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News, nuggets and longreads 30 March 2024: Berserk!

Every Saturday we round-up the best writing about beer from the past week. This time we’ve got beer festivals, noble hops, and AF Augustiner.

First, some news:

  • Going up: Northern Monk is expanding, investing £500,000 to expand its brewing capacity by 20%. (Via Beer Today.)
  • Going down: Fourpure has applied for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) and could face liquidation. (Via James Beeson.)

This got us thinking about which breweries are thriving, and which are struggling. As we’ve said before, you have to worry if you’re the kind of brewery that is nobody’s favourite. Are people buying your merch? If not, you might have a problem.


A canvas sign advertising a beer festival car park.

And let’s have a bit more news with two stories that seem to echo each other. First, there’s the announcement that the Independent Manchester Beer Convention, AKA IndyManBeerCon, will not be running in 2024. In a year when CAMRA’s GBBF is also taking a break, that seems significant. 

Then there was this story, also from Manchester, about a beer festival FROM HELL:

The first International Brewing and Cider (IBC) Festival was held in Manchester over the weekend… But the not-for-profit event was hit with complaints about rude staff, cold conditions in the Mayfield Depot venue, and a poor atmosphere… IBC has apologised that some visitors had “a less than perfect experience”.

It’ll be interesting to see which beer festivals do happen this year, and how well they go.


An old map of Brussels.

Eoghan Walsh continues his series of reflective posts about his own drinking habits in 21st century Brussels with a piece about pre-football-match rituals:

We arrive off the tram at the Parc Duden, hike up the hill from the tram stop, take a left into the Rue des Alliés and make for the Italian bar/deli MangiaSempre. If it’s crowded we’ll take a seat on the terrace, but we’ll aim for a table indoors given the weather we’ve been having lately. From there, it’s a quick drink – a La Mule Lager for me, water for child one, and chinotto for child two – and a bag of taralli (preferably not the fennel-flavoured ones). Drinks drunk – or at least, half-drunk in the case of the chinotto – we’re off back up the hill to the stadium. Hot dogs – real meat! – with ketchup, no mustard, and no onions from the Brazilian restaurant across the road from the stadium for them, a dip of the head into the clubhouse to see if there are any familiar faces around, and then into the stadium to take our seats in the north stand.


A bookshelf against the window of a pub: "The Victoria".

Also at Substack Adrian Tierney-Jones thinks of the many layers of personal history that make the best pubs feel alive and eternal:

Bob used to sit on a stool at the bar every lunchtime, drink five pints of Exmoor Ale and then walk back to his house three doors away and have a few whiskies. Later on around 6pm he would be back in the pub and enjoy two or three pints before he went home. Then he died, which didn’t really come as a surprise given that he also smoked like the proverbial chimney, but, for the two or three years I still lived in the Exmoor village after his death, each time I went into the pub I couldn’t help but look at the empty space where he used to sit and remember him sitting there. 


An old engraving of some hops.

We’d never really thought about the origins of the phrase ‘noble hops’ but between them Stan Hieronymus’s Hop Queries newsletter and Jeff Alworth’s commentary on it have opened our eyes. Jeff writes:

For well over a century, brewers had a stable impression of hop aroma: British good, certain Bavarian and Bohemian varieties excellent (but variable by year), and American and Belgian bad. Impressions of hops have been a part of the beer world since I came into it, but they haven’t been stable as they were for the previous century, and the changes are instructive… The stable perception of hops and their growing regions persisted until the 1980s, when the hop market started to respond to small American breweries’ interest in expressive local hops. That seemed to be around the time the word “noble” became a marketing term, at least in the U.S., where these hops could still command premium pricing… 


A sign on an Augustiner beer hall in Munich.

We’re not very interested in alcohol-free beer, as a rule, but Andreas Krennmair’s headline grabbed our attention: “Why Augustiner’s new alcohol-free helles is a big deal.” One of his points is that Augustiner guards its reputation carefully and wouldn’t release a product that might reflect badly on its brand:

[One] thing that caught my eye was how openly Augustiner spoke about their method of production… Basically, there are two ways of producing an alcohol-free beer: one is to brew a low-gravity wort and ferment either with a poorly attenuating yeast (essentially, one that cannot ferment maltose sugar) or to stop fermentation shortly after it’s started by chilling down the beer very quickly to prevent the yeast from metabolizing any further sugar. This approach is called arrested or restricted fermentation. The other method is to brew a regular beer and then dealcoholize it, i.e. remove the alcohol after fermentation through some method of cold distillation. This is generally called physical dealcoholisation. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, leading to either worty-sweet beer with the former method, or very thin, watery and slightly sour with the latter method. And as the Süddeutsche Zeitung says, “Augustiner decided on a mix of both methods.”


Finally, from BlueSky, a book recommendation

A post from Brian Alberts (brewedculture@bsky.social.com) showing with a photo of the book "A Nation Fermented: Beer, Bavaria, and the Making of Modern Germany" by Robert Shea Terrell. “Some exciting new reading for my plane ride tonight!”

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

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 30 March 2024: Berserk!”

I was at the Gloucester Brewery Easter Beer Festival yesterday and it was excellent. Great mix of Cask and Keg, very busy, great WiFi and live music and a very good food truck. Ongoing today and Sunday. Well worth a visit.

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