Everything we wrote about beer and pubs in August 2019

A bit of a low score this month – just 13 posts in total, although, to be fair, one of those was an absolute whopper.

Leeds has played a piv­otal role in the evo­lu­tion of British beer, as cov­ered in our first book, Brew Bri­tan­nia. We kicked off last month with an in-depth, in-their-own-words look at the city’s beer scene, fea­tur­ing insight from vet­er­ans such as Bar­rie Pep­per and rel­a­tive new­com­ers like Gareth Pettman. This piece end­ed up run­ning to 3,000 words and seemed to meet the gen­er­al approval of Leo­den­sians, to our great relief.

An update: Antony Ramm at Leeds Libraries (@rammalibrary), who first sug­gest­ed this arti­cle, is work­ing on an archive project around beer in Leeds in the past decade or two. If you’ve got orig­i­nal mem­o­ra­bil­ia or ephemera – leaflets, fly­ers, pro­grammes, papers and so on – he’d love to know about them for pos­si­ble inclu­sion in the col­lec­tion.


We also did some pon­der­ing on beer scenes more gen­er­al­ly – what makes a scene as opposed to just… some good pubs and beer? This prompt­ed some prick­ly but inter­est­ing reac­tions, both below the line and on Twit­ter.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote about beer and pubs in August 2019”

News, nuggets and longreads 31 August 2019: London, Lambeth, Lancashire

Here’s everything that struck us as noteworthy in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from judging beer to assessing malt.

First, a bit of news: Founders Brew­ing Co has final­ly sold off the major­i­ty of itself to Mahou, hav­ing ini­tial­ly sur­ren­dered a 30% stake in 2013. This comes in the con­text of accu­sa­tions of endem­ic racism at the Michi­gan brew­ery which have tar­nished its image in the past year or so.


And anoth­er: accord­ing to fig­ures released by Lon­don City Hall, the num­ber of pubs in the city has sta­bilised at just over 3,500. In 13 bor­oughs, the num­ber of pubs actu­al­ly increased and the num­ber of small pubs across the city went up, buck­ing a trend towards larg­er pubs that’s been evi­dent since 2003. There’s also a map show­ing the num­ber of pubs for each bor­ough – a fas­ci­nat­ing at-a-glimpse read­out with traf­fic light colours that we sus­pect would look sim­i­lar for most cities in the UK these days.


Old engraving of Lambeth Palace.
Lam­beth Palace in 1647. SOURCE: Archive.org

At A Good Beer Blog Alan McLeod con­tin­ues his inves­ti­ga­tions into old British beer cat­e­gories ask­ing this time why Lam­beth Ale was called Lam­beth Ale:

Let me illus­trate my conun­drum. If you look up at the image above, which I am informed is a 1670 illus­tra­tion of the sights at Lam­beth, you will note two things: a big church com­plex and a lot of grass. Here is a sim­i­lar ver­sion dat­ed 1685. I have fur­ther illus­trat­ed the con­cept here for clar­i­ty. Lam­beth Palace is and was the Lon­don res­i­dence of the Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury, head of the Church of Eng­land. It sits in what is known as – and what was at the time in ques­tion – Lam­beth Marsh. Grass.


Tractors at Rivington.
SOURCE: Katie Mather/Pellicle.

Katie Math­er reports for Pel­li­cle from “Man­ches­ter’s Lake Dis­trict” where Riv­ing­ton Brew­ing Co is oper­at­ing from a farm, pro­duc­ing Amer­i­can-style IPAs and sour beer:

We do suf­fer from a mas­sive sense of imposter syn­drome,” Ben says as we stand around the tiny lean-to, clutch­ing mugs of diges­tive bis­cuit-coloured tea. “When oth­er brew­eries give us good feed­back we think… But we’re mak­ing it in here. Are we good enough?”


A perfect pint of Bass in Plymouth.

For Der­byshire Live Col­ston Craw­ford has writ­ten about the resur­gence of Bass, not only as a cult brand but as a beer real­ly worth drink­ing:

Noth­ing the var­i­ous own­ers of the brand have done to try to ignore it has, it would seem, dimin­ished its pop­u­lar­i­ty in this part of the world and peo­ple keep on telling me that Bass right now is as good as it’s been for many a year… There are a num­ber of pubs serv­ing mul­ti­ple brews around the city who will not remove Bass from the pumps, as there would be an out­cry if they did… This sug­gests that the own­ers of the brand – cur­rent­ly the con­glom­er­ate AB-InBev – have missed a trick while con­cern­ing them­selves with flog­ging us Bud­weis­er.

There’s even a poll: does Bass taste bet­ter than it has done for years?


Judge with beer.

