News, Nuggets & Longreads 17/11/2018: Cloudwater, Collaboration, Klein-Schwechat

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from yeast family trees to the curse of good press.

First, though, let’s have a bit of good news: John Prybus, the character behind the cult status of The Blue Bell in York, will continue to run the pub after a vigorous local campaign to prevent the pub company that owns it booting him out in favour of a manager.


Cloudwater cask beers on a bar in Manchester.

Cloudwater abandoned cask-conditioned beer, but have now come back round to the idea. While some have bridled at the hype surrounding this event (controlled launch of cask beers into selected pubs, lots of social media buzz) it’s prompted some thoughtful debate. For example, there’s this cautious welcome from Tandleman, who avoids the knee-jerk anti-craft response:

Cloudwater has been seeking out pubs where their cask credentials are such that they will look after the beer properly, going as far as having a little interactive online map where you can seek out those who know how to coax the best out of beer from the wickets. Additionally, a vetting process, which while hardly the Spanish Inquisition, at least gets enough information about prospective sellers of the amber nectar to judge whether they’ll turn it into flat vinegar or not. Good idea. Quality at point of sale is paramount and Cloudwater are to be praised for making such efforts as they have in the name of a quality pint.


Handshake illustration.

At Pursuit of Abbeyness Martin Steward has been thinking about collaboration brews. While acknowledging the downsides, he avoids cliched cynicism and reflects pleasingly deeply on how this relatively new commercial practice fits into the evolution of our beer culture:

Craft beer distribution today has little to do with tied public houses, or even national bar chains. The off-licence trade revolves around independent bottle shops that stock mainly local products, and the global mail order services facilitated by the internet and advances in canning and logistics technologies. The on-licence trade consists of specialist craft-beer bars and brewery tap rooms which, like the bottle shops that are sometimes also on-licence tap rooms, have a distinctly local bias… Collaborations enable brewers to expose their brands through those fragmented modern distribution networks, and an Instagram story of a collaborative brew day instantly reaches the followers of each collaborators’ brands, wherever they are around the world.


One of our favourite writer-researchers, Andreas Krenmair, continues his obsessives probing into the history of Vienna beer with the unearthing of a water profile for the brewery well at Klein-Schwechat:

By pure accident, I stumbled upon an analysis of the brewing water (well water) of the brewery in Klein-Schwechat, in the book “The Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer, with Especial Reference to the Vienna Process of Brewing” by Julius E. Thausing. It’s actually the English translation of a German book. One problem with the analysis is that it doesn’t specify any units for most of the numbers. It does specify the amount of residue after the water has been evaporated (in grams), but that was it… So by itself, the analysis is unfortunately not really helpful. If anybody knows how to interpret the numbers, I’m grateful for any help with it.

The open, collaborative groping towards the truth continues.


Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

More deep level research, this time into yeast strains: Kristofer Krogerus and qq who comments here from time to time continue to collaborate on unpicking the ever-increasing pile of genetic information on brewing yeast:

Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire – Was fully expecting this to be a Beer2 strain! 1469 is meant to come from Timothy Taylor, who got their yeast from Oldham, who got their yeast from John Smith’s. The John Smith yeast also went to Harvey’s (the source of VTT-A81062, a Beer2 strain). So it’s a bit of a surprise that 1469 is in the heart of the UK Beer1 strains, closest to WLP022 Essex (‘Ridleys’). So either the traditional stories aren’t true, there’s been contamination/mixups, or we’re looking at John Smith being some kind of multistrain with both Beer 1’s and Beer 2’s in it.


Pete Brown's chart of cask + craft sales.

