News, Nuggets and Longreads 19 January 2019: Bottleshares, Boddies, Brand Loyalty

Here’s everything on beer and pubs we felt the urge to bookmark in the past seven days, from coolships to kask kontroversy.

Joe Stange is now writ­ing for Craft Beer & Brew­ing and has announced his arrival with an excel­lent piece on Fran­co­nia which suc­ceeds in find­ing some new angles on this much-writ­ten-about beer region:

Here is anoth­er thing you can see upstairs, in the attic: a wide, riv­et­ed cop­per cool­ship… Or rather: You can see it, until the boil­ing-hot wort hits the pan—littered with a sur­pris­ing amount of hops pel­lets for a burst of aroma—and opaque steam rapid­ly fills the attic. After that, it’s dif­fi­cult to see any­thing in there for a while. This cool­ship is the kind of thing you might expect to see in a lam­bic brew­ery, or in an ambi­tious Amer­i­can wild-beer brew­ery, or in a muse­um. Its orig­i­nal pur­pose, how­ev­er, has noth­ing to do with sour beers. It is sim­ply an old-fash­ioned way to cool wort. Andreas Gän­staller uses it every time he brews lager… “The wort streams out real­ly clear,” he says. “The beer is much more clear because all the bad stuff goes away in the steam.”

Illustration: beer bottles.

If you’ve ever fan­cied organ­is­ing a bot­tle share, or won­dered exact­ly what a bot­tle share is, then you’ll find this primer by Rach Smith at Look at Brew use­ful. In in, she explains how the bot­tle share she runs in Brighton works, and offers tips on set­ting up your own:

Think about the order in which you’ll be pour­ing. If there are pale/low abv beers for exam­ple, start with them and leave the big, bold Impe­r­i­al stouts for last so you don’t com­plete­ly destroy your taste buds ear­ly on… [And] don’t judge. It’s not about who can bring the rarest beers, it’s about social­is­ing, learn­ing a lit­tle bit along the way and hav­ing a damn good time.


An inter­est­ing point from Ed – could the rea­son cask beer num­bers are down be because we lost a few big brands that made up the bulk of the num­bers, such as Boddington’s?

Sierra Nevade Brewing Co neon sign.

With #Flag­shipFeb­ru­ary in mind (see last week’s round-up) Kate Bernot has writ­ten about con­sumer promis­cu­ity for The Take­out:

I say this whole idea of promis­cu­ity and no brand loy­al­ty is gross­ly mis­de­fined,” says Lester Jones, chief econ­o­mist for the Nation­al Beer Whole­salers Asso­ci­a­tion. “It was pret­ty easy 25–30 years ago to find a brand that you liked and trust­ed and had rela­tions to. I don’t think peo­ple have changed, I think it’s just tak­ing longer to sift through the mul­ti­tude of choic­es.… Instead of accept­ing the fact that their job is a lot hard­er, it’s easy for brew­ers to turn and say ‘The con­sumer is fick­le. He doesn’t know what he wants.’ No, the con­sumer knows what he wants and the con­sumer is tast­ing to find what he wants, but giv­en so many choic­es, it just takes longer,” Jones says.

Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

All this is well and good but what peo­ple real­ly want to know is this: where’s the beef at? Well, Jes­si­ca Mason wrote this piece argu­ing that the embrace of cask beer by the likes of Cloud­wa­ter sig­nals a resur­gence in the health of its image

[Cloudwater’s Paul] Jones [says] that a lot of tra­di­tion­al brew­eries up and down the coun­try are ‘com­plete pros and leg­ends’ with­in cask beer, even if they’re not turn­ing their hands to more mod­ern beer styles. ‘I think some­thing of a hybrid offer­ing from us real­ly ought to diver­si­fy what cask beer is and what it could be in the future.’

