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News, nuggets and longreads 2 July 2022: Roam if you want to

Every Saturday morning we get up, put the kettle on, and put together a round-up of the most interesting writing about beer and pubs from the past week. This time, we’ve got insight into the world’s great beer cities: Portland, Brussels, Wakefield…

First, an interesting development at online beer retailer Best of British Beer: its owners, Gill Sherwin and Will Sherwin, have given majority control of the business to its employees. Darren Norbury at Beer Today has the full story:

The employee ownership trust has been approved by HMRC. It gives the employees a voice on the board and there will now be regular trust meetings where the team will lay out plans for the future… A profit share scheme has been instigated and employees will get a tax-free bonus each year, depending on the company’s profitability… The trust will also be involved in future decisions on jobs, and any new members of the team will become trust members after a year in post.


A neon sign on the skyline: Portland, Oregon.
SOURCE: Jeff Alworth/Beervana

At Beervana Jeff Alworth has updated his guide to the best breweries in Portland, Oregon. We enjoy reading this not so much as practical advice (it’s increasingly unlikely we’ll ever get to Portland) but as an evocation of the place and the culture:

Over the decades, different breweries have enjoyed the title of “favorite brewery” by locals, and the reigning champion is Breakside. If you want to understand what makes a classic Pacific Northwest IPA, it’s the first place to stop. The brewery has eight beers in their core line, and six are IPAs. Only one is hazy. The co-flagships, Wanderlust and IPA (no brand name), are quintessential Oregon IPAs. They are both densely aromatic, heady-smelling beers, but find a balance point between citrusy-juicy flavors and a firm dose of hop bitterness. The brewery makes dozens of hoppy beers a year, and they explore every corner of hops’ potential—but eventually, it seems like the lessons are driven back into perfecting that Oregon thing exemplified by the flagships.


A sparkled pint of golden ale.
SOURCE: Mark Johnson/Beer Compurgation

In the same spirit, but perhaps a touch less exotic, Mark Johnson has put together personal notes on a tour of the pubs of Wakefield in West Yorkshire:

Boons was always a meeting spot or last port of call on a pub-based evening out. It was the home of Clarks Ales in the back when I lived here but that time has gone… The pub is stunning. More so than I recall. Every bit of wood, flagged floor, stools around benched seating, declarations and stained glass could have been designed by me… My only criticism of Boons is that it smells like a pile of clothes on a bedroom chair that have been worn around the house or slept in. It’s a little stale. It could do with somebody smoking nearby to cover up the lingering stench of the older furnishings. It is, of course, why many carpets and old bench seating were replaced post smoking ban. That part isn’t enjoyable but everything else is wonderful.


Brasserie de la Mule Hefe Weisse
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City

Over its course, Eoghan Walsh’s history of Brussels beer in 50 objects has gained a new flavour – less history lesson, more contemporary guide. The 49th entry tells us plenty we didn’t know about where breweries in Brussels are at today, reaching beyond the local traditions in search of something new (to them):

And so, as the Brussels New Wave beer movement bounded into its second decade, history began repeating itself, in reverse chronological order. First came Brasserie La Jungle in early 2021 with the launch of an English Golden Ale. Brewing in an abandoned textile factory in Anderlecht, La Jungle firmly nailed their colours to the English mast by following up with an English Porter and English Bitter brewed with Kentish hops… Brasserie de la Mule was next, looking east rather than across the Channel. Ex-Brasserie de la Senne brewer Joël Galy… didn’t choose something spontaneously-fermented as Mule’s first beer. Instead, he brewed in the Bavarian tradition – a Hefe Weisse Naturtrüb wheat beer, which was soon followed by a Lager, Helles, Berliner Weisse, Kölsch, Dunkel Weisse, and even an homage to one of his favourite beers, Schneider Weisse’s Mein Hopfenweisse.


A perfect pint of Dark Star Hophead.

