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News, nuggets and longreads 30 January 2021 | Branding, Belgian stout, Bohemian lager

Here’s all the writing on beer and pubs we found especially interesting, illuminating or amusing in the past week, from branding to Belgian stout.

The big story of the week was that pioneering San Francisco craft beer brewery Anchor has rebranded. Now, we’d usually downgrade rebranding stories – they’re not generally that interesting – and certainly didn’t share the general sense of woe that broke out on Twitter. But this is significant, actually, being another indicator of the changing of the guard.

Pete Brown, who has just published a book on the marketing and branding of beer, doesn’t like the new Anchor labels but did get some more background from the brewery on why they felt the change was needed:

Anchor cites the need for greater standout on shelf, claiming even some of its biggest fans struggle to spot the existing design. Also, it needed to sell an expanding range of beers and have greater coherence between them: “Many of Anchor’s fans only know us as “Anchor Steam Beer” and aren’t aware that we brew other styles of beer,” the brewery spokesperson said… Another key aspect from yesterday’s statement acknowledges that “the beer industry has evolved drastically in the last decade with a significant shift toward novelty over heritage,” and that as a result, “we’ve watched many of our friends and colleagues at pioneering breweries close their doors.” Anchor seems to be telling us here that they face a straight choice of looking more like the new kids, or being forgotten. 

Martyn Cornell, meanwhile, doesn’t think it’s such a tragedy. His piece is entitled ‘The Anchor labels were never that great to begin with, and probably should have been changed long ago’:

The faux-antique bottle labels Fritz Maytag introduced as part of his shake-up of the failing business he acquired in the late 1960s certainly made the brand stand out on the shelves compared to the sleek designs of the megabrewers he was competing against. But they were always rather messy, deliberately hand-drawn to emphasise the “craft” nature of the product inside. As Anchor grew and as the craft brewery revolution it helped inspire exploded into thousands of competing beer brands, the bottle “dress” it had adopted began to look increasingly not so much charmingly old-fashioned as drab and out of date.


A mural in south London.

For Deserter, Vincent ‘Dirty South’ Raison has spoken to South London pub landlords about their present plight and their fears for the future. It’s full of specific detail and, though infused with anger, level-headed in its analysis:

Con Riordan, landlord at the esteemed Blythe Hill Tavern, felt that publicans don’t have enough friends in Parliament, as fond as politicians are of being pictured in a pub with a pint. But by disallowing takeaway booze – for who knows how long – the very survival of pubs is threatened, while supermarkets’ market share is increased… It’s clear that the government is constantly reacting rather than taking charge. Countries that have acted quickly and decisively have fared best: closing borders, mandatory mask-wearing, strict lockdowns and comprehensive testing have all helped. The whole country has been subject to revised regulations and baffling exceptions.


The Rutland Arms pub

There’s been much talk of the costs to our collective mental health of preventing gathering in offices, schools and, yes, pubs. For Ferment, the promo magazine for a beer subscription service, Katie Mather looks into the role of pubs as a vital part of the social safety net:

Katie Major | The Crow Inn and The Rutland Arms, Sheffield… “Because The Crow is so close to a popular real ale crawl, we would have customers who would do the same five or six pubs at the same time every week. For example, one regular comes in on a Thursday every week without fail, but I don’t know what he’s doing now, I have no way of contacting him. He’s been doing it for as long as I’ve worked in that area, so over ten years, and while he’s got a wife at home, his only social life is going round the pubs on his own, talking to the staff and the other customers.”


For Good Beer Hunting, Our Man in Prague Evan Rail explains how Budweiser Budvar and Pilsner Urquell are regarded in the Czech Republic and reminds us of the folly of projecting UK and US beer politics onto other nations:

[While] Asahi-owned Pilsner Urquell is a corporate juggernaut—technically a group of four separate breweries that together make up around 50% of the Czech market with their various brands—it is still respected, if not beloved, by both brewers and the general public here. When the festival of small breweries takes place each summer at Prague Castle, Pilsner Urquell is not included, because it is not a small brewery. But when Urquell’s brewmaster Václav Berka shows up at the event, he is often surrounded by a gaggle of owners and employees from small breweries who want to take pictures with him. It would be hard to imagine the brewmaster of one of the biggest American powerhouses—Miller or Budweiser, say—walking the floor at GABF and getting nothing but high fives.


