News, nuggets and longreads 14 September 2019: racism and railway arches

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Norway to Manchester.

First, a cou­ple of updates on sto­ries from the past few weeks.

1. Lars Mar­ius Garshol was curi­ous about the ori­gin of a par­tic­u­lar pack­aged yeast thought to derive from a Nor­we­gian farm­house strain; he now has an answer.

2. Last week, Wether­spoon reduced the price of one of its cask ales in an odd Brex­it pro­pa­gan­da moment; in the after­math, SIBA ticked Tim Mar­tin off and he respond­ed, as sum­marised at Beer Today.

3. Tan­dle­man con­tin­ues his sur­vey of Samuel Smith pubs, this time with a cameo from Humphrey Smith him­self.

Illustration: "Odd One Out".

When Chalon­da White (@afrobeerchick) received a racist email say­ing that black peo­ple “do not belong in this indus­try” she shared it on Twit­ter. An out­pour­ing of sup­port and protest devel­oped around the hash­tag #IAm­Craft­Beer. For ViceBeth Dem­mon sum­maris­es the sto­ry, and what it means:

This inci­dent is an acute reminder of the racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion still deeply embed­ded in the craft beer indus­try. The Brew­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, the Unit­ed States’ lead­ing non-prof­it group ded­i­cat­ed to pro­mot­ing craft beer, recent­ly released the study “Brew­ery Diver­si­ty Bench­mark­ing: A Foun­da­tion for Change,” which out­lines racial and gen­der demo­graph­ics of those employed in the beer indus­try… The num­bers con­firm what most already know: Craft beer is over­whelm­ing­ly white and male. Based on their data, 88.4 per­cent of brew­ery own­ers are white, with only 1 per­cent of brew­ery own­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as Black.

Sign from the Eaton Cottage.
SOURCE: BBC/The Eaton Cot­tage

The new CAMRA Good Beer Guide is out and this sto­ry from the BBC high­lights how impor­tant inclusion/exclusion can be to pub­li­cans, and how emo­tion­al the response can be:

A land­lord has crit­i­cised his cus­tomers after his pub failed to make it into the Good Beer Guide… Philip Bir­chall put up a notice in the Eaton Cot­tage in Nor­wich offer­ing a “huge sar­cas­tic thank you” to mem­bers of the Cam­paign for Real Ale (Cam­ra)… As a result of the pub not fea­tur­ing in the guide Mr Bir­chall said he had decid­ed to grad­u­al­ly reduce the num­ber of real ale pumps… “Peo­ple like drink­ing here and remov­ing the pub from the guide is tan­ta­mount to a demo­tion.”

La Tans
SOURCE: Brus­sels Beer City/Eoghan Walsh.

This piece on the rela­tion­ship between beer and food in Brus­sels by local expert Eoghan Walsh should have made the round-up last week but we missed it:

It’s a sticky Fri­day night in inner city Brus­sels, and the foot­path on Rue de Lom­bard is jammed. It’s the eve of the BXL­Beer­fest beer fes­ti­val and vis­it­ing beer tourists have decamped to Nüet­nige­nough, loi­ter­ing in front of the restaurant’s sinewy art nou­veau entrance. The restau­rant doesn’t do reser­va­tions, and those hop­ing to get a spot have gath­ered into hun­gry clumps around the door, beer and menu in hand, sweat­ing and wait­ing… This has been the rhythm at Nüet­nige­nough… since Olivi­er Desmet opened it a lit­tle over a decade ago. The restau­rant has been a base for him to pros­e­ly­tise for beer as a legit­i­mate accom­pa­ni­ment to a good meal. In the Brus­sels of 2019 this may seem an unnec­es­sary strug­gle, but for much of the restaurant’s short life it was an excep­tion, not the rule.

Mother Kelly's
SOURCE: Beervana/Jeff Alworth.

