While We’re Away: Guinness in the Archives

We know blogs are ephemeral and that you’re just supposed to let a post disappear once it’s had its moment but we’ve got lots in the archive that we reckon newer readers might have missed. So, while we’re away on holiday, we thought we’d resurface a few bits on Guinness.

First, a big one, and not a blog post: for All About Beer back in June 2016 we pondered on how Guinness has managed to lose its edge, from being the go-to choice for discerning drinkers to the subject of scorn. After a lot of picking and digging, we reckon we managed to work it out:

Beers that are around for a long time often come to be perceived as Not What They Used to Be (see also Pilsner Urquell, for example). Sometimes that is down to jaded palates, or is the result of a counter-cultural bias against big brands and big business. Both of those might apply to Guinness but there is also objective evidence of a drop in quality, or at least of essential changes to the product…. Guinness has tended to be secretive about process, recipes and ingredients but we do know, for example, that the temperature of draught Guinness dropped significantly from about 1988 onward, falling from a typical 12 degrees Celsius to a target of 7 degrees. This is one thing that caused those drinkers of traditional cask-conditioned ale who had regarded draught Guinness as the one tolerable keg beer to turn against it.


1970s photograph of two men in horn-rimmed glasses inspecting beer.
Tommy Marling takes the temperature of draught Guinness watched by Mr Bill Steggle, licensee of the Cock at Headley near Epsom.

Here on the blog we also looked into what old in-house magazines from Guinness’s London brewery at Park Royal can tell us about the roll-out of the draught Guinness we know today:

“In 1946 when old-stagers with us now were breaking in their 32″ bottom demob suits our metal cask department was formed and managed by E.J. Griffiths. His assistant was Jack Moore now regional manager in Leeds. Even in 1946 the houses which specialised in draught Guinness such as Mooneys and Wards were being supplied from Park Royal ‘in the wood’. Don’t forget, we still had a cooperage and there was no tanker delivery.”


A sardine/sild sandwich.

Beyond beer, Guinness also had a huge impact on the birth of ‘pub grub’, as readers of 20th Century Pub will know. Here, from November 2016, is our filleting of Guinness’s 1961 recipe book for publicans, which was published as part of the brewery’s drive to get more food into pubs:

[In] October 1962, the newly-formed Snack Demonstration Team hit the road in [a] fabulous Mystery-Machine-alike [van]… Four days a week for the latter part of that year, lecturer Jo Shellard (an actor turned caterer) and his assistant Clint Antell toured the North West of England (where pub food was particularly wanting, we assume) speaking to groups of publicans ‘and their wives’.


And there’s lots more, if you want it:

Reasons to be Cheerful

We don’t generally cast ourselves as cheerleaders but today, with the sun shining, we wanted to take a minute to ac-cen-tu-ate the positives.

1. There are loads of great pubs and bars still to discover. We’re 143 pubs into our #EveryPubInBristol mission and still finding gems like The Beaufort

2. And new ones are opening or re-opening all the time in unexpected places, such as The Pursuit of Hoppiness in Exeter, or the Barrel at Bude.

3. Even with our Every Pub mission, and having been in various small towns, suburbs and villages, we haven’t had a really rank pint in months. We can’t recall the last time we felt the need to complain and ask for a replacement.

4. There’s more choice of beer and beer styles than most of us have the time to do anything about, even outside the hippest centres of craft beer culture. For example, Marks & Spencer announced a new beer range this week which includes a Saison from St Austell, and our local CO-OP has a choice of canned session IPAs, all perfectly decent. The average small-town Wetherspoon can usually do you a double IPA, a choice of standard IPAs, a choice of wheat beers, one or two Trappist beers, and that’s without even looking at the taps.

The beer garden at The Pirate.

5. It’s nearly beer garden season! The evenings are drawing out, the grass is growing over the muddy patches, and the picnic tables are being sanded down. If we don’t get to sit in the sun drinking pints of lager in the next fortnight, something will have gone dreadfully wrong.

6. There are people out there just discovering how interesting and exciting beer can be, drifting towards the thrill-ride of becoming a Five. Someone out there will drink their first Westmalle Tripel today! (Further reading: ‘Dare I Say Wine for Wives?’)

7. Adnams, Fuller’s, Harvey’s, St Austell, Timothy Taylor and a ton of other respected family breweries are not only still going strong but (a) continuing to brew classics such as ESB and Landlord and (b) brewing genuinely interesting side project beers, including a flood of porters.