Hercule stout

We’d never really thought about it but, yes, Breandán Kearney is right – Belgian stout has become a style in its own right. In this piece for Craft Beer & Brewing he dissects what makes it distinct:

Unlike Belgian IPA, Belgian stout has no BJCP style guidelines. It is never a category in global beer competitions. In his seminal Great Beers of Belgium in 1991, Michael Jackson made almost no reference to stouts in Belgium. Many drinkers in the country – and some brewers – erroneously use the term “stout” to describe any black beer. Other Belgians know it only in the context of the Flemish word stout—it means “naughty.” However, for savvier drinkers in Belgium – and those brewers inclined to look through history books and see beyond their borders – Belgian stout appears to have evolved and acquired its own characteristics. And in North America, breweries from Allagash in Maine to Elysian in Seattle have found success with something called “Belgian-style stout.”


Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

Joe Tindall has a knack for finding a new angle on old topics. This week at The Fatal Glass of Beer he turned his attention to low alcohol beer, a subject we thought we were done reading about. He reflects on how we engage with it and its subcategories:

The ones with adjuncts: One way to paper over the less convincing elements in alcohol-free beer is to add in some additional flavours. This is a delicate balancing act. It’s already not real beer; take the adjuncts too far and you end up with a sort of simulacrum that supposedly simulating beer, whilst predominantly tasting of grapefruit, or coffee, or rhubarb and custard sweets… When done right, though, this is perhaps the most enjoying and deceptively beery category of them all. Non-alcoholic stouts are tough to pull off, and a lot of those I’ve tried just taste like malt extract, if not Marmite.


Fermenting vessel.

A second entry from Ferment, this time by Jo Caird – a writer who’s new to us – on the subject of family breweries. Or, more specifically, on the generational tensions it brings:

“I’ve been a commercial brewer now for 25 years and I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about,” says Ian Bradford of Lymestone Brewery in Staffordshire. “To have someone say, ‘Why do we do this? Why don’t we do that?’ It is rather challenging, especially when you’re trying to show them how to do it properly.”… The “someone” Ian is referring to is his 26-year-old daughter, Sarah, who joined the business in 2015… When Ian’s trainee assistant brewer quit unexpectedly, he offered Sarah the job. They started off “very gently”, he says, focusing on the technical side of brewing, but it wasn’t long before Sarah was joining in with the decision making. “And it became obvious that she wanted to brew her own beers.” 


Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

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

Categories
20th Century Pub pubs

Pubs in novels: seediness, glamour, fellowship

When musician and comedian Robin Allender asked on Twitter “What are your favourite descriptions of pubs in novels or poems?” it made us realise just how many of these we’ve collected over the years.

It also made us aware of the scattered nature of our notes, which is why we’ve decided to pull them together here.

Let’s start with Dickens. We’re both fans but Jess has read more, and rereads Our Mutual Friend most years. She’s got a theory that he invented Ye Olde Inn much in the same way he’s been said to have invented Christmas – but that’s a work in progress. In the meantime, here are a couple of pubs from his novels.

The bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters was a bar to soften the human breast. The available space in it was not much larger than a hackney-coach; but no one could have wished the bar bigger, that space was so girt in by corpulent little casks, and by cordial-bottles radiant with fictitious grapes in bunches, and by lemons in nets, and by biscuits in baskets, and by the polite beer-pulls that made low bows when customers were served with beer, and by the cheese in a snug corner, and by the landlady’s own small table in a snugger corner near the fire, with the cloth everlastingly laid. This haven was divided from the rough world by a glass partition and a half-door, with a leaden sill upon it for the convenience of resting your liquor; but, over this half-door the bar’s snugness so gushed forth that, albeit customers drank there standing, in a dark and draughty passage where they were shouldered by other customers passing in and out, they always appeared to drink under an enchanting delusion that they were in the bar itself.

Our Mutual Friend, 1865, Chapter Six

I was such a child, and so little, that frequently when I went into the bar of a strange public-house for a glass of ale or porter, to moisten what I had had for dinner, they were afraid to give it to me. I remember one hot evening I went into the bar of a public-house, and said to the landlord: ‘What is your best – your very best – ale a glass?’ For it was a special occasion. I don’t know what. It may have been my birthday.

‘Twopence-halfpenny,’ says the landlord, ‘is the price of the Genuine Stunning ale.’

‘Then,’ says I, producing the money, ‘just draw me a glass of the Genuine Stunning, if you please, with a good head to it.’

