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News, nuggets and longreads 18 May 2024: Children of the Stones

Here’s our regular Saturday morning round-up of the best writing about beer. This time: nitro stout, bottle shops, books.

First, a pep talk from Coach, AKA Pete Brown, who has noticed that craft beer is down in the dumps and doesn’t think it needs to be:

We seem to talk so much about the issues and problems in the industry, the gossip and scandal, the bad practice and culture, who’s gone under and who’s been bought out, that there isn’t much time for talking about the joy of beer and brewing and drinking… Things are still way better now then they were back in the day. I still believe that craft beer has the potential to grow further if it remains interesting and fun. So if you are feeling jaded and wondering where to go, I’d like to offer some prompts to rediscovering creativity and joy.

The provocations and prompts he presents are good ones and could inspire some interesting conversations in the pub this weekend. Or – gasp! – some blog posts.


A pint of stout in a glass with gold writing that reads London Black.
A promo photo of London Black. SOURCE: Anspach & Hobday.

For Pellicle Laura Hadland has written about Anspach & Hobday’s London Black nitro stout… but also about Guinness, indirectly. Can you produce a nitro stout, even a successful one, without sensing the market leader looming over you? Many breweries have tried over the years. Here, we get some hard facts which paint a picture of meaningful but modest success:

In just three years, London Black has single-handedly fueled Anspach and Hobday’s growth, upping their production volume by nearly two-thirds at a time when other breweries have battened down the hatches, or even gone bust… “It was a tough sell to have on,” says Jack Duignan, who owns and manages London pub The Sutton Arms with his dad, Mick. He ran London Black side-by-side with Guinness, but eventually decided to remove the former in mid-2023. “It’s absolutely nothing against the beer or brewery as they are good friends of ours, but it just didn’t work out here.”


The shelves in a bottle shop

Will Hawkes has now shared his March newsletter online and it’s full of great information about longer-term trends based on conversations with specialist beer retailers:

What is interesting about bottle shops – beyond the produce – is the way in which they’ve tracked the evolution of beer in London. The rise and fall of 75cl bottled beer; the domination of hops, then and now; the impact of Covid-19; the gradual demise of growlers, or flagons; the arrival of natural wine; and much more besides. If you want to know how beer has changed since 2014, ask someone who runs one of these places… As a proportion of [Hop Burns & Black’s] turnover, [beer] has fallen from 80 percent in 2014 to 43 percent now. Wine is now about 30 percent of Clapton Craft’s sales, having started at 0. For Mother Kelly’s, which closed its two bottle-shop-only sites in 2022, Covid-19 made a big difference. “We’ve seen our bottled beer, to drink in and takeaway, just disappear,” [Nigel Owen] says. “We’ve gone from 100 to 150 cases a week to about 10 cases a week now.”


The word hops with a simple illustration of two hop cones.

The latest edition of Stan Hieronymus’s Hop Queries newsletter also has some fascinating facts and stats including this little surprise:

Citra and Mosaic production has been slashed the most, because they occupy the most aroma acres. Citra acreage is down 48 percent from its 2022 peak and Mosaic 44 percent since 2022… Several years ago, Citra surpassed Saaz as the world’s most popular aroma hop. Saaz could reclaim the crown this year.


The Sackville Bar at the Thompson Arms, Manchester, in 1966.

John Grindrod writes brilliantly about post-war architecture and planning and this week his newsletter focused on pubs:

It’s funny how pubs take you back in time. For me there was The Forum, the octagonal pub on stilts from the Croydon’s Whitgift Centre, with its trad bar of psychedelic squelchy carpet and dark brown furniture pretending it was a historic inn despite its futuristic design. Of course, if it had been preserved it would now be a historic inn. When I think of the Bedford Tavern in Croydon (does Bedford have a Croydon Tavern, I wonder?) it reminds me of early 90s Christmas eve drinks with mates, all tinsel and alcopops.

(Disclosure: there’s an essay by us in one of the books he recommends.)


An illuminated sign advertising Rothaus Pils in a German subway station.

