News, nuggets and longreads 22 June 2024: Footie footie footie

Every Saturday, we round up the best writing about beer from the preceding week. This time we’ve got sexiness, waiting and burnout.

First, some news about pubs. There was apparently a sharp acceleration in the number of pubs closing in the first quarter of 2024, according to a report compiled by commercial property intelligence company Altus. Of the 472 pubs that closed between April 2023 and March 2024, a remarkable 236 closed in the first three months of this year – equivalent to around 80 per month. We couldn’t find Altus’s original release but it’s based on “government figures”, which we assume means data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Most of the hospitality news outlets and newspapers ran the story including The Drinks Business and The Morning Advertiser.

The word 'Gorgeous' in a curvy font with glittery sparkles.

The most interesting, provocative post of the week was from Katie Mather who asks whether in trying to purge beer of sexist imagery, we’ve also denied it the right to be sexy:

There has always been a difficulty between treading the line between sensuality and straight-up sexism in advertising. Internalised misogyny throughout society objectifies women, and using their bodies to sell, well, anything you can think of, underlines the perceived cheapness of women, and their usefulness only as a commodity… I wanted to have a go at untangling some of these ideas because I sometimes find the sexism in beer arguments difficult to engage with… Beer is seriously unsexy. Is that why women who don’t love beer for all its flavours and styles and aromas don’t drink it? I don’t know. Has anyone asked them? What do women want?

Perhaps we’re ready to have this conversation now, with more nuance. Whereas a decade or more ago, it felt as if hard lines had to be drawn to keep things simple and drive action.

A view through the front doors and windows of a dark Brussels cafe.
SOURCE: Brussels Notes/Eoghan Walsh.

Eoghan Walsh has written again about the reality of his life in Brussels: ferrying his kids around, waiting for them, drinking a beer or two in one bar or another. This week it was a place that fancies itself as a restaurant where, nonetheless, he found a place to perch:

It’s quiet when I arrive at the Chapeau Blanc, during that interstitial lull on a Friday when the work week’s over but the weekend hasn’t quite got itself going yet. The tables on the right as I walk in are set for dinner, and a waiter says I’m not allowed to sit at one even though the kitchen doesn’t open for another hour. But there’s a pair of tables in a small alcove facing the entrance without any cutlery, and I’m welcome to sit there if it’s just a drink I’m having… Waiting for the beer to come, it’s not long before the entrance door opposite my table is pushed open and a slow trickle of reservations begin to file through. It’s families mostly, Dutch-speaking ones, though they do the Brussels thing once they are in the bar and address the staff in French. But once they’ve been directed to their seats behind me they lose their object permanence, the cries of their restless children and their muffled conversations coalescing into ambient white noise, and I might as well be alone save for the staff behind the bar. 

An abstract image of hands raised in protest.

Ruvani de Silva has written for Pellicle about how diversity and inclusion in the beer industry seems to have stalled, or even started rolling backwards:

[Diversity, equity and inclusion] is so 2021. For many in the beer industry, as well as in the wider world, diversity, equity and inclusion has become old news, no longer worthy of column inches… While DEI advocates understand the complexities of running what are often small businesses on tight margins, the prevailing attitude of DEI being the first thing to be thrown under the bus of austerity further adds to the burnout we are experiencing… With many people now stepping back from social media and those who remain becoming increasingly cautious of raising their heads above the parapet, the support and sense of community that helped to fuel DEI activism has fizzled out.

The word 'Citra' in a font and colours reminiscent of the 'Spam' logo.

This is a brief but fascinating piece from Stan Hieronymus about how just because a hop has a brand name doesn’t mean it’s a consistent industrial product:

I originally thought to post this because for too many years I’ve received the occasional email asking, “What happened to [add your favorite hop name]. It is not the same as it used to be.” My catchall answer is that hops are an agricultural product. These charts are proof, but… There is something else to consider. That’s a T90 pellet lot at the top, and a Cryo lot at the bottom. That the T90 lot is quite woody and the Cryo lot not at all woody suggests removing green matter (which happens when hops are cryogenically concentrated) eliminates the woody character found in “old fashioned” hops. Cool. Unless there’s something else in the green matter that might make the beer taste like some of us prefer.

It’s not really about the text, though – it’s about the remarkable spider graph accompanying it. Go and take a look.

A Dungeons & Dragons setup with little buildings on a tabletop.
SOURCE: RPG Taverns.

Connecting with an ongoing trend we’ve been observing around board game cafes comes news of a pub dedicated to the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons in South London:

Set in a converted pub, RPG Taverns offers Londoners a safe place to relax and play D&D with six elaborately themed rooms ranging from an enchanted forest with giant mushroom seats to a ghostly graveyard… Now hundreds of people come to play there every week, with a mix of experts and complete beginners… Although there are similar venues; at RPG Taverns they have a creative team who designs all the games and the world – so people who have never played before can simply buy a ticket and get stuck in.

Finally, from BlueSky, which now seems to embed nicely…

The Hoy, Deptford

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— Will Hawkes ( Jun 19, 2024 at 22:36

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

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