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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Heineken sign

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

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

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

Molson Coors brewery in Burton upon Trent.

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

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

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

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

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

Playing the piano in a London pub.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration: moody London pub.

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

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

Timothy Taylor sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll fin­ish this with a Tweet:

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

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

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

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

(Via @robsterowski.)

Old sign: B'HAM (Birmingham).

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

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

Nic­ci Peet: A brew­ery?

Chris Small: Half of a brew­ery!

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

News, nuggets and longreads 15 June 2019: Beavertown, Bristol, Boozeless Beer

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs from the past week that struck as interesting, thought-provoking or otherwise noteworthy, from The Crumpled Horn to craft beer.

First, some bits of news.

> It used to be that if you want­ed to buy West­vleteren beer you had to vis­it the monastery at pre­scribed times and pur­chase a lim­it­ed amount under strict rules. (Or go into almost any beer shop, it seems, and pay over the odds.) Then, a few years ago, a tele­phone order­ing line was intro­duced. Now, though, you can order it online. (But you still have to pick up your order in per­son.)

> Last year, five post-war pubs were list­ed, includ­ing The Crum­pled Horn in Swin­don. Now, accord­ing to the Swin­don Adver­tis­er, it has closed. Wor­ry­ing news.

> When we vis­it­ed the Fel­low­ship at Belling­ham, South Lon­don, dur­ing research on 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub it was a near-wreck with only one decrepit room still oper­at­ing as a pub. Now, final­ly, its rein­ven­tion as a ‘com­mu­ni­ty pub’ is com­plete. We look for­ward to vis­it­ing.

It’s always worth read­ing Pete Brown on the state of the nation. For Imbibe he’s writ­ten a sub­stan­tial overview of where craft beer is at in 2019, reflect­ing in par­tic­u­lar on the takeover fever of the last cou­ple of years:

Fourpure’s beers are broad­ly sim­i­lar in style and qual­i­ty to Beavertown’s, and are avail­able about as wide­ly. Yet some­how, Fourpure’s 100% acqui­si­tion was not greet­ed with any­thing like the out­rage prompt­ed by Beavertown’s minor­i­ty sale. The rules of accept­able behav­iour among craft brew­ers, it seems, are flex­i­ble, depend­ing on who we’re talk­ing about.

Cranes on the waterside in Bristol.

Lydia and Lor­na at Liquor­Trips offer a review of the recent Bris­tol Craft Beer Fes­ti­val which might help you decide whether to attend next year:

With more than 35 brew­eries offer­ing their wares, it was dif­fi­cult to pace your­self too much with so much to try. We man­aged to get round the major­i­ty, even if it was just for tasters from some. Locals Wiper and True and Wild Beer Co were there, among oth­er nation­al and inter­na­tion­al names in beer such as The Ker­nel, To Øl, Mikkeller, Ver­dant, Lervig, Left Hand­ed Giant, Lost and Ground­ed and North­ern Monk to name a few… Some of the sours on offer were among our absolute best beers of the day – Gip­sy Hill’s Peo­ple Like Us fruit­ed sour, Wiper and True’s Bar­rel Age­ing Car­di­nal Sour and the Pome­lo Palo­ma by Com­mon­wealth Brew­ing Com­pa­ny stay in our minds.

The Waggon & Horses.

From The New Wipers Times, a blog about 1930s archi­tec­ture, comes an inter­est­ing note on an inter-war pub, the Wag­gon & Hors­es, in Lon­don N14:

With the open­ing of South­gate Tube sta­tion on 13 March 1933, as part of the Pic­cadil­ly line exten­sion to Cock­fos­ters, and the com­ple­tion of the near­by North Cir­cu­lar Road, the sur­round­ing area was heav­i­ly devel­oped dur­ing the 1930s and so South­gate became one of many new sub­urbs in Lon­don where Watney’s required larg­er, more suit­able premis­es… The North Lon­don build­ing was designed by the group’s Chief Archi­tect, A. W. Blom­field, F.R.I.B.A., (Alfred William Blom­field, 1879–1949), who also over­saw the design of “The Giraffe” in Ken­ning­ton, S.E.17. Both build­ings would like­ly now be described as Neo-Geor­gian in their exter­nal appear­ance.

Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

A pro­vok­ing thought from the Pub Cur­mud­geon: has the recent dri­ve to mar­ket non-alco­holic beers been a tac­ti­cal deci­sion in response to the threat of a ban on booze adver­tis­ing? Maybe. (Jess remem­bers TV adverts for vod­ka in Poland that weren’t for vod­ka – weird, but effec­tive.)

Scales and balance.

The ever-per­cep­tive Kate Bernot makes some inter­est­ing obser­va­tions about writ­ing about alco­hol in a piece for The Take­out, con­clud­ing with this zinger:

I think drinkers owe it to them­selves to under­stand the risks inher­ent in over­con­sump­tion, and to savor and appre­ci­ate respon­si­ble drink­ing all the more so. Per­haps those sen­ti­ments can coex­ist, and per­haps an aware­ness of the dual­i­ty makes the sub­ject of alco­hol even more fas­ci­nat­ing to cov­er.

Final­ly, we’re fin­ish­ing with one of our own Tweets:

For more select­ed links check out Alan McLeod on Thurs­days and Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day (prob­a­bly).