Wild Card’s head Brew­er Jae­ga Wise, who recent­ly won the title of Brew­er of the Year, will be relaunch­ing its cask-beer offer­ing next year. How­ev­er, she stress­es that it will be on the brewery’s terms, remind­ing how mod­ern brew­ers are reit­er­at­ing cask’s rel­e­vance, but are not will­ing to bow to out­dat­ed stereo­types.

…which prompt­ed this come­back from Tan­dle­man:

So we need mod­ern craft brew­ers to show us the way and revive cask? These are the same peo­ple that give you cask beer that looks like chick­en soup and under­mine the work done by brew­ers for many years to ensure clean, clear, bright beer with dis­tinct flavours.We’d more or less lost the “It’s meant to be like that” non­sense until craft got its hands on cask. Now it is back with a vengeance, as over­turn­ing the ortho­doxy has giv­en bar staff the right to say it once more, even if the beer looks like a mix­ture of lumpy fruit juices and smells like Henderson’s Rel­ish.

More point/counterpoint than beef, real­ly, but it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how the fault lines (cul­tur­al, gen­er­a­tional) con­tin­ue to reveal them­selves in new forms.

And final­ly, there’s this reminder of how many oppor­tu­ni­ties for dis­as­ter are built into the cask ale sup­ply chain:

As ever, for more links, check­out Stan on Mon­days (usu­al­ly includ­ing lots of stuff beyond beer, but still about beer) and Alan on Thurs­day (gen­er­al­ly thread­ing links togeth­er to make some sort of point).

News, Nuggets and Longreads 12 January 2019: Bitterness, Brüpond, Burlesque

Here’s everything we thought bookmark-worthy in the past week, from beer with bite to Double Diamond.

First, a quick stop at the BBC, where the recent ONS report on pub clo­sures con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate sto­ries: we know some areas have suf­fered par­tic­u­lar­ly bad­ly, but where are pubs open­ing? Where have the num­bers risen? The High­lands of Scot­land, it turns out, is one such region:

Since 2008, almost a quar­ter of pubs in the UK have shut accord­ing to Office for Nation­al Sta­tis­tics (ONS) analy­sis… But the study shows that in the High­lands there are 14% more pubs than there were 10 years ago… Paul Water­son, of the Scot­tish Licensed Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, said a major fac­tor behind the growth was that the pubs had done well cater­ing for tourists.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 12 Jan­u­ary 2019: Bit­ter­ness, Brüpond, Bur­lesque”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 5 January 2019: Gratitude and Onions

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past few weeks (given that we took Christmas off) from St Albans to air raid shelters.

At The Pur­suit of Abbey­ness Mar­tin Stew­ard asks an excel­lent ques­tion: why do peo­ple vis­it brew­ery tap­rooms?

On the face of it, this is an odd thing to do. Brew­eries with­out tap­rooms may give you a taste of their beer, but they are hard­ly places to kick back and put the world to rights over a good ses­sion. They can be inter­est­ing for beer lovers, but, if we’re hon­est, set­ting aside the few with spe­cial archi­tec­tur­al, his­tor­i­cal or brew­ing points of inter­est, one is much the same as anoth­er.

But per­haps there is some­thing deep­er going on:

When we knock on the door of a pokey lit­tle brew­ery at the ragged end of a rain­swept indus­tri­al estate, are we real­ly respond­ing to a soul-deep thirst to express our grat­i­tude, in per­son, to the brew­ers of our much-loved beer?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 5 Jan­u­ary 2019: Grat­i­tude and Onions”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 1 December 2018: Stats, Social Clubs, Suburban Pubs

Here are all the blog posts, articles and news stories around beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Norway, Maine, to Canley.

First, some­thing with a bit of weight behind it: UK government’s Office for Nation­al Sta­tis­tics (ONS) has pub­lished a report on the health of the pub mar­ket. The over­all con­clu­sion it reach­es is that, yes, lots of pubs have closed in the past 20 years, but “the total turnover of pubs and bars has held up, remain­ing flat since 2008, once infla­tion is tak­en into account”.

