News, nuggets and longreads 20 July 2019: Friars, Fyne Ales, Fellowship

Here’s all the writing on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from brewery founders to Blackfriars.

First, we don’t know when you’ll need them, or if you’ll need them, but here are two use­ful local guides to book­mark or oth­er­wise file away for ref­er­ence:

The bar at The Old Post Office.

A bit of pub own­er­ship news: Stonegate has bought Ei Group (for­mer­ly Enter­prise Inns). This adds 4,000 pubs to the Stonegate estate mak­ing it the largest in the UK. Nev­er heard of Stonegate? Not many peo­ple have. It oper­ates through sub-brands and tends to keep its name off fas­cias and in-pub col­lat­er­al.

Certified craft.

For Fer­ment, the pro­mo­tion­al mag­a­zine of beer retail­er Beer52, Matt Cur­tis has been reflect­ing on the tricks multi­na­tion­al brew­ing com­pa­nies use in attempt­ing to con­vince con­sumers that their beer brands are Well Craft:

Com­pare [1990s lager ads] to recent adver­tis­ing by Maltsmiths—a pseu­do-craft sub brand invent­ed by the mar­ket­ing mas­ter­minds at Dutch multi­na­tion­al, Heineken—and you’ll see some­thing quite dif­fer­ent. In its adver­tis­ing there is no nod to the prove­nance of its ingre­di­ents or the brew­ery in Scot­land where it is made. Instead we see a young, female brew­er, cart­wheel­ing over hose pipes and around fer­men­ta­tion ves­sels seem­ing­ly in cel­e­bra­tion of the beer’s very exis­tence. Hon­est­ly, if health and safe­ty got wind of this there’d be hell to pay.

The Fellowship.
The Fel­low­ship in 2016.

For Desert­er Tris­tan Park­er has writ­ten about the his­to­ry and present incar­na­tion of The Fel­low­ship at Belling­ham, south Lon­don – a pub we stud­ied for 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub and vis­it­ed dur­ing its final days as a half-derelict, qui­et, down-at-heel booz­er. These days, though…

Locals seemed under­stand­ably pleased to have a buzzy new pub, as what felt like most of Belling­ham appeared to be inside. This was a good sign: The Fel­low­ship was rede­vel­oped to serve the com­mu­ni­ty and on day one that’s exact­ly what it was doing. Let’s hope that con­tin­ues… Inside, it’s a vast space that still retains some of the look of the old venue, plus a bit of kooky art and kitsch wall­pa­per here and there. Reminders of the pub’s past also adorn the walls, includ­ing box­ing gloves and pho­tos of ‘Our ’Enry’ bat­tling Ali.

The Blackfriar pub.

Mean­while, Jane Pey­ton has been hang­ing out at The Black­fri­ar, a famous Vic­to­ri­an-Edwar­dian pub just beyond the bound­ary of the City of Lon­don, and express­es great enthu­si­asm for its over-the-top 1905 dec­o­ra­tive scheme:

It’s show-time! That phrase sings in my head each time I vis­it London’s Black­fri­ar pub. If Walt Dis­ney had been a pub design­er this is what he would have devised. Every sur­face of this spec­tac­u­lar Arts & Crafts/Art Nou­veau hostel­ry is dec­o­rat­ed and then dec­o­rat­ed again. More is more is more. If min­i­mal­ism is your style then either wear sun­glass­es in this pub or go to the post-indus­tri­al con­crete bunker booz­er near­by.

Jonny and Tuggy Delap.
SOURCE: Fyne Ales.

It’s not often we feel moved to link to any brew­ery’s offi­cial blog but we’d like to see more posts like Fyne Ales bio­graph­i­cal trib­ute to its founder, Jon­ny Delap, who died in 2009:

Born in Kenya and raised by his great uncle (his father threw him out when he was six years old), Jon­ny first came to the UK when he was 13 to com­plete his school­ing, before return­ing to Kenya to work on his uncle’s farm. His goal was to gain enough expe­ri­ence to qual­i­fy for fur­ther study at Devon’s Seale-Hayne agri­cul­tur­al col­lege, but there were a cou­ple of bumps in his road back to the UK. First­ly, his father tried to have him kid­napped because he thought Jon­ny was wast­ing his time with farm­ing and should join the Kenyan army. For­tu­nate­ly it was thwart­ed when Jon­ny bought the would-be kid­nap­pers a pint and con­vinced them it would be a bad idea. Sec­ond­ly, the col­lege wouldn’t admit him based on his time work­ing in Kenya, demand­ing instead that his prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence be under­tak­en in the UK.

Final­ly, here’s a fan­tas­tic pho­to of a late leg­endary Bris­tol pub land­lord.

And that’s it. For more links and read­ing check out Alan McLeod on Thurs­day and Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 13 July 2019: Molson, Heineken, RateBeer

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting or noteworthy in beer and pubs in the past week, from Burton to beer vats.

