The Best of Us in 2018

As the year winds to a close, it’s time to reflect on where we’ve been and the stops we made along the way.

In the real world, we’ve had a hec­tic year, with beer blog­ging as a ground­ing mech­a­nism – some­thing absorb­ing and chal­leng­ing that isn’t (quite) work.

Though it’s felt at time as if we’ve been less pro­duc­tive than in pre­vi­ous years, look­ing back over our ‘month that was’ round-ups, we realise just how much we wrote this year, and how much of it is bloody decent.

What fol­lows are some of our per­son­al high­lights. If you’ve appre­ci­at­ed our work dur­ing the year, do con­sid­er sign­ing-up for Patre­on (extra exclu­sive stuff) or just buy­ing us a pint via Ko-Fi.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Best of Us in 2018”

Our Favourite Beer Tweets of 2018

We’ve done this for the past few years, partly to remind ourselves of things that tickled us, enlightened us, or made us think, but also perhaps to help you find new people to follow.

Of course Twit­ter makes this very dif­fi­cult: advanced search tools that used to make it easy to review our own past retweets seem to be bro­ken, or lim­it­ed, and scrolling back through your own time­line is painful­ly slow.

For­tu­nate­ly, between that and our week­ly news and nuggets round-ups, we did man­age to dig up the fol­low­ing.

1. Pub signs

Tru­ly a work of art.

2. Pub interiors

Mar­tin Tweets hun­dreds of pic­tures like this from his pub crawls – do give him a fol­low.

3. Morse – he’s a mystery to us

Pan­do­ra Tweet­ed a whole series of pho­tos of John Thaw hold­ing pints of beer and, hon­est­ly, we want some­one to turn this into a cal­en­dar.

4. Acoustic money

This amused us at the time; with all the recent talk of cash­less pubs, it has gained new rel­e­vance.

5. Duran Duran

Pete should be both ashamed and proud of him­self.

6. Elastic capacity

Nick has a knack of cut­ting through to this kind of essen­tial truth.

7. April Fool

Some­thing some­thing craft beer some­thing some­thing.

8. Pub food

Or for three Rich­mond sausages on Smash with Bis­to.

9. Garnish

Like some­thing from Vic & Bob’s ‘The Club’.

10. Memory failure

It us”, as the kids were say­ing about four years ago.

11. Simples

Well, he’s not wrong.

12. Thinking up time

Not every­body agreed with the sen­ti­ment expressed here.

13. On the up

There’s hope for them yet.

14. Stereotypes

Ay up.

15. Am I bothered?

Sharp after­taste, slight­ly sour, 2 stars.

16. The Old House at Home

This account is Evan Rail’s ther­a­peu­tic side project. Give it a fol­low.

17. There’s a man down the pub swears he’s Elvis

Paul’s web­site is a fan­tas­tic resource – check it out.

18. Fierce

.…mount­ed her wheel…”

19. A chance of meatballs

Sign of the times.

20. And one of our own

There’s one more round-up to come this year – our ‘best of us’ post where we flag the favourite bits of our own writ­ing. That should land… tomor­row, maybe? Or Sun­day.

Everything We Wrote in November 2018: Backstreet Pubs, Cashless Payments, Guinness (again)

Here’s a round-up of everything we wrote in the past month. We managed 17 posts here in total, plus a few pieces over on the Patreon feed.

Just to shake up the run­ning order, let’s start with the lat­ter:


Illustration: Hilltop.

Here on the blog prop­er, we start­ed the month with notes on, and pho­tographs of, Hill­top, a res­olute­ly mod­ern pub, the design of which was tied up with post-war social ideals.


Back from a trip to Sheffield, with the pubs of Kel­ham Island in mind espe­cial­ly, we thought a bit about how stand­ing in crowds can be part of the fun of a real­ly busy pub. (And why qui­et pubs, though pleas­ant, might not be in the best of health.)


Still in Sheffield, we brought our 100-word #BeeryShort­reads for­mat out of retire­ment to describe a brief moment of rap­port between bar staff and cus­tomer: “Sure?”


