News, nuggets and longreads 4 July 2020: table service, jug and bottle, colonialism

Here’s everything on beer and pubs we spotted and took note of in the past week, from government guidance to the appeal of the universal stout.

At the time of writing, some pubs will have been open for a couple of hours – or at least could have been, legally. Today is the day (some) pubs will be returning (in a limited way) for people to drink in. For reference and interest, here are some of the key bits of guidance and legislation published (worryingly close) to the deadline for re-opening:

The main thrust is, keep it simple; and it all assumes (rightly, in our view) that both pubs and citizens have a strong interest in making this work, so not everything needs to be nailed down in law. And existing laws around licensing and data protection provide options for sanctions anyway.

An Elizabethan inn.
SOURCE: The Conversation/English Broadside Ballad Archive.

The academics have been busy during lockdown. At The ConversationJames Brown from the University of Sheffield has written about the historic tradition of table service in English pubs:

Standing at the bar is one of the most cherished rituals of the British pub experience – and many people are worried that the new rules could be the beginning of the end of a tradition that dates back centuries. Except, it doesn’t – the bar as we now know it is of relatively recent vintage and, in many respects, the new regulations are returning us to the practices of a much earlier era…The bar as we know it [emerged] from the introduction of a new commodity in the 18th century: gin.

Stained glass in a pub: Jug & Bottle.

On a similar note, at the blog of the Drinking Studies Network Magnus Copps writes about how the provision of takeaway beer by pubs under lockdown is a revival of the old jug-and-bottle model:

To most of us living through the Coronavirus crisis the socially distanced retail experience has become ubiquitous. We have developed new social rules to manage the shuffle-dance of maintaining distance on the pavement or in the supermarket aisle, and such things are also played out in pubs making off-licence sales. Either limited numbers of customers are allowed in at any one time, or drinks are sold from the door directly onto the forecourt or the street. Two metre (and soon-to-be 1m) queuing guidelines are taped onto pub forecourts. Furniture (unused whilst internal and external drinking spaces remain closed) is used to partition off sections of space and offer a much diversified range of products for sale.

Detail from a vintage India Pale Ale beer label.

Sam Goodman specialises in writing about the history of food and drink in the context of the British Empire. This article on ‘Spaces of intemperance in the British Raj 1860-1920’ was published in April but was locked behind a paywall but is now freely available for all to read. It is about, not to put too fine a point on it, where people got pissed in colonial India:

As with the voyage out, a significant aspect of barracks life and routine was the administering of the soldier’s ration. Records vary as to how much alcohol was issued in differing presidencies of Madras, Bombay, and Bengal and amounts fluctuate further in relation to availability of supply, type of beverage, and the kind of service engaged in, but it appears that between 1800 and the late 1840s a standard issue of between 1/3rd -2/3rds of a pint of raw spirits per man per day was common, and typically provided at two points in the course of a day under the instructions that it was diluted with ‘two waters’ and consumed immediately. Later records indicate that 1–2 pints of beer was still a common ration until its abolition in 1889, and, in exceptional circumstances, until after the First World War.

1930s style picture of a pint of beer.

Adrian Tierney-Jones has been thinking about stout – not any particular stout but the Universal Stout:

It looks like a gentle sleep, beautiful in its shadowless sleekness, a mirror held to the soul, a soothing, soft and yielding shade that you immediately want to be friends with. If this is a stout, this is a stout, it is a stout, a stout that looks like a masterpiece in the glass. Let us now pass onto to the array of aromatics that emerge from the glass: the luxury of vanilla, the softness of childhood, the remembered laughter of a young child; the caressive nature of chocolate and coffee, the bittersweet memory of a long-lost espresso in a sweet-smelling cafe hidden away beneath the streets of Milan; the heft and weight of roastiness, the bracing bitterness of roasted malt that crackles with the intensity of a bonfire smelt several fields away on a still day.

If you fancy a break from all that reading, why not check out this episode of The Bowery Boys podcast about the Yorkville district of New York, once known as Kleindeutschland. The discussion of George Ehret’s Hell Gate brewery is the highlight, of course.

Finally, from Twitter…

For more good reading, have a look at Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.


News, nuggets and longreads 27 June 2020: All eyes on 4 July

Here’s everything on the subject of beer or pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from the re-opening of pubs to taproom culture.

The big news this week was the announcement by the UK Government that pubs will be permitted to re-open from Saturday 4 July, following new guidelines. Reactions to this have been mixed, it’s fair to say.

Some fear it is too much, too soon, and don’t trust the industry or drinkers to behave themselves.

Others think it’s too little, too late, and see the guidelines as fatally restricting and/or pointlessly vague.

Here’s a small selection of the commentary:


Will Hawkes continues his excellent series of of lockdown beer business vignettes with notes on a conversation with Andy Smith of Partizan Brewing and the future of the Bermondsey Beer Mile:

“A lot of Bermondsey is in very close quarters,” he says. “It’s a bit of a cattle market. If you try and extend queues, they’re going to be really long queues, stretching down those roads. And then there are the toilets: that’s a big challenge… For me, it depends on how well it is policed. It is a really challenging decision to be open on that Saturday … Why have they done it on a Saturday? Everyone is going to be so geared up. It’s good for restaurants, where you can get everybody seated properly. But the Bermondsey Beer Mile? It’s a real challenge, but I don’t want to close – it’s not good for the business, and I don’t want to be responsible for creating more carnage elsewhere.”

Illustration: "Odd One Out".