Pete Brown has shared more of the background research that informed this year’s Cask Report, observing that the cask ale and craft beer segments of the market, if viewed together as ‘flavourful’ or ‘interesting’ beer, tell an interesting story:

Drinkers who say they understand what craft beer is and claim to drink it were asked to name a craft beer brand. A majority of them – 55% – named a beer the researchers felt was a ‘traditional ale’. Tellingly, the [Marston’s On-Trade Beer Report’s] authors say that 45% ‘correctly’ named a brand they deem to be craft – implying that those who named a traditional brand were incorrect in doing so… Perhaps you agree. Perhaps you’re sitting there thinking, ‘Blimey, over half of people who think they’re drinking craft beer don’t even know what it is.’ Maybe to you this is a sign of how bigger brewers have co-opted the term ‘craft’ and made it meaningless. Maybe you just think these people aren’t as knowledgeable about beer as you are. Or maybe – just maybe – they’re right and you’re wrong.


Black Sheep bottle cap.

Another possibly related nugget via @LeedsBeerWolf: one of the financial backers of Yorkshire brewery Black Sheep is attempting to mount a coup against the founding family because they are“failing to capitalise on an exploding demand for craft beer”, as reported by Mark Casci at the Harrogate Advertiser. (Warning: the site is rendered barely readable by aggressive ads.)


Closed sign on shop.

This week’s not-beer longread (via @StanHieronymus) is food writer Kevin Alexander’s piece for Thrillist about how he killed a restaurant by declaring it The Best in the US national media:

Five months later, in a story in The Oregonian, restaurant critic Michael Russell detailed how Stanich’s had been forced to shut down. In the article, Steve Stanich called my burger award a curse, “the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.” He told a story about the country music singer Tim McGraw showing up one day, and not being able to serve him because there was a five hour wait for a burger. On January 2, 2018, Stanich shut down the restaurant for what he called a “two week deep cleaning.” Ten months later, Stanich’s is still closed. Now when I look at the Stanich’s mug in my office, I no longer feel light and happy. I feel like I’ve done a bad thing.

A grim tale worth bearing in mind next time you see, or get asked to contribute to, a listicle about pubs.



If you want more links, check out Alan’s Thursday round-up at A Good Beer Blog.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 November 2018: Pricing Policy, Peterloo, Park Hill

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs from the past seven days that’s grabbed our attention, from 19th century politics to Taylor Swift.

On his wide-ranging blog, a kind of personal notebook, trade union activist and historian Keith Flett highlights a connection between 19th century political radicalism and brewing:

Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773-1835) was one of the best-known English radical leaders of the first half of the nineteenth century, active before the Chartist movement… [John] Belchem argues that a crisis in stewardship of the Bristol brewery he owned led Hunt to move from his Wiltshire farm to Bristol to assume direct control. It was in Bristol that he found an audience for his radical politics and began on the career that led him to Peterloo on 16th August 1819.


Cash Money Pound Signs.

There was a minor kerfuffle around Cloudwater’s decision to make its upcoming beer festival a £60-a-ticket all-in affair with accusations of hypocrisy and elitism being levelled. (Mostly, it seemed to us, expressions personal entitlement masquerading as concern for the supposedly excluded.) Mark Johnson has put together a thoughtful reflection on the topic, comparing the beer festival to a Taylor Swift concert:

Taylor Swift didn’t put on a concert that catered to fans of Motorhead or Five Finger Death Punch or Mobb Deep. It didn’t exist to make every single person in attendance happy. That seems okay. It was for those that wanted to be there. Things can exist that aren’t suitable for all. Just don’t pretend or argue that they are.


Kegs and casks behind the Free Trade Inn, Newcastle.

Having worked in and around the beer and pub industry for years Rowan Molyneux’s thoughts on cask ale and where it sits in the scene, in the form of ‘love letter’, are well worth reading:

Eighteen keg lines, two taps dedicated to cocktails, and four cask on… It was a tough decision, but in the end a half of Origin on keg was exactly what I needed after the train journey; zingy, refreshing, and chilled. As my companion and I gazed up at the rest of the extensive beer range, sorely tempted by the BA Toffee Strannik… we spotted something we didn’t expect. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord… It was in perfect condition and tasted great… The happiness this brought me actually took me aback a little. Since when am I somebody who is excited about cask beer? And then I asked myself, wait – when did I stop being somebody who is excited about cask beer?


A man crouched over his brewing apparatus.
Dmitriy Zhezlov with his unusual brewing kit.

