News, nuggets and longreads 11 May 2019: Mild, Mergers, Manchester

Here’s everything around beer and pubs that seemed to us worth bookmarking in the past week, from boozelessness to buyouts.

The week’s big news is that two Amer­i­can brew­eries we’ve actu­al­ly heard of, and whose beers we have actu­al­ly man­aged to taste, are merg­ing. That is, Boston Beer and Dog­fish Head. We’ve been won­der­ing for some time if we might see more craft-on-craft acqui­si­tions and merg­ers; it’ll be inter­est­ing to see if this is the start of a wave. In the mean­time, we went straight to Jeff Alworth at Beer­vana for com­men­tary, as should you.

If you enjoy indus­try dra­ma then do have a look at this Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tion around BrewDog’s new alco­hol-free Punk IPA vari­ant ini­ti­at­ed by a mar­ket­ing agency for­mer­ly retained by the Scot­tish brew­ery:

The Mild Guy by Lily Waite/Pellicle.

For the brand new pub­li­ca­tion Pel­li­cle Lily Waite has writ­ten about a Lon­don brew­ery find­ing space in a crowd­ed mar­ket by focus­ing on an unfash­ion­able style. Box­car is based in Beth­nal Green and run by Sam Dick­i­son:

Whilst not nec­es­sar­i­ly the polar oppo­site of the New Eng­land-style beers that put Box­car on the prover­bial map, dark mild is a depar­ture from those juicy, hazy, hop­py beers. It is, how­ev­er, very much in keep­ing with Boxcar’s ethos.

We’ve gone in the hop­py direc­tions because I love those beers, but equal­ly, I love dark mild, so I said ‘let’s do a dark mild”, he says, with a typ­i­cal qui­et smile.

(This kind of thing sig­nals some­thing inter­est­ing: mild has become a quirky minor­i­ty style – a nov­el­ty, rather than an every­day beer, like Berlin­er Weisse or Gose.)

Detail from a 1943 advert for Lifesavers depicting fruit on a tree.

At a time when sil­ly one-off beers with sil­ly stuff in them has become one of the go-to moans in beer com­men­tary, it’s refresh­ing to read a post which, though it starts that way, ends up talk­ing pos­i­tive­ly about the ben­e­fits of get­ting to know a stan­dard beer real­ly well, from Joan Vil­lar-i-Martí at Bir­raire:

I enjoy see­ing the con­stant qual­i­ty of Montse­ny IPA Aniver­sari, even when bought in the super­mar­ket; my sens­es soared the first time I drank Espiga’s Mosa­ic Hops Col­lec­tion in a can, a for­mat that enhances a recipe that was already a sol­id. After analysing it dur­ing a guid­ed tast­ing, I felt the urge to buy a whole box of Sansa, La Pirata’s Amber Ale, so tasty and smooth that it prompt­ly dis­ap­peared.

(Flag­ship Feb­ru­ary feels so long ago.)

Intoxicate Lubricate Connect

For the Guardian Tony Nay­lor has writ­ten about why booze­less pubs don’t work:

Beyond lov­ing the taste of beer, I also love the effects of alco­hol, and for what it can do to a pub. I cher­ish that three-pint win­dow where real life melts away. I love the warmth, the laugh­ter, the life, the ran­dom, non­sen­si­cal con­ver­sa­tions and soft-edged, jovial chaos of full pubs at peak hours. I like the din. I like the rev­el­ry. I like a bit of noise and chaos, frankly. And I like the sense of drinkers of often very dif­fer­ent back­grounds rub­bing along in mutu­al intox­i­cat­ed tol­er­ance. In an increas­ing­ly atom­ised soci­ety, there is val­ue in that.

A map of the world.

A fas­ci­nat­ing piece in the Econ­o­mist puts AB-InBev into con­text as one strand in a glob­al busi­ness that also oper­ates 3G net­works and owns the strug­gling Kraft Heinz con­glom­er­ate. With few costs left to be cut, and few busi­ness­es left to acquire, where do they go next? Per­haps towards acquir­ing Coca-Cola (we’ve heard this in the form of a rumour before) or Dia­geo, the arti­cle spec­u­lates. We can cer­tain­ly imag­ine ABI fan­cy­ing Guin­ness in its port­fo­lio. (Arti­cle pay­walled; reg­is­tra­tion required to read five arti­cles per month for free.)

A vintage image a flat-roofed pub.
The Old Gar­ratt c.1970 via Manchester’s Estate Pubs.

It’s always excit­ing when one of our favourite blogs, Man­ches­ter Estate Pubs, posts some­thing new. This week Steve Mar­land shares pho­tographs of and notes on The Old Gar­ratt:

Time changes every­thing the Cream of Man­ches­ter is now a some­what sour sub­ject, the Old Gar­ratt has dropped the old in favour of Ye Old­en Days, a look which it clear­ly lacked. Moder­ni­ty is now dragged up as a cut price stage set coach­ing house caprice, replete with lamps, black and gold lin­ing, columns and ped­i­ments. The pub that thinks it’s a pack of John Play­er Spe­cials.

And final­ly, a great pho­to of a pub we vis­it­ed dur­ing research for 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, in the base of a tow­er block in north Lon­don:

For more of the same, but dif­fer­ent, check out Alan’s blog on Thurs­days and Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day.

A new book: Balmy Nectar

A mockup of the book.

Balmy Nectar is a collection of all the longer pieces of writing we’ve produced for CAMRA, magazines such as Beer Advocate, and here on the blog.

It also includes a fore­word by Tim Webb and a new piece pulling togeth­er into a coher­ent whole the best of the many ‘pub life’ obser­va­tion­al posts we’ve been writ­ing since 2015.

