News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from AB-InBev to Samuel Smith.

Hol­lie at Globe Hops, a UK beer blog that’s new to us, recent­ly went back to Not­ting­ham where she stud­ied and noticed that many of her favourite pubs had tons more choice in their beer ranges, but some­how less char­ac­ter:

My brow fur­rowed. I strug­gled to artic­u­late how it felt to me like some­thing had been lost from the place, even though all that had real­ly hap­pened was that more options had been added. I’d loved the pub for pre­cise­ly its niche; the reli­a­bil­i­ty of excel­lent­ly kept Cas­tle Rock ales, the chance to try the brewery’s sea­son­al ranges, and guest ales from oth­er small local brew­eries, such as the fan­tas­tic Spring­head. But now there was a smor­gas­bord of choice that was almost dizzy­ing. I quick­ly realised the prob­lem; were it not for the recog­nis­able brick walls and beams lov­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pump labels, I could be any­where. The pub had retained its charm, but the bar choice had lost its accent.

(Via Peter McK­er­ry | @PeterMcKerry.)

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News, Nuggets and Longreads 16 March 2019: Potatoes, Preston, Pubs

Here are all the blog posts and news stories about beer that seized our attention in the past week, from potato beer to ancient Irish pubs.

First, some food for thought: SIBA, the body that rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the UK’s inde­pen­dent brew­eries, has pub­lished its annu­al report. (Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in flip­py-flap­py skeuo­mor­phic online book­let form. UPDATE: Neil at SIBA sent us a link to a PDF.) Some of the key mes­sages:

  • The pub­lic per­ceives craft beer to be from small, inde­pen­dent pro­duc­ers, and made using tra­di­tion­al meth­ods.
  • Young peo­ple do seem to be pulling away from alco­hol, with only 16% of 25–34 year olds drink­ing beer more reg­u­lar­ly than once a week, down from 26% in 2017.
  • The num­ber of brew­eries pro­duc­ing keg beer has increased, and craft lager espe­cial­ly is on the up.

Preston
SOURCE: Fer­ment.

Bet­ter late than nev­er, hav­ing final­ly got round to read­ing it in a hard copy of Fer­ment, the mag­a­zine from beer sub­scrip­tion ser­vice Beer52, we want­ed to flag Katie Taylor’s piece on the beer scene in Pre­ston, Lan­cashire:

A for­mer Vic­to­ri­an tex­tiles giant left to the fates of so many North­ern towns, the city sits patient­ly on direct rail routes to near­ly every UK city you can think of; it’s two hours from Lon­don, two hours from Edin­burgh. Depri­va­tion has cast its shad­ow for some time, but after over a decade of dili­gent local action and pos­i­tive steps towards self-suf­fi­cien­cy it feels like recent­ly, Preston’s time might final­ly be arriv­ing… The hip­sters of Pre­ston are made of dif­fer­ent stuff though. For a start, they’re not inter­lop­ers search­ing for cheap loft spaces – instead they’re local, young and they’ve nev­er left.

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News, Nuggets and Longreads 9 March 2019: Politics, Tokenism, Firestarters

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that prompted us to bookmark, favourite or ReTweet in the past week, from US politics to the politics of beer culture.

First, an impor­tant and eye-open­ing post from Craft Beer Amethyst on the sub­ject of tokenism in the world of beer:

Read­ing Wiper & True’s Vic Hels­by in the Inde­pen­dent say­ing that Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day risks becom­ing tokenis­tic unless diver­si­ty and inclu­sion become a real­i­ty in the indus­try real­ly hit home with me, because I see this as the most impor­tant and under-addressed prob­lem in beer and beyond – how to trans­form the cul­tur­al space into a place where we no longer need words like diver­si­ty and inclu­sion because every­one is seen as com­plete­ly equal and no less or more deserv­ing of spe­cial atten­tion? How do we reach a point where we stop talk­ing about women in beer and minori­ties in beer and just talk about beer?


A bottle of Cloudwater V 10 enveloped in steam.

Now things are a lit­tle less raw Will Hawkes has tak­en a moment to reflect on last week’s Cloud­wa­ter beer fes­ti­val hoo-ha, observ­ing (as did we) that reac­tions to the threat of the event being can­celled were mixed, and reveal­ing:

On the one hand, there were peo­ple who felt under­stand­ably aggriev­ed at hav­ing coughed up £60, plus train fares, for an event that didn’t seem to be hap­pen­ing; On the oth­er, there were peo­ple who felt the first group were being a bit neg­gy, and should just, you know, chill… It’s obvi­ous that many peo­ple feel craft beer is a com­mu­ni­ty… The prob­lem is that not every­one feels this way. For those whose inter­ac­tion with beer is less inti­mate, for those who earn their crust else­where, this idea of com­mu­ni­ty can be a prob­lem. After all, who ben­e­fits from the notion that a com­mer­cial rela­tion­ship is also a friend­ship? Brew­eries, def­i­nite­ly. Pub land­lords, Bot­tle-shop own­ers, dis­trib­u­tors, yup. Drinkers? Only in the most neb­u­lous sense.