It’s been a while since we featured a mindbending expedition report from Lars Marius Garshol who, this time, calls in from 800km east of Moscow where Dmitriy Zhezlov brews farmhouse ale from undried rye malt:

Once the malts had been ground Dmitriy brought out the korchaga, a ceramic vessel that’s really the key to Dmitriy’s beer, since it is both the mash tun and the lauter tun. The korchaga is heated in the oven, and then the wort is lautered directly out of it through a small hole near the bottom, which is closed with a wooden plug. To make the mash filter Dmitriy soaked rye straw in water to soften it, and then covered the bottom with carefully cut lengths of straw. The straw has to go above the hole, and the higher layers need to be longer.


Park Hill.
One of our own photos of Park Hill.

Stephen Marland, AKA The Modern Moocher, has been researching the pubs of Park Hill, Sheffield – an architecturally significant housing development made newly famous by its recent appearance in Doctor Who:

I’m a virtual visitor to the four pubs that served the population of Park Hill Estate… I arrived late on the scene from not too distant Manchester, sadly much too late to stop and have a pint in The Parkway, Scottish Queen, Link or Earl George… Grade II* listed the building’s structure has prevailed, the original social structures, tenants and consequently their pubs have not.


Tennent's lager advertisement, 1978.
Tennent’s lager advertisement, 1978.

It’s interesting to read that Tandleman – not someone who dishes out praise easily – giving his caveated endorsement to Tennent’s Lager. It’s a reminder that true discernment is about more than parroting what everyone else says, and trusting your own tastebuds.


We and others have moaned about how little respect AB-InBev shows Bass, one of the best-known brands in the world; maybe they’ve listened, a bit?

A spokesperson said: “Bass is a pale ale pioneer and we can’t wait to reintroduce shoppers to this historic brand, whose name lives on as a hallmark of great-tasting beer. “The pale ale category has many good players, but Bass is the only one who can say that it has been on board the Titanic, flew on the Concorde and embarked with Shackleton to the ends of the earth.”

(We heard from an ABI insider a while ago who told us they had been beating this drum within the UK arm of the company so it’s not a total surprise.)


Finally, there’s this:

More reading required? Check out Alan’s Thursday round-up.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 27 October 2018: Brixton, Babies, Beer Festivals

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week, from financial stories about big beer to blog posts about Dorchester.

Canadian beer writer Jordan St. John came to the UK in August and in typically reflective style, elegantly expressed as ever, has shared some outsider observations:

The next day at the Great British Beer Festival, more change is evident. For one thing, the crowd is significantly younger than when I was there in 2013. It’s a Tuesday and most of  London’s brewery staff has the day off and is in attendance. I run into people from Moor and Windsor & Eton, but really I’m there to talk to the people from Fourpure. They have just recently launched their Juicebox IPA in Ontario, but sadly the beer didn’t clear customs in time for the launch. Even more recently than that, they’ve announced the sale of the brewery to the Kirin owned Lion PTY Ltd. Check it out: Purchased by the Australian subsidiary of a Japanese Brewery to be a cat’s paw in England to compete with Meantime, which is owned by Asahi, another Japanese Brewery.


Bill Coors.

Beer industry magnate Bill Coors has died at the age of 102. Rejecting the reverential tendency Jeff Alworth has written a clear-eyed reflection on Coors’ life and legacy:

Wealth and success have always been enough to launder bad behavior into institutional respect and honor, but we shouldn’t let these statements become canonical. In the decades of his chairmanship, the idea that he had a “commitment to bettering lives around him” would have been greeted with sour laughter by many. Bill Coors had a dark side, and it is at least as important to note as his tenure as chairman.


A baby.