At Points of Brew Stephen Carter gives a useful summary of the recent hoo-ha over CAMRA’s campaign for a full pint:

Current guidance states that a pint should be no more than 5% head, and is acceptable if served as such. However, there’s no real recourse if a customer requests a top-up and the establishment refuses to do so. This is what CAMRA is trying to change, however, their press release raised more criticism than praise… But, looking at their historical campaigns, this has been a long-term issue for the group, with them asking for oversized glasses to become standardised. A glass with room for a full pint of liquid, and space for foam if requested. That would solve the problem surely? Well, not quite… When pints were pulled using taps that measured pours accurately, glasses had space for a head above the 568ml measure. But, speaking purely from anecdotal experience, customers thought they were being short changed even then.


A bright red label for Deutscher Porter
SOURCE: Ron Pattinson/Shut Up About Barclay Perkins

Could East German bretted porter be a style for modern craft brewers to explore? Ron Pattinson has (gorgeous) labels for at least 15 examples:

It’s weird how Deutscher Porter as a style seems to have been almost totally forgotten. Even though it was brewed until around 30 years ago. They all seem to have been discontinued soon after reunification. Either that, or the breweries simply closed. A few did reintroduce beers called Porter, but they were totally different in style. Much weaker and really sweet. Pretty awful, the ones I’ve tried.


Butcombe Bitter
From our own collection of Butcombe glamour shots.

Lisa Grimm (an American living in Dublin, having previously lived in the UK) has been in London and Salisbury and shares notes on her experiences, including a reminder that, if you’re not utterly jaded, Butcombe Bitter can be rather “absolutely gorgeous”:

I very much wish we had some similar options here. I will confess that I did come across two pints that I had to entirely abandon because they were clearly infected – not, I hasten to add, at any pub listed in this summary – but I suppose it does demonstrate that bad cask is, well, bad, and perhaps one of the reasons we don’t have it here is just that difficulty; finding experienced people to look after it properly and a clientele who will consistently finish off casks while they are in good shape is tricky. But let’s also give some demerits to the ‘Spoons at Gatwick; not for the high crime of ‘being a Wetherspoons,’ but rather, for having something like 15 hand pumps with some truly mouth-watering options displayed, but only actually having Doom Bar. Nope.


Finally, from Twitter, unearthed treasure…

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

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News, nuggets and longreads 25 June 2022: Stone the crows

Here’s all the news, opinion and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, including a big-name brewery buyout.

The stories of Stone Brewing in the US and BrewDog in the UK are interestingly intertwined. The latter borrowed a tone and approach from the former; Greg Koch was a mentor to James Watt; and they’ve even partnered on various transatlantic projects.

It’s interesting, then, that the news of Stone selling to Sapporo should break in the same week as the story that BrewDog tried to arrange a sale to Heineken back in 2018.

On the Stone sale, here’s Kate Bernot for Good Beer Hunting:

The sale represents a resolution to Stone’s multiyear search for a buyer as well as a definitive contradiction to the “anti-sell-out” stance of one of the industry’s most vocal brewery founders, Greg Koch. It seems Koch, Stone’s executive chairman, is literally incompatible with incoming corporate ownership of Stone; he announced in a lengthy blog post June 24 (quoting Heraclitus and Metallica) that he will step away from the company “soon” after a nearly 30-year career.


A pint of stout.