Chris Elston at Elston’s Beer Blog has been reflect­ing on what it means to judge beer in our every­day lives, in the wake of his expe­ri­ence at the World Beer Awards:

How can you judge a beer when you haven’t even tried it? We all do it though, every time we go into the bot­tle shop or super­mar­ket, we do it. We’re not just choos­ing the beers we’d like to drink, we’re judg­ing those we’re not sure about or the ones we feel we don’t want. These are the beers that lose out, or rather, we lose out because we’ve judged that they are not worth pur­chas­ing. Which again is wrong.



If you want more read­ing and com­men­tary, Stan Hierony­mus posts a round-up every Mon­day, while Alan McLeod has the Thurs­day beat cov­ered.

The mystery of The Golden Lion and The Golden Bee

The Golden Bee is the ‘English pub’ at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, USA, and it has intriguing origins.

We can’t recall how we first heard of it but the part of the offi­cial ori­gin sto­ry that grabbed our atten­tion was this:

You’ll feel trans­port­ed right to jol­ly old Eng­land at the Gold­en Bee, The Broadmoor’s 19th cen­tu­ry British Pub. The pub was actu­al­ly trans­ferred to The Broad­moor pan­el by pan­el, direct­ly from the UK.

So, this isn’t a recre­ation or a sham – it’s a real Eng­lish pub inte­ri­or relo­cat­ed across the Atlantic.

How did this come to hap­pen? And which pub did the fix­tures and fit­tings come from?

There’s some­thing a lit­tle excit­ing about the thought that a Lon­don pub long-demol­ished or con­vert­ed might live on across the ocean, still serv­ing some­thing like its orig­i­nal func­tion.

Our usu­al research avenues didn’t turn up much but for­tu­nate­ly, the Broad­moor, being some­thing of an insti­tu­tion, has an archivist, Jamey Hast­ings, with whom we were able to get in touch. Jamey very kind­ly pro­vid­ed copies of his­toric press and pub­lic­i­ty notices which, while still con­tra­dic­to­ry and con­fus­ing at times, do pro­vide use­ful infor­ma­tion from close to the moment.

This from the Col­orado Springs Gazette for 16 Feb­ru­ary 1964 gives a good sum­ma­ry of the sto­ry and feels as it might be the truth pure­ly because it feels less neat and roman­tic than the typ­i­cal mar­ket­ing blurb:

The fix­tures, the bar and acces­sories are those of an Eng­lish pub built in the 1880s and lat­er brought to this coun­try intact and set up in New York. When the Broad­moor decid­ed to build the Bee, it asked W. and J. Sloane and Co. to find it some authen­tic pub fix­tures.

The firm did more than that. It found an entire pub, cov­ered with dust, in a ware­house in New York… The pub itself had been oper­at­ed at one time in an area near the old Lon­don Ter­race sec­tion of New York, once one of the fash­ion­able res­i­den­tial dis­tricts of the city.

Anoth­er arti­cle, from just after the pub launched in 1961, says more or less the same only it spec­i­fies that the pub inte­ri­or went from Eng­land to New York as far back as the 19th cen­tu­ry.

So far, so good, until we come to a sim­i­lar­ly cred­i­ble sto­ry from Broad­moor Bonan­za for spring 1984, which sug­gests a slight­ly dif­fer­ent chain of events:

Forty years ago, The Gold­en Lion was a pop­u­lar 17th cen­tu­ry pub locat­ed near the Thames Riv­er in Lon­don. It’s not in Lon­don any­more but it’s still pop­u­lar. Now called The Gold­en Bee, it’s one of The Broad­moor’s tru­ly remark­able tra­di­tions… In the mid-1950s, Thay­er Tutt, Hon­orary Chair­man of The Broad­moor, heard about an authen­tic Eng­lish pub for sale from a friend, Sir Guy Bracewell Smith, who was own­er of the Park Lane Hotel in Lon­don. The pub was owned by the Whit­bread House and they want­ed to sell it to an Amer­i­can busi­ness to aid in pub­li­ciz­ing their ale in the Unit­ed States. Through the Broad­moor’s inte­ri­or design firm, W.J. Sloan, and its rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Leslie Dorsey, Mr Tutt arranged to pur­chase the dis­man­tled bar for $20,000.

The sug­ges­tion here, then, is that the pub was old­er by about two hun­dred years, was still intact in Lon­don as late as the post-war peri­od, and was owned by Whit­bread. That’s plen­ty of con­crete infor­ma­tion to latch on to.

So far, though… Noth­ing. We have a pret­ty good run of 1950s edi­tions of The House of Whit­bread, the brewery’s in-house mag­a­zine, and can’t find any men­tion of this sale. It’s not men­tioned in any of the offi­cial his­to­ries to which we have access, either. Nor does A Month­ly Bul­letin seem to cov­er it in any of the issues we’ve got.

