Climate Change and British Beer

The Guardian today features a story about the Cantillon brewery in Brussels which, owner Jean Van Roy says, is suffering as a result of climate change:

Ide­al­ly it must cool at between minus 3C and 8C. But cli­mate change has been notable in the last 20 years. My grand­fa­ther 50 years ago brewed from mid-Octo­ber until May – but I’ve nev­er done that in my life, and I am in my 15th sea­son.”

This remind­ed us of an exchange we had with a senior fig­ure at one of the larg­er British brew­eries last year who said that cli­mate change was among their biggest long-term wor­ries.

In par­tic­u­lar, they sug­gest­ed, cask ale still relies to a great extent on nat­u­ral­ly cool pub cel­lars. (And, as a result, warm sum­mers can already be a prob­lem for cask ale qual­i­ty.) If those sum­mers last longer, and get hot­ter, tra­di­tion­al British beer will strug­gle. Cel­lar refrig­er­a­tion is already com­mon but might become absolute­ly nec­es­sary, even in pubs that haven’t need­ed it in the past.

That’s on top of con­cerns over how it might affect hop farm­ing and malt­ing bar­ley; a nag­ging sense of guilt over the amount of water used in brew­ing; and about the amount of ener­gy used to ship it, and its ingre­di­ents, very often under refrig­er­a­tion.

We’d be inter­est­ed to hear from oth­ers involved in brew­ing and the pub trade: is cli­mate change on your ‘risk reg­is­ter’?

Beers With a Pinch of Place

For as long as we’ve been pondering what ‘local’ means in terms of beer, we’ve also been interested in beers made with ingredients that evoke the place of their origin.

In the last year, oth­ers have crys­tallised that into a con­ver­sa­tion across var­i­ous blog posts and arti­cles, of which there have been a par­tic­u­lar flur­ry in recent weeks.

The idea that what is at hand – what grows in near­by fields or hedgerows – might shape the design of a beer is allur­ing and, frankly, rather obvi­ous to any­one who’s ever clapped eyes on, say, bright yel­low gorse flow­ers, or glossy rose­hips. Real­is­ing that our stash con­tained a few beers which make a virtue of con­tain­ing unusu­al place-spe­cif­ic ingre­di­ents, we decid­ed now was a good time to taste them, with a ques­tion in mind: does this approach cre­ate tasti­er or at least more inter­est­ing beers?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Beers With a Pinch of Place”

Adnam’s East Green and the Crown pub, Victoria Park

The Crown pub, Victoria Park, as photographed by EwanM
The Crown pub, Vic­to­ria Park, as pho­tographed by EwanM

On one of our ran­dom wan­der­ings round East Lon­don, we stopped off at the Crown Pub, next to Vic­to­ria Park. I gath­er this has been through a few incar­na­tions, and is now part of the Geron­i­mo Inns chain. It’s gastro‑y, with a lounge bit down­stairs and a din­ing room upstairs.

Top marks for the feng shui – despite the cowskins and bare floors, they do man­age to make it feel cosy (good light­ing, dark­ish walls and a clev­er­ly placed book case).

They had Adnam’s East Green on tap, which claims to be car­bon neu­tral. We haven’t heard lots of enthu­si­as­tic reviews about this beer, so we weren’t expect­ing much. We were pleas­ant­ly sur­prised. It had an orangey, spicy aro­ma, like a Bel­gian wit beer, which was how it tast­ed too. The Adnam’s web­site makes no ref­er­ences to use of spices, but I’m blowed if I can work out how they got that flavour with­out them. Refresh­ing and dif­fer­ent, and worth try­ing even if you don’t want to save the plan­et.

They also had Pride and Doom­bar on tap, in rea­son­able con­di­tion. In bot­tles, the usu­al selec­tion of dull world lagers, but they also had Anchor Steam.

We liked this place, as it was gen­uine­ly relax­ing and cosy – too many wannabe mod­ern pubs just don’t man­age to pull this off. We did­n’t try the food, although it’s sup­posed to be good. Worth a vis­it if you’re in the area, and a great spot for a Sun­day after­noon pint after a stroll through the park.

Boak (via text)


1. The Crown is at 223 Grove Road, E3, next to Vic­to­ria Park, and is equidis­tant from Beth­nal Green and Mile End tubes. Beer in the Evening review here.

2. Adnam’s have achieved car­bon neu­tral­i­ty through a mix­ture of gen­uine reduc­tions in car­bon emis­sions and by off­set­ting the rest. We’re not that con­vinced by off­set­ting, but it’s inter­est­ing to see a brew­ery quan­ti­fy the car­bon emis­sions cre­at­ed by brew­ing and attempt to do some­thing about it.

3. Geron­i­mo Inns also own the Phoenix in Vic­to­ria, which is rub­bish, and The Bet­je­men Arms in King’s Cross St Pan­cras, where we haven’t yet been. So I don’t know what belong­ing to this chain is sup­posed to mean in terms of qual­i­ty.

Once again, we find our­selves indebt­ed to EwanM at Flickr for the pic­ture. He appears to be on a mis­sion to pho­to­graph every Lon­don pub and put up his pic­tures under a Cre­ative Com­mons license. Thanks, Ewan!

Things to do with crap beer (1) – improve the lawn

What do you do with crap beer that peo­ple gen­er­ous­ly bring round? In an attempt to use up some of the cans of Stel­la and John Smith’s we’ve got knock­ing around from the last par­ty, we’ve been research­ing some things you can do with excess beer. This will be an occa­sion­al series, hope­ful­ly with reports on how it’s worked in prac­tice.

Num­ber 1 – the gar­den­ing tool. Appar­ent­ly, beer is use­ful to fer­tilise and improve your lawn. This site shows you how you can make var­i­ous solu­tions to remove thatch and fer­tilise the green­ery, and this site sug­gests using beer to remove brown spots.

We’ve not tried this our­selves (the land­lord pays for a gar­den­er, so our lawn’s in great shape) but there are lots of oth­er web­sites out pro­mot­ing the use of beer on lawns. If any­one’s tried it and it works, do let us know. Can beer be used to fer­tilise oth­er plants?

Petty rant about beer bottle labels

Home­brew­ers know the pain of bot­tling. The bor­ing bit of the whole process. Tedious, painful and messy. We try to min­i­mize the pain by using polyp­ins, but this means you have to drink the beer a lot quick­er.

Clean­ing the beer bot­tles is bad enough. But what real­ly gets my goat is get­ting the labels off British ale bot­tles. I don’t know what they use to glue the damn things on, but chem­i­cals, steam and good old fash­ioned elbow grease are not enough to get rid of them, and you end up with bot­tles with unsight­ly bits of paper and glue marks all over them. Not what you want to serve up your pride and joy in.

Amer­i­can labels are pret­ty bad, but then their bot­tles come in all sorts of weird shapes, and what with the pre­pon­der­ance of screw top caps, we tend to put them straight in recy­cling. Noth­ing more frus­trat­ing than spend­ing all that time clean­ing and ster­il­is­ing a bot­tle, only to find the bug­ger won’t cap.

Ger­man and Bel­gian beer bot­tle labels come off with ease, on the oth­er hand. Is this relat­ed to the fact that there is much more of a prac­tice of reusing bot­tles there? Ger­many has a bot­tle deposit scheme, and in Bel­gium bot­tles often seem to be col­lect­ed by the bar staff for return to the brew­ery.

Come on, British brew­ers! Do your bit for home­brew­ers and the envi­ron­ment, and use some­thing with a half- life of less than a mil­le­ni­um. Flour and water paste works for us. Or Pritt Stick.