One great thing about an ongoing book project is the constant flow of blog posts it generates. Martyn Cornell is working on an epic history of stout and porter which is what led him to the earliest mention of Guinness being available on the European continent:

On Sunday June 18 1815 at around 6pm in the evening, at the height of the Battle of Waterloo, ten miles south of Brussels, a 33-year-old captain in the 7th (Queen’s Own) Regiment of Hussars named William Verner, born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, was hit in the head by a French bullet – one of 47,000 casualties that day… “By degrees my strength returned but was not fully restored for many months. A curious circumstance occurred, which I have often thought of since. When I was sufficiently recovered to be permitted to take some nourishment, I felt the most extraordinary desire for a glass of Guiness’s [sic] porter, which I knew could be obtained without difficulty…”


The red door of the Smithwick's brewery in Kilkenny
SOURCE: Paolo Gregotti on Unsplash

Like Martyn, Liam is often inspired to write by the urge to correct bad beer history. This week, he decided to take apart the claims made about Smithwick’s of Kilkenny in marketing over the course of decades:

There are also beer mats that proudly state “Superior Irish Ale since 1710” or sometimes something as definitive sounding as “Over 300 years ago in 1710, John Smithwick began brewing his famous ale at the St. Francis Abbey Brewery.• Some are slightly less blatant with the phrase “crafted and perfected since 1710” but all of the marketing again suggests, or in most cases states, that the same Smithwick’s ale that is available today has been brewed for over three centuries, practically stating that nothing has changed in those three centuries. Almost all advertisements, including recent ones on mainstream television, also appear to imply this to be a true fact… But there are many issues with this assertion of course…


Instagram likes.

There are several topics covered in Courtney Iseman’s Hugging the Bar newsletter this week including the difficulty of relying on Instagram to promote your business…

Off the top of my head right now, I can think of two businesses – both in food – that shut down because they were small, one- or two-person operations relying solely on Instagram for promotion and customer communication. For a while, that was great – free or close to it, accessible, efficient, and a good match for a scrappy, nimble brand – but then algorithms change and suddenly the same exact kinds of posts that got such high engagement get next to none. What are you supposed to do? The only thing we really know for sure about how Instagram manipulates the way content performs is that you have to be doing Reels, Reels, Reels – but guess what, those are no small amount of work.

…and views on the quiet reinstatement of disgraced brewery owner Jean Broillet IV at Tired Hands: “We were worried there wouldn’t be enough lasting change, that accountability was an empty gesture for so many breweries; we were right.”


A Belgian cafe

At Brussels Beer City Eoghan Walsh has written about how a town built around beer, cafes and bars responded to lockdown in 2020, as part of his ongoing ‘50 objects’ project:

Where there was resolve, there was also solidarity. Larger breweries stocked the beers of smaller colleagues on their webshops. En Stoemelings used their lockdown beer delivery service to raise money for local charities, raising €5,000 by early April 2020. Together with Brussels Beer Project, La Source Beer Co., and No Science, they also repurposed 1,000 litres of unused beer into an Iris flower-infused spirit with the help of a local distillery… The privations visited on Brussels by the pandemic also undermined, briefly, long-standing factional differences in the city’s beer community.

While you’re there, you should also check out this piece from 2019 on how Brussels smells in the summer: “Steamed buns, warm piss, and freshly brewed beer…”


The interior set for the Queen Victoria pub from Eastenders.
The Queen Victoria pub from EastEnders. SOURCE: BBC

Via the British Film Institute’s weekly newsletter we learned about an interesting media-art project currently touring pubs in East London:

Fancy a drink? Better pace yourself, we’ll be in the pub for several hours, in the company of artist Stanley Schtinter and his The Lock-in. A video experiment that pours a gallon into a pint-pot, The Lock-in comprises every scene shot in the Queen Vic pub from EastEnders from 1985 to 1995: quiet halfs, wedding announcements, bar brawls, divorce papers and all… You don’t have to be a soap fanatic to understand that the local watering hole plays a crucial role in any TV drama: a third space away from home and work where characters can mingle and, more often than not, let their inhibitions drop. But it’s more complicated than that. The British pub has its own rules and codes, which change, but ever so slowly, over time.

There’s more information about The Lock-in on its own website.


Finally, from one of beer Twitter’s greatest wits…

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

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News, nuggets and longreads 18 June 2022: Running up that hill

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from social clubs to foot-flavoured beer.