The landlord looked at me in return over the bar, from head to foot, with a strange smile on his face; and instead of drawing the beer, looked round the screen and said something to his wife. She came out from behind it, with her work in her hand, and joined him in surveying me. Here we stand, all three, before me now. The landlord in his shirt-sleeves, leaning against the bar window-frame; his wife looking over the little half-door; and I, in some confusion, looking up at them from outside the partition.

David Copperfield, 1850, Chapter Eleven

Later on in the same decade, there’s a pub that’s so brilliantly described, and so important a marker in the development of the English pub, that we quoted it at length in our book 20th Century Pub. It’s from Thomas Hardy’s 1895 novel Jude the Obscure:

[The inn] had been entirely renovated and refitted in modern style since Jude’s residence here… Tinker Taylor drank off his glass and departed, saying it was too stylish a place now for him to feel at home in unless he was drunker than he had money to be just then… The bar had been gutted and newly arranged throughout, mahogany fixtures having taken the place of the old painted ones, while at the back of the standing-space there were stuffed sofa-benches. The room was divided into compartments in the approved manner, between which were screens of ground glass in mahogany framing, to prevent topers in one compartment being put to the blush by the recognitions of those in the next. On the inside of the counter two barmaids leant over the white-handled beer-engines, and the row of little silvered taps inside, dripping into a pewter trough… At the back of the barmaids rose bevel-edged mirrors, with glass shelves running along their front, on which stood precious liquids that Jude did not know the name of, in bottles of topaz, sapphire, ruby and amethyst.

Here’s where we should mention another theory of ours: that the prevalence and presentation of pubs in literature tells us all we need to know about their social status. In 19th century novels, they’re lawless but joyful; then, as the 20th century approaches, they become wretched hives of scum and villainy – where characters go to get further down on their luck, or to get up to no good. Respectable writers don’t depict pubs at all. Then, later in the 20th century, perhaps as a result of the democratising effects of World War II, they begin to creep into ordinary novels as the settings for ordinary interactions between ordinary people. They become socially acceptable, their ubiquity in reality finally reflected in writing. But, again, this theory is a work in progress.

Speaking of villainy, Joseph Conrad deserves a mention here for his depiction of the Silenus, a German beer hall in London, which we cited in Gambrinus Waltz, our monograph on this very subject:

Most of the thirty or so little tables covered by red cloths with a white design stood ranged at right angles to the deep brown wainscoting of the underground hall.  Bronze chandeliers with many globes depended from the low, slightly vaulted ceiling, and the fresco paintings ran flat and dull all round the walls without windows, representing scenes of the chase and of outdoor revelry in medieval costumes. Varlets in green jerkins brandished hunting knives and raised on high tankards of foaming beer… An upright semi-grand piano near the door, flanked by two palms in pots, executed suddenly all by itself a valse tune with aggressive virtuosity.  The din it raised was deafening.  When it ceased, as abruptly as it had started, the be-spectacled, dingy little man who faced Ossipon behind a heavy glass mug full of beer emitted calmly what had the sound of a general proposition.

The Secret Agent, 1902, Chapter 4

P.G. Wodehouse didn’t often depict pubs but the odd one does appear, as a place for his comic toffs to interact with inscrutable oafs. There is also, however, The Angler’s Rest. Here’s a sample:

In a mixed assemblage like the little group of serious thinkers which gathers nightly in the bar-parlour of the Anglers’ Rest it is hardly to be expected that there will invariably prevail an unbroken harmony. We are all men of spirit: and when men of spirit, with opinions of their own, get together, disputes are bound to arise. Frequently, therefore, even in this peaceful haven, you will hear voices raised, tables banged, and tenor Permit-me-to-inform-you-sir’s competing with baritone And-jolly- well-permit -me- to-inform-yous. I have known fists to be shaken and on one occasion the word ‘fat-head’ to be used.

‘The Man Who Gave up Smoking’, 1929

At this point, someone will mention Patrick Hamilton, whose novels of London life revolve around pubs. Honestly, we’ve only read one between us – Hangover Square, which Jess read in 2019, and found utterly bleak. We don’t have a quote at hand.

Post-war ‘angry young men’ novels (one of Ray’s specialist subjects) are a particularly rich seam of pub descriptions, often laden with class significance. In Room at the Top, for example, pubs are a grim reminder of what our socially mobile ‘hero’ is struggling to leave behind:

“Do you know, when I come into this pub, I don’t even have to order? They automatically issue a pint of wallop. And if I come in with someone else I point at them and nod twice if it’s bitter… Lovely, lovely ale… the mainstay of the industrial North, the bulwark of the British Constitution. If the Dufton pubs closed for just one day, there wouldn’t be a virgin or an unbroken window left by ten o’clock.”