Amer­i­can beer writer Jeff Alworth is in the UK. If you enjoy, as we do, see­ing Britain through the eyes of an out­sider, check out this post on brew­eries and bars in rail­way arch­es – some­thing we take quite for grant­ed but which, now he men­tions it, is odd:

Brew­ing, accord­ing­ly, is a space-inten­sive busi­ness that requires sub­stan­tial cap­i­tal invest­ment. For under­fund­ed start-ups, this can be daunt­ing. A solu­tion cho­sen by about a fifth of London’s brew­eries is the rail­way arch… Train lines criss­cross the city, many of them ele­vat­ed on old Vic­to­ri­an viaducts. They’re as wide as a city street, raised 15–25 feet above the ground, and sup­port­ed by a repeat­ing line of arch­es. As space became tighter and tighter in Lon­don (an old prob­lem in a city once the cap­i­tal of a glob­al empire), peo­ple began to make use of pro­vi­sion­al spaces. Decades ago, some clever entre­pre­neur iden­ti­fied those viaduct arch­es as a huge source of real estate and began leas­ing them.

Final­ly, from Twit­ter, push­ing back the date of the ear­li­est Ger­man theme pub in the UK that we’re aware of…

For more read­ing and links check out Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day and Alan McLeod on Thurs­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 8 September 2019: Stevenage, Sheffield, Sam Smith

Better late than never, here’s everything that grabbed us in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from the Faroes to Wetherspoon.

One of our favourite sub-gen­res in beer writ­ing is the nos­tal­gic pub crawl and Mar­tyn Cor­nell has deliv­ered a clas­sic of the form, revis­it­ing his youth­ful haunts in the new town of Steve­nage in Hert­ford­shire:

When I start­ed going into pubs reg­u­lar­ly, about 1968/69, the drinkers at the Che­quers were most­ly Old Town­ers whose ances­tors had lived in North Hert­ford­shire for, prob­a­bly, 500 years or more, and who spoke in a notice­ably dif­fer­ent accent from the tens of thou­sands of New Town­ers, like my par­ents, who had moved to North Hert­ford­shire in the ear­ly and mid 1950s from North Lon­don sub­urbs such as Willes­den and Burnt Oak, 30 miles to the south.

Craft beer in Sheffield
SOURCE: Kirsty Walk­er.

Kirsty Walk­er at Lady Sinks the Booze end­ed up on an organ­ised pub crawl in Sheffield and used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make some typ­i­cal­ly sharp obser­va­tions of the local pubs and bars:

Kom­mune… is your typ­i­cal HWP or Hip­ster Ware­house Project. The fol­low­ing are signs you may have entered one: you try to pay with cash for some­thing and you get a look as if you’ve tried to barter a live chick­en; chips cost five pounds; peri­od­i­cal­ly a loud per­son starts shout­ing that the pup­pet show/comedy improv/ritual killing will start in five min­utes; every third per­son is either a dog, a child, or has a beard.

The Sportsman, a strange-looking modern pub.
SOURCE: Ger­ald Reece/Brownhills Bob.

Via @pezholio on Twit­ter, here’s a col­lec­tion of vin­tage pho­tos and notes on the pubs of Brown­hills in the West Mid­lands from ‘Brown­hills Bob’, with images sup­plied by Ger­ald Reece.

The Faroe Islands.

For Pel­li­cle, vet­er­an writer and indus­try com­men­ta­tor Phil Mel­lows reports from the Faroe Islands where craft beer (def­i­n­i­tion 2) is mak­ing inroads:

The rock in Søren Antoft’s hand is pit­ted with tiny holes like a black sponge. Once, it was the bub­bling vol­canic lava that solid­i­fied halfway between Shet­land and Ice­land to form the Faroe Islands. Now, it’s going to be reheat­ed to 800 degrees centi­grade before being plunged into the mash for a spicy, min­er­al-edged ale called Rinkustein­ur.

An image from the Gazette.

Excit­ing news for beer his­to­ri­ans: the excel­lent British News­pa­per Archive has added edi­tions of Holmes’ Brew­ing Trade Gazette for the years 1878 to 1886:

Dur­ing the Vic­to­ri­an era, tem­per­ance was one of the biggest moral, social and reli­gious debates of the day… This debate, played out in the pages of the Gazette, is a fas­ci­nat­ing one, with Vic­to­ri­an moral­i­ty com­ing into direct con­flict with Vic­to­ri­an enter­prise. The debate was to only esca­late with the com­ing of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, and was to reach a head across the Atlantic with the intro­duc­tion of pro­hi­bi­tion in the Unit­ed States. You can find out more about this debate by search­ing for the word ‘tem­per­ance’ in the pages of Holmes’ Brew­ing Trade Gazette.

Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

Tan­dle­man reports from the front line of Humphrey Smith’s war on his own pub cus­tomers, vis­it­ing one of his locals, The Pleas­ant in Roy­ton:

Then hor­ror on hor­rors. A mobile phone rang in the bar and in hushed tones, after exchang­ing endear­ments with his/someone else’s wife/girlfriend or what­ev­er, the callee, said words to the effect of “I have to go. I’m in The Pleas­ant and mobiles aren’t allowed.” Seems Humph has put the fear of God into his cus­tomers on that one. Less so on the eff­ing and jeff­ing I’d sug­gest, but all of it was in the con­text of fit­ting bath­rooms, exchanges about how the day had gone and so on, so to my mind at least, harm­less enough. One lad called through to me say­ing that he did­n’t care (“could­n’t give a fuck”) about Humph’s rules. Soon­er or lat­er he’d shut the pub any­way, like he had the Yew Tree, he observed.

We’re all sick of (addict­ed to) Brex­it news, of course, but this Wether­spoon sto­ry is so odd we have to men­tion it: the pub chain has cut the price of Rud­dles by 20p a pint this week, appar­ent­ly as proof of the free­dom a no-deal Brex­it would bring. Except… there has­n’t been a no-deal Brex­it, not yet. Rumours on social media sug­gest this stunt was planned to land dur­ing a gen­er­al elec­tion, cur­rent­ly in lim­bo, which might make some sense.

And, final­ly, from Twit­ter…

As ever, for more select­ed beer read­ing, check out Stan on Mon­day and Alan on Thurs­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 31 August 2019: London, Lambeth, Lancashire

Here’s everything that struck us as noteworthy in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from judging beer to assessing malt.

First, a bit of news: Founders Brew­ing Co has final­ly sold off the major­i­ty of itself to Mahou, hav­ing ini­tial­ly sur­ren­dered a 30% stake in 2013. This comes in the con­text of accu­sa­tions of endem­ic racism at the Michi­gan brew­ery which have tar­nished its image in the past year or so.

And anoth­er: accord­ing to fig­ures released by Lon­don City Hall, the num­ber of pubs in the city has sta­bilised at just over 3,500. In 13 bor­oughs, the num­ber of pubs actu­al­ly increased and the num­ber of small pubs across the city went up, buck­ing a trend towards larg­er pubs that’s been evi­dent since 2003. There’s also a map show­ing the num­ber of pubs for each bor­ough – a fas­ci­nat­ing at-a-glimpse read­out with traf­fic light colours that we sus­pect would look sim­i­lar for most cities in the UK these days.

Old engraving of Lambeth Palace.
Lam­beth Palace in 1647. SOURCE:

At A Good Beer Blog Alan McLeod con­tin­ues his inves­ti­ga­tions into old British beer cat­e­gories ask­ing this time why Lam­beth Ale was called Lam­beth Ale:

Let me illus­trate my conun­drum. If you look up at the image above, which I am informed is a 1670 illus­tra­tion of the sights at Lam­beth, you will note two things: a big church com­plex and a lot of grass. Here is a sim­i­lar ver­sion dat­ed 1685. I have fur­ther illus­trat­ed the con­cept here for clar­i­ty. Lam­beth Palace is and was the Lon­don res­i­dence of the Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury, head of the Church of Eng­land. It sits in what is known as – and what was at the time in ques­tion – Lam­beth Marsh. Grass.

Tractors at Rivington.
SOURCE: Katie Mather/Pellicle.

Katie Math­er reports for Pel­li­cle from “Man­ches­ter’s Lake Dis­trict” where Riv­ing­ton Brew­ing Co is oper­at­ing from a farm, pro­duc­ing Amer­i­can-style IPAs and sour beer:

We do suf­fer from a mas­sive sense of imposter syn­drome,” Ben says as we stand around the tiny lean-to, clutch­ing mugs of diges­tive bis­cuit-coloured tea. “When oth­er brew­eries give us good feed­back we think… But we’re mak­ing it in here. Are we good enough?”