Perhaps picking up on a theme established by Becky last week, Rachael Smith explains how important The Pub has been to her in early motherhood:

Kerthudd! That’s the sound that a half-full infant’s beaker makes when it hits a hard tiled floor, thrown from the height of a highchair with all the gusto and might a fourteen month old can muster whilst sleepy and full of chips. Well, mostly full of chips, I’m sure half his portion were on the floor by the end of the session, minus the one half-eaten fry that was gifted to the staff member who took her time to get to his level and say hello… Whilst I was chatting with a friend, my child had been communicating in his own little way with another little kid on the table next to us. They had their own little language going on and were getting on like a house on fire. At the end of lunch a slip of paper was popped on to my table, as I looked down a lopped-off giraffe’s head looked straight back up at me (it was, I soon realised, the top of the children’s menu), next to it in crayon were names, a number, and the words; play-date?


Keg taps.

An interesting observation from Alec Latham: there is a constant three-way push and pull between supermarkets, craft beer bottle shops and pubs. He writes:

I was put in mind of this over the weekend when I went to visit a new bottle and tap room in Harpenden opened by Mad Squirrel Brewery (Hemel Hempsted)… I noticed how many chillers there were on the shop floor and enquired whether the cans and bottles could be consumed on site – a daft question – of course they could… But then he also mentioned something I’d noted myself subconsciously, but without joining up all the dots: takeaway sales of cans from beer shop shelves are reaping diminishing returns, whereas sales of cans from the fridges to be cracked open in the shop are increasing.


Gary Gillman has been digging into the history of beer festivals  – what filled the gap between Oktoberfest and CAMRA’s 1975 Covent Garden Beer Exhibition? Part 1 | Part 2.


The Dorchester Brewery c.1889.
SOURCE: Alfred Barnard/Hathi Trust.

Meanwhile, Alan McLeod continues his research into the provincial beer styles of Britain with further information on the apparently once legendary Dorchester Ale:

A lady, who had been my fellow passenger, turned to me as we drove up the avenue, and said, “I suppose, of course, you mean to try the Dorchester ale, which is so celebrated.” “Is it very fine?” I asked.

“Dear me, have you never tasted Dorchester ale?” “No, madam, nor have I ever been in this town before.” She looked at me in some surprize, as my speech was not Irish nor Scotch. When I told her I came from the United States, she gazed upon me with the greatest curiosity…

(Read the comments, too.)


An interesting bit of financial newsAB InBev has cut its dividend after a tough year in some markets:

“We can’t remember a more disappointing set of figures from AB InBev,” said RBC analyst James Edwardes Jones, noting that most regions missed analysts’ estimates for volume growth.


And finally, faith in human nature, and so on and so forth:

News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 October 2018: Bermondsey, Breakfast, Birthday Beers

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that seized our attention in the past week, from greasy spoons to tap rooms.

For Imbibe Will Hawkes has been investigating what’s going on with London’s beer scene as outsiders infiltrate and success leads to exodus:

Enid Street is not London’s most picturesque road, despite the huge, verdant plane trees on the Neckinger Estate along its southern side in Bermondsey. It’s a place of light industry rather than elegant architecture, distinguished by its railway-arch businesses and the rumble of trains on the tracks above. For beer-lovers, though, Enid Street is special, and it is about to become even more so…. The recent past and immediate future of London beer and brewing is being played out here. Regulars on the ‘Bermondsey Beer Mile’…. may know about Moor Beer, the Bristol brewery that occupies number 71. And if they don’t yet, they’ll surely soon know all about number 73, which Cloudwater is turning into a London tap for its Manchester-brewed products.

London isn’t an island and all that.


Beer pump for Young's Ordinary bitter.

The weeks-old post Cask Report discussion continues, and continues to be interesting.

First, Pete Brown reveals some of the background research behind the Cask Report, which he didn’t edit this year, but did contribute to. Of particular note is the word-cloud showing what people who don’t drink cask ale think of it: “old man”, “unpleasant”, “strong”, “dark”, “warm”, “thick”, “hipster”, “piss”, and so on.

Meanwhile, at the narrative end of the lane, Jessica Mason has been conducting a thought experiment: what if cask ale was a person, and what if you were trying to convince a mate to go on a blind date with it?

You were so busy trying to describe them by comparing them to others and by trying to impress people with details on their past or intellect; you forgot all of the really great things about them.