There’s also an inter­ac­tive tool which will give you a read­out for your town or city, e.g.

ONS chart on Bristol pubs -- down from 375 to 285 since 2001.

The report sug­gests increas­ing employ­ment in the pub trade might be down to the growth in food ser­vice, and a trend towards big­ger rather than small­er pubs. (But we won­der if the intro­duc­tion of RTI in 2013 might also be an influ­ence, effec­tive­ly end­ing  infor­mal (unre­port­ed) employ­ment in most sec­tors.)

Children's party at a social club.

His­to­ri­an of clubs Ruth Cher­ring­ton has writ­ten about her mem­o­ries of play­ing bin­go with her par­ents at the Can­ley Social Club and Insti­tute in Coven­try, and what it all meant:

Our local club was con­ve­nient­ly sit­u­at­ed just across the street from our house on a post­war coun­cil estate. Mum told us that Dad was thrilled to bits when plans for the clubs were drawn up in the late 1940s. Hav­ing a local place to drink and play games like bil­liards and crib­bage over a pint or two meant he would no longer have to trek to his old haunts on the oth­er side of town. Like many local men on the estate, he threw him­self into set­ting up the new club on the land allo­cat­ed by the Cor­po­ra­tion specif­i­cal­ly for that pur­pose. The club opened in a wood­en hut in 1948 and affil­i­at­ed to the Club and Insti­tute Union in 1950.

(PDF, unfor­tu­nate­ly.)

Norway, Maine, brewpub.

At Beer­vana Jeff Alworth has tak­en a moment to breathe and reflect on how ordi­nary it has become to find decent and inter­est­ing beer in unlike­ly places:

Human expe­ri­ence requires con­stant recal­i­bra­tion, and mine occurred about halfway through my dry-hopped pil­sner, Imper­son­ator. I was focused on the over­ly Amer­i­can hop char­ac­ter and lack of assertive malt fla­vor when it hit me: I am in a brew­pub in Nor­way, Maine. My crit­i­cal appa­ra­tus had been set to “world stan­dards.” I quick­ly recal­i­brat­ed to “18-month-old brew­pub in rur­al Maine,” and all of a sud­den it was look­ing mighty impres­sive. There were no flaws in that or any beers we tried, and part of my com­plaint was, admit­ted­ly, pref­er­ence (I don’t want to taste IPA in my pil­sner).

Debit card illustration.

We wrote about cashless/cardless pubs and bars ear­li­er this week, and it’s a top­ic gen­er­al­ly in the air. David Hold­en at Yes! Ale reports the real­i­ty on the ground where con­sumers are expect­ed to car­ry both cash and cards if they expect to vis­it more than one venue in the course of an evening:

Yes, I had to go back out in the wind and rain but at least I am in a posi­tion to get cash out at six o’clock in the evening. I don’t have to go into an open branch to get cash. In Koelschip Yard I was in the posi­tion to open my wal­let and draw a card out to make a pay­ment. There are many rea­sons why not every­one can do this. These rea­sons may be why one poten­tial cus­tomer has to “give this one a miss” or ask their mate “Do you mind get­ting the round in here?”.

Hofmeister lager.

And here’s anoth­er real­i­ty check, from Paul ‘no rela­tion’ Bai­ley: beers that you can’t actu­al­ly buy, even if you real­ly, real­ly want to, might as well not exist. His expe­ri­ence was with the award-win­ning revived ver­sion of Hofmeis­ter.

Vintage illustration: McSorleys

We were sur­prised to come across some­one this week who didn’t know Joseph Mitchell’s bril­liant 1940 essay on New York City tav­ern McSorley’s, AKA ‘The Old House at Home’. So now, in what might be a one-off, or could become a reg­u­lar fea­ture, wel­come to Clas­sics Cor­ner:

It is equipped with elec­tric­i­ty, but the bar is stub­born­ly illu­mi­nat­ed with a pair of gas lamps, which flick­er fit­ful­ly and throw shad­ows on the low, cob­web­by ceil­ing each time some­one opens the street door. There is no cash reg­is­ter. Coins are dropped in soup bowls—one for nick­els, one for dimes, one for quar­ters, and one for halves—and bills are kept in a rose­wood cash­box. It is a drowsy place; the bar­tenders nev­er make a need­less move, the cus­tomers nurse their mugs of ale, and the three clocks on the walls have not been in agree­ment for many years.