First, some news: fol­low­ing up on its appar­ent col­lapse in Feb­ru­ary, we now hear via 853 that Lon­don brew­ery Hop Stuff has been acquired by Mol­son Coors:

The company’s investors – many of whom were local to Wool­wich – will receive noth­ing from the sale, which came a month after the company’s Twit­ter account announced: “Near­ly there with some­thing great for Hop Stuff!” One of the founders of the com­pa­ny, James Yeo­mans, set up a new com­pa­ny, JY Advi­so­ry Ltd, in March, while Hop Stuff was in tur­moil, accord­ing to Com­pa­nies House records. His wife, Emma Yeo­mans, who found­ed the com­pa­ny with him, resigned from Hop Stuff in April.

Here’s anoth­er nugget: after years of chat, we final­ly know what’s going on with brew­ing at the old Young’s Brew­ery site in Wandsworth – there’s going to be a new pub with attached brew­ery and Sam­brook’s (which has always been some­thing of an homage to Young’s) will also be mov­ing there from Bat­tersea.

And then there’s this, fol­low­ing on from last week’s lit­tle flur­ry of acqui­si­tions by the Beer Hawk:


(We also refer you to this post of ours from 2016.)

Heineken sign

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Jon­ny Gar­rett attempts to unpick the pol­i­tics around tied pubs with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to Heineken. We were espe­cial­ly struck by this point on which, we have to admit, we had not put togeth­er two and two:

Slow­ing down pro­ceed­ings and start­ing nego­ti­a­tions well beyond “rea­son­able” terms aren’t the only ways that large pub com­pa­nies are try­ing to restrict the num­ber of pub­li­cans going free of tie. In Heineken’s case, the acqui­si­tions of Beaver­town Brew­ery and Brix­ton Brew­ery were in part to offer beer with “craft” cre­den­tials to their 2,000-strong Star Pubs & Bars’ estate, intend­ing to remove one motive for pub­li­cans to look else­where. This in turn has shut out oth­er large brew­eries and dis­trib­u­tors who had hoped to sign large con­tracts with Star and Punch pubs.

(For years, peo­ple have been say­ing we need more cov­er­age of the busi­ness side of pubs and brew­ing; it feels as if we’re get­ting there, to the point that there’s a sense of com­pe­ti­tion to break sto­ries fastest, have the sharpest take, dig up the best source. Good news, that.)

Molson Coors brewery in Burton upon Trent.

It’s some­times fun to read a piece about beer by some­one who isn’t into beer, like this reflec­tion on “Burton(-)(up)on(-)Trent” by rail­way tick­er Scott Willi­son:

Beer is awful. At least, it is at first. Beer is this orange mess you have to force your­self to like because every­one else is drink­ing it. That first pint you get as a teenag­er, that won­drous moment when you get to drink what every­one else drinks… and then you taste it and it’s bit­ter and flat and gross… Of course, you have to train your­self. You have to force your­self to have more and even­tu­al­ly you get used to it. After a while you sort of like it. Then you real­ly like it. Then you end up an alco­holic like me.

Beer maturing in vats.
Vats at George’s of Bris­tol as pic­tured in the Illus­trat­ed Lon­don News in 1909.

A fas­ci­nat­ing nugget from Mar­tyn Cor­nell: we’ve all heard about the Lon­don porter flood of 1814, a sta­ple of did-you-know pieces for some years now, but Man­ches­ter had a go in 1831. He writes:

[The] vat that burst at Meux’s brew­ery, off Tot­ten­ham Court Road, con­tain­ing near­ly six times as much porter as the one that col­lapsed at Mottram’s brew­ery in Sal­ford in 1831, but eight peo­ple, all women and chil­dren, died in the Lon­don flood, while the only real vic­tim of the one in Sal­ford was a pig that must have had a seri­ous hang­over the next day.

Playing the piano in a London pub.

Excit­ing news: The Ulti­mate Lon­don Pub Crawl is back! Their first post since Novem­ber 2017 is an account of an expe­di­tion to Col­liers Wood in south west Lon­don:

After our cathar­tic reunion, we quick­ly returned to our wry, lacon­ic selves and moved on to The Roy­al Stan­dard… The pub was of the car­pet­ed, live sports, local booz­er vari­ety. Men sat drink­ing, singly and in pairs. I ven­tured to the gents and a solo drinker fol­lowed me. He joined me at the uri­nals, gave me a cheeky wink and said, “it go in one end and out the t’other, dun’t it!” This remark­able insight, deliv­ered in a jaun­ty iambic hexa­m­e­ter, gave me pause for thought. Yes, I thought to myself, my God, yes — the fel­low is right! He then asked me if I was a local, the flat­ter­er. I admit­ted that, no, I lived near Kingston. He then pro­ceed­ed to reel off an accu­rate list of all the river­side pubs south of Kingston Bridge. What a man.

And, final­ly, we don’t exact­ly why, but we love this image:

News, nuggets and longreads 6 July 2019: hawks, hops, hiking

Here’s everything  that grabbed our attention in the past week in the world of beer and pubs, from retailers to railways. (A more fruitful week than last.)

First, big takeover news: Beer Hawk, the online retail out­fit tak­en over by AB-InBev in 2016, has itself absorbed two oth­ers this week. First, it took on what remained of The Bot­tle Shop and then sucked in Beer­Bods, famous for its drink-along-togeth­er social media events.