First, some pub heritage news: eleven pubs across England have been given listed status by the Government, or had their listings upgraded, because of the significance of their interiors. They range from The Bridge Inn at Topsham, Devon, with its parlour bar, to the Victorian splendour of The Red Lion in Westminster. Between us, we’ve been to five. We’ll be making it our mission to visit the other six in the next year or two.

And a bit more news: craft beer retailer Honest Brew has gone into administration, after a few weeks in which people were commenting on low stock and other worrying signs. After nine years, they’re quite a surprising casualty of the current difficult trading environment.


A social club.
Conservative Club, Bath.

Pete Brown has a new book out, Clubland, on the subject of working men’s clubs. It’s on our to-buy list because (a) Pete writes good books and (b) this is a relatively little explored area of British culture – “the shadow pub”. To mark its release, on his blog, he’s shared a substantial piece making the case for the working men’s club:

Inside anonymous-looking buildings like this all across the country are bars, concert rooms and meeting rooms that would be perfect for coffee mornings, jumble sales, record fairs, dance classes, yoga classes, mother and toddler groups, slimming meetings, youth clubs, book events, WI meetings, band practices and such more. On a more prosaic level, as the price of a pint soars, they’re good places to get cheap drinks without giving your money to Tim fucking Martin. Yet for much of the week, they stand empty. The community often has no idea they’re there. And the committees who run these places – often now well into their seventies – have no idea how to market themselves. The [Working Men’s Club and Institute Union] should be helping them, but it’s just as clueless about the modern world as they are. No one in the organisation seems aware that communities today live online.


A running shoe

We’d never heard of ‘hashing’ until we read Jemma Beedie’s piece for Pellicle this week, which explores the intersection of running and beer:

I grew up in the Middle East, part of a tight ex-pat community. My parents met at the Bahrain Black Hash, a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers. It was hugely important to our lives and defined many of my family’s friendships for decades. As a child, I was introduced to people by their Hash names – cheeky nicknames not suitable to be mentioned here – and that’s how I continue to know them now. I spent my formative years watching my teachers drinking warm beer from each other’s shoes – a longstanding Hash tradition found in every chapter worldwide.


A cool glass of water.

Jo Caird has written about water for Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription company, explaining with real-world examples how its scarcity could be a problem for the brewing industry:

It was 2013 and times were good at Bear Republic Brewing Company. Business was booming at the family-owned California brewery, its distribution network extending to more and more states. Keen to capitalise on growing demand Bear Republic applied to the local authority for an increase in their allocation of water. The request was turned down… This news was a blow but wasn’t exactly surprising. California was experiencing what they have since realised was its worst drought in 1,200 years, a combination of low rainfall and record-breaking high temperatures… Brewing’s high demand for water isn’t just a problem in drought-stricken places like California. Even in regions where water is plentiful, there are environmental costs attached to water use. Treating it requires energy, as does pumping it into our homes and businesses.


Kelham Island brewery

It hasn’t quite sunk in that next time we go to Sheffield we might not be able to drink a pint of Kelham Island Pale Rider. Martin Taylor, AKA Retired Martin, lives in Sheffield these days and wonders in this post whether he’s just had his last pint of this notable beer:

The Pale Rider was superb, it always is despite some on Discourse telling me “the beer isn’t what it was”. Rubbish… I hope the folk at Kelham Island are OK; I miss their beers already.


Women in work clothes smiling.
Women posing beside the bottling machine at Mitchells & Butlers bottling depot, Birmingham, c.1950.

Finally, something not about beer, but which has a certain resonance. For Sight and Sound, the magazine of the British Film Institute, director Prano Bailey-Bond expresses her frustration at being asked constantly to talk about what it’s like to be “a woman in horror”:

I do believe that, behind every panel or article on ‘women in horror’, there is usually the good intention to shine a spotlight on female-driven films. It’s an opportunity for a female creator to talk about and elevate her work. But ultimately the conversation is limiting. For every question a female-identifying filmmaker is asked about how her gender relates to her genre, that’s one less answer where we get to hear about her craft… Rather than obsessing about gender, let’s obsess about the artistic sensibilities on display. Let’s record and remember women’s contribution to genre cinema so it can inspire the next generation. And let’s allow that generation to be defined by their creativity, not their gender.