And how can we not fin­ish with Hilary Man­tel doing her ver­sion of 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub?

Want more read­ing? See Alan.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 24 November 2018: Jopengasse, Bermondsey, Cold Comfort

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from conclusions on cask beer to booze in cold climates.

First, an aston­ish­ing rev­e­la­tion – researchers have dis­cov­ered that liv­ing in a cold, dark cli­mates makes you want to drink more:

Senior author Ramon Bataller, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Pitts­burgh Liv­er Research Cen­tre, said: “This is the first study that sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly demon­strates that world­wide and in Amer­i­ca, in cold­er areas and areas with less sun, you have more drink­ing and more alco­holic cir­rho­sis.”

The old city of Gdansk.

We’re not gen­er­al­ly that inter­est­ed in Wot I Dun on my Hol­i­day blog posts but know­ing that Barm, AKA @robsterowski, is a seri­ous schol­ar of Euro­pean beer, and being long-time Polonophiles our­selves, we were excit­ed to read his account of a vis­it to Gdańsk. He did not dis­ap­point:

This is Uli­ca Piw­na in Gdan­sk. In the past when the town was pre­dom­i­nant­ly Ger­man, the street was called Jopen­gasse. Both names redo­lent with beery his­to­ry, for Jopen­gasse is named after the leg­endary Danziger Jopen­bier (or per­haps the beer is named after the street), where­as Piw­na lit­er­al­ly means Beer Street… Danzig in the 19th cen­tu­ry also had a Mälz­er­gasse, malt­sters’ street. The street then called Hin­ter Adlers Brauhaus, “Behind Adler’s Brew­ery” is now called Browar­na, brew­ery street and the one-time Hopfen­gasse is now Chmiel­na, both mean­ing Hop Lane.

We thought it was odd when Moor and Cloud­wa­ter opened bars on the Bermond­sey Beer Mile but it’s now got even weird­er with the announce­ment of plans by New Zealand brew­ery Pan­head to launch a spear­head there too. The full sto­ry is at Aus­tralian indus­try news site Brews­News in a sto­ry by Matt Cur­tis:

Lion-owned Pan­head Cus­tom Ales is set to open a tap­room in the UK before the end of 2019… This new retail site will be head­ed-up by Four­pure, itself acquired by Lion in July 2018. The project will be led by Four­pure Mar­ket­ing Man­ag­er and for­mer 4 Pines mar­ket­ing head Adri­an Lugg, accord­ing to its co-founder Dan Lowe.

There’s fur­ther com­men­tary, insight­ful as ever, from Will Hawkes at Imbibe:

Lit­tle Crea­tures, found­ed in 2000 in West­ern Aus­tralia and now owned by Kirin, is prepar­ing to open in King’s Cross, and Pan­head, a Kiwi brand also owned by Kirin, is set for Bermond­sey. There are also per­sis­tent rumours that Sier­ra Neva­da, which is inde­pen­dent­ly-owned but still huge, has sim­i­lar plans. Brew­dog, Britain’s only rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the big-craft league, opened a brew­pub in Tow­er Bridge ear­li­er this year… The val­ue of brew­pubs to big brands is sim­ple: prove­nance is impor­tant to craft-beer drinkers, so it pays to mud­dy the water.

Source: Kirsty Walk­er.