A man dispensing Guinness from a cask.

We flagged anoth­er gem found in the pages of an old Guin­ness Time mag­a­zine: a detailed account on the sta­tus and ongo­ing devel­op­ment of draught Guin­ness from 1958, with spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion on the two-cask method, and some excel­lent pho­tographs.


The Ses­sion is on its death bed. For the penul­ti­mate edi­tion we reluc­tant­ly blogged about blog­ging, offer­ing some notes on where beer blog­ging was, where it is now, and where it might be going:

In gen­er­al, we’d say the feel­ing of glob­al com­mu­ni­ty has dimin­ished, but that’s not a whinge. It’s been replaced (prob­a­bly for the best) by many active, more local­ly-focused sub-com­mu­ni­ties: the pub crawlers, the his­to­ri­ans, the tast­ing note gang, the pod­cast­ers, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pis­stak­ers, and so on.

Host Jay Brooks round­ed up the pal­try six respons­es here. The very final last edi­tion of the Ses­sion is next Fri­day, 7 Decem­ber. Stan Hierony­mus has asked us to think about beer for funer­als. Do join in.


Observ­ing friends, fam­i­ly and col­leagues in the past year, we’ve noticed a new behav­iour emerg­ing: the ten­den­cy to order “What­ev­er IPA they’ve got”, or whichev­er ‘craft lager’.


pub life obser­va­tion­al piece gave an account of a Big Lad offer­ing unwant­ed and per­sis­tent com­pli­ments on a Mod’s admit­ted­ly atten­tion-grab­bing hair­do:

No, lis­ten, seri­ous­ly… If I was as good look­ing as you, I’d go out and get that hair­cut today. The girls wouldn’t know what hit ‘em.”

Silence. Shift­ing in seats. The Big Lad’s wheez­ing breath.

Then, remem­ber­ing his pri­ma­ry mis­sion, he lurch­es away into the gents toi­let, smash­ing through doors like a bull­doz­er.


After a crawl around the pubs of Tot­ter­down in Bris­tol we found our­selves think­ing about how mag­i­cal back­street pubs can be, and almost always look, espe­cial­ly in the dark, espe­cial­ly in rain or snow:

You know the feel­ing – walk­ing up the cen­tre of the road because there’s no traf­fic, TV light flick­er­ing behind cur­tains here and there, and the sound of your boots crunch­ing and echo­ing in the qui­et.


Read­ing a tat­ty old edi­tion of a 1934 book by J.B. Priest­ley we were delight­ed, if not entire­ly sur­prised, to find some piquant obser­va­tions on inter-war ‘improved pubs’:

The trick is – and long has been – to make or keep the beer-house dull or dis­rep­utable, and then to point out how dull or dis­rep­utable it is. Is is rather as if the rest of us should com­pel tee­to­tallers to wear their hair long and unwashed, and then should write pam­phlets com­plain­ing of their dirty habits: “Look at their hair,” we should cry.


After a Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tion about find­ing, shar­ing and hoard­ing archive mate­r­i­al on beer and pub his­to­ry, we put some thoughts into words. Short ver­sion: nobody owns his­to­ry, we’re all bet­ter off when peo­ple share, and the more you share, the more peo­ple share with you.


An out-of-date hack paper­back on pub names put us on the track of an inter­est­ing sto­ry: an Exeter pub which opened in 1985, designed to give peo­ple with alco­hol prob­lems the feel of a prop­er night out with no booze on the premis­es. How do you think it went?


We briefly acknowl­edged that we won an award, that we are very pleased about it, and point­ed to the stuff wot won it.


The post that got most traf­fic this month, per­haps because it dealt with a con­tem­po­rary hot-but­ton issue rather than what kind of pies they served in the Watney’s can­teen in 1962, was about cash­less pubs, and pubs that don’t take cards, and putting the needs of con­sumers first:

One pub­li­can in a cash-only busi­ness recent­ly told us they’d been think­ing about get­ting a card machine pure­ly because they were aware of con­stant­ly turn­ing away young peo­ple who expect­ed to be able to use cards. About half of them were will­ing to find a cash machine and come back, but the rest just moved on down the road.