We’ve been pondering why we like the beer and brewery profiles at Craft Beer & Brewing so much. Because, in some senses, they’re quite boring. But perhaps that’s a feature rather than a bug? There’s comparatively little ‘storytelling’ or mythologising, on the one hand, and a decent amount of technical detail on the other – but pitched at a level we can follow. For example, what makes Rothaus Pils taste the way it does? We hope some UK lager dabblers take notes on Ryan Pachmayer’s article:

The production team initially brews Tannenzäpfle to a higher strength, 5.6 percent ABV, before diluting it down to 5.1 percent ABV just after filtration… The malt for Tannenzäpfle is 100 percent pilsner. Yet even compared to many other German pilsners of similar grist, the finished beer is noticeably a touch lighter… Rothaus takes care to keep unwanted oxygen out of the hot side of the process, mostly by purging pipes with hot water… The brewery creates its own sauergut, an acidified wort, to adjust the pH levels. The water comes straight from wells on site, and it is incredibly soft—similar to the legendary water at Pilsner Urquell in Bohemia. To its own water, Rothaus adds only a bit of calcium chloride.


Finally, from Instagram, news of the reissue of an important book which now comes with a fold-out map… (Grindrod, above, has notes.)

For more good reading check out Stan Hieronymus’s round-up from Monday and Alan McLeod’s from Thursday.

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 11 May 2024: Daybreak Express

Every Saturday we pull together the best of the previous week’s writing about beer and pubs. This time we’ve got White Shield, Leeds and dark mild.

First, a couple of bits of news:

  • James Watt has stepped aside as CEO of BrewDog, taking on a non-executive role. Douglas Fraser at the BBC suggests this is about getting the house in order before the company floats on the stock market. The ongoing story about BrewDog Waterloo might also have been a factor but why this scandal might be the final straw, and not any of those that preceded, is unclear.
  • Thornbridge has taken custody of a Burton union set from Carslberg-Marston’s, preserving at least a small piece of British brewing history. The move was facilitated by Garrett Oliver. Thornbridge’s head brewer, Rob Lovatt, says “there will certainly be some special cask beers being produced on them shortly”.
  • Heineken has announced that it is refurbishing and reopening 62 pubs across the UK. It’s good to have a story about pubs opening, and staying as pubs, although we don’t personally tend to think of the Star Pubs brand as a mark of quality. The Pub Curmudgeon has commentary.

A vintage van in the shape of a bottle of White Shield.

At Pellicle Pete Brown has written about the demise of Worthington White Shield, the legendary bottle-conditioned IPA that ceased production in 2023:

The white shield was the family crest, still visible above the door of what used to be William Worthington’s town house in Burton. It appeared as a logo on the beer in the 1870s, and by the end of the nineteenth century drinkers called it “White Shield.” It was officially renamed in 1950… As a revival of interest in traditional British beer styles grew following the birth and rapid growth of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in the early 1970s, White Shield gained both notoriety and a cult following as one of only five remaining bottle conditioned ales available in Britain. It was a lifeline in places where cask ale was of poor quality, or non-existent. Pouring it perfectly and leaving the sediment in the bottle became the ultimate test of any drinker or bartender’s skill.


An ornate tiled bar in a traditional pub. There is bunting with George flags across the room and stained glass windows.
SOURCE: Chris Dyson.

Chris Dyson at Real Ale, Real Music has been to Leeds where he visited a newly reopened heritage pub, The Garden Gate, which has gone right up our must-visit list:

The corridor, with its tiling, etched windows, and rich mahogany is impressive enough, but I walked into the vault which was a stunning room with many remarkable features. An amazing ceramic bar counter with an elaborate mahogany bar back lay at the end of the room, which also featured an attractive mosaic floor. In the middle of the room there was a fireplace with a faience surround, with a moulded plasterwork ceiling above. The pub had been developed in Edwardian times, with the interior pretty much untouched since 1902 when it was rebuilt for its owner, a Mr Edward Wilson by architect W.Mason Coggill fom nearby Stourton, with much of the work on the pub done by the local companies Burmantofts and J. Claughton.


The word 'Mild' in a bold shadow font.

At Craft Beer and Brewing Josh Weikert has a substantial piece about how to brew mild, drawing on advice from Ron Pattinson and Martyn Cornell:

For his part, Pattinson is an evangelist for the use of sugars—especially No. 3 invert sugar—as well as caramel to achieve mild’s characteristic flavors. While No. 1 is the lightest invert sugar, No. 3 is medium-dark with some molasses-like flavors. “U.S. versions [of mild] are too harsh because they’re using black malt and roasted barley,” he says. “It’s easier to get dark fruit flavors from sugars than it is from malts. Just look at Timothy Taylor Golden [Best] and Dark [Mild]—the only difference is caramel!” Notably, Timothy Taylor—the English brewery best known for its award-winning flagship pale ale, Landlord—markets its Golden Best as a “golden mild ale.”