Another John Braine novel, The Vodi, from 1959, has multiple pubs, all carefully described:

[He] didn’t like the Lord Relton very much. It was a fake-Tudor road-house with a huge car park; even its name was rather phoney, an attempt to identify it with the village of Relton to which, geographically at least, it belonged. But, unlike the Frumenty, unlike even the Ten Dancers or the Blue Lion at Silbridge, the Lord Relton belonged nowhere; it would have been just as much at home in any other place in England. It even smelled like nowhere; it had a smell he’d never encountered anywhere else, undoubtedly clean, and even antiseptic, but also disturbingly sensual, like the flesh of a woman who takes all the deodorants the advertisements recommend.

Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar, also from 1959, gives us this portrait of an interwar estate pub:

There was a windy, rubber-tiled hallway where the children squatted, eating potato crisps and waiting for their mothers. Two frosted-glass doors, embossed with the brewery trademark, led off it, one into the public bar and one into the saloon…

The men who say [in the public bar] were refugees from the warm terrace-end pubs that had been pulled down; they sat around drinking mild and calling to each other across the room as though nothing had changed… The few items in the New House that gave it anything like the feel of a pub — the dartboard, the cribbage markers, the scratched blind-box, and the pokerwork sign that said IYBMADIBYO, if you buy me a drink I’ll buy you one — were all part of the same portable world, as if they had been wheeled here in prams in the flight from the old things.

(We’ve just noticed that clue to WYBMADIITY.)

There are also pubs to be found in the wonderful world of murder mystery. In fact, this lesser-known whodunnit is set entirely in a pub:

Lounge bar it was called, but it was not a place of thick carpets and potted palms. The bar, the stools, and the table tops were of plain dark-brown wood. The tables had strong iron legs, and they were bolted to the composition floor. The pictures on the walls were girlie advertisements for champagne cider and similar drinks. The four beer pumps had blue-and-white handles. But the place was clean and the girlie pictures were attractive, and on the shelves behind the bar was a bright display of bottles which promised drinks for the most exacting connoisseur of spirits and liqueurs.

The Pub Crawler, Maurice Procter, 1956

In an edition of our monthly newsletter from a year or so ago, Jess observed that the Inspector Wexford novels of Ruth Rendell (a great writer, not just a great crime novelist) tell the story of the development of the English pub as they progress over the course of decades. This is from 1967’s A New Lease of Death:

The Olive and Dove is the best hostelry in Kingsmarkham that can properly be called an hotel. By a stretch of the imagination the Queen’s Head might be described as an inn, but the Dragon and the Crusader cannot claim to be more than pubs. The Olive, as locals invariably call it, is situated in the High Street at the Stowerton end of Kingsmarkham, facing the exquisite Georgian residence of Mr Missal, the Stowerton car dealer. It is partly Georgian itself, but it is a hybrid structure with lingering relics of Tudor and a wing that claims to be pre-Tudor. In every respect it conforms to what nice middle-class people mean when they talk about a ‘nice hotel. There are always three waiters, the chambermaids are staid and often elderly, the bath water is hot, the food as well as can be expected and the A.A. Guide has given it two stars.

There are hundreds more pubs in hundreds more novel – these are just some that seem especially vivid or important to us. Are there any real corkers you think we’ve missed? If so, comment below.

In the meantime, Robin also asked about poems, so we’ll finish with a line from Adrian Henri’s ‘Liverpool Poems’ published in The Mersey Sound in 1967:

Note for a definition of optimism:
A man trying the door of Yates Wine Lodge
At quarter past four in the afternoon.

Categories
20th Century Pub pubs

One of the 4,000: The Deerstalker, Bestwood

In the post-war period, up until the 1960s, around 4,000 brand new pubs were built. Among them was The Deerstalker on Nottingham’s Bestwood Park Estate.

The name is a clue to the brewery which built it – Mitchells & Butlers, whose trademark was the ‘Deers Leap’.

The leaping deer trademark.

We came across the pictures below in the January-February 1957 edition of the M&B in-house magazine, also called The Deerstalker:

“The Deerstalker is one of a number of new houses that the company are opening on new housing estates all over the Midlands. It may not be the largest or most magnificent of our houses, but, as you will see from our illustrations, its snappy contemporary decor will provide a cheery local for those inhabitants of the Bestwood Park Estate who are sufficiently enlightened to appreciate the fact that they will be better off with an M&B.”