At Lady Sinks the Booze Kirsty Walk­er is on a mis­sion: to go drink­ing in the towns where the for­mer mem­bers of defunct pop group One Direc­tion were born. Obvi­ous­ly. She has start­ed with Brad­ford, home­town of Zayn Malik, where she had a per­fect pint of Tim­o­thy Tay­lor Bolt­mak­er in “Car Wash and Tyre Cen­tre Land” and got chat­ted up by a bloke who glad­ly drank a foul pint of Sam Smith’s she’d aban­doned:

The pint I had just returned wasn’t just on it’s way out, it was down­right ran­cid, and yet this spec­i­men gulped it down like it was that pint of Bolt­mak­er I pined for. I drank the Sov­er­eign. It was fine, it was good in fact. How some­one could taste both this and the pint of swamp water I had just con­sumed and say they were both the same was beyond me.

Pint glasses in a pub.

We’ve fea­tured both pre­vi­ous pars of Pete Brown’s reflec­tions on the health of the cask ale mar­ket and can’t omit his con­clud­ing post which is full of fas­ci­nat­ing details:

On my ques­tion­naire, before we got onto the busi­ness side of things, I asked respon­dents how they felt about cask them­selves. Now – I split the data by size of pub, by whether it was free­hold, leased, ten­ant­ed or man­aged, whether or not it had Cask Mar­que accred­i­ta­tion, and there was lit­tle vari­a­tion in the data. The one dif­fer­ence that was sig­nif­i­cant was when I com­pared pub­li­cans who said they per­son­al­ly adored cask and drank it them­selves to every­one else. These were the guys for whom cask ale was mak­ing mon­ey, who put in the extra time, who trained their staff prop­er­ly.

The lin­ger­ing exis­tence of Young & Co is fas­ci­nat­ing: the brands are now owned by Marston’s and brewed… in Bed­ford, maybe? But the heart and soul of the brew­ery remains in Wandsworth, south Lon­don, even if the site of the old place is in the process of becom­ing a res­i­den­tial and retail ‘quar­ter’. For the Brew­ers Jour­nal Tim Shea­han has inter­viewed the keep­er of the flame, John Hatch:

John is the head brew­er at Wandsworth’s Ram Brew­ery. He’s also the assis­tant brew­er, head clean­er, pack­ag­ing oper­a­tive and every­thing in-between… You see, the Ram Brew­ery is no nor­mal brew­ery. Instead, it’s a tru­ly unique oper­a­tion housed on the grounds of the old Young’s brew­ery. A pas­sion project that came into being upon the news that Young’s was to shut­ter it’s Lon­don brew­ing busi­ness back in 2006, Hatch has ensured that although the brew­ery would be leav­ing the site, brew­ing wouldn’t.

Old drawing of a brewery.
Dreher’s brew­ery. SOURCE: The Pen­ny Illus­trat­ed Paper, 28 May 1870, via The British News­pa­per Archive.

Andreas Kren­mair has made yet anoth­er break­through in his attempts to pin down the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of his­toric Vien­na beer. This time, it’s the colour:

Back in 2015, when I start­ed look­ing more close­ly into the his­toric spec­i­fi­ca­tions of Vien­na Lager, one ques­tion where I start­ed spec­u­lat­ing and couldn’t real­ly get a good answer was the ques­tion of colour. I based this off his­toric records that I had found in one of Ron Pattinson’s books, Decoc­tion!. The pro­vid­ed val­ue of 6.3 (no units) seemed rea­son­ably close to be SRM, but as Ron com­ment­ed below my post­ing, the beer colour is not in SRM, and that he’s not sure what exact­ly it is… Well, today I can proud­ly pro­claim that I have final­ly dis­cov­ered not only what the 6.3 means but also how the val­ue relates the mod­ern beer colour units like SRM or EBC.

We don’t nor­mal­ly do this but we’re going to fin­ish with one of our own Tweets – a short thread, in fact, and the kind of thing we might nor­mal­ly put on the blog, but want­ed to exper­i­ment with.

Want more? Alan posts a splen­did­ly sple­net­ic links round-up every Thurs­day.