The interior of a basic Belgian cafe with red walls, wood panelling, a smoke-stained painting and a bare wooden table.
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh.

On Substack, where he seems to be most comfortable writing these days, Eoghan Walsh has shared another vignette from drinking in Brussels. It’s notable for, among other pleasures, this description of drinking non-alcoholic beer:

There is no warmth to it. It is just a cold glass of sort-of beer, and I drink it too quickly like a lemonade. It leaves no trace behind. Worse, it creates its own disappointment, digging a hole in me and failing to fill it with something else. It’s like a yawn that doesn’t catch.


Young's brewery logo on the outside of a pub.

At Shut Up About Barclay Perkins Ron Pattinson (it’s that man again) has been sharing recipes for Young’s beers from the 1970s:

A surprise about Young’s 1970s records, is that there’s quite a bit single-gyle brewing… There’s just pale malt, though three different lots, from two different maltsters. (Four, actually, as there’s some enzymic malt.) Accompanied by quite a bit of flaked maize and a little bit of No. 1 invert sugar. As well as malt extract, which I assume was in liquid form… Two types of English hops were used. With no indication of variety. Or age. It’s one of the few areas where the logs are weak. Though it does mention that 25% weren’t added to the copper, but to the hop back. Hence the zero minute addition.

This is especially interesting because, as those of you who’ve read our book Brew Britannia will know, Young’s Bitter was one of the beers that inspired the founding of CAMRA, with its legendary dry bitterness. Except Ron’s recipe doesn’t really suggest it was any more bitter than most other beers of the time. When we asked about this on Mastodon, Ron said that perhaps it was more highly attenuated. (More of the sugars were fermented out.) Hmm.


Finally, from Instagram, news of a very special pub opening in Wales

For more good reading check out Stan Hieronymus’s round-up from Monday and Alan McLeod’s from Thursday.

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 4 May 2024: Project Hail Mary

Every week, we round-up the most interesting writing about beer and pubs from the past week. This time, we’ve got flyovers, pub grub and hard data.

First, a few bits of brewery news, including one that’s close to home for us:

  • Buxton, founded in Derbyshire in 2009, has announced that it intends to appoint administrators, as reported at The Business Desk. This feels like a big one in the context of the craft beer boom of the 2010s. (We now have a standing search for brewery + administration, by the way.)
  • Bristol Beer Factory, founded in 2004, is moving its brewery… slightly. And expanding. Our observation on the ground would be that they’ve been pretty rampant in the past year or two, hoovering up accounts across the city, advertising on billboards, and achieving what seems like remarkable success with their non-alcoholic brand, Clear Head.
  • Greene King, founded in Suffolk in 1799, is also moving its brewing operation a similar distance, physically, but a long way in emotional, historic terms. As Jessica Mason reports at The Drinks Business: “The British brewer, known for beers such as Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale, has been brewing cask ales at its Westgate Brewery in Bury St Edmunds for over 200 years… However, despite its provenance attached to the historic brewery, it has made the decision to move and build a new brewery at Suffolk Park, next to Moreton Hall.”
  • And finally, the latest UK brewery tracker numbers are out from SIBA: “[The] UK total number of active brewers now stands at 1777, a -38 drop since the end of Q4 2023.”

A derelict London pub with a sign advertising Courage Beer.

Sticking with numbers, briefly, the author of the wonderful A London Inheritance blog has shared details of the London Data Store created created by the Greater London Assembly:

[It] has made available a very extensive range of raw data, and information, freely available, to view and download, and to use to understand different aspects of London today, how the city has, and continues to evolve… There is data in the London Data Store on things you would expect (such as population growth) as well as unexpected data, such as a spreadsheet of every recording studio in the city… There is also a spreadsheet of London’s pubs and bars in 2023, however with over 4,000 entries I did not want to overload the site on which the blog is hosted by importing and creating a map, so I will use a graph on the number of London pubs between 2001 and 2022… What is interesting about the graph is that whilst there has been a general decline in the overall number of pubs, this has mainly been a result of the closing of small pubs, those employing fewer than ten staff, whilst larger pubs employing more that ten have increased in number.

The spreadsheet and data obsessive in our house (Jess) will certainly be playing with these numbers.