In total, it runs to about 80,000 words, a sim­i­lar length to Brew Bri­tan­nia and 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub. Which is to say, it’s a prop­er chunky book, unlike Gam­bri­nus Waltz which was only ever what they used to call a mono­graph.

And though col­lat­ing and edit­ing it all has been hard work, it’s also been real­ly love­ly to be remind­ed of how much good stuff we’ve turned out. We’re espe­cial­ly proud of the voic­es we put on record, from beer fes­ti­val vol­un­teers to pub­lic­i­ty shy brew­ers.

If you want a copy, and of course you do, Balmy Nec­tar is avail­able from the Ama­zon Kin­dle store now for £7, or $9.22 in the US.

It would be a handy thing to have loaded up when you go on your sum­mer hol­i­days, or just to have handy in the free app on your phone for dip­ping into if you find your­self wait­ing for a mate in the pub.

Ama­zon UK | Ama­zon US | Cana­da | Ger­many | Aus­tralia

A print-on-demand paper­back ver­sion is also avail­able for the tra­di­tion­al­ists among you, priced at £11. (Con­fes­sion: the main rea­son we went to all the trou­ble of com­pil­ing, cor­rect­ing and updat­ing this stuff is because we want­ed one of these for our own shelf.)

And here’s what the col­lec­tion includes, to save you a click or two: Fore­word | Intro­duc­tion | Beer geeks in his­to­ry | Brew Bri­tan­nia: the women | A pint of Old & Filthy | Only a north­ern brew­er (David Pol­lard) | 1974: birth of the beer guide | The pub crawlers | 1975: birth of the beer fes­ti­val | The Cam­paign for Unre­al Ale | Craft before it was a thing (Williams Bros) | Michael Jack­son | Bel­go­phil­ia | Lager louts | Cor­nish swanky beer | The Qui­et One (Peter Elvin) | Newquay Steam | Spin­go | Bit­ter | Watney’s Red Bar­rel | Boddington’s | Doom Bar | Guin­ness in decline | Pale and hop­py | The mys­tery of Old Chim­neys | Mix­ing beer | The pubs of Bog­gle­ton | Ger­man Bierkellers in Britain | Wel­come to Adnam­s­land | The Good, the Bad and the Murky | Don’t Wor­ry, be (most­ly) hap­py | Pub Life

News, nuggets and longreads 4 May 2019: ramen, gin, kveik

Here’s all the beer-related gubbins that caught our eye and seemed bookmarkworthy in the past week, from ramen amateurs to the perceived sophistication of gin.

First, though, some bits of news on the health and tra­jec­to­ry of spe­cif­ic brew­eries, which we expect to be includ­ing in these round-ups quite a bit in the com­ing months.

North­ern Monk, which was one of the brew­eries we’d heard might be on the verge of takeover, has announced that Active Part­ners has tak­en a less than 25% stake in the com­pa­ny. (We’re begin­ning to learn the code: that prob­a­bly means some­thing like a 24.5% stake.) In their announce­ment, they acknowl­edge hav­ing bat­ted away offers from larg­er brew­eries.

Mean­while, in Lon­don, Red­church seems to be under­go­ing some tur­moil. It has appar­ent­ly filed notice of inten­tion to appoint an admin­is­tra­tor with the civ­il courts, and changed own­er­ship. (Is it us, or is the launch of crowd­fund­ing increas­ing­ly reli­able as an indi­ca­tor that a brew­ery is either going to fold, or get sold?)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 4 May 2019: ramen, gin, kveik”

Snapshot: Guinness in Nigeria

In 1962, Guinness opened a brewery at Ikeja in Nigeria. The management was made up largely of British and Irish migrants, such as Alan Coxon, who went to Nigeria in 1966 to work as plant technical director.

We know this because his daugh­ter, Fiona Gudge, is the own­er of the large col­lec­tion of Guin­ness papers we’ve sort­ing through and cat­a­logu­ing for the past six months.

What fol­lows, with Fiona’s input, is a brief snap­shot of the emer­gence of a new kind of colo­nial­ism that emerged in the wake of Nigeria’s inde­pen­dence in 1960, and the strange dom­i­nance of Irish stout in West Africa.


1958 | Britain agrees to grant Nigeria independence
1959 | Guinness Nigeria founded
1960 | Nigerian independence
1962 | Guinness opens brewery in Nigeria
1963 | Federal Republic of Nigeria declared
1965 | Guinness Nigeria listed on Nigerian stock exchange
1966 | Two military coups
1966 | Alan Coxon begins working at Ikeja
1967 | Beginning of the Nigerian Civil War (Biafran War)
1970 | End of Nigerian Civil War
1970 | Second National Development Plan, 1970-74
1971 | Coxon family leaves Nigeria
1972 | Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree (Indigenisation Decree)
1974 | NEPD into effect
1984 | Notice given of ban on import into Nigeria of barley
1998 | Stout production ceases at Ikeja

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Snap­shot: Guin­ness in Nige­ria”

Everything we wrote in April 2019: mostly barley wine

The blog turned 12 this month, did you know? It’s not a major anniversary but, still, we’re astonished that it’s still going and that we’re only 150 posts off 3,000.

April 2019’s con­tri­bu­tion to that ridicu­lous total amount­ed to 17, includ­ing this one.

Mind you, almost all of them were reviews of bar­ley wines, old ales or strong ales.

Collage of barley wines.

We tast­ed:

Not bad for a month asso­ci­at­ed more with spring-sig­nalling gold­en ales. What we didn’t find any­where except a super­mar­ket was Gold Label, the clas­sic mass mar­ket bar­ley wine.

Which was our over­all favourite? It’s a tough call but prob­a­bly… The Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry effort, with Mar­ble short­ly behind, and Fuller’s Gold­en Pride behind that.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote in April 2019: most­ly bar­ley wine”