News, Nuggets and Longreads 06 April 2019: Berlin, Brett, Better Lager

Here’s all the news, commentary and thinking about beer that’s seized our attention in the past week, from Berlin to Peckham, via Huddersfield.

First, some inter­est­ing news: Brew­Dog has acquired the brew­ery Amer­i­can out­fit Stone launched in Berlin a few years ago. Stone says Ger­mans didn’t take to their beer or brand; Brew­Dog, which already has a bar in the city, cites a need for a post-Brex­it con­ti­nen­tal brew­ing baseJeff Alworth offers com­men­tary.


Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

It’s fit­ting that the new lead­er­ship at the Cam­paign for Real Ale should use an inter­view by vet­er­an beer writer Roger Protz as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a state­ment of intent:

Nik [Antona] and Tom [Stain­er] are quick to point out that a pro­pos­al to allow CAMRA beer fes­ti­vals to include key kegs was sup­port­ed by the nec­es­sary major­i­ty and many fes­ti­vals are now sup­port­ing this change.

A num­ber of fes­ti­vals have key kegs with expla­na­tions that are not dog­mat­ic about the dif­fer­ent ways beer can be served. I accept that we’ve poor about explain­ing this in the past,” Tom says. “We need to rep­re­sent all pub­go­ers.”

We may revis­it Revi­tal­i­sa­tion in a few years,” Nik adds, “but in real­i­ty we’re doing it now. Younger peo­ple are drink­ing cask but they want to try dif­fer­ent things – they want to drink good beer but not nec­es­sar­i­ly from casks.”

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News, Nuggets and Longreads 30 March 2019: Magic Rock, Bottle Shop, Light Ale

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from takeovers to light ale.

First, some big news which would be more excit­ing if it hadn’t seemed inevitable, and if we hadn’t been through this cycle mul­ti­ple times in the past decade: Huddersfield’s Mag­ic Rock has been acquired by multi­na­tion­al brew­ing com­pa­ny Lion.

We’ve always found Mag­ic Rock’s Richard Bur­house to be a frank, thought­ful sort of bloke, and his state­ment strikes home in a way these things often don’t:

Of course, I realise that this news will not be uni­ver­sal­ly well received but I’m also con­scious that inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned brew­ing com­pa­nies don’t invest in Hud­der­s­field every day, and I’m delight­ed that the jour­ney we start­ed eight years ago has got us to this point… I’m proud that we con­tin­ue to be a good news sto­ry in the town; the deal with Lion secures growth and longevi­ty for Mag­ic Rock, gen­uine job secu­ri­ty for our employ­ees and enables us to hire more peo­ple and con­tribute more to the econ­o­my of the local area going for­ward.

It’s inter­est­ing that of the four brew­eries involved in the found­ing of Unit­ed Craft Brew­ers in 2015, three have now been bought by multi­na­tion­als. We said at the time that UCB rep­re­sent­ed a state­ment of ambi­tion, which ideas seems to have been borne out by the pas­sage of time. Any­way, that’s one rumour down, leav­ing one more (that we’ve heard) to go…


More news, not per­haps unre­lat­ed to the above:


Light split (HSD and Light Ale).

Justin Mason at Get Beer. Drink Beer. has been research­ing and reflect­ing upon one of the most pop­u­lar 20th cen­tu­ry beer mix­es, light and bit­ter:

Light and Bit­ter is, as you might expect, a half of Bit­ter (usu­al­ly a bit more, three quar­ters wasn’t uncom­mon) served in a pint glass or mug with a bot­tle of Light Ale as an accom­pa­ni­ment. This was to be mixed as you saw fit, either in mea­sured stages but more usu­al­ly as half the bot­tle, tak­ing it almost to the top, and the oth­er half when you were down to the half pint lev­el again… I couldn’t remem­ber the last time I saw any­body order or drink a Light and Bit­ter in any pub I was in for at least ten years…


A mural in south London.

Stay­ing in the realms of the old school, Desert­er has been tour­ing the work­ing men’s clubs of south Lon­don:

Have you ever walked past those huge old build­ings that have a Courage sign from anoth­er epoch, but offer no encour­age­ment to enter? They’re mem­bers’ clubs, where the beer is as cheap as fibs and ‘refurb’ means a new snook­er table. Lib­er­al Clubs, Work­ing Men’s Clubs, Social Clubs. A mys­tery to most. A sanc­tu­ary to some… Roxy and Gail had become mem­bers of a CIU club and that enti­tled them to vis­it any of their 1800+ clubs in the UK and take in their spe­cial ’70s-ness, low-price pints, mas­sive func­tion rooms and strong cue-sports pres­ence. I bor­rowed a card and kicked off our club tour at the Peck­ham Lib.


J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2002 & 2009.

Archive arti­cle of the week: can you imag­ine a news­pa­per today pub­lish­ing any­thing as niche and geeky as this set of ver­ti­cal tast­ing notes by Michael Jack­son on J.W. Lees Har­vest Ale from 1995?

The exact influ­ence of age is open to argu­ment. Nine­ty-nine out of a hun­dred beers will go down­hill. Only the strong and com­plex might improve. Before this tast­ing, I would have said that Lees Har­vest Ale might devel­op favourably for three to six months. Now, I think six or sev­en years. Beyond that, oxi­da­tion cre­ates Madeira-like notes, which can become dom­i­nant. From day one, the herbal flow­er­i­ness of the hop can recede, but it was still def­i­nite­ly evi­dent in the 1990.


For more good read­ing, check out Alan on Thurs­day and Stan on Mon­day.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from AB-InBev to Samuel Smith.