An Edwardian pub with a tiled frontage underneath a huge concrete flyover.
SOURCE: Chris Dyson.

At Real Ale, Real Music Chris Dyson reports on the reinvention of The Olde Shears Inn, a pub in Halifax, West Yorkshire, as The Hop Monkey Music Bar. His post touches on the history of the town, its industry, and the coming of a mighty flyover which looms over the pub. This leads to an interesting final act to the post in which Chris recalls other pubs beneath bridges:

Aside from the micro pubs, taprooms, and breweries which are to be found in railway arches up and down the country from London to Newcastle via Manchester that are within the structure of the bridge, there are a number of free-standing pubs in different parts of the country that have a bridge or viaduct above them. One that stands out is the Crown in Stockport, which lies beneath the one of the 27 arches that make up the huge viaduct which dominates the town. In fact the viaduct is the largest brick-built structure in the country with an incredible 11 million bricks used in its construction. The Crown, one of many fine pubs located in the town, is a former Boddingtons pub as indicated by the vintage pub signage.


Jonathan Buford and Patrick Ware. SOURCE: Jordan Griffith/Good Beer Hunting.

For Good Beer Hunting Ruvani de Silva has profiled an American brewery called Arizona Wilderness based in Phoenix – or, rather, the latest incarnation of that brewery, in terms of its culture. It’s interesting because it acknowledges that rapid growth and sudden fame can make it easy for brewery owners to make bad decisions:

Within eight months [of opening], RateBeer awarded them Brewery of the Year, they were interviewed by Esquire Magazine, and they started collaborating with pretty much every craft beer superstar brewer around the world… Following the rush of attention and demand, there was a period where, while they didn’t lose sight of their goals pertaining to either brewing quality or sustainability, they struggled to balance the pressures of leadership and creativity. As they took on first the taproom adjacent to the Gilbert brewpub and then their downtown location, along with an ambitious wild ale program in the Woodnotes Cellar, the pair found themselves overstretched and at a greater distance from the heart of the business than they wanted to be. “It felt like I was sprinting up a mountain with Pat behind, then I would veer off course and Pat would have to decide whether to follow me or stick to the original route – with a group of people behind him, which was stressful for staff members,” says [brewery co-founder Jonathan] Buford.


A fancy old-fashioned shoe.

You might be interested to know that we also produce footnotes for these posts for Patreon subscribers. Here’s last week’s as a freebie taster. Please do consider signing up.


A pie, mash, mushy peas and gravy on a plate on a pub table. There is also a bottle of Henderson's Relish.

Paul Bailey (no relation) has written about the disappearance of the affordable pub lunch from the south of England. This is something we sometimes feel wistful about, too – whatever became of the sub-£5 pub lasagna? As Paul writes:

Pre-filled rolls remain the best option, and whilst these are really readily available in both the Midlands and the North, the opposite applies in London and the south east… In these parts of the country, the simple sandwich has ceased to exist, and if it is available, the description simple, no longer applies. Instead, the hungry trencherman is served a filling, between thick-cut slices of artisan bread – nothing wrong with that so far, but when its embellished with some type of greenery, ranging from few springs of rocket to a full-blown, and largely unwanted salad, complete with a fancy dressing that’s going to affect the taste of the beer, that’s a different matter… All these unwanted “extras” bump up the price, so much so that it’s not uncommon to be looking at £7 to £10 for a simple sandwich, especially in some of the posh “dining pubs” in the southeast.

This post is also where we learned the worrying news that the historically significant pubs The Barton Arms in Aston, Birmingham, has closed.


The illuminated box sign of the Chesham Arms.
SOURCE: Beer Insider/Glynn Davis.

At Beer Insider Glynn Davis has an observation from an East London pub that highlights an important customer service issue: really busy pubs aren’t fun places to be. As he reports:

You can catch the rather unique characteristics of the Chesham Arms in E9 on a Friday and Saturday evening when there is invariably a queue at its door and a one-in-one-out policy being implemented by its friendly manager Joe Garcia… Joe has a maximum capacity of a modest 180. Interestingly he had on occasions previously had as many as 250 people in the place but he found this delivered no more money into the tills. In fact it had actually worked against him because it annoyed customers because many had to stand when drinking as well as navigating long queues at the bar – that can only house seven servers standing shoulder-to-shoulder – and deal with seriously long waits at the toilets. No doubt the lack of queues outside the women’s toilets is a factor in the Chesham Arms having such a high percentage of female customers.