The Deerstalker, January-February 1957, pp.10-11
A large, plain pub in brick.
The exterior of The Deerstalker

This pub was a long time in gestation, a licence being first applied for in 1950. That application was withdrawn when it became clear that post-war building restrictions would make construction impossible for some years to come. (Nottingham Evening Post, 31 March 1950; Nottingham Journal, 1 April 1950.) It seems to have been opened in around 1956.

Let’s have a look at that “snappy decor”.

A bar and tables.
We guess you’d call this the public bar?
A different bar with more comfortable chairs.
And this is, we suppose, the saloon.
A view of the same bar with typically 1950s wallpaper.
Same again, from a different angle.

Apart from the general sense of pristine mid-century modernity, there are a few things that catch the eye.

Taken from Formica: a modern plastic, 1938.

The clocks with their brushed metal faces. Those, we guess, formica-topped tables. And that absolutely fantastic wallpaper in the saloon. Here’s a sample, perspective corrected and tinted a vaguely appropriate colour for the period.

It looks as if was designed specifically with pubs and bars in mind, perhaps even commissioned by M&B for their own houses.

What happened next? Sigh. We’ve told this sad story so many times now. In 1957, a modern pub, clean and fresh, tastefully decorated in the latest style; by the early 1980s, as recounted by former landlady Caron Wiles at closedpubs.co.uk:

“My husband Adrian and myself were the landlord and landlady at this pub in the early 80’s. There was entertainment 7 nights per week and we reduced it to 6 nights. Singers, comedians and discos all performed there. It was very busy and we made some good friends. We had a very loyal staff who remained with us throughout our tenure. There were also some very frightening occasions when the customers rioted and smashed tables & chairs and all the optics and bottles on the back of the bar, all the staff had to squeeze into the tiny office for safety until the police arrived to calm things down.”

It was renamed The Sportsman in 1993 and ceased trading as a pub at some point. It is now a convenience store but still recognisable.

SOURCE: Google Maps/Street View.
Categories
News

Links for 23 January 2021: being Asian, Baltic porter, brahäuser

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that we deemed bookmarkable in the past week, from personal observations to policy suggestions.

Ruvani de Silva, AKA @amethyst_heels, has spoken to a group of south Asian women who love beer, comparing notes on their experience of navigating this predominantly male, predominantly white world:

“Don’t even get me started on beer and yoga events,” says beer blogger Sonia B, and I laugh out loud. The cultural-religious incompatibility of yoga with beer (or any form of alcohol) is so rarely acknowledged that I forget about it sometimes. I enjoy the shivering spark of recognition I feel in Sonia’s comment… It’s not often that I get to have conversations like this—there aren’t many other South Asian women in the beer world. Although there are some 5.4 million South Asians in the U.S. (and close to 2 million in Canada), we are noticeably absent within the ranks of a sector that made $29.3 billion in 2019 (the last year of data available).


Detail from lager ad, 1961: "You're watching a trend grow."

For the Guardian, Tony Naylor asks a good question – how exactly do food and drink trends happen? Why do people get obsessed with sriracha or avocados or pastry stouts?

Such renewal is human nature, says Daniel Woolfson, food and drink editor at trade magazine The Grocer. “People are faddy. When Instagrammable stuff gets old, they instinctively look for the next thing… The industry is obsessed with disruption,” says Woolfson. That is, creating a new sub-group in a food or drink category or transforming how an item is perceived and sold. Fever-Tree is the classic example. It pioneered an unforeseen market for “posh tonic” and even now when, like kombucha, cupcakes, Brewdog or smashed-patty burgers, it is long past peak cool, it retains an aura of quality and sophistication that bolsters sales. 


"Traditional Country Ales" window livery.

Ian ‘The Wicking Man’ Thurman, Bass-lover extraordinaire, has written a heartfelt piece about how the Government might support the pub sector in practice:

Pubs need to see a way forward. I recognise that fixed dates for the reopening of pubs aren’t possible at this time. That doesn’t mean that pubs and their customers can’t be given hope and the opportunity to plan… It’s time to set some targets. Government needs to decide the level of 7 day rates for positive cases, hospital admissions and population vaccinated per head of population that need to be achieved by local area before pubs can open. Opening targets would offer an incentive to pub-goers and the opportunity for brewers, pubs and ancillary suppliers the chance to plan for their businesses… Offer the pub sector a carrot and then, in my view, most publicans would accept the need for strict COVID-ready compliance. If that includes the government telling people to use local pubs rather than travel, so be it.