A perfect pint of Bass in Plymouth.

For Der­byshire Live Col­ston Craw­ford has writ­ten about the resur­gence of Bass, not only as a cult brand but as a beer real­ly worth drink­ing:

Noth­ing the var­i­ous own­ers of the brand have done to try to ignore it has, it would seem, dimin­ished its pop­u­lar­i­ty in this part of the world and peo­ple keep on telling me that Bass right now is as good as it’s been for many a year… There are a num­ber of pubs serv­ing mul­ti­ple brews around the city who will not remove Bass from the pumps, as there would be an out­cry if they did… This sug­gests that the own­ers of the brand – cur­rent­ly the con­glom­er­ate AB-InBev – have missed a trick while con­cern­ing them­selves with flog­ging us Bud­weis­er.

There’s even a poll: does Bass taste bet­ter than it has done for years?

Judge with beer.

Chris Elston at Elston’s Beer Blog has been reflect­ing on what it means to judge beer in our every­day lives, in the wake of his expe­ri­ence at the World Beer Awards:

How can you judge a beer when you haven’t even tried it? We all do it though, every time we go into the bot­tle shop or super­mar­ket, we do it. We’re not just choos­ing the beers we’d like to drink, we’re judg­ing those we’re not sure about or the ones we feel we don’t want. These are the beers that lose out, or rather, we lose out because we’ve judged that they are not worth pur­chas­ing. Which again is wrong.

If you want more read­ing and com­men­tary, Stan Hierony­mus posts a round-up every Mon­day, while Alan McLeod has the Thurs­day beat cov­ered.

News, nuggets and longreads 17 August 2019: Harvey’s, Guinness, Star Wars

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that struck us as bookmarkworthy in the past week, from Star Wars to Sussex Best.

First, a bit of inter­est­ing news that we missed ear­li­er in the month: Tow­er Ham­lets Coun­cil has added 37 his­toric pubs to its local preser­va­tion list, giv­ing them pro­tec­tion against devel­op­ment and demo­li­tion. Local list­ing is a way of safe­guard­ing build­ings that aren’t for­mal­ly list­ed by His­toric Eng­land but are of impor­tance with­in indi­vid­ual regions or com­mu­ni­ties. They’re par­tic­u­lar­ly handy for pubs which aren’t often espe­cial­ly notable in terms of their archi­tec­ture, espe­cial­ly after mul­ti­ple com­pre­hen­sive refurbs, but which are cul­tur­al­ly and social­ly impor­tant.

Anoth­er bit of news, from The Brew­ers Jour­nal, via @longm8: Bow­ness Bay Brew­ing has acquired two oth­er local brew­eries. This is some­thing we’ve been expect­ing to see more of for a while, as part of the Great Cycle. If you hear of local exam­ples, do let us know.

Plastic footballs.

Kirsty Walk­er wants to cut down on her booze con­sump­tion a lit­tle which is why she’s come up with the goal count chal­lenge 2019:

Sim­ply put, on a match day in the 2019–20 sea­son, I will only be drink­ing one alco­holic drink for every goal my team scores… I go out on Sun­day, Tues­day, and Fri­day nights, and Man­ches­ter United’s first match of the sea­son is on Sun­day. Of we score no goals, I shall not drink. If we score three goals, I’ll have my usu­al three pints. If we score eight goals against Chelsea, in the first game of the season…well I’m off work on Mon­day so let fate decide.

Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

Relat­ed: for Drinks Retail­ing News, vet­er­an com­men­ta­tor Phil Mel­lows has been look­ing into the (non) drink­ing habits of young peo­ple:

Remem­ber Binge Britain? Only a few short years ago we were real­ly wor­ried about young peo­ple drink­ing too much, falling over and show­ing their pants. And now, sud­den­ly, we’re wor­ry­ing they’re not drink­ing enough. What are they up to? Judg­ing by the top-line sta­tis­tics, the move away from alco­hol among the young has been dra­mat­ic, dri­ving the decline in UK con­sump­tion over the past 15 years. A study of 10,000 16 to 24-year-olds last year found that 29% of them didn’t drink at all, up from 18% in just 10 years. Bur­row beneath the sur­face, though, and a more com­plex pic­ture begins to emerge.

