Southwark Pub Walk: a potted history

As luck would have it, quite a few key sites in the story of ‘the strange rebirth of British beer’ happen to be clustered together in the Southwark area of London, making for a perfect history walk with added boozing.

UPDATE 20/09/2014: It hadn’t occured to us back in December last year, but undertaking this crawl while reading Brew Britannia would be a good way to spend an afternoon. We’ve added notes on which chapters in the book reference which pubs.

The walking route we have suggested below will take you past the following locations:

1. Ye Olde Watling — City of London headquarters of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, now a cosy Nicholson’s chain pub. (Chapter 1)

2. The Rake — the first really notable ‘craft beer’ bar in London, and still a great place to find good, or at least interesting, beer. (Chapter 12)

Read the rest of this entry and see the map after the jump →

Top Beer Tweets of 2013

These are some Tweets about beer we enjoyed in 2013.

1. Ed defines craft beer:

(He later expanded this thought in a blog post.)

2. Simon wins our nomination for Tweeter of the year:

Read more top Tweets after the jump →

B&B’s Golden Pints 2013

Cheery-beery!

It’s that reflective time of year again when we try to remember a beer we drank in January.

When we forget about a great pub we visited in March. When whatever we say will make someone angry. When we offend person X by ranking person Y above them.

But it isn’t about us. It’s about the consensus that emerges from fifty such posts across the blogoshire. With that in mind, here are our few drops in the ocean.

(With thanks, as ever, to Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg for organising.)

Best UK Cask Beer

The cask ale we’ve enjoyed the most this year was probably Oakham Citra (4.2% ABV) at the Wellington in Birmingham, which we could still taste all the way back to Penzance.  But the cask beers we’ve enjoyed most often have to be St Austell Proper Job, St Austell Tribute, Spingo Middle, Penzance Brewing Co. Potion 9 and — brace yourselves — Bass Pale Ale. Let’s warm up by making sense of that:

  • 1st place: St Austell Proper Job
  • 2nd place: Oakham Citra
  • 3rd place: PZBC Potion 9

Read the rest of our Golden Pints after the jump →

Book Review: Great Yorkshire Beer

Like us, Leigh Linley is a beer blogger of the class of ’07, so we were excited when he announced the publication of his first book earlier this year, and bought a copy without hesitation.

Great Yorkshire Beer.
Small-format hardback, RRP £10.99, 190 pages.

On his blog, he has tended to accentuate the positive rather than dishing out savage criticism (the Michael Jackson approach) and this small press book continues in the same manner, declaring itself as wholly celebratory — an expression of regional pride. Fortunately, with more than a hundred Yorkshire breweries to choose from, Linley has no trouble picking a handful which he can endorse with a clear conscience.

Let’s get one substantial ‘point for improvement’ out of the way: the book would have benefited from tighter editing. There are several instances of close repetition (the phrase ‘our fair county’ appears twice in as many pages); too many exclamation marks (screamers) for our taste; and a variation on the dreaded ‘cannot be underestimated’ makes an appearance in the foreword.

Those superficial points aside, what surprised us on this second, closer reading (the first time was on a long train journey without a notebook at hand) was that, though pitched as a lightweight local interest book, Great Yorkshire Beer also functions as something of a ‘microhistory’. By focusing so closely on one region and one particular generation of brewers — those who have entered the industry in the last decade or so — trends in the wider market are highlighted.

For example, an interview with Pete Roberts of Sheffield’s The Brew Company reveals a shift in tastes in the last few years: a beer released in 2008, Frontier IPA, was shelved because it was considered too bitter by local drinkers. In 2013, however, it has returned with exactly the same recipe to general acclaim, suggesting that drinkers’ palates have evolved in the post-Thornbridge, post-Brewdog era.

In allowing brewers to tell their stories in full, subtly different approaches between ostensibly similar businesses are illuminated. Mallinson’s refusal to have a ‘core range’ vs. Leeds Brewery’s reluctance to dabble in ‘one offs’, and Ilkley’s eye on the national market vs. Kirkstall’s determination to remain a Leeds speciality, act as useful case studies for anyone thinking of going into brewing.

A second small point for improvement, though: a couple of the interviews occasionally stray into ‘sales pitch’ territory, and it would be nice to see a little more challenge if next year should see the publication of More Great Yorkshire Beers.

With our interest in the development of ‘alternative beer’ from the 1960s onward, we were also fascinated to read that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — named by one contemporary brewer after another as a key influence — found its way to British beer festivals, and on to supermarket shelves c.2003, thanks to the efforts of Leeds-based importer Steve Holt and his company Vertical Drinks. There are many other such interesting details throughout.

Though brewery profiles make up the bulk of the book, it also has recipes (Linley is a keen advocate of food and beer pairing), suggested pub crawls, and nuggets of Yorkshire beer trivia. Perfect, in short, for dipping in to on train journeys or solo pub visits. Any tourist visiting Yorkshire for the beer would be daft not to take a copy with them, and it would make a great Christmas gift for the Yorkophile in your life.

Disclosure: we paid for our copy of the book, but when we met Leigh for a pint in Leeds and he gave us three bottles of beer and some second-hand books as a gift. We’ve also known him (virtually, anyway) for quite a few years and think he’s a nice bloke, so can’t claim to be entirely objective.

Beery Long Reads, November 2013

Alaskan Brewing
Source: Thomas Hawk, from Flickr Creative Commons.

Getting it Right Takes Time

by Stan Hieronymus

Not long after Geoff Larson dumped the thirteenth batch of what would eventually be the first brand Alaskan Brewing sold he poured out the fourteenth. Then the fifteenth, and the sixteenth… [read more at Appellation  Beer]

[ezcol_1third]

[/ezcol_1third]fad[ezcol_2third_end]Are fads the kiss of death for ‘craft’ beer?

by Connor Murphy (@likethemurphys)

As a beer geek it’s not uncommon to feel like the intruder at the party… My intention is not to mock but instead to point out that the ways of the devoted beer hunter can often seem quite foreign to virtually everyone else on the planet. [Read more at Beer Battered…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]

[/ezcol_1third]kirkstall_bitter[ezcol_2third_end]Here’s to Yorkshire Bitter 

by Leigh Linley (@leighgoodstuff)

Alongside Mild, Bitter is the beer style that probably troubles people the most; the definition is broad, somewhat cumbersome and with no ‘sexy’ aspects to it. Yet Bitter defines a UK region like no other…. [Read more at The Good Stuff][/ezcol_2third_end]

More long reads after the jump…