Finally, from social media, some Brussels boozing food…

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

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News opinion

News, nuggets and longreads 27 April 2024: Race Across the World

Every Saturday we round up the most interesting writing about beer and pubs. This time we’ve got tickers, micropubs and Australia.

First, some news. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is digging on the matter of ‘Fresh Ale’, a concept being pushed by Carslberg-Marston’s, and has now taken its complaint to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade. CAMRA chairman Nik Antona said in a letter to Kemi Badenoch:

“We are now asking the Business Secretary to step in and allow National Trading Standards to investigate Carlsberg Marston’s misleading ‘Fresh Ale’ dispense method at a national level…Of course, if Carlsberg Marston’s were interested in being transparent, they could simply serve their ‘Fresh Ales’ from keg fonts, and be proud and clear about the characteristics of the beers.”

It feels to us as if CAMRA is excited to have found an issue that it can campaign around in high 1970s style – something that, surely, almost the whole membership can agree on. (Or at least won’t care about enough to argue.) If the outcome of this is that hand-pumps become somehow legally associated with cask-conditioned beer, that would certainly be interesting. And perhaps in an election year, with a government scrambling for feel-good ‘announceables’, CAMRA might manage to pull it off.


The Untappd logo – two bottles clinking together.

At Beer Nouveau Steve Dunkley shares thoughts on Untappd, the social media app for beer tickers. Alongside views on the usefulness of publicans using it as a source of data there’s this astonishing anecdote from the front line:

I once had a ticker of repute come into a pub I was working in only to find out a beer he’d heard was on (and this was in the days before mobile phones, let along smartphones and apps) only to find that the particular beer he wanted to tick off had run out a couple of hours earlier. Not to be deterred, he ordered a half of something standard, and under the guise of popping to the loos, made his way to the cask storage to take the cork out of the empty and pour the yeasty, trubby dregs into a small plastic bottle to take away – purely to be able to say he’d “tried” the beer. I’d hate to think what his tasting notes might have been.


A wall at the Butcher's Arms in Herne with books, posters, leaflets, and a cut out of Kylie Minogue.

Scott Spencer at Micropub Adventures has been back to the birthplace of the micropub, Kent, and has dropped a series of posts crammed with reports from places like Sandwich, Margate and Herne Bay:

First a walk down Herne Bay Pier brings me to my first call here to “Beer on the Pier”, run by local brewery “Goody Ales”. Beer on the Pier is a wooden hut located on the pier which has a bar and seating area inside, a lovely area inside with a front room like comfy feeling, along with outside seating when the weather’s nicer (it was a bit windy today). A really nice welcome here from Elaine, and was great chatting to her and a couple of regulars in the pub. I love the wording above the front saying “I do love a beer beside the seaside”.


A sign on a building advertising an Augustiner Bierhalle (Augustiner Beer Hall).

There’s some interesting, properly footnoted research from Franz Hofer at Tempest in a Tankard about the emergence of lager in Munich:

At first blush, the Munich Baker-Brewer Dispute might look like a curious footnote in the annals of medieval history. But it’s much more than that. Flaring up sporadically between 1481 and 1517, this inter-guild dispute is not only a colourful story, it also illuminates a momentous transformation in brewing history: the shift from top fermentation to bottom fermentation in Bavaria, and the emergence of what we now call lager. For when we zoom in and focus on what the decades-long dispute was all about, we notice something interesting: yeast… Besides furnishing us with documentary evidence confirming that medieval brewers and bakers knew what yeast was, the dispute also reveals that brewers were beginning to practice a different kind of brewing. Significantly, the yeast for this new process required more time and lower temperatures. What’s more, brewers were in the process of learning that more malt, higher hop rates, and long periods of cold storage resulted in a beer that was resistant to souring microbes during fermentation, kept longer, and, most importantly, tasted better.

This isn’t our turf or period – our contribution to the history of lager is distinctly provincial – but the various references throughout the piece give us considerable confidence.


The sign for a London pub, The Old Justice, with a Charrington logo and the face of a judge in a long wig.
The Old Justice, Bermondsey Wall.