8. There is beer on TV. It seemed impossible a few years ago but now there’s beer most weekends on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, brewer Jaega Wise has joined the crew on ITV’s The Wine Show, and ‘Jolly’ Olly Smith is currently working on series 3 of Ale Trails for the Travel Channel.

9. Every weekend for the past few years we’ve managed to find enough interesting writing about beer and pubs to populate a blog post with links. There’s more good stuff in 2018 than there was in 2014, covering a wider range of topics from different perspectives. Recently, for the first time, there was so much going on we had to resort to bullet points to get it all in.

10. Beer in general continues to be really tasty, and getting tipsy with friends and family is still great fun.

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#BeeryLongreads 2018

On Saturday 26 May (in three months’ time) we’d like our fellow beer bloggers to post something a bit special — longer, more challenging, or just different — and share it on social media with the hashtag #BeeryLongreads, or #BeeryLongreads2018.

What’s the purpose? To some degree, it’s purely selfish: it’s about increasing the amount of deep beer and pub writing around for us to enjoy. But it’s also supposed to encourage others, like the writing equivalent of signing up to a 10k run. If there’s a project you’ve been meaning to get round to but keep putting off, this is your chance. If your blog has gone dormant, this might be a peg on which to hang its revival.

What are the rules? There aren’t any rules, as such. You don’t have to link to us when you post, though obviously it would be nice if you did. Using the hashtag will help people find your contribution via social media and  is probably the bare minimum commitment.

We don’t have any objection to professional writers getting involved, either, if they want to, perhaps by sharing an article you want to write but nobody will commission, an old piece from your archives, or an extract from a book you want to plug.

How long is a longread? If you want a target, aim for 2,000 words, or twice as long as your normal average post, whichever is bigger. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be long, this time round. It might be deeper, darker, just something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Definitely don’t flog your way to, say, 2,000 words for the sake of it.

And here’s what we can do to help: if you’d find it helpful, we’ll read drafts, comment on ideas before you start work, share our research material, or advise you on where to find your own. If you are someone who struggles with illustrations or photographs, we might be able to lend a hand there, too. Email us: contact@boakandbailey.com

And when it’s all done, we’ll include your post in a round-up and maybe share it separately on social media.*

If you want some ideas or prompts: write about a local brewery, active or defunct, that people might now know much about; or an interesting local pub. Give us a family memoir or tell a personal story you’ve hesitated to share. Dig up a story — read old books, old newspapers, ask questions, until you find an interesting tale nobody else has noticed. Crunch some numbers. Brew a beer. Visit every pub in town.

We’ll issue occasional reminders, probably at the end of March and again at the end of April. You might consider sticking it in whichever calendar app you use and setting a few nudging reminders of your own.

If you’ve got other questions, drop us a line, or post in the comments below and we’ll update the post as necessary.

* But we reserve the right not to include a post if it’s, say, downright abusive.

Everything We Wrote in February 2018: Joy, Dark Star, Charabancs

Illustration: February Collage.

This has been another month where we felt as if we hadn’t written much but then on looking back found ourselves thinking, oh, was that this month? It amounts to 20 posts in all, some administrative or routine, but plenty ‘proper’.

We started with a heartfelt self-indulgence: beer should be joyful. (Tim Thomas, editor of the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine Ullage, has picked this one for our column in the next issue.)


For Session #132 we reflected on why we bothered lugging the unused home-brewing kit all the way from Cornwall to Bristol last year. Jon’s round-up of all the contributions — a healthy crop — is here.

Continue reading “Everything We Wrote in February 2018: Joy, Dark Star, Charabancs”

Everything We Wrote in January 2018

January 2018.

We managed a slightly slim 17 posts last month what with the lingering effects of the Christmas break and a cheeky holiday towards the end. Still, there were a few good ‘uns you might have missed in the January fog.

We kicked the month off, as usual, with a contribution to the Session. January’s edition was a bit weird because there was no host until the last minute when co-founder Jay Brooks stepped in to ask ‘Three Questions’. His round-up of all the responses is here.


We went to Cardiff which prompted Keith Flett to ask us a question: “Why Drink Brains?” We answered.


A relic from the pre-CAMRA era of beer appreciation arrived in our actual snail-mail postbox: a pub crawl schedule from Cup Final day, 1967.


Some pubs are famous for doing one beer really well — Bass, Landlord, usually one of the classics. People suggested examples in the comments and a good discussion was had all round. (This one got lots of attention, as the throwaways often do.)

Continue reading “Everything We Wrote in January 2018”