(Dis­clo­sure: Chris France from Beer Hawk is one of our Patre­on sup­port­ers and we were once paid to write an arti­cle for Beer­Bods.)

This all feels quite sud­den and shock­ing and Beer­Bods in par­tic­u­lar did at times approach feel­ing like a com­mu­ni­ty so there’s been a bit of under­stand­able emo­tion around it. But retail isn’t brew­ing – it does­n’t excite or inter­est peo­ple in the same way – and con­sumers will prob­a­bly for­get this fair­ly quick­ly.

The remain­ing inde­pen­dent shops and sell­ers, how­ev­er, will no doubt be feel­ing the pres­sure.

Illustration: moody London pub.

In the Guardian last week­end Andrew Antho­ny wrote about what makes the per­fect Eng­lish pub and the threat to tra­di­tion­al pubs in cen­tral Lon­don. This, we thought, was a par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing obser­va­tion:

In truth the Soho that the Coach and Hors­es epit­o­mised – bohemi­an, trans­gres­sive, hope­less­ly drunk – no longer exists, and any attempt to return to the “fea­tures that have made it such a famous pub”, as Fuller’s pledges to do, are doomed to be an exer­cise in muse­um cura­tion. What we most love about the past is that is no longer here… Yearn­ing for the ide­alised pub of yore is not, how­ev­er, a new pas­time. It’s prob­a­bly almost as old as pubs them­selves. Indeed, rem­i­nisc­ing about how a giv­en pub used to be is a sta­ple of pub con­ver­sa­tion. The nos­tal­gic lament is, after all, prac­ti­cal­ly a symp­tom of ine­bri­a­tion.

Timothy Taylor sign.

From Ian Thur­man comes this inter­est­ing nugget: after he com­plained about the qual­i­ty of a pint of Tim­o­thy Tay­lor Land­lord on Twit­ter, the brew­ery got in touch to ask for more infor­ma­tion, sent some­one in to deliv­er train­ing at the pub, and fixed the prob­lem.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 6 July 2019: hawks, hops, hik­ing”

News, nuggets and longreads 29 June 2019: brands, stats, Eurostar

Hmm. A short round-up this week, it seems, as not much has really grabbed our attention.

1. Brew­Dog has been declared one of the 25 most valu­able beer brands in the world, rank­ing above Carls­berg, by Brand Finance. This feels sig­nif­i­cant.

2. We’ve just heard about Lab Cul­ture, a West Mid­lands brew­ery pow­ered by the waste heat from the lights used in a ver­ti­cal farm­ing oper­a­tion. This feels futur­is­tic.

3. A new brief­ing paper from the library of the House of Com­mons includes lots of sta­tis­tics on pub num­bers, pubs per head, employ­ment in pubs and so on. (Link to PDF; via @ThurnellReadSoc.)

4. There was a brief pan­ic among beer geeks when it seemed as if Eurostar had set a lim­it on the amount of beer it was per­mis­si­ble to car­ry on cross-chan­nel trains; Eurostar has since clar­i­fied that the rule isn’t as dra­con­ian in prac­tice as it sound­ed on paper.

We’ll fin­ish this with a Tweet:

News, nuggets and longreads 22 June 2019: Birmingham, Bottle Shares, Books

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting, amusing or eye-opening in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from Burning Soul to the future of CAMRA.

First, some sad news: Mor­due Brew­ery has gone into admin­is­tra­tion. Found­ed in North Shields in 1995, Mor­due was best known for its Workie Tick­et real ale. The New­cas­tle Chron­i­cle includes some telling lines from co-founder Gar­ry Faw­son:

We have been look­ing to get invest­ment over the last 12 months but with no luck. We then put the brew­ery up for sale and again no seri­ous inter­est, which was par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­ap­point­ing to Matt and I… If you have won the amount of awards that we have and still no inter­est in buy­ing the busi­ness then we are just lost for words, to be hon­est… [The] mar­ket has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly. It has shrunk whilst at the same time there are now more brew­eries than there ever have been before.”

(Via @robsterowski.)

Old sign: B'HAM (Birmingham).

For Pel­li­cle Nic­ci Peet has pro­duced a pro­file of Birm­ing­ham’s Burn­ing Soul brew­ery with side notes on the city’s beer scene. You may think you’ve read enough of these ori­gin sto­ry pieces to last a life­time but, seri­ous­ly, this is a good one:

Chris Small: I used to work for the NHS. The job was fine and I was pret­ty good at it. It was mon­ey and I had a lit­tle place in Edg­bas­ton but I had quite a bit of debt and I didn’t real­ly have any sav­ings to make this work, so I sold close to every­thing. I sold the flat, all the fur­ni­ture, every­thing that I had at the time. I had four things: a van, my clothes, my mobile and I had…I’m not sure what else, there was def­i­nite­ly a fourth thing…

Nic­ci Peet: A brew­ery?

Chris Small: Half of a brew­ery!

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 22 June 2019: Birm­ing­ham, Bot­tle Shares, Books”