Everything we wrote about beer and pubs in March 2019

We managed about the usual number of posts in March, despite trips to London and Penzance, with a handful of real good ‘uns among them.

Before we get to the round-up, though… If you like what we do, and want to give us some encour­age­ment to keep doing it:


We began the month, as we so often have late­ly, with some notes from the Guin­ness archives, this time on the stout brew­er’s attempts to appeal to female drinkers in the late 1970s. Even if you saw this first time round, it’s worth click­ing the link again as Jon Urch was kind enough to send us a scan of the glossy mag­a­zine ad we had­n’t been able to track down when we first pub­lished the post.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote about beer and pubs in March 2019”

Anatomy of a Rumour

If you are at all engaged with beer social media, you will be aware that there have been rumours, or at least rumours of rumours.

Though we don’t recall sign­ing up to a code of ethics on this, there are cer­tain­ly good rea­sons to be cagy about shar­ing or dis­cussing such rumours.

First, there’s the risk of things get­ting a bit ‘lawyery’. We don’t know if this is a real issue, or a bor­rowed trou­ble, but who wants to find out the hard way?

Then there’s the ques­tion of people’s feel­ings. Imag­ine you’re nego­ti­at­ing the sale of your com­pa­ny but haven’t finalised the deal; there’s a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment in place so you can’t tell your team any­thing until it’s done; and, any­way, you wouldn’t want to say any­thing in case it falls through at the last minute. Then imag­ine how those team mem­bers feel learn­ing the news from Twit­ter, or on some poxy beer blog.

The Amer­i­can food reporter Far­ley Elliott recent­ly described how, in the ear­ly days of his career, he would some­times turn up at restau­rants he had heard were clos­ing down and, over-eager in mak­ing his enquiries, acci­den­tal­ly break the news to front­line staff that they were about to lose their jobs. He felt bad, they felt bad… There are bet­ter ways.

Final­ly, there’s the risk of embar­rass­ing your­self if the rumoured takeover doesn’t hap­pen. Rumours are just rumours, and are some­times just lies. Five or so years ago, we heard a cast-iron rumour of a takeover that was def­i­nite­ly about to hap­pen at any minute now… but did­n’t. And still has­n’t.

And any­way, unless you are work­ing for an out­let that thrives on scoops – that relies on being first with the break­ing news – there’s no par­tic­u­lar need for any­one in beer to be rush­ing to talk about this stuff.

The only dif­fer­ence a rumour makes, real­ly, is that it allows time to men­tal­ly pre­pare. It can be a jolt to learn that a brew­ery you like or are inter­est­ed in has been tak­en over when 300 hot-take Tweets land with­in a minute of each oth­er.

Giv­en how things are, though, shouldn’t we all be men­tal­ly pre­pared, all the time, for any brew­ery of decent size and mar­ket reach to sell up? We all know how to spot the pre-erup­tion tremors these days.

Sure, we’ll still jump when the bal­loon pops, but at least by now we’ve learned to dis­cern the bal­loon, and to see some­one stand­ing there with pin in hand, grin­ning, wait­ing.

Soon After Opening

Soon after open­ing I came down to the pub­lic bar in the plain old pub in the plain old part of Exeter that traf­fic flew through, dust­ing every­thing black and shak­ing crumbs from the cracks, fol­low­ing Mum for no spe­cial rea­son oth­er than that fol­low­ing Mum was my default course, and know­ing soon that I would be sent upstairs, away from the optics and the entic­ing piano, away from the plas­tic sign adver­tis­ing hot pies and pasties, away from the plas­tic Baby­cham Bam­bis and unbe­liev­ably, unthiev­ably mas­sive porce­lain ash­trays.

Soon after open­ing and the old sailor was in his usu­al seat with his quiv­er­ing dog and a bulb of brandy glow­ing like a port-side har­bour light on the table before him, in his grey Mack­in­tosh black at the cuffs, in his knocked-back flat cap, in his steel-capped shoes that anchored him in place. I had a sketch­book to show him and fold­ed it open so his quak­ing, tobac­co-cured fin­gers could trace my pic­tures of bombers, tanks and sub­marines, but not bat­tle­ships, thank good­ness not bat­tle­ships, like the one that burned and bub­bled away into the Java Sea beneath him in 1942, tak­ing half his mind with it.

Soon after open­ing and nico­tine-tint­ed frost­ed glass soft­ened the light, warmed it, and weak­ened it so that the far cor­ners stayed black as bot­tled stout. Last night’s spills and cig­a­rettes, twen­ty years of dust in the car­pet, and the gush of pumps into buck­ets, trailed the next turn of the cycle – anoth­er round of hands in pock­ets and make it a dou­ble, why not, and dirty play­ing cards slid­ing through pud­dles, darts drum, drum, drum­ming into a board more hole than fibre.