Finally, from Twitter, a blind taste test with interesting results…

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

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News, nuggets and longreads 11 June 2022: Milky milky

Here’s all the beer and pub writing that caught our attention in the past week, from betting shops to milky beers.

First, some updates on today’s tough trading conditions. The BBC this week featured comments from pub landlady Miranda Richardson whose quarterly energy bill has jumped to almost £30,000 per quarter:

Her gas bill for the February, March and April in 2021, totalled just over £1,500 for the three months – £6,200 less than her current bill… To break even following her most recent gas bill and other costs, Ms Richardson said on Twitter she would have to sell “roughly 1,400 pints of lager”.

Meanwhile, Tandleman continues to ask questions of brewers and publicans as he does his rounds:

This week, following the Jubilee celebrations, I was returning a container to a well-known and established local brewery, and stopped for a chat with the owner. “How’s things?” I asked.  His face grimaced. “Bad, Peter, bad!” he replied.  He went on to describe the current situation.  Pubs which used to take two or three eighteens a week were now taking only one or two nines. Fuel to power the brewery has gone through the roof, the cost of diesel fuel to deliver the beer is frightening and loads are less than he’d like, making the overall trip less than economic. The cost of ingredients is also increasing to add to a difficult picture… Undercutting by other small brewers is also playing a part. When he rings regular customers, the phones are often not answered.


BrewDog bar sign.
BrewDog Bristol.

Despite her significant influence as a beer writer we don’t often get to include Melissa Cole here for various reasons. Her comments about BrewDog in an interview conducted by Andy Crouch for All About Beer are both incisive and, frankly, entertaining:

And then of course it started getting much more unpleasant and gimmicky and just constantly it was just like, “alright who are we going to piss off next? Who are we going to fight next? Which element of the establishment are we going to take on next?” (*long pause*). It was just so bro. I mean, there’s a reason why they’re nicknamed BroDog, you know?… It was like watching a mini episode of American Pie every five minutes you know? Just constant frat boy shit. But it was also just so unnecessary and was drawing other people into it. Young guys who were getting into the beer industry were suddenly just like, “Yeah, I gotta be like BrewDog.” Oh, God not another one. And you know we’ve got that problem now and they’ve spawned all these little agi-puppies who all think that they can behave like assholes and get away with it.


Beer glasses being clinked together
SOURCE: Des Récits/Unsplash.

In her Substack newsletter Hugging the Bar Courtney Iseman has written about the moment in American history when it was illegal to raise your glass and say “Cheers!”:

The concern was that drinking healths led to too much drinking, as imbibers ordered round after round to facilitate their hat toss into the toasting ring. And for puritanical windbags like a clergyman named Increase Mather, this was actually akin to black magic—wishing illness on someone with an evil potion = wishing health for someone with alcohol, also maybe an evil potion. Puritans thought using alcohol to hope for health was too close to the transubstantiation that made Roman Catholics big old blasphemers in their eyes. Just like Roman Catholics believed in converting bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ, tavern patrons, in the opinion of puritans, were revering alcohol like it had some real power to instil wellness and good fortune. Bet ya never looked at your beer that way.


Illustration of a beer mug mostly full of foam.

