Here’s everything that struck us as noteworthy, informative or entertaining in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from worrying to Wegbier.
Writing, oddly, for the blog of beer industry marketing agency Mash, Matt Curtis offers a balanced, detailed rundown of the state of UK brewing in a week when there has been much discussion of brewery closures:
About five years ago, if I was given a pound for every time I was told that the “beer bubble” was about to burst, I’d have, well, several pounds. Enough for a round of “London murky” in a trendy craft beer bar at the very least. At the time, it felt as though beer was reaching its apex. As it turned out, it still had further to climb before it did.
Now, however, I’m beginning to think that, although some of those hot takes came far too early, that in today’s market, they might be right.
For VinePair Evan Rail writes about the German culture of Wegbier – literally beer that you drink on your way from A to B.
“A Wegbier is a simply a beer that you drink while you’re walking,” Ludger Berges, owner of the Hopfen & Malz bottle shop in Berlin, says. “Actually, ‘Weg’ means ‘way,’ so it’s a beer for the road. If you’re on your way to a party or on your way home from a party, maybe it’s 10 minutes by foot, many people in Berlin will walk that distance, and many people will drink a Wegbier along the way. It’s cool, it’s relaxed. Everybody does it.”
The concept of Wegbier seems fairly specific to Germany. Despite the country sharing a border and lager-brewing (and -drinking) history with the Czech Republic, there is no Czech-language equivalent of Wegbier. Nor is the concept in neighboring countries like Belgium or Poland.
In another area of the industry, the Guardian has a piece by Rob Davies on how the Market-Rent-Only option is working out for publicans whose pubs are owned by the much-reviled pub companies:
Pub tenants and MPs have been “duped and betrayed”, according to the British Pub Confederation, which said the MRO was little more than a myth.
It accused pub companies of seeking to scupper MRO applications by any means necessary, including spooking them with eviction notices. The group also cast doubt on the independence of assessments used to set rents.
The BPC chair, Greg Mulholland, who pushed the MRO option through parliament as a Liberal Democrat MP, said that in its current form “tenants do not have the rights they were promised by ministers”.
Reason, a conservative American publication which sits in around the same space as the UK’s Spectator, has an interesting piece by Alex Muresianu on how the imposition of steel tariffs has affected the US brewing industry:
The justification for import taxes is usually that they will protect American jobs from foreign competition. Tariffs on a specific good, like aluminum, might help workers in the industry which produces that good. However, workers in industries that use that good as an input suffer.
“I have heard from brewers large and small from across the country who are seeing their aluminum costs drastically increase, even when they are using American aluminum,” Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of The Beer Institute, said in March, when the group released a separate report detailing $250 million in higher costs created by tariffs and tariff-associated price increases.
We haven’t had chance to watch this yet but the Craft Beer Channel has produced a 70-minute documentary about beer in New England which is clearly a labour of love.
Historic England is trying to save a revolutionary 18th century building in Shrewsbury that was built as a flaxmill and converted into maltings in the 1890s. They call it ‘the first skyscraper’. You can find out all about the Flaxmill Maltings at the History Calling blog.
And finally, there’s this eloquent account of why you might start a brewery, and what might move you to stop:
Plus the obvious issue to anyone who knows me – I'm a pretty decent brewer, but a fucking _terrible_ businessman. I hate sales calls, I hate marketing, I hate forward planning (all of which, you'll note, are somewhat crucial bits of running a business).
— Craig Laurie (@CraigGLaurie) May 29, 2019
For more, check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday. (Stan Hieronymus is taking a break.)