An aeroplane

Tandleman insists he is not being sentimental when he asks “Where is the Tandle Hill Tavern?” but there’s an obvious element of yearning into this piece inspired by an aerial photo of his local pub:

So what are we looking at?  This is the open farmland between part of Middleton on the left side and on the right-hand side of the photo, the lane,  continuing into Royton. The right-hand part of the photo, where it ends, is, more or less,  the boundary between the two boroughs mentioned in the first paragraph above.  If you look at the left of the photo, in front of the farm with the wind turbines, you’ll see Thornham Lane. Follow this right with your eye to the clump of buildings in the middle and the reddish looking building – it isn’t red – with an  apparently white roof – it isn’t white –  is the Tandle Hill Tavern.  To save you the counting, there are four farms in the photo, so to say that it “nestles” amongst them, is pretty accurate I think you’ll agree.


Neuhaus
SOURCE: Robbie Pickering/Refreshing Beer

Robbie Pickering, AKA Barm, AKA @robsterowski, has finally got round to writing up a 2019 trip to Zoigl country and the village of Neuhaus:

The unique feature of Zoigl culture is a beer which is made in a shared, communal village brewery. When the wort has been made in the Kommunbrauhaus, the brewers take it home and ferment and mature it in their own basements and garages… The Oberpfalz alone once had 75 towns and villages with a communal brewhouse. Now the culture survives in just a few villages: Neuhaus, Windischeschenbach, Falkenberg, Mitterteich, Eslarn… Once the beer is ready, each brewer sells it to the public in their Zoiglstube (Zoigl parlour). Originally it would just be served in the kitchen or the front room, whatever space the brewer had. Despite the cheap price the beer sells for, brewing Zoigl seems lucrative enough that many of the householders these days have dedicated extensions built with Zoigl money. These are pubs in all but name, yet the community feeling continues.


Baltic porter beer bottle cap: Pardubicky Porter.

Belligerent myth-busting is a great format for Martyn Cornell. This week, responding to ‘Baltic Porter Day’ (who knew?) he’s turned his guns in that direction:

Baltic Porter, if you want to be historically accurate, should NOT be as strong as an Imperial Russian Stout. Baltic porter has its roots in the early 19th century, when Polish drinkers could not get hold of the strong porters imported from England that they had grown to love: but these were what would have been called a “double brown stout” in Britain, around 7 or 8 per cent alcohol by volume, heavy but rather weaker than the “imperial” stouts popular at the Russian court: a Polish publication from 1867 compares the strength of “piwo podwójne,” double beer, such as “porter angielski” to “Salvator or Bockbier from Munich,” which was an 8 per cent abv beer.


Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

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

Categories
marketing

More breweries = dafter beer names

Drinking our way through a selection of canned craft beers, we’ve caught ourselves rolling our eyes at the long, strange, often pun-laden names.

And we’re not the only ones, either.

What we’d never asked ourselves before is… why? We reckon the answer lies with the proliferation of breweries in the past 30 or so years.

A hundred years ago, most beers had exciting, distinctive names like ‘mild’, ‘bitter’ or ‘X’.

Then, in the mid-20th century, national brands emerged with snappy names such as Red Barrel or Double Diamond.

Next, the CAMRA-led real ale revolution kicked off, and brewery numbers began to climb in the 1970s and 1980s. These breweries were, in their own way, also national brands, competing for space at beer festivals and in specialist real ale pubs up and down the country.

Premium bottled ales (PBAs) also came along, filling supermarket and off licence shelves.

In this phase, beers with distinctive names such as Summer Lightning, Old Nick or Spitfire had a clear advantage.

Ale ticking culture must also have had an effect. Breweries with ranges of three, five or maybe seven beers are one thing; when you’re producing a new beer every month, or every week, you’re obliged to get creative. Or resort to crude puns.

Jump forward a couple of decades and instead of a few hundred breweries, we’ve got more than 2,000. And that culture of guest ales has morphed into a need for a constant flow of novel, Instagram-friendly products for keg, bottle or can.

The scramble for unique web addresses during the dot com boom led to companies with names like Accenture, Consignia and Moonpig.com. In much the same way, a crowded beer market inevitably calls for Experiments in Evil, Big Raspberry Dog Chew and Grainsley Harriot.

Plus, of course, it’s fun – another outlet for creativity in a subsector that prizes that over blazer-wearing conformity.