For Good Beer Hunting Stephanie Grant has written about the experience of being the only black person in all-white American brewery taprooms:

I remember the first time I stepped into a brewery about 10 years ago, unsure and precautious as I waded through the sea of White people dressed in white and blue polo shirts and khaki pants. My husband and I made our way through the crowd and ordered with some guidance from the server behind the bar… With my glass in hand, I became more intrigued by the surrounding atmosphere. Everywhere, there were groups of young, White men who looked like the frat guys who roamed the halls of my college. Their postures conveyed how comfortable they were in an environment that was foreign to me. I felt like an outsider, an unwanted guest encroaching on someone’s private space.

Virtual events
SOURCE: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.

Though not directly related to beer, there’s lots for beer people to learn from this piece at the AV Club on the recent surge in online events. Its three contributors together argue that for disabled and marginalised people, virtual festivals and conferences aren’t a compromise but something close to ideal:

For some, events like concerts, drag shows, and comedy open mics being moved online… has been a windfall, with more live entertainment than ever before now at their disposal. There are a number of reasons why someone might struggle with attending, say, a concert: The venue may not be ADA-compliant, for example, or they may have trouble standing for hours at a time, or they may simply be located far away from a major city without the funds or free time to travel.

Here’s an interesting new development for Bristol: an off-licence dedicated to stocking and serving booze made by women. There’s a piece on Bristol247 explaining the concept.

And finally, from Twitter…

For more good reading, have  a look at Alan’s selection of links from Thursday.


News, nuggets and longreads 20 June 2020: criminality, Cologne, crisps

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from fraud to scampi fries.

‘Furlough fraud’ has become a buzz-phrase in the past few weeks. Generally, it takes the form of claiming compensation for furloughed staff from the Government but then asking, or allowing, those staff to continue working. In hospitality, however, there is talk of a rather nastier practice, as reported by Bar Life UK:

On Tuesday this week I called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for comment on a story about employers withholding furlough pay from their employees. The first words out of the press officer’s mouth, before I had even finished asking the question, were: “That would be a crime.”

(Via @CraftBeerCommie.)

A view of the imaginary bar.
SOURCE: Steven Bracki.

A bit of eye candy: Graphic visualisation artist Steven Bracki lives in Glasgow and recently tackled a long-term project: creating realistic 3D renderings of a bar based on the much-admired Glasgow Subway, AKA The Clockwork Orange. It looks, we’re sure you’ll agree, cool as hell.

Beer hall, Cologne.

For PellicleHollie Stephens has written about drinking in Cologne in the run up to the city’s famous carnival:

While waiting for the rain to stop, I had the opportunity to learn what the Carnival is all about from some locals. Put simply, it can be summarised in a single word: debauchery… “I remember leaving one bar at 6am last year, at the end of Carnival”, a fellow patron told me. “After serving all day and all night, they went to lock the doors, and then realised that they were gone. The doors were solid oak, and someone had taken them. They brought them back, after one more drink. They just didn’t want the night to be over.”


News, nuggets and longreads 13 June 2020: mild, missing pubs, morality

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that struck us as especially interesting in the past week, from endangered styles to sleep warehouses.

For Ferment, the promotional magazine published by beer retailer Beer52, Katie Mather has written about mild – if everyone feels so fond of it, why is it so hard to get hold of?

“You don’t get many milds nowadays, do you?” says a fellow drinker, after I tell him I’m drinking a mild. “Never see them around anymore.” I found the comment curious, because there was one in my hand, and I was drinking it. A strange sensation crept over me, as though he had looked at me, and at my beer, and found us both transparent; as though despite appearances, we did not really exist.


News, nuggets and longreads 6 June 2020: Black Lives Matter

Here’s everything about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from #BlackLivesMatter to the mysteries of bitter.

For Good Beer Hunting, beer writer and broadcaster Jamaal Lemon provides a succinct, cutting summary of his experience as a black American, from worrying about how to teach his son to present himself to the world to being the odd man out at craft beer events:

My great-great-grandfather Ernest Barber Sr. was born in Catawba, South Carolina on April 15, 1889. His grandfather was born in 1845, and his grandmother in 1830. They, too, lived, worked, and died in Catawba, but they were born into slavery. Ernest Barber Sr. died in 1976… I was born in January 1979… Slavery in America is only a few generations away from all of us—in my case, its direct reach extends to three years prior to my birth. Most Americans mark their birth year by a TV show they remember, or a popular song. I mark it by how far away slavery was from my body.

Dr. J Nikol Jackson-Beckham has been reflecting on the purpose behind her Craft Beer for All project. Perhaps beer doesn’t feel hugely important at this particular moment, she suggests, but…

it is in the banality of beer that I see its greatest potential to affect positive social change. Systemic anti-black racism is not born of malicious intents, spectacular violence, or complex conspiracies. Rather, it is continuously reproduced in everyday acts of carelessness and comfort, quiet omissions and revisions, and unthinking webs of justification that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives–webs so well made that when malicious and spectacular acts of racist violence are set before us, we swaddle them–excuses drifting from our lips like lullabies. I can think of no better tool, no better place, no better community than craft beer to do the everyday work of unraveling American racism.

At Craft Beer AmethystRuvani urges the US craft beer industry to opt-in to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and to mean it:

No one is dying in the beer industry. It’s not our fault that ignorant, brutal police officers and other individuals are committing racially motivated murder. What possible relation could this have to our own lack of diversity and inbuilt reluctance to do anything about it? Everything. Absolutely everything… Whether you work in the beer industry or are a regular beer consumer, this is your landscape, your everyday, your home-from-home. This is the world that you inhabit, the world you see as normal, and if that world is not reflective of the wider world at large it becomes easy to forget that other people, different people, exist. If they cease to exist through their absence, then their concerns, needs and ultimately their voices disappear from that landscape and unconscious bias self-perpetuates in their absence.