Letter from America.

For Bloomberg Joshua Green reports on research into how the pol­i­tics of Amer­i­can drinkers man­i­fests in their choice of alco­holic drinks:

Democ­rats will be heavy con­sumers of cognac and brandy, both favored by African-Amer­i­can drinkers, who over­whelm­ing­ly lean left. Mex­i­can beers such as Coro­na, Tecate, and Mod­e­lo Espe­cial are also pop­u­lar with Democ­rats, espe­cial­ly those who don’t turn out reg­u­lar­ly on Elec­tion Day—that is, they’re pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, whose turnout num­bers lag behind old­er groups. And because Heineken drinkers are con­cen­trat­ed in the Northeast—not friend­ly ter­ri­to­ry for Republicans—they, too, skew Demo­c­ra­t­ic… Repub­li­cans have an entire­ly dif­fer­ent alco­holic pro­file. “They’re big bour­bon drinkers,” [researcher Will] Fel­tus says…


Betty Bowes

A new source for us, tele­vi­sion his­to­ry web­site Red­if­fu­sion, offers an archive arti­cle from the defunct inde­pen­dent broadcaster’s in-house mag­a­zine from 1958 by Peter Ling, about Bet­ty Bowes, man­ag­er of the stu­dio social club:

In Tele­vi­sion House, Bet­ty has to know peo­ple. Not always their sur­names, per­haps, and prob­a­bly not their jobs — but she knows a thou­sand faces, and can fit a Chris­t­ian name to most of them. Best of all, she knows what they like to drink. Most­ly it’s straight­for­ward; the Stu­dios come in thirsty and hot, need­ing beer; the Fourth Floor splice the main­brace with some­thing stronger; a Third Floor cus­tomer might occa­sion­al­ly ask for a Pimm’s Num­ber One… But the Fifth Floor demands — and usu­al­ly gets — any­thing and every­thing: “I think I know most drinks by now.” Bet­ty Hash­es a smile as bright as a new pen­ny. “A ‘Cameraman’s Kick’, for instance —That start­ed with the cam­era-boys from Wem­b­ley; it’s a lager-and-lime, but lots of oth­er peo­ple besides cam­era­men have tak­en it up now.”


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

The Guardian saved us the trou­ble of dig­ging in the archives our­selves this week by resur­fac­ing a piece by Peter Cor­ri­g­an from 1988, about the drink­ing cul­ture of Fleet Street:

[The pub] was some­thing more than an exten­sion of the news­pa­per: for some a home from home, for oth­ers an air-lock between the desk and sub­ur­bia. A man could get the bends going straight from one to the oth­er. Not all jour­nal­ists get on with each oth­er, so each office pub would have a few satel­lites to accom­mo­date polit­i­cal over­spills. Most of the Dai­ly Mail staff, for instance, use the Har­row, while oth­ers fre­quent the Mucky Duck, as the White Swan is tra­di­tion­al­ly known, or the Welsh Harp, which once housed a glum group of Mail men known as the Fin­ger­tip Club, because that best described how they were hang­ing onto their jobs.

But that did remind us of a sim­i­lar piece from the US, from half a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er, by H.L. Menck­en, that we’d come across in the back cat­a­logue of the New York­er:

Between 1899 and 1904 there was only one reporter south of the Mason and Dixon line who did not drink at all, and he was con­sid­ered insane. In New York, so far as I could make out, there was not even one. On my first Christ­mas Eve in the news­pa­per busi­ness but two sober per­sons were to be found in the old Bal­ti­more Her­ald office, one of them a Sev­enth Day Adven­tist office boy in the edi­to­r­i­al rooms and the oth­er a super­an­nu­at­ed stereo­typer who sold lunch­es to the print­ers in the com­pos­ing room. There was a print­er on the pay­roll who was reput­ed to be a teetotaller—indeed, his sin­gu­lar­i­ty gave him the curi­ous nick­name of the Moral Element—but Christ­mas Eve hap­pened to be his night off.


And final­ly, a short but evoca­tive tale of pub life fea­tur­ing the late Prodi­gy front-man Kei­th Flint:

For more read­ing check out Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­days and Alan McLeod on Thurs­days.

Guidelines are only guidelines

Portman Group logo.

The Portman Group’s long-awaited revised guidelines for the naming, promotion and packaging of drinks landed yesterday, and there’s a view that they got it wrong.

First, though, there’s a bit that’s been wel­comed by peo­ple like Melis­sa Cole and Jae­ga Wise, and the line every­one was wait­ing for:

A drink’s name, its pack­ag­ing and any pro­mo­tion­al mate­r­i­al or activ­i­ty should not cause seri­ous or wide­spread offence.

That’s backed up by a sep­a­rate and more detailed guid­ance note which adds this spe­cif­ic detail…

Par­tic­u­lar care must be tak­en to avoid caus­ing seri­ous offence on the grounds of race, reli­gion, gen­der, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, dis­abil­i­ty or age.

