Pints West: a mine of information

We’ve found ourselves getting a bit excited when we find a new edition of the local CAMRA magazine, Pints West, in the display holder at The Drapers Arms, because we always learn so damned much.

The lat­est issue, for autumn 2019, is just out and is a good exam­ple of why we like it so much.

First, with #Every­Pu­bIn­Bris­tol in mind, there’s a com­pre­hen­sive update on what’s going on with local pubs based on exten­sive field­work from the Bris­tol Pubs Group. It tells us which pubs have closed, reopened and changed hands, usu­al­ly before we hear via social media.

We’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the fate of The Merchant’s Arms in Sta­ple­ton which just sits there with its big, blank, board­ed-up facade; Pints West always gives us an update – stale­mate, appar­ent­ly, with the own­er deter­mined not to re-open it as a pub despite its ACV sta­tus.

But there’s more: we don’t dri­ve (and wouldn’t dri­ve to the pub if we did, obvi­ous­ly) so the pub crawls focused on walk­ing and pub­lic trans­port are always inspir­ing. This quar­ter, Vince Mur­ray sug­gests a cou­ple of trips in South Glouces­ter­shire by bus while Dun­can Shine gives a run down of all the pubs along the Bris­tol-Bath Rail­way Path. We’re already work­ing out ways to tack­le some or all of those on the list.

We were also struck by a piece in the last edi­tion by Robin E Wild on the best val­ue pubs in the area – a pos­i­tive way to address the fraught issue of the some­times exclu­sive price of beer.

In gen­er­al, there’s an open­ness about it that shows CAMRA at its best. All brew­eries are cov­ered with enthu­si­asm and hon­esty, regard­less of their par­tic­u­lar cask-ale cre­den­tials. Licensed premis­es of all kinds get a look in and there are heart­en­ing tales of local activism to save appar­ent­ly doomed pubs.

Now, dis­clo­sure, before some­one brings it up: in the past, before we moved to Bris­tol, we pub­licly rolled our eyes at one of the car­toons in the mag­a­zine. It irri­tat­ed us then and look­ing back, it’s still irri­tat­ing. But we haven’t noticed any­thing like that since.

Any­way, our piece said, we’re off to explore a cou­ple of the pubs men­tioned in the most recent edi­tion – and isn’t that what a local CAMRA mag­a­zine ought to inspire?

News, nuggets and longreads 8 September 2019: Stevenage, Sheffield, Sam Smith

Better late than never, here’s everything that grabbed us in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from the Faroes to Wetherspoon.

One of our favourite sub-gen­res in beer writ­ing is the nos­tal­gic pub crawl and Mar­tyn Cor­nell has deliv­ered a clas­sic of the form, revis­it­ing his youth­ful haunts in the new town of Steve­nage in Hert­ford­shire:

When I start­ed going into pubs reg­u­lar­ly, about 1968/69, the drinkers at the Che­quers were most­ly Old Town­ers whose ances­tors had lived in North Hert­ford­shire for, prob­a­bly, 500 years or more, and who spoke in a notice­ably dif­fer­ent accent from the tens of thou­sands of New Town­ers, like my par­ents, who had moved to North Hert­ford­shire in the ear­ly and mid 1950s from North Lon­don sub­urbs such as Willes­den and Burnt Oak, 30 miles to the south.


Craft beer in Sheffield
SOURCE: Kirsty Walk­er.

Kirsty Walk­er at Lady Sinks the Booze end­ed up on an organ­ised pub crawl in Sheffield and used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make some typ­i­cal­ly sharp obser­va­tions of the local pubs and bars:

Kom­mune… is your typ­i­cal HWP or Hip­ster Ware­house Project. The fol­low­ing are signs you may have entered one: you try to pay with cash for some­thing and you get a look as if you’ve tried to barter a live chick­en; chips cost five pounds; peri­od­i­cal­ly a loud per­son starts shout­ing that the pup­pet show/comedy improv/ritual killing will start in five min­utes; every third per­son is either a dog, a child, or has a beard.


The Sportsman, a strange-looking modern pub.
SOURCE: Ger­ald Reece/Brownhills Bob.

Via @pezholio on Twit­ter, here’s a col­lec­tion of vin­tage pho­tos and notes on the pubs of Brown­hills in the West Mid­lands from ‘Brown­hills Bob’, with images sup­plied by Ger­ald Reece.


The Faroe Islands.

For Pel­li­cle, vet­er­an writer and indus­try com­men­ta­tor Phil Mel­lows reports from the Faroe Islands where craft beer (def­i­n­i­tion 2) is mak­ing inroads:

The rock in Søren Antoft’s hand is pit­ted with tiny holes like a black sponge. Once, it was the bub­bling vol­canic lava that solid­i­fied halfway between Shet­land and Ice­land to form the Faroe Islands. Now, it’s going to be reheat­ed to 800 degrees centi­grade before being plunged into the mash for a spicy, min­er­al-edged ale called Rinkustein­ur.


An image from the Gazette.
SOURCE: BNA.

