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”

Everything we wrote in May 2019: Guinness, pubs, tea gardens

Oof, this was not a highly productive stretch… Let’s just say we were running low on energy in the run up to the holiday we’re now on. Anyway, slim or not, the month was not without interesting stuff.

First, there was a long piece actu­al­ly pub­lished at the end of April, but after the cut-off for our last month­ly round-up: the sto­ry of Guin­ness’s brew­ery at Ike­ja in Nige­ria told through an inter­view and archive research. One read­er kind­ly wrote to tell us it was ‘far and away the best beer blog of 2019’ and that it reflect­ed his own expe­ri­ences of work­ing in Africa (not in brew­ing) in the 1980s, which was nice.


We announced our new bookBalmy Nec­tar, which we’re pleased to say has been sell­ing quite well. If you haven’t bought a copy, do take a look; and if you have, please leave a review.


Sev­er­al months ago, some­one asked us if we knew the ori­gins of an appar­ent­ly unique pub name from Leices­ter­shire and after weeks of dig­ging, we think we’ve cracked it. Spoil­er: freema­son­ry!


One of those peri­od­ic debates about sparklers popped up on Twit­ter and, watch­ing the con­ver­sa­tion play out, we thought we’d achieved clar­i­ty: they’re nei­ther good nor evil, it depends on the under­ly­ing con­di­tion of the beer.


We picked some bits of about beer from a 1945 mag­a­zine for British armed forces sta­tioned in India, like this:

Advertisement for Dyer Meakin Breweries and their Solan brand beers.


We final­ly made it to Beese’s Tea Gar­dens, a Vic­to­ri­an insti­tu­tion on the out­skirts of Bris­tol, where you can drink beer in the shade of ancient trees on a river­bank:

Last Sat­ur­day, we approached from Broomhill, cut­ting from a coun­cil estate into a slop­ing park where teenagers flirt­ed on the climb­ing frame next to a bas­ket­ball court. A short walk down a wood­ed path brought us to a gate that might have been trans­plant­ed from Bavaria…


Cam­den Hells did­n’t seem that big a deal in 2011; we’ve now come to realise that there was a time before Cam­den, and a time after, and the post-Cam­den beer scene is an alien plan­et:

What we should have paid more atten­tion to was that our friends who weren’t espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in beer – who would turn pale if you accused them of being beer geeks – seemed to like Hells a lot. They were switch­ing from Foster’s, Stel­la, Per­oni, and (per­haps cru­cial­ly) drink­ing Hells just as they’d drunk those oth­er beers: by the pint, pint after pint.


The cover of 'Pub', 1969.

Osbert Lan­cast­er was an illus­tra­tor and writer with strong opin­ions about pubs, espe­cial­ly Vic­to­ri­an ones, as set out in a 1938 book:

In the ear­li­er part of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry it was assumed, and right­ly, that a lit­tle healthy vul­gar­i­ty and full-blood­ed osten­ta­tion were not out of place in the archi­tec­ture and dec­o­ra­tion of a pub­lic-house, and it was dur­ing this peri­od that the tra­di­tion gov­ern­ing the appear­ance of the Eng­lish pub was evolved.


Anoth­er mid-cen­tu­ry writer and illus­tra­tor, Geof­frey Fletch­er, set out sim­i­lar views in his book The Lon­don Nobody Knows in 1962. We picked out a few choice lines, like this:

The archi­tects of the late Vic­to­ri­an pubs and music-halls knew exact­ly what the sit­u­a­tion demand­ed – extrav­a­gance, exu­ber­ance, and plen­ty of dec­o­ra­tion for its own sake.


We also put togeth­er our usu­al round-ups of news and good read­ing from beer blogs, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines:


At Patre­on we gave $2+ sub­scribers run­downs of the best beers of each week­end plus a few extra nuggets, such as an account of a (no-injuries) car crash out­side a pub that turned into a seri­ous spec­ta­tor event.


Our month­ly newslet­ter was a prop­er whop­per with notes on tea in pubs in the 1920s and links to archive footage of pubs in action. Sign up here.


We Tweet­ed a ton, too, espe­cial­ly from Tewkes­bury:

A new book: Balmy Nectar

A mockup of the book.

Balmy Nectar is a collection of all the longer pieces of writing we’ve produced for CAMRA, magazines such as Beer Advocate, and here on the blog.

It also includes a fore­word by Tim Webb and a new piece pulling togeth­er into a coher­ent whole the best of the many ‘pub life’ obser­va­tion­al posts we’ve been writ­ing since 2015.

In total, it runs to about 80,000 words, a sim­i­lar length to Brew Bri­tan­nia and 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub. Which is to say, it’s a prop­er chunky book, unlike Gam­bri­nus Waltz which was only ever what they used to call a mono­graph.

And though col­lat­ing and edit­ing it all has been hard work, it’s also been real­ly love­ly to be remind­ed of how much good stuff we’ve turned out. We’re espe­cial­ly proud of the voic­es we put on record, from beer fes­ti­val vol­un­teers to pub­lic­i­ty shy brew­ers.

If you want a copy, and of course you do, Balmy Nec­tar is avail­able from the Ama­zon Kin­dle store now for £7, or $9.22 in the US.

It would be a handy thing to have loaded up when you go on your sum­mer hol­i­days, or just to have handy in the free app on your phone for dip­ping into if you find your­self wait­ing for a mate in the pub.

Ama­zon UK | Ama­zon US | Cana­da | Ger­many | Aus­tralia

A print-on-demand paper­back ver­sion is also avail­able for the tra­di­tion­al­ists among you, priced at £11. (Con­fes­sion: the main rea­son we went to all the trou­ble of com­pil­ing, cor­rect­ing and updat­ing this stuff is because we want­ed one of these for our own shelf.)

And here’s what the col­lec­tion includes, to save you a click or two: Fore­word | Intro­duc­tion | Beer geeks in his­to­ry | Brew Bri­tan­nia: the women | A pint of Old & Filthy | Only a north­ern brew­er (David Pol­lard) | 1974: birth of the beer guide | The pub crawlers | 1975: birth of the beer fes­ti­val | The Cam­paign for Unre­al Ale | Craft before it was a thing (Williams Bros) | Michael Jack­son | Bel­go­phil­ia | Lager louts | Cor­nish swanky beer | The Qui­et One (Peter Elvin) | Newquay Steam | Spin­go | Bit­ter | Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel | Bod­ding­ton’s | Doom Bar | Guin­ness in decline | Pale and hop­py | The mys­tery of Old Chim­neys | Mix­ing beer | The pubs of Bog­gle­ton | Ger­man Bierkellers in Britain | Wel­come to Adnam­s­land | The Good, the Bad and the Murky | Don’t Wor­ry, be (most­ly) hap­py | Pub Life

Everything we wrote in April 2019: mostly barley wine

The blog turned 12 this month, did you know? It’s not a major anniversary but, still, we’re astonished that it’s still going and that we’re only 150 posts off 3,000.

April 2019’s con­tri­bu­tion to that ridicu­lous total amount­ed to 17, includ­ing this one.

Mind you, almost all of them were reviews of bar­ley wines, old ales or strong ales.

Collage of barley wines.

We tast­ed:

Not bad for a month asso­ci­at­ed more with spring-sig­nalling gold­en ales. What we did­n’t find any­where except a super­mar­ket was Gold Label, the clas­sic mass mar­ket bar­ley wine.

Which was our over­all favourite? It’s a tough call but prob­a­bly… The Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry effort, with Mar­ble short­ly behind, and Fuller’s Gold­en Pride behind that.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote in April 2019: most­ly bar­ley wine”