Any­way, back to those Watney’s can­teen pies: in the ear­ly 1970s cut­ting edge archi­tec­ture firm Arup designed a new bru­tal­ist brew­ery for Carls­berg in Northamp­ton. Arup’s own in-house jour­nal is now avail­able online and the March 1974 edi­tion has a wealth of infor­ma­tion on the brew­ery, as well as some fab­u­lous­ly indus­tri­al pho­tographs.


We pro­duced our usu­al round-ups of news, nuggets and lon­greads:


We Tweet­ed quite a bit (but per­haps not as much as usu­al) and Insta­grammed a touch, too. Face­book, frankly, bare­ly got a look in.

Studying Beer History – Hoarding, Stealing, Learning to Let Go

Various books and magazine from the last 40+ years of CAMRA.

Even if you’re the first to share a nugget from the archives on social media doesn’t mean you discovered it, and almost certainly doesn’t mean you own it. And sharing is good for the soul.

We spent a large chunk of Sun­day scan­ning doc­u­ments from the Guin­ness col­lec­tion we’ve been sort­ing through so we could share their con­tents with a schol­ar work­ing on a book about stout.

For us, there’s a thrill in set­ting this infor­ma­tion free, not least because we know that when it comes to tech­ni­cal brew­ing his­to­ry, we’re far from being the best peo­ple to inter­pret sources.

But per­haps if this schol­ar wasn’t some­one we sort of know, and admire, we’d feel dif­fer­ent­ly.

In the course of research­ing two books, only one per­son refused to share source mate­r­i­al with us. Though it frus­trat­ed us in the moment, we do under­stand: seri­ous his­to­ri­ans are too used to hav­ing years, even decades of research repack­aged, and usu­al­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed, by dilet­tantes, TV pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and hacks.

Both acad­e­mia and pub­lish­ing are com­pet­i­tive worlds, too, so there are all kinds of rea­sons peo­ple might unearth some­thing juicy and want to stake a claim, at least until after the next paper or book is pub­lished.

And the inter­net in par­tic­u­lar swims with par­a­sites, sav­ing and repost­ing and steal­ing and repost­ing until there are no pix­els left in any­thing.

Only this week we saw Liam’s hard work inves­ti­gat­ing the his­to­ry of Irish brew­ing exploit­ed by a copy-and-paster and felt his pain.

We quite often notice things we’ve shared here turn­ing up else­where with not so much as a ‘via’ or a link, some­times with the SOURCE water­marks we painstak­ing­ly added snipped off or blurred out.

We might tut a bit but we can’t real­ly com­plain. After all, even if we spent mon­ey and time acquir­ing the source mate­r­i­al, and even more time scan­ning, tidy­ing up and upload­ing it, we still don’t own those images or words, or the his­to­ry they encap­su­late.

Inter­pre­ta­tion, com­men­tary and nar­ra­tive – those you, or we, can right­ly stake a claim to, but the source mate­r­i­al ought to belong to every­one.

Even then, we’ve learned to let a bit of pil­fer­ing  go, per­haps with a vague belief in the idea of kar­ma: the research we take is equal to the research we make and all that.

So, if you’re sit­ting on orig­i­nal doc­u­ments relat­ing to beer and brew­ing, such as mag­a­zines, busi­ness papers, orig­i­nal pho­tographs or brew­ing logs, we’d urge you to do what you can to share some or all of them.

It might just be a blog post flag­ging their exis­tence, or some­thing more sub­stan­tial. Just get it out there.

And if you draw on some­one else’s research do try to be gen­er­ous with links and shout-outs and thank-yous. It doesn’t take a moment or cost much, it helps peo­ple trace sources back to the root, and, again, that kar­ma thing applies.

