News, nuggets and longreads 13 April 2024: Stardew Valley

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs one or the other of us bookmarked in the past week, from the stink of Brussels to Pilsator.

This is usually where a beer-related news story goes but nothing much caught our eye this week. Probably the most interesting story was the Portman Group judgement on the pump clip for Twickenham Brewery’s Naked Ladies – it’s fine, they reckon – which prompted a statement of disappointment from the Campaign for Real Ale. Our view is the same as it’s been for years, now: if the name of your beer is ‘cheeky’, and you have to explain to people that, “No, actually, it’s not really a sexual reference because…” then it’s probably going to make some people feel uncomfortable. And why would you want your product to make anyone feel uncomfortable?

An old map of Brussels.

Eoghan Walsh has another update on the Brussels drinking scene: rooftop bars are now a thing. He also has an opinion: they’re not necessarily a good thing. At Substack he writes:

Brussels does outdoor drinking well, and the arrival of tables and chairs blocking narrow footpaths and squares across town is as sure a sign that summer is coming as the swallows returning and the streets smelling of stale piss… One of the attractions of Rooftop 58 when I visited shortly after it opened in June last year was that the stink of urine doesn’t reach nine floors up… Sitting there trying not to listen to the conversations of the tourists next to me with their backpacks wrapped around their torsos, I had a nagging thought. To get up to the bar I’d had to queue up at ground floor lifts, where a man was waiting to riffle through bags to prevent contraband water and food making it to the roof. Past him, there was another man in charge of the lifts and crowd control. I didn’t have any trouble getting in, save for a long wait, but then I don’t look like a troublemaker. I did wonder would they refuse entry to someone they did consider a potential threat to the order of their carefully curated experience.

We also wonder if there are anxious discussions in Belgian tourism about the constant association of Brussels with urine. We suppose they’ve asked for it, really, with the pissing lad statue and all that.

An older man with white hair and a stick standing behind a bar. There are bottles of spirits behind him and glassware in front. The rest of the room, with mounted stags head and framed pictures, is reflected in a mirror.
Walter Maes in 2012. SOURCE: Kendall Jones/Washington Beer Blog.

There’s a lot to digest in Kendall Jones’s long piece about the Jules Maes Saloon in Seattle at Washington Beer Blog. For one thing, you don’t hear much about Belgian Americans, do you? Then there’s the disputed Prohibition history, some union busting and, of course, a ghost:

I arrived at Jules Maes Saloon a few minutes early that day and told the bartender what was about to happen. I didn’t want her to freak out when a 92-year-old man walked through the front door, stepped behind the bar, and acted like he owned the place. That’s what Walter Maes did… It was a touching moment for the folks working at the Saloon that afternoon and especially poignant for Walter Maes’ son and granddaughter who were also there. On the day we spoke, Walter Maes was the last living member of the Maes family to have worked at the Saloon. Walter passed away in 2014, just two years after I interviewed him.

An illustration of a glass of golden lager.

We got a two-parter from Andreas Krennmair on the subject of geographic designations, and the terms Pilsner, Pilsener, and Pilsator. The latter is a word we’ve heard but the meaning of which neither of us had internalised. It turns out to be a marketing term adopted by a German brewery in 1909 to imply their beer was a Pilsner without calling it a Pilsner. Here’s a snippet from part one:

In 1910, the breweries of Pilsen seem to have sued a number of German breweries, such as Pankow-based Engelhardt brewery… The German court then found them to abuse the designation of origin of a foreign beer without clearly specifying that their beer wasn’t from Pilsen, but rather from Pankow just outside Berlin… In December 1913 though, the Reichsgericht (Supreme court of the German Empire) in Leipzig passed a verdict that the term “Pilsener” had simply changed in meaning and couldn’t be seen as a pure geographic indication anymore, but rather as a statement of quality about the product, and that enforcing it as a geographic indication would be an interference into the “free development of business” by the court. The court also rejected any possible confusion of customers because of the price difference between “German Pilsener” and “real Pilsener”…

And here’s something from part two:

On 17th August 1909, Professor Dr. J. Röhr pointed out that the suffix -ator indicates a male person performing a particular action, such as mercator for merchant, viator for traveller, lignator for woodcutter, etc., so for somebody who has any idea about Latin, a pilsator is somebody who pilses (don’t we all like to pils every now and then?).

A bar with wooden furniture, warm lighting, and yellow walls. There is a bar in white and black, with a line of stools, and red columns.
Checkpoint Charlie in Amsterdam. SOURCE: Ron Pattinson.

Ron Pattinson at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins has broken from his usual programming of nuggets of beer history to share bittersweet reflections on the various Amsterdam bars he’s called his local in recent decades:

Rick’s Cafe was our local for quite a while. At least five or six years Probably more. Drinking half-price, happy-hour De Koninck. I had a couple of Guinness breakfasts there, too, after a night of clubbing…  I can’t remember why we stopped going there… Then there was Cafe Belgique. We hung around there for a few years. I had my 40th and 50th birthday parties there. Where the beer tokens were miniature Czech 50 and 100 crown notes. Mikey worked there for a while. Lucas DJ’d once… Even earlier, back in the early 1990s, me, Lucas and Will often hung around in the De Pijp. Like Centurion on the Ceintuurbaan. Or the odd little place close to Sarphati Park where we’d play pool. And heard cumbia for the first time… Both are long gone.

This appealed to us because it’s a glimpse into the reality of life in another city with just enough detail to give the flavour. And his conclusion is sound, of course.

A complex diagram of radiating lines with family tree connectors and tightly packed text with the designations of various yeasts grouped by family.
SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol.

The yeast family tree story has been bubbling away for a few years now but, frankly, we’ve always found the charts and graphs and diagrams too confusing to parse. Thankfully, Lars Marius Garshol has turned up to explain some of it in something like plain English, as an academic paper has emerged:

The big finding is that group you see in the upper middle: a large group of farmhouse yeasts all next to each other. Yeasts from the kveik, gong, and berm areas as well as the Baltic all group right next to each other, with nothing else in between. The conclusion is that European farmhouse yeast is a separate family of yeast. Farmhouse yeast really is a separate type of yeast. And that family spans Norway, Latvia, and Lithuania, at least.

Finally, from YouTube, this 1983 archive clip from the BBC has some wonderful footage of arcade game machines in pubs from about 20 seconds in:

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

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 13 April 2024: Stardew Valley”

Ooh, that arcade game looks like Dig Dug, but is confusingly named Mr Do, the contracted name used for the Japanese doughnut chain “Mr Donut”.
Time for a google black hole to disappear into…

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