It’s a Courtney double bill! For VinePair she’s written about the Czech Mlíko method of pouring beer, sometimes called the ‘milko pour’ as appropriated by the American craft beer scene:

“Mlíko means ‘milk’ in Czech,” says Pilsner Urquell senior trade brewmaster Kamil Růžek. “It’s named because it’s a glass filled with wet beer foam, with a very small bit of beer at the bottom, so it really does look just like a glass of creamy milk.”… Růžek calls the mlíko “certainly the most extreme” of three classic Czech beer pours, which include the hladinka and the šnyt. The hladinka is about 75 percent beer, 25 percent foam; the šnyt is a little more foam than beer. Pilsner Urquell keeps all three alive with its explainers and marketing, but it’s the hladinka and the šnyt you’re more likely to actually see at Czech pubs, says Prague-based beer writer and author (and VinePair columnist) Evan Rail. “The mlíko is a little more of a party trick,” he says.


A Škoda outside a herna bar. SOURCE: Alastair Gilmour.

It’s a Czech drinking culture double bill! On his blog, Meet and Drink, Alastair Gilmour does his best to explain the concept of the ‘Herna bar’:

Herna – also known as Non-Stop or 24/7 – translates loosely as ‘casino’ but that’s too simplistic a description, as Martin Macourek, director of the London-based Czech Beer Alliance, explains… “We used to go to Herna bars quite often when we were students and under eighteen as they would serve us beer and other alcohol without checking our IDs… Also, the attraction always was that they are open until very late and constitute a last resort drink possibility. This brought in very special individuals who came in without really seeking to gamble, so you would mostly find yourself in the company of alcoholics, youngsters, working-class men or football hooligans ­– I remember my local Herna bars were often full of Sparta Prague fans – plus semi-bankrupt persons or even prostitutes. And, of course, gamblers.”


Yeast

In an article for Craft Beer & Brewing Jeff Alworth makes the case for more funk in our beers:

Before starting Epochal Barrel-Fermented Ales in Scotland, Gareth Young was a philosophy lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He has an appropriately academic approach to old Scottish-style ales. An important piece of equipment in old breweries was a “cleansing tank,” which scrubbed the fresh beer of yeast. “This gives a cleaner funk,” he says. “Less ethyl caprylate, for instance.” That ester contributes sweet notes that can smell like fruit brandy… At Beer Nouveau, Dunkley cites a different kind of “cleaning” that’s important for refining these beers: Brettanomyces, like lager yeast, needs to go through a full cycle. Those aggressive, funky flavors we typically associate with Brett “are there because the yeast hasn’t finished and hasn’t cleaned up after itself. Once it has, you get wonderful new soft leather notes from it.”

(And don’t forget, you always have the option of an Orval top…)


Hops

Sergey Konstantinov is writing a book on brewing and beer history, sharing the chapters online as he writes them. His particular focus is helping drinkers find modern beers which illustrate the history lessons – that seems a smart angle to us. And those who know this kind of deep beer history better than us might enjoy prodding at his work to see if they can find any weak points. We get the impression he’d welcome this kind of challenge, too. This piece on the history of hops is a good place to start.


Finally, from Twitter, a nugget that feels somewhat significant…

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

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News, nuggets and longreads 4 June 2022: Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve enjoyed in the past week, from stats to studies, and stout to Skol.

First, some news that we missed last week: Heineken is shutting down the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh. Roger Protz has a neat account of the story and explains why it matters:

Edinburgh’s Caledonian Brewery is to be axed by Heineken, ending more than 150 years of brewing that included winning the accolade of Champion Beer of Britain for Deuchar’s IPA in 2002… The global Dutch giant says Caledonian was “economically unviable” and was not brewing to its 50,000 barrel capacity on Victorian equipment that needed major investment… It adds that it has reached agreement with Greene King to brew Deuchar’s IPA (3.8%) and Maltsmiths (a 4.6% American style IPA) at the Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar.


The Shades, Hartlepool, closed and boarded.
A closed and boarded pub in Hartlepool.