Final­ly, if you think we might have some­thing in our col­lec­tion that could help with your research, do drop us a line.

A partial list of what’s in our library
  • What’s Brew­ing, 1972–1977 (par­tial); 1979–1997, com­plete
  • A Month­ly Bul­letin, 1953–1956, 1960–1972
  • The Red Bar­rel, Wat­ney Mann, var­i­ous edi­tions 1950s-1970s
  • The House of Whit­bread, var­i­ous edi­tions 1940s-1960s
  • Guin­ness Time, var­i­ous edi­tions 1960s-70s, plus scans of indi­vid­ual arti­cles 1950s-60s
  • numer­ous odd issues of oth­er brew­ery in-house mag­a­zines 1920s-1970s
  • CAMRA Good Beer Guide, 1976 onward

The Penultimate Session, #141: The Future of Beer Blogging

Ugh, blogging about blogging… But, then again, we’ve not indulged for a while, and the news that the Session is expiring seems like a good moment.

The Ses­sion start­ed a month before we com­menced our (cal­en­dar check) 11 year, 7 month beer blog­ging adven­ture, and has been a reas­sur­ing con­stant.

There have been times when, slight­ly lost and dis­en­gaged from blog­ging, the Ses­sion pulled us back – part cre­ative writ­ing prompt, part warm hug.

When it near­ly died a few years ago we were for­lorn, but then every­one seemed to ral­ly and it was saved. Kind of.

Like one of those TV shows that comes back for a weird final sea­son on some stream­ing plat­form or oth­er, it nev­er quite felt the same.

As Jay Brooks says in his call to arms for this month’s Ses­sion, few­er and few­er peo­ple took part, and hosts seemed hard to find.

So, as Jay and Stan sail off to the west in one of those elf boats, here we are for the sec­ond to last time, doing our duty: Jay wants to know what we think about the future of beer blog­ging, and we’re going to tell him.

First, we refuse to be gloomy. Every Sat­ur­day morn­ing we find plen­ty of great posts that we think are worth shar­ing, and those pieces seems more adven­tur­ous, styl­ish, eru­dite and var­ied than much of what was around a decade ago.

More often these days, though, great blogs arrive, blos­som, and then with­er when their authors aban­don them to go pro­fes­sion­al. Yes, it might feel as if all the mag­a­zines are clos­ing but we reck­on there are more pay­ing out­lets for beer writ­ing in the UK now than a decade ago. That’s good for writ­ers, but bad news if you’ve a pref­er­ence for dri­ven, ambi­tious blog­ging.

In gen­er­al, we’d say the feel­ing of glob­al com­mu­ni­ty has dimin­ished, but that’s not a whinge. It’s been replaced (prob­a­bly for the best) by many active, more local­ly-focused sub-com­mu­ni­ties: the pub crawlers, the his­to­ri­ans, the tast­ing note gang, the pod­cast­ers, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pis­stak­ers, and so on.

That can be mild­ly dis­con­cert­ing if you don’t want to pick a tribe, we sup­pose.

And broad­er com­mu­ni­ty activ­i­ty does con­tin­ue, just not often in the form of labo­ri­ous­ly inter­linked blog posts. Instead, it cen­tres around social media hash­tags, some­times gen­tly com­mer­cial­ly dri­ven: check out #Beer­Bods, #Craft­Beer­Hour and #Lets­Beer­Pos­i­tive for a few exam­ples.

These are light in tone, easy to engage with, and don’t require any­body to set aside an hour under the angle­poise with a jug of cof­fee and a the­saurus. You can respond from the sofa, in front of the tel­ly with a can of pas­try stout, or while you’re at the pub.

So, on bal­ance, we see the future of blog­ging as being much like its past – some­times sup­port­ive, some­times bad-tem­pered, over-emo­tion­al, churn­ing like pri­mor­dial soup as blogs are born in fits of tip­sy enthu­si­asm and die of ennui – but also more frac­tured, more var­ied, and less cosy.

And less about blogs.