Ron Pattinson continues to explore and reminisce about British beer in the 1970s with a catalogue of the breweries and beers absorbed into Bass Charrington:

The company was formed in 1967 by the merger of Charrington United Breweries and Bass Mitchells & Butlers… They started the decade with a bewildering array of breweries, some quite small and many in close proximity to each other. For example, in the West Midlands and Northwest England. Heavy pruning ensued… The chairman’s insane plan was to have just two breweries, Cape Hill in Birmingham and the new brewery in Runcorn serving the whole of the UK. Which led them to closing most of their breweries. Though, when they discovered Runcorn couldn’t brew acceptable versions of some of their Northern brands, breweries such as Stones in Sheffield and the Tower Brewery in Tadcaster were reprieved.


An ornate pub-hotel in Adelaide with tiles and Victorian lettering: "Young and Jackson".

Tandleman has been to Australia and has published a series of posts about his experience snatching pub visits between other activities. The most recent piece is about Melbourne:

Bodriggy Brewery was quite small and very welcoming, and we enjoyed the banter with the barman and locals. I even won a free pint on a (free) scratch card – well, it was a half pint, but they gave me a pint anyway.  Going for a pee, I was shocked to see that behind the cosy front bar was a huge beer hall with the brewery at the back.  Blimey. How had we not noticed that?  Again, the staff were great – they even charged my mobile for me – and we had a fine time checking out the beers. Sadly – a recurring theme – none were remotely dark.

You can work your way back from there for more of the same in Perth, Adelaide, and elsewhere.


Finally, from BlueSky, another nugget around video games in pubs…

A post from videogame history (@vghistory.bsky.social) with a flyer advertising 'Pub Pong' from 1972.

imagery: a camera man projecting an image of two people playing pong on a table tennis table. there is a real image of the arcade cabinet (very plain, brown wooden finish with a metallic plate where the player button are with 'pub pong' printed neatly in black on it and a thin metallic centralized coin slot below.
text: the australian made t.v. table tennis game
* suitable for all locations
* solid state, trouble free operation
* realistic game sound
* phenominal earnings - lasting appeal
* 20c play
* 18 months warranty
* formica - cabinet
size. height 62" width 27" depth 24" packed. weight 79 kilos, 174 lbs.


videogame history
@vghistory.bsky.social
pub pong, flyer, arcade (1972) flyers.arcade-museum.com/videogames/s...
imagery: a camera man projecting an image of two people playing pong on a table tennis table. there is a real image of the arcade cabinet (very plain, brown wooden finish with a metallic plate where the player button are with 'pub pong' printed neatly in black on it and a thin metallic centralized coin slot below.
text: the australian made t.v. table tennis game
* suitable for all locations
* solid state, trouble free operation
* realistic game sound
* phenominal earnings - lasting appeal
* 20c play
* 18 months warranty
* formica - cabinet
size. height 62" width 27" depth 24" packed. weight 79 kilos, 174 lbs.
ALT
Apr 11, 2024 at 13:01
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imagery: a camera man projecting an image of two people playing pong on a table tennis table. there is a real image of the arcade cabinet (very plain, brown wooden finish with a metallic plate where the player button are with 'pub pong' printed neatly in black on it and a thin metallic centralized coin slot below.
text: the australian made t.v. table tennis game
* suitable for all locations
* solid state, trouble free operation
* realistic game sound
* phenominal earnings - lasting appeal
* 20c play
* 18 months warranty
* formica - cabinet
size. height 62" width 27" depth 24" packed. weight 79 kilos, 174 lbs.

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round up from Thursday.

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2024: Slap Shot

Every Saturday we share links to a selection of articles or blog posts about beer and pubs. This time we’ve got Art Deco pubs, posh publicans and lethal breweries.

First, some news. The Stonegate pub chain has issued a profit warning putting the future of its more than 4,000 outlets in doubt. This story also highlights the problem with chains: when they go, it can potentially wipe out a bunch of pubs at once, rather than the slow drip-drip of closures, causing a jolt across the industry.


An illustration from an old book of a village inn.

Still on the subject of pubs under threat, for Pellicle Jacob Smith has written a provocative piece questioning the benefits of pubs being taken over and run by local communities:

In a 2022 report, the Plunkett Foundation, a charity which helps rural communities in Britain to create and run community-owned businesses, reported that only one in 12 rural community-owned pub projects reached trading status. That means 91.7% of all rural community ownership pub bids failed without ever pouring a pint. These failed bids are rarely, if ever, highlighted by mainstream media. And while it’s human nature to focus on the winners and allow the also-rans the dignity of anonymity, such blatant survivorship bias risks distorting our perception.


The Art Deco Yacht Inn in Penzance, in the sun.