One item we did dig up is in The Tav­erns in the Town by H.E. Popham, from 1937:

In the Ful­ham High Street is The Gold­en Lion, a fifty-year-old house stand­ing on the site of a very ancient tav­ern of the same name. The orig­i­nal build­ing, which dat­ed back to the reign of Hen­ry VII, is said to have been the res­i­dence of Bish­op Bon­ner… On the pulling down of the orig­i­nal Gold­en Lion, the pan­elling was pur­chased by Lord Ellen­bor­ough for the fit­ting up of his res­i­dence, Southam House, near Chel­tenham.

So there was at least one his­toric Gold­en Lion inte­ri­or divorced from its orig­i­nal loca­tion and float­ing around.

At this stage, we’re left with more ques­tions with answers.

Because all the sources are Amer­i­can, and because we sus­pect a cer­tain amount of obfus­ca­tion, it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble the details might have got man­gled – that the orig­i­nal pub wasn’t called The Gold­en Lion, or wasn’t in Lon­don, or wasn’t owned by Whit­bread. Although that last seems the most like­ly to be true.

So… Does any­one have any evi­dence that might unlock this? Not guess­work but ref­er­ences to news­pa­pers, books, mag­a­zines or oth­er papers that might pin this down.

Fur­ther read­ing: Gary Gill­man has been writ­ing exten­sive­ly about the idea of the Eng­lish pub in Amer­i­can cul­ture for some time, as in this post. Do check out his back cat­a­logue.

News, nuggets and longreads 24 August 2019: Greene King, Kveik, Wellington Boots

Here’s everything on beer and pubs from the past seven days that struck us as especially noteworthy, from Suffolk to Thailand.

The big news of the week – or is it? – is the takeover of Eng­lish region­al brew­ing behe­moth Greene King. Roger Protz, who has been writ­ing about brew­ery takeovers for half a cen­tu­ry, offers com­men­tary here:

In every respect, this is a far more wor­ry­ing sale [then Fuller’s to Asahi]. Asahi will con­tin­ue to make beer at the Fuller’s site in Chiswick, West Lon­don. It’s a com­pa­ny with a long his­to­ry of brew­ing. CK Asset on the oth­er hand has no expe­ri­ence of brew­ing and its main – if not sole – rea­son for buy­ing Greene King will be the own­er­ship of a mas­sive tied estate of 2,700 pubs, restau­rants and hotels. The Hong Kong com­pa­ny, which is reg­is­tered in the Cay­man Islands, is owned by Li Ka-Shing, one of the world’s rich­est men. He has a war chest of HK$60 bil­lion to buy up prop­er­ties and com­pa­nies through­out the world.

This did­n’t make quite the splash the Fuller’s sale did for var­i­ous rea­sons: it was­n’t a brew­ery-to-brew­ery sale, for one thing, so is hard­er to parse; and Greene King is far less fond­ly regard­ed by beer geeks than Fuller’s.

We’re anx­ious about it not because we espe­cial­ly love Greene King but because it’s poten­tial­ly yet anoth­er sup­port­ing post knocked out from under British beer and pub cul­ture. See here for more thoughts on that.


Mystery yeast.

Lars Mar­ius Garshol has been try­ing to get to grips with a mys­tery: is the yeast strain White Labs sell as Kveik real­ly Kveik? If not, what is it?

If this yeast was not the ances­tral Muri farm yeast, what was it doing in Bjarne Muri’s apart­ment? It very clear­ly is not a wild yeast, but a mix of two domes­ti­cat­ed yeasts. It does­n’t seem very plau­si­ble that the air in Oslo is full of those. On the oth­er hand it does­n’t seem at all plau­si­ble that this was the ances­tral Muri yeast… Two things seem clear: this is a domes­ti­cat­ed fer­men­ta­tion yeast, and it’s prob­a­bly not the ances­tral Muri yeast. The lat­ter sim­ply because it does­n’t seem well suit­ed for that par­tic­u­lar brew­ing envi­ron­ment.


A tea room.
Lyons Cor­ner House, 1942. SOURCE: HM Government/Wikimedia Com­mons.

