK now routinely drink outdoors even in winter.

A fancy old-fashioned shoe.

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Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

David Jesudason has written something of an exposé of the management culture at an unnamed pub where multiple staff have spoken to him about shocking behaviour and policy:

Staff say they felt intimidated by management with several reports of workers being shouted at in front of customers, told off for taking breaks and humiliated by a laddish culture… One source claimed that they worked with a manager who boasted about employing a homeless man to clear glasses in exchange for inedible food and say they reported this manager to the management at the time… One source, who is black, claimed they were called a thief by a manager for taking a company T-shirt to use on his shift, while another person of colour alleged that management ignored racist taunts by a customer and instead ordered the staff member to serve him.

Of course it’s frustrating that David can’t name the pub but shouting “Name and shame!” isn’t helpful. He doesn’t have a legal team behind him and can’t afford to be sued. And some of the behaviour he describes is probably more common than we’d like to think, so perhaps keeping it vague is a helpful reminder that this could be happening almost anywhere.

Roadworks in Brussels.

Eoghan Walsh has got into the habit of having one or two beers at the same Brussels bar every Friday night while his kids are swimming. This has set him thinking about what it means to be ‘a regular’, the desire to be alone versus the desire for company, and the importance of routine more generally:

These are not the thoughts of an ordered mind, and it’s not an attitude that has served me very well; I know I’m missing out on some essential aspect of pub drinking. So part of committing to this routine is to confront this way of thinking and overcome it – exposure therapy, if you’d like. But also, alongside my desire to be left alone I also have a contradictory one whereby sometimes I do want people to come up to me. I know there’s a vanity to this, wanting other people to make the effort but being unwilling or unable to reciprocate. Where that comes from, beyond vanity, I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s a desire to be around people but not among them; to put myself into a situation where the latent potential for talk is there if I want it, but it comes with no obligations. And that’s what this place provides.

A pub pool table with bright green baize.

At Oh Good Ale Phil Edwards has been interviewed by a song. Which is to say that ‘Favorite Bar’ by the Magnetic Fields asks a series of questions which Phil has attempted to answer:

Do you have a favourite bar
Where you can play pool with strangers
Maybe wear some lipstick and not be in danger
Of getting beat up in the men’s room

Feeling safe is important in a pub. (Being safe is, too, but in the nature of things you only generally find out if that’s not the case a lot later.) I generally do feel safe in pubs these days, but then (a) I’m White, male and middle-aged and (b) I very rarely go anywhere even slightly rough (Holt’s pubs in the suburbs, on CAMRA crawls, are probably as close as I get). I can remember being in a few places where I felt it would be inadvisable to stay for another, but this is going back a bit – I think at the time my youth was as much a factor as being a posh Southerner. I also think one effect of the general decline in pub-going – and the broader decline in all-male socialising – is that it’s harder to find pubs that are likely to get seriously lairy, or at least easier to avoid them.

The interior of a pub with wooden panelling and dividers, dark red walls, and a couple of drinkers.

Lisa Grimm’s Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs continues with a trip to the famous Fagan’s and some nods to the strange relationship between America and Irishness:

Bill Clinton wuz here. And you’re not likely to forget it, as he seems to be on every wall in Fagan’s, somewhere… Of course, to Dubliners, Fagan’s is better known for its Bertie Ahern connections, but I think it’s the Clintoniana I’ve always found a little bit off-putting; in short, for us Gen X folk of all political and national stripes, that aspect of the décor can seem a bit, well, Boomer. However, it’s not every pub in Dublin that’s had national and world leaders enjoy a Guinness (or other beverage) there, so it’s entirely understandable that there would be more than a few clippings on the wall… And, to be fair, it’s not truly throughout the entire pub, as Fagan’s is enormous.

Finally, from Instagram, a particularly alluring looking pint…

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 16 March 2023: Hole in my Shoe”

Thing is I did have a legal team at one time and the publication got cold feet!

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