We’re going to bundle together two related posts here, both about inter-war pubs. First, there’s a piece by Joshua Abbott of Modernism in Metroland about modernist and Art Deco pubs in outer London:

The breweries of the 1920s and 30s wanted to overhaul the image of the pub, changing it from a dirty, dark place of drunkenness to somewhere light, spacious and family friendly. To do this they employed architects or even founded their own in-house design departments to produce pubs that the average, respectable citizen would be happy to be seen in. These new pubs were often built besides the new ring roads and bypasses being constructed at the time. Middle class families could take their newly purchased car out for a Sunday drive and have lunch at a suitable pub along the way. A nice example is the neo-Tudor style Daylight Inn in Petts Wood opened in 1935 by Charringtons Brewery, and designed by their in-house architect Sidney Clark.

Then, over at Pub Gallery, Dermot Kennedy has part one of a series of heavily-illustrated posts about Art Deco pubs, starting with those to be found on the English coast:

The trend for streamline moderne in architecture coincided with a boom in ocean going liners, and the launch of the SS Normandie in 1935 and the RMS Queen Mary in 1936 was huge news at the time. Both had art deco interiors and architects were inspired to incorporate features from the liners into their new pubs. The obvious place to locate them was by the sea, and a number of ports and resort towns found themselves with art deco pubs by the end of the 1930s.


A semi-crushed beer can.

Jeff Alworth has shared a chunk of a memoir in progress focusing on his father and stepfathers and how the relationships they had with alcohol might have shaped his attitude to beer:

I know almost nothing about my birth father, yet he looks back at me from the mirror. My thin body, over six feet of it, is Gorostiza rather than stocky Metcalf. It’s a Basque body, or partly so, which isn’t uncommon in Boise, with the largest population of Basques outside Europe… He left me one more inheritance—an affection for booze… The Gorostizas were drinkers. At large Gorostiza family gatherings, the wine and liquor flowed. Mom recalled them more with wonder than affection. The Metcalfs also had big family gatherings, even loud ones. But they were sedate, whereas the Gorostiza get-togethers were tinged with the chaos of drink… Unlike her parents and sister, Mom liked to drink, too. And she liked drinking with Richard; it was something they did together. I think that’s part of the reason Mom liked Richard—he was older, had this strange family, and loved to go out at night. Mom loved getting all dressed up, selecting one of the wigs from the collection she kept on Styrofoam heads in her bedroom, do her nails, and go out on the town.


A warning sign on a brewing vessel: DANGER, CAUSTIC.

Liam K is back with another instalment of his series ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’. This time he’s used a copy of the Guinness in-house magazine from 1963 as the jumping off point for an exploration of health and safety in Irish breweries – or, more specifically, of their absence:

The newspapers of the 1800s and early 1900s are dotted with reports of deaths in Irish breweries to the point where almost every decade had a report or two of workers being killed on or off site. It is, even at this remote juncture, a difficult read, as many of the reported inquests go into the details of precisely what happened these individuals, and often include a list of the people they have left behind, where sometimes, almost an afterthought, the reporter will mention the wife, children, parents or siblings that were left in heartache and possible destitution at the loss of a loved one. It is worth remembering at all times that we are dealing with actual human beings who lived not terribly long ago and who possibly still have ancestors walking our streets whose lives were affected directly or indirectly by such a dreadful occurrence.


A jumble of pubs.

On Substack David Jesudason has dug up the story of an aristocratic publican whose snobbery and racism were shameless:

“One has an absolute right to refuse service to anyone without reason. Or rather, one has until this moment.”… The words above were spoken in 1969 by the ‘esquire’ and proprietor of the Tickell Arms, Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, Joseph (AKA John or Kim) Hollick de la Taste Tickell… Tickell had been a publican there since 1958; his family (he claimed) at one time owned 11,000 acres but in 1970 this had dwindled to fewer than 100 acres. Despite this shrinking Cambridgeshire empire – or because of it – he ran the Tickell Arms as a mini-fiefdom which largely manifested itself as him deciding who was or wasn’t allowed to drink there… He barred people for a lot of class-based reasons which seem bizarre today. One of his biggest annoyances were people who wore braces – calling them “hideous apparel worn by grubby people and are offensive to me and other customers”. In fact, a lot of the reasons for barring people were ridiculous, like in 1973 he threw out a group of drinkers for wearing nuclear disarmament badges.


For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2024: Slap Shot