Not about pubs, but adja­cent: Thomas Hard­ing has writ­ten an account of the his­to­ry of his fam­i­ly’s busi­ness, J. Lyons & Co, which is reviewed in the Guardian by Kathryn Hugh­es. We became fas­ci­nat­ed by Lyons while research­ing 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, because of this kind of thing:

From the 1920s you could pop into a Lyons tea shop to be served by a “nip­py”, a light-foot­ed wait­ress got up like a par­lour­maid. If you were a work­ing girl of the newest and nicest vari­ety – a sec­re­tary, teacher or shop assis­tant – you could eat an express lunch on your own in a Lyons with­out risk­ing your respectabil­i­ty. If you were feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly smart, you could go up to “town” and stay in the art deco-ish Strand Palace or Regent’s Palace hotels, ver­nac­u­lar ver­sions of elite insti­tu­tions such as Claridge’s or The Savoy. In the evening you might ven­ture out to the “Troc”, or Tro­cadero, in your best togs, where you could enjoy a fan­cy din­ner and dance to a jazz band.


Wellies
SOURCE: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

Mark John­son has writ­ten an account of a week­end spent at Thorn­bridge Brew­ery’s Peak­ender fes­ti­val with a typ­i­cal dash of acid:

I just can’t under­stand any­body being dis­grun­tled about a lit­tle mud. We have worn our wellies on our last two vis­its to Peak­ender and not need­ed them. We wore them in 2019 because, guess what, it is still a fes­ti­val and this time we hap­pened to need them. Wad­ing through the show­ground site for two days was not an issue to us at all. Maybe it is because of where we live, I don’t know, but when I see peo­ple mut­ter­ing to them­selves about the state of the ground, whilst try­ing to make it to the toi­let wear­ing FLIP FLOPS… heav­en for­bid… I don’t know…


Buffy's Bitter.

Paul Bai­ley (no rela­tion) has some inter­est­ing notes on the demise of Buffy’s Brew­ery (one we’d nev­er heard of) and the prob­lem with ‘badge brew­ing’:

The clo­sure was blamed on there being too many brew­eries in Nor­folk, and with over 40 of them all com­pet­ing for a slice of a dimin­ish­ing mar­ket, some­thing had to give. Like many indus­try observers, I was more than a lit­tle sur­prised to learn that Buffy’s had gone to the wall, but Roger Abra­hams, who found­ed the brew­ery, along with Julia Savory, claimed that the micro-brew­ing sec­tor was close to sat­u­ra­tion point, and that com­pe­ti­tion between brew­ers “had become very aggres­sive.”


We don’t know any­thing what­so­ev­er about brew­ing in Thai­land but it turns out to be a com­plex busi­ness, accord­ing to this arti­cle from the Bangkok Post:

No one but the ultra rich are allowed to brew beer for sale in Thai­land. The law is as unjust and out­ra­geous as that. And no law­mak­er has suf­fered the bit­ter taste of inequal­i­ty in the brew­ing indus­try quite like Future For­ward Par­ty MP Taopiphop Limjit­trako­rn, who in Jan­u­ary 2017 was arrest­ed for brew­ing and sell­ing his own craft beer… On Wednes­day, Mr Taopiphop, 30, took Deputy Finance Min­is­ter San­ti Prompat to task over his min­istry’s reg­u­la­tion that stops brew­ing start-ups from exploit­ing the grow­ing thirst for new flavours.


Final­ly, much to the amuse­ment of British com­men­ta­tors, Amer­i­can pop super­star Tay­lor Swift has been writ­ing about Lon­don, includ­ing a pass­ing men­tion for pubs:

 

There are more links from Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day most weeks and from Alan McLeod on Thurs­day.

Pub life: Do you like yer prog?

On a stool at the bar on his own, arranging his beer money in stacks on the runner, the Old Rocker stares at nothing in particular.

The land­lord appears to emp­ty the glass-wash­ing macine and the Rock­er perks up.

Do you like yer prog, then?”

Sor­ry?”

Are you into yer prog?”

He points at the landlord’s T‑shirt. The land­lord looks down. King Crim­son.

Oh, right. Well, no, not par­tic­u­lar­ly.”

The Floyd, obvi­ous­ly.”

Pink Floyd? No. Not par­tic­u­lar­ly. Not after Syd Bar­rett left.”

Gotcha – more of a psych guy.”

Well… No, not real­ly.”

Punk?”

Well…” The land­lord waves a hand, refus­ing to com­mit.

The Old Rock­er shifts in his seat, blink­ing blankly.

So you’re not into prog much at all?”

I like Krautrock.”

The Old Rock­er thinks he’s done it – he’s found an in.

Oh, yeah, man – great stuff! That dri­ving motorik beat. Did you read the MOJO arti­cle a cou­ple of months back–”

Well, no, I don’t real­ly have time to read mag­a­zines. I work thir­teen days out of four­teen, and most evenings. The only music I hear is what’s on in here. And that’s on a loop.”

Dur­ing the silence that hangs after his out­pour­ing, he escapes to the oth­er bar.

The Old Rock­er set­tles down, mov­ing his coins around, eyes fixed on a mem­o­ry of ELP in ‘77.