… while oth­er­wise leav­ing things suit­ably vague, ready to be test­ed in prac­tice if and when com­plaints start to come in:

The Code rules are writ­ten as broad prin­ci­ples. This means that the rules are not over­ly pre­scrip­tive and allow the Pan­el to inter­pret and apply them on a  case by case basis, tak­ing mul­ti­ple fac­tors into account (over­all impres­sion con­veyed, pro­duc­er response, rel­e­vant research etc). This ensures that the Code, and its rules, are flex­i­ble to dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios, fit for pur­pose and respon­sive to inno­va­tion in the mar­ket…

We reck­on all this leaves brew­ers with a fair amount of room for manoeu­vre, while also pro­vid­ing a mech­a­nism for chal­leng­ing them. Of course the first time it’s test­ed will either upset free speech types (if the com­plaint is upheld) or the com­plain­ing class­es if it isn’t, but at least the  first draft of a sys­tem is there.

Four units

Now for the bit lots of peo­ple think they got wrong: in the eter­nal bat­tle against strong lagers and ciders, they’ve come up with advice on pack­ag­ing that would seem to catch IPA, Bel­gian-style beer and oth­er high-end prod­ucts in the cross­fire. Here’s the top line:

The Advi­so­ry Ser­vice rec­om­mends that con­tain­ers which are typ­i­cal­ly sin­gle-serve, and whose con­tents are typ­i­cal­ly con­sumed by one per­son in one sit­ting, should not con­tain more than four units.

Again, though, these are guide­lines, not rules, and this sec­tion would seem to get as close to say­ing ‘PS. Does not apply to craft beer’ as could rea­son­ably be expect­ed:

Hav­ing more than four-units in a sin­gle-serve con­tain­er will not auto­mat­i­cal­ly result in a prod­uct being found in breach of the Code; it is the view of the Advi­so­ry Ser­vice that the Pan­el is like­ly to take oth­er fac­tors into account when deter­min­ing whether a prod­uct encour­ages immod­er­ate con­sump­tion. It is not pos­si­ble to pro­duce an exhaus­tive list of mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors but the Pan­el may con­sid­er: whether the con­tain­er con­tained a ‘share’ mes­sage or a ‘per serve’ rec­om­men­da­tion, how eas­i­ly the con­tain­er could be resealed, whether the pro­duc­er was able to demon­strate that the con­tents were shared (by decant­i­ng) or typ­i­cal­ly con­sumed over more than one sit­ting, the pre­mi­um status/quality of the prod­uct and its posi­tion­ing in the mar­ket includ­ing the price at which it is gen­er­al­ly sold, alco­hol type (does the prod­uct degrade quick­ly once opened) and the over­all impres­sion con­veyed by the prod­uct pack­ag­ing (such as ter­mi­nol­o­gy used in the name and prod­uct descrip­tion). The mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors should be com­men­su­rate with the num­ber of units (above 4 units) in the sin­gle-serve con­tain­er. The Pan­el is also like­ly to take into con­sid­er­a­tion whether the pack­ag­ing con­tains respon­si­bil­i­ty mes­sag­ing, for exam­ple, the num­ber of units in the con­tain­er and a ref­er­ence to the Drinkaware web­site.

And, one final bit of extreme devil’s advo­ca­cy: we’ve fair­ly fre­quent­ly seen street drinkers – peo­ple obvi­ous­ly strug­gling with addic­tion to alco­hol– with cans of Brew­Dog Elvis Juice at break­fast time in cen­tral Bris­tol. At 6.5%, and with four cans for £6 in Tesco con­ve­nience stores, it’s actu­al­ly a rea­son­ably eco­nom­i­cal and palat­able way to get pissed.

So maybe the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem is the idea that there’s good booze and bad booze, when actu­al­ly it’s about sta­ble and unsta­ble lives.

Fur­ther read­ing

News, Nuggets and Longreads 2 March 2019: Retirement, Simplification, Adjuncts

Here’s all the bookmarkworthy writing about beer and pubs that landed in the past week, from the mysterious behaviour of dads to corn syrup.

First, some depress­ing news from the north west of Eng­land, in a sto­ry that’s unfold­ing right now: Cloudwater’s much-antic­i­pat­ed Fam­i­ly & Friends beer fes­ti­val has run into a licenc­ing issue and may not go ahead today. In a state­ment issued first thing this morn­ing, the brew­ery said:

The police have informed us that Upper Camp­field Mar­ket is not, as we have been assured on many occa­sions by the man­ag­ing agent act­ing on behalf of Man­ches­ter City Coun­cil, licensed for the sale of alco­hol. The attend­ing police offi­cer ear­li­er this evening, the two licens­ing offi­cers, a licens­ing solic­i­tor, and even the night-time tzar of Greater Man­ches­ter, appear to have exhaust­ed every option to allow us to oper­ate in Upper Camp­field Mar­ket tomor­row. If we ignore the licens­ing team, and run tomor­row any­way, I risk an unlim­it­ed fine or six months impris­on­ment.

It’s a reminder of just how much behind-the-scenes bureau­crat­ic bat­tling has to go on to put on any event with booze, and gives a glimpse into why entre­pre­neurs so often seem to end up regard­ing local gov­ern­ment as the ene­my.

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