Soon after open­ing the juke­box came on, and imme­di­ate­ly we rocked down to Elec­tric Avenue, we wouldn’t let the sun go down on us, the Eton Rifles, Eton Rifles, Eton Rifles, Agadoo doo doo – cen­tre-less sev­en-inch records grabbed and flipped into place, clunk click every trip, as a sil­hou­ette in a shad­ow-black leather jack­et loaded coins into the machine with one hand, greasi­ly-fin­gered pint glass in the oth­er, knee bent and foot tap­ping. The small sound made the room emp­ti­er, a form of wish­ful think­ing.

Soon after open­ing and the stock­take con­clud­ed in the mush­roomy under­gut of the pub where the walls wept and Grand­pa spat gold into his hand­ker­chief. Scuffed plas­tic crates, pulled from pub to pub, brew­ery to dray, hurled and stacked and left to bleach like ele­phant bones in cracked-con­crete, weed-rid­dled yards. A short pen­cil, the tip of the tongue, a tal­ly kept on the curled page of an orange Sil­vine notepad from the newsagent by the Jew­ish ceme­tery – lemon­ade times two, cola times three, light ale, brown ale, ton­ic, Amer­i­can, pineap­ple, toma­to, orange – the car­il­lon chim­ing of scurf-necked nip bot­tles snatched and shak­en, stacked and tak­en, arranged into tow­ers and walls.

Soon after open­ing in the bar where my broth­er learned his first words which, yelled from a win­dow at a passer­by, were the shame of the fam­i­ly – pub words, not real world words, not words a grown man would say before his moth­er, let alone a fat-cheeked cherub in his ter­ry-tow­elling nap­py before the whole world – more men arrived, with skin­ny wrists and slip-on shoes, and took up post at sen­try sta­tions on bench­es and at the bend of the bar. Pound notes were snapped flat and primped and pinched between fin­ger­tips to be passed across – “Have one for your­self, love?”

Soon after open­ing the moment came for me to cross the the plum-coloured curlicues of the wall-to-wall, towards the door marked PRIVATE, towards the dark stair­well and the dusty steps with toe­nail thick white paint at either side and the cen­tre stripe of bare board, up to the flat where 80 years ago com­mer­cial trav­ellers dried their socks on the fire­guard and eyed their sam­ple cas­es with sor­row.

With apolo­gies to Dylan Thomas.

Everything We Wrote in February 2019: Zero Degrees, Beer Deliveries, Connect Four

We managed a couple more posts in February than January, including one proper longread, and another chunky piece from the print archives.

As ever, we’re grate­ful to our Patre­on sub­scribers for their encour­age­ment. If you fan­cy join­ing them, you can sign up here. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, just buy us a one-off pint.

We start­ed the month with one of our short pub life posts, recount­ing the tale of a flir­ta­tious game of Con­nect 4 in an oth­er­wise quite unerot­ic pub.


A new ver­sion of an old post next: we sub­stan­tial­ly updat­ed our Bris­tol pub guide, remov­ing some that have gone off the boil (the Com­mer­cial Rooms, for exam­ple) and adding a few that we’ve come to appre­ci­ate, as well as one that’s com­plete­ly new.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in Feb­ru­ary 2019: Zero Degrees, Beer Deliv­er­ies, Con­nect Four”

Camaraderie is forced on men’, 1988

Stools at the bar in a pub.

Cama­raderie is forced on men. They have lit­tle else in life. Forced espe­cial­ly on the des­per­ate, the unimag­i­na­tive, who must drink the same drink in the same place every day.

How to be alone in the midst of fel­low­ship? One can turn the oth­er stool, try to indi­cate with the shoul­der one wants pri­va­cy. One can snap like a lit­tle ani­mal. But this breeds sus­pi­cion. In the end one is nev­er left alone.

But nei­ther does cama­raderie real­ly exist. It is a cre­ation of racists and war-nov­el­ists. Rather, there is an ero­tism about men drink­ing togeth­er.

Come. Come, you must come with us into our hap­py love cloud. A pub­lic bar is the boudoir of a com­ic-opera seduc­tress…

That’s an extract from a piece called ‘Drink­ing Men’ by Amer­i­can writer Todd McEwen. He moved to Scot­land in 1981 and this sto­ry is set in a pub called the Auld Licht. It por­trays the rela­tion­ships between the pub­lic bar and lounge, and between the reg­u­lars who drink in them.

It’s fun­ny, bleak, and rather sour, cap­tur­ing a time when pubs were over­whelm­ing­ly male, every­one smoked, and the card­board back­ings from which pack­ets of peanuts were sold were items of every­day kitsch erot­i­ca.

Hav­ing recent­ly writ­ten about mas­culin­i­ty, beer and pubs for BEER mag­a­zine (see the lat­est issue here) we found plen­ty to chew on even in these few hun­dred words, and would cer­tain­ly con­sid­er include ‘Drink­ing Men’ in that anthol­o­gy we’re hop­ing some­one will ask us to edit one day.

If you want to read it in the mean­time, it can be found in Gran­ta 25: Mur­der, pub­lished in autumn 1988, which comes with an added bonus: Gra­ham Smith’s grim pho­to por­trait of Mid­dles­brough pubs.