Oga's Cantina
SOURCE: Dis­ney­land web­site.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a new attrac­tion at Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia which offers an immer­sive expe­ri­ence in the world of George Lucas’s space opera film series. Lisa Grimm, a ded­i­cat­ed Star Wars fan, has been and answers the ques­tion we all want answered: what’s the pub like?

Yes, it was crowd­ed, even with the required reser­va­tions, but the atmos­phere in Oga’s Can­ti­na is pure Star Wars, which, for me, is pure bliss, with the added bonus chuck­le that those who wring their hands over KIDS IN BREWPUBS will find them stand­ing at the bar here; they may not serve droids, but there are great non-alco­holic options for younger set, or, equal­ly, those not look­ing to get bombed at 10 am, if that hap­pens to be your appoint­ed time.

Fuggles hops at Harvey's.
SOURCE: Pel­li­cle.

For Pel­li­cleMatt Cur­tis has writ­ten a great exam­ple of one of our favourite types of arti­cle: an in-depth look at a sin­gle notable beer. In this case, it’s Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best – a beer that’s quirki­er than its name and appear­ance might sug­gest, as Matt explains:

[Harvey’s Best] rep­re­sents the quin­tes­sence of the beau­ty of tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish beers,” Yvan de Baets, co-founder of laud­ed Bel­gian brew­ery Brasserie de la Senne tells me in a recent email. “It imparts a per­fect bal­ance between malt and del­i­cate hops, a sub­tle fruiti­ness, a great body and a fan­tas­tic, unique yeast char­ac­ter, due to the mag­ic of open fer­men­ta­tion and the fact that they haven’t prop­a­gat­ed [yeast] in decades.”

(We’d like some­one to pub­lish an anthol­o­gy of essays like this – twelve beers that shook the world, or what­ev­er.)

Guinness Extra Cold

And, in fact, from Bring on the Beer, here’s the basis of anoth­er pos­si­ble entry – a love let­ter to Guin­ness:

But for me, despite Anheuser Busch’s mar­ket­ing, there is only one true king of beers. One that I will always rank high­er than even the finest, bestest, most tasti­est beer of the lot. And I am well aware that by rever­ing this drink, I am putting myself at odds with a lot of the val­ues I claim to espouse; yet at the same time plac­ing this drink on a pedestal is entire­ly in sync with my belief that qual­i­ty, sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty rules.

Final­ly, this Tweet was bounced our way by @IanGReeve who, quite under­stand­ably, wants to know more…

That’s it for this week. If you want more read­ing, check out Stan Hierony­mus’s Mon­day links round-up, and Alan McLeod’s from Thurs­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 10 August 2019: sexism, shandy, Smithwick’s

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in beer and pubs in the past week, from the Great British Beer Festival to comedians in pubs getting bladdered.

Undoubt­ed­ly the biggest sto­ry of the week, mak­ing it into mul­ti­ple news­pa­pers and even on to break­fast TV, was the fact that this year’s Great British Beer Fes­ti­val was deci­sive­ly, con­vinc­ing­ly wel­com­ing to women. Here’s how Rebec­ca Smithers report­ed it for the Guardian:

Drinks that have fall­en vic­tim to crude stereo­typ­ing – such as Slack Alice, a cider described as “a lit­tle tart” and pump clips fea­tur­ing scant­i­ly-clad bux­om women – have been banned from this week’s event at London’s Olympia which is set to attract tens of thou­sands of vis­i­tors… The blan­ket ban goes a step fur­ther than a new code of con­duct launched by the cam­paign group last year… All 1,000-plus beers, ciders and per­ries avail­able at the fes­ti­val have been checked to ensure they adhere to Camra’s char­ter and strict code of con­duct, which sets out its com­mit­ment to inclu­siv­i­ty and diver­si­ty.