You forgot the fact that they are honest. Humble. And really really nice.

You forgot to say how, when you met them, that moment was life-affirming. And how, for lots of your shared time, they have always been a pleasure and a comfort.


Greasy spoon cafe, Bethnal Green.

This article about greasy spoon cafes by Edwina Attlee for Architectural Review isn’t about pubs but also kind of is, in a week when there has been much discussion of boozeless boozers, and in the general context of thinking about ‘the third place’:

In one sense it was the immateriality of the food in these places that meant they were problematic for planners and puritans alike. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, you could always get breakfast. It didn’t matter how long you stayed as long as you ordered a cup of tea. If you were going there for one reason (company or comfort), you could pretend it was for another (eggs and bacon). If the planners hoped that civilians would start and end their day at the family home, these strayed homes made that less likely. They needed to be planned out.

(Via @gargarin.)


Trillium's Garden on the Greenway
SOURCE: Trillium Brewing.

Here’s another shout-out for new blogger Peter Allen who at Pete Drinks a Beer reflected this week on the supposed gulf between the world of beer geeks and that of ‘normals’:

Aside from the brewery based at trendy Fort Point, Trillium also run a beer garden (Garden on the Greenway) in a more offices-and-Irish Pubs part of the city that I visited twice. Perhaps the most notable thing about this was that, although there were a handful of the maligned “people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes”, the place was mostly filled with people who clearly had no idea that a) Trillium are a world-renowned brewery or b) that many Craft Beer Nerds would likely consider exchanging a limb for a night spent at the Garden on the Greenway. Most of them were drinking the lowest ABV beer on offer (the superb Launch Beer) and paying it basically no mind whatsoever.


Belgian beers from Guinness

The Beer Nut offers tasting notes on an interesting set of beers: a stout/Lambic blend from Guinness and Timmerman’s, with support from a bunch of Belgian-inspired beers brewed at the experimental Open Gate brewery in Dublin. Some hits, some misses, but overall an intriguing path for Guinness to be on, even tentatively.


Thomas Hardy in profile on the neck of our 1986 beer bottle.

We’ve never quite got into the Thomas Hardy game but we note with interest via our pal Darren Norbury at Beer Today that the 50th anniversary edition of the beer, brewed at Meantime, is now on sale.


Now, an advertisement for someone else: if you value what Ron Pattinson does (“Pedantically correct people on Twitter?” No, the painstaking research and writing and stuff) then you really ought to bung him some money once in a while. Now, there’s a fun new way to do that: for €25 he’ll dig into his vast collection of historic beer recipes and find one for a date of your choice — your birthday, or your kid’s, or your wedding anniversary, or whenever.


Finally, here’s an interesting bit of news for people who like to monitor CAMRA after the manner of Cold War Kremlinologists:


Want more? Alan does something like this every Thursday, too.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 13 October 2018: Pine, Pubs, Pilsner

Here’s everything in beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past seven days, from nostalgia to grapefruit IPA.

First, some mild melancholy: Becky at A Fledgling Blogger has been reflecting on the part being alone in the pub has played in the state of her psychology over the years:

As a student in Newcastle when times were hard (which they often were) I would head to The Carriage alone and stare into a pint until I felt that I could face the world again. I can’t say I always felt better after sitting in the pub alone for hours, but it made me feel like I was able to go home and talk to my friends. After all alcohol is a depressant but it also loosens the lips and it meant that I felt able to confide in my long-suffering flat mate who regularly dragged me out of my pit of despair.


Casks in a pub yard.

Jessica Mason AKA the Drinks Maven has joined the wave of discussion around cask ale that always follows publication of the Cask Report with observations on opportunities missed during the craft beer hype of the past half-decade:

This might have been the pivotal point where cask appreciators repositioned ale. Effectively, reminding how it is naturally flavoursome, freshly created and diverse in its myriad of varieties. All of this would have been compelling; as would flagging up the trend for probiotics and natural ingredients… But the vernacular surrounding cask ale lacked something else: sheer excitement.

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