Excit­ing news for beer his­to­ri­ans: the excel­lent British News­pa­per Archive has added edi­tions of Holmes’ Brew­ing Trade Gazette for the years 1878 to 1886:

Dur­ing the Vic­to­ri­an era, tem­per­ance was one of the biggest moral, social and reli­gious debates of the day… This debate, played out in the pages of the Gazette, is a fas­ci­nat­ing one, with Vic­to­ri­an moral­i­ty com­ing into direct con­flict with Vic­to­ri­an enter­prise. The debate was to only esca­late with the com­ing of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, and was to reach a head across the Atlantic with the intro­duc­tion of pro­hi­bi­tion in the Unit­ed States. You can find out more about this debate by search­ing for the word ‘tem­per­ance’ in the pages of Holmes’ Brew­ing Trade Gazette.


Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

Tan­dle­man reports from the front line of Humphrey Smith’s war on his own pub cus­tomers, vis­it­ing one of his locals, The Pleas­ant in Roy­ton:

Then hor­ror on hor­rors. A mobile phone rang in the bar and in hushed tones, after exchang­ing endear­ments with his/someone else’s wife/girlfriend or what­ev­er, the callee, said words to the effect of “I have to go. I’m in The Pleas­ant and mobiles aren’t allowed.” Seems Humph has put the fear of God into his cus­tomers on that one. Less so on the eff­ing and jeff­ing I’d sug­gest, but all of it was in the con­text of fit­ting bath­rooms, exchanges about how the day had gone and so on, so to my mind at least, harm­less enough. One lad called through to me say­ing that he did­n’t care (“could­n’t give a fuck”) about Humph’s rules. Soon­er or lat­er he’d shut the pub any­way, like he had the Yew Tree, he observed.


We’re all sick of (addict­ed to) Brex­it news, of course, but this Wether­spoon sto­ry is so odd we have to men­tion it: the pub chain has cut the price of Rud­dles by 20p a pint this week, appar­ent­ly as proof of the free­dom a no-deal Brex­it would bring. Except… there has­n’t been a no-deal Brex­it, not yet. Rumours on social media sug­gest this stunt was planned to land dur­ing a gen­er­al elec­tion, cur­rent­ly in lim­bo, which might make some sense.


And, final­ly, from Twit­ter…

As ever, for more select­ed beer read­ing, check out Stan on Mon­day and Alan on Thurs­day.

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 3 August 2019: Apollo, Bass, curation

These are all the stories about beer and pubs we enjoyed most, or learned the most from, in the past week, from Wetherspoons to museums.

From Jeff Alworth, an epic – a two-parter pon­der­ing the ques­tion of why we like cer­tain beers and dis­like oth­ers:

Let’s try a thought exper­i­ment. Select one of your favorite beers and think about why you like it. If I ask you to tell me the rea­sons, my guess is that you will talk about the type of beer it is and which fla­vors you like. Since you’re read­ing this blog, you might talk about ingre­di­ent or even process (Cit­ra hops! Decoc­tion mash­ing!). If I asked a casu­al drinker, some­one who drinks Mich­e­lob Ultra, say, I’d hear dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but prob­a­bly some­thing along the lines Eliz­a­beth War­ren offered: it’s “the club soda of beers.” No mat­ter one’s lev­el of knowl­edge, our opin­ions about beer appear to come from the liq­uid itself.

Part one | Part two


The carpet at the Imperial, Exeter.

Tan­dle­man has been observ­ing what he calls the “slight­ly tense calm” of ear­ly morn­ing in a Wether­spoon pub:

By 8.50 there is a pal­pa­ble sense of expec­ta­tion in the air. Eyes flick towards the bar. A few more arrive. Min­utes tick away and sud­den­ly there are peo­ple com­ing back to their tables with pints of beer and lager. One ded­i­cat­ed soul has two, which he arranges care­ful­ly in front of him, rims almost touch­ing. Over­all pints are even­ly split between lager and John Smith’s Smooth.


The Apollo Inn
SOURCE: Man­ches­ter Estate Pubs

Stephen Mar­land has turned his nos­tal­gic eye on anoth­er lost Man­ches­ter pub – the top­i­cal­ly named Apol­lo Inn in Cheetham Hill. Con­struc­tion, con­ver­sion, con­fla­gra­tion, col­lapse… The tale is famil­iar.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 3 August 2019: Apol­lo, Bass, cura­tion”

Everything we wrote in July 2019

This was a pretty good month in terms of productivity with more posts than we’ve managed in a single stretch for some time.

We start­ed with a hang­over from June and a report on our week in Fort William in the Scot­tish High­lands:

The tricky thing about run­ning a pub in a town like Fort William is that for half the year, there’s too much of a par­tic­u­lar type of busi­ness: tourists who often don’t know how it all works and prob­a­bly want din­ner… Then, for the remain­ing six months, there’s not enough busi­ness. You’re left with a hand­ful of locals rat­tling round most­ly emp­ty pubs, if they can afford to go out at all giv­en the sea­son­al nature of the employ­ment mar­ket.


We shared some notes by J.B. Priest­ley on the pubs of Brad­ford and the bleak­ness of Eng­lish towns on Sun­days before the war:

Priestley’s pub crawl is depress­ing. He finds the first one he vis­its very qui­et with ‘five or six hob­blede­hoys drink­ing glass­es of bit­ter’ and both­er­ing the bar­maid. ‘Noth­ing wrong with the place’, he writes, ‘except that it was dull and stu­pid.’

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote in July 2019”