This seems to chime with the expe­ri­ence of women who were actu­al­ly at the fes­ti­val, such as beer indus­try vet­er­an Rowan Molyneux (who also hap­pens to be in the pho­to at the top of the Guardian article).She had this to say on her blog:

From the start, there was a gen­er­al feel­ing that this year was going to be dif­fer­ent. The news that beers in keykeg would be present seems to have piqued people’s inter­est, for one thing. It sig­nalled that CAMRA was tak­ing a step into the mod­ern world, and that mood car­ried through­out the rest of the fes­ti­val. Take this year’s char­i­ty of choice, for exam­ple. I nev­er thought I would see Great British Beer Fes­ti­val atten­dees being able to donate to Stonewall and wear­ing stick­ers that state “Some peo­ple are trans. Get over it!”

Melis­sa Cole also seems to have been won over:

This all sounds pret­ty good to us, goes far beyond the tokenism and half-heart­ed ges­tures of the past, and sets up CAMRA well for the future.


Liam at Beer­Food­Trav­el has put togeth­er a com­pre­hen­sive set of notes on pre-20th cen­tu­ry brew­ing in Kilken­ny, Ire­land. A dogged and detail-focused schol­ar, we always enjoy read­ing the fruits of his research, espe­cial­ly when he’s bat­tling to bring down bull­shit brew­ery back­sto­ries:

The ear­ly brew­ing his­to­ry of Ire­land is often quite murky, and try­ing to pin­point the exact posi­tion of brew­eries and the brew­ers that oper­at­ed in any give loca­tion is quite a tricky job until we get to the era of com­mer­cial direc­to­ries, bet­ter record keep­ing, accu­rate maps and archived con­tent of news­pa­pers. Even after that point the his­to­ry and devel­op­ment of brew­eries is dif­fi­cult to track, espe­cial­ly beyond The Pale. Kilken­ny’s brew­ing his­to­ry is sim­i­lar in one way but some­what dif­fer­ent in anoth­er, as much of that his­to­ry is dif­fi­cult to clear­ly see due to being mud­died by decades of mar­ket­ing spiel which has been repeat­ed and reprint­ed over the years.

Beautiful beer glass.

Jeff Alworth chal­lenges an often-repeat­ed asser­tion in a piece enti­tled ‘Are Pil­sners real­ly the hard­est beers to make?

The dif­fi­cul­ty of a pil­sner is its sim­plic­i­ty, but the dif­fi­cul­ty of a good IPA is its com­plex­i­ty. Brew­ers must har­mo­nize much stronger fla­vors, and this presents its own chal­lenge. Fig­ur­ing out how the hops will har­mo­nize, when there are dozens of hop vari­eties avail­able that can be used in thou­sands of com­bi­na­tions, and jil­lions (tech­ni­cal term) of com­bi­na­tions when you con­sid­er all the oppor­tu­ni­ties dur­ing the brew­ing process to add these thou­sands of com­bi­na­tions of hop vari­eties… The idea that oth­er beers are “eas­i­er” to make is refut­ed by all the mediocre exam­ples out there. How many crap IPAs have you had? Is the bat­ting aver­age for excel­lent IPAs any bet­ter than excel­lent pil­sners? Not in my expe­ri­ence.

'Ginger Beer Makers and Mush Fakers', 1877.

Mark Dredge has both a new web­site and a new book on the way, on the his­to­ry and cul­ture of lager. As a side inves­ti­ga­tion, he’s been look­ing into the his­to­ry of shandy, or shandy­gaff, with ref­er­ence to pri­ma­ry archive sources:

[The] first men­tion for lager and lemon­ade that I’ve found… [is] from 1870. It comes from the Span­ish city of Seville [and was report­ed in] York­shire Post and Leeds Intel­li­gencer. It’s inter­est­ing to me that there was a lager brew­er in Seville in 1870 – that’s ear­ly for lager’s spread into Spain. I also like that it was served with a ladle. I’d like a shandy ladle.

Louis Barfe

If you want some­thing to lis­ten to as opposed to read, there’s this by his­to­ri­an of light enter­tain­ment Louis Barfe for BBC Radio 4 on the con­nec­tions between drink­ing and com­e­dy.

Final­ly, the usu­al mis­chief from Thorn­bridge’s in-house provo­ca­teur:

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