There’s more news, too: CAMRA has released its annual statistics on pub closures and openings, painting the usual gloomy picture, albeit with footnotes, as explained at Beer Today:

The figures… show that across Great Britain last year 290 pubs were demolished or converted to another use. That’s an average of just over five a week… There was an increase in the number of new pubs being built, or existing buildings being converted into pubs. This averaged just over seven new pubs every week in the second half of the year… However, more than 500 pubs were also classed as a long-term closure in 2021. This is where the building is still classed as a pub for planning purposes, but the business itself has closed or is empty and without tenants to run it. This shows the lasting effects of the pandemic, and the present cost of business crisis.


Whitbread & Co London Cooper, Stouts and ales
An 1879 advertisement for Whitbread London Cooper.

At Zythophile Martyn Cornell has written about London Cooper, a briefly trendy mix of stout and porter:

The first known mention of “cooper” as a blend of “half stout and half porter”, otherwise “stout half-and-half”, came in John Camden Hotten’s Dictionary of Modern Slang, published in 1860. Two years later at Marylebone magistrates’ court in London  a pub customer who explained “cooper” as “half stout and half porter” was corrected by the magistrate, who told him: ”That, I should say, is half-and-half”, suggesting the phrase was still not in common use. When Hotten brought out another edition of his slang dictionary in 1864, he added an explanation for the name: “Derived from the coopers at breweries being allowed so much stout and so much porter a day, which they have mixed sooner than drink the porter after the stout.

As he acknowledged in a comment on this blog a few weeks ago, Martyn is going for quality rather than quantity on his blog these days and it was genuinely exciting to see this new post pop up in the feed.


A cap from a bottle of Skol lager.
SOURCE: Brussels Beer City/Eoghan Walsh.

Eoghan Walsh is nearing the end of his History of Brussels Beer in 50 Objects series. Entry #45 is the cap of a bottle of Skol around which he builds a story about immigration and community:

In 1947… the Belgian state counted 10 Congolese nationals living in Belgium, most likely centred on the office blocks behind the royal palace that housed the network of administrative bodies and industrial concerns comprising Belgium’s colonial bureaucracy… Brussels’ Congolese population started to grow, as students made their way north to Belgium’s universities. Instead of settling near the palace, these new arrivals moved across Brussels’ petite ceinture to the streets around Porte de Namur, Rue Stassart and the Waversesteenweg. Colloquially dubbed Matongé after Kinshasa’s eponymous market district, by the mid-1970s the neighbourhood had evolved into a nightlife district for diplomats, businessmen, students, and politicians – populated by nightclubs and ngandas (Lingala for café) serving bottles of Congolese Primus and Skol beer.

There’s also a book on the way, by the way, as we’d hope there might be:


Edwardian barmaids.
A 1901 illustration of London barmaids.

This is a weighty one, in every sense: James Green has been studying “emotional labour adopted by female bartenders when faced with unwanted sexual attention at work”. His article is long, detailed and rigorous – and far from purely theoretical:

The methods utilised for this study encompassed an ethnographic research design which included interviews and participant observation. The field of inquiry was located at a pub in the London Borough of Camden which has been operating and serving… guests since the 1920s. While I began working at The Watch Tower in October 2016, the participant observation began in October 2017 and ended in July 2018 and involved 30–35 hours per week of performing work tasks and duties, observing interactions, and documenting fieldnotes. My work patterns were inconsistent as I tended the bar on a mixture of day (e.g. 11 am to 6 pm) and night (e.g. 6 pm to 12 am) shifts. Much activity of unwanted sexual attention was produced in common (e.g. non-physically and verbally) and infrequent (e.g. unwanted physical contact and stalking) forms and occurred during the night shifts and on ‘heavier’ drinking days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday).

There’s some especially interesting stuff about the role of the female bartender in male fantasies – “…when you’re serving someone, they get this idea in their head where you are the maiden…” – which suggests not much has changed since the 19th century.


Finally, from Twitter, a fascinating looking pub:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday which this week also includes a competition: “the cleverest comment” can win a commemorative Jubilee pin issued by the Canadian government.