Hol­lie at Globe Hops, a UK beer blog that’s new to us, recent­ly went back to Not­ting­ham where she stud­ied and noticed that many of her favourite pubs had tons more choice in their beer ranges, but some­how less char­ac­ter:

My brow fur­rowed. I strug­gled to artic­u­late how it felt to me like some­thing had been lost from the place, even though all that had real­ly hap­pened was that more options had been added. I’d loved the pub for pre­cise­ly its niche; the reli­a­bil­i­ty of excel­lent­ly kept Cas­tle Rock ales, the chance to try the brewery’s sea­son­al ranges, and guest ales from oth­er small local brew­eries, such as the fan­tas­tic Spring­head. But now there was a smor­gas­bord of choice that was almost dizzy­ing. I quick­ly realised the prob­lem; were it not for the recog­nis­able brick walls and beams lov­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pump labels, I could be any­where. The pub had retained its charm, but the bar choice had lost its accent.

(Via Peter McK­er­ry | @PeterMcKerry.)

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News, Nuggets and Longreads 16 March 2019: Potatoes, Preston, Pubs

Here are all the blog posts and news stories about beer that seized our attention in the past week, from potato beer to ancient Irish pubs.

First, some food for thought: SIBA, the body that rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the UK’s inde­pen­dent brew­eries, has pub­lished its annu­al report. (Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in flip­py-flap­py skeuo­mor­phic online book­let form. UPDATE: Neil at SIBA sent us a link to a PDF.) Some of the key mes­sages:

  • The pub­lic per­ceives craft beer to be from small, inde­pen­dent pro­duc­ers, and made using tra­di­tion­al meth­ods.
  • Young peo­ple do seem to be pulling away from alco­hol, with only 16% of 25–34 year olds drink­ing beer more reg­u­lar­ly than once a week, down from 26% in 2017.
  • The num­ber of brew­eries pro­duc­ing keg beer has increased, and craft lager espe­cial­ly is on the up.

Preston
SOURCE: Fer­ment.

Bet­ter late than nev­er, hav­ing final­ly got round to read­ing it in a hard copy of Fer­ment, the mag­a­zine from beer sub­scrip­tion ser­vice Beer52, we want­ed to flag Katie Taylor’s piece on the beer scene in Pre­ston, Lan­cashire:

A for­mer Vic­to­ri­an tex­tiles giant left to the fates of so many North­ern towns, the city sits patient­ly on direct rail routes to near­ly every UK city you can think of; it’s two hours from Lon­don, two hours from Edin­burgh. Depri­va­tion has cast its shad­ow for some time, but after over a decade of dili­gent local action and pos­i­tive steps towards self-suf­fi­cien­cy it feels like recent­ly, Preston’s time might final­ly be arriv­ing… The hip­sters of Pre­ston are made of dif­fer­ent stuff though. For a start, they’re not inter­lop­ers search­ing for cheap loft spaces – instead they’re local, young and they’ve nev­er left.

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News, Nuggets and Longreads 9 March 2019: Politics, Tokenism, Firestarters

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that prompted us to bookmark, favourite or ReTweet in the past week, from US politics to the politics of beer culture.

First, an impor­tant and eye-open­ing post from Craft Beer Amethyst on the sub­ject of tokenism in the world of beer:

Read­ing Wiper & True’s Vic Hels­by in the Inde­pen­dent say­ing that Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day risks becom­ing tokenis­tic unless diver­si­ty and inclu­sion become a real­i­ty in the indus­try real­ly hit home with me, because I see this as the most impor­tant and under-addressed prob­lem in beer and beyond – how to trans­form the cul­tur­al space into a place where we no longer need words like diver­si­ty and inclu­sion because every­one is seen as com­plete­ly equal and no less or more deserv­ing of spe­cial atten­tion? How do we reach a point where we stop talk­ing about women in beer and minori­ties in beer and just talk about beer?


A bottle of Cloudwater V 10 enveloped in steam.

Now things are a lit­tle less raw Will Hawkes has tak­en a moment to reflect on last week’s Cloud­wa­ter beer fes­ti­val hoo-ha, observ­ing (as did we) that reac­tions to the threat of the event being can­celled were mixed, and reveal­ing:

On the one hand, there were peo­ple who felt under­stand­ably aggriev­ed at hav­ing coughed up £60, plus train fares, for an event that didn’t seem to be hap­pen­ing; On the oth­er, there were peo­ple who felt the first group were being a bit neg­gy, and should just, you know, chill… It’s obvi­ous that many peo­ple feel craft beer is a com­mu­ni­ty… The prob­lem is that not every­one feels this way. For those whose inter­ac­tion with beer is less inti­mate, for those who earn their crust else­where, this idea of com­mu­ni­ty can be a prob­lem. After all, who ben­e­fits from the notion that a com­mer­cial rela­tion­ship is also a friend­ship? Brew­eries, def­i­nite­ly. Pub land­lords, Bot­tle-shop own­ers, dis­trib­u­tors, yup. Drinkers? Only in the most neb­u­lous sense.


Letter from America.

For Bloomberg Joshua Green reports on research into how the pol­i­tics of Amer­i­can drinkers man­i­fests in their choice of alco­holic drinks:

Democ­rats will be heavy con­sumers of cognac and brandy, both favored by African-Amer­i­can drinkers, who over­whelm­ing­ly lean left. Mex­i­can beers such as Coro­na, Tecate, and Mod­e­lo Espe­cial are also pop­u­lar with Democ­rats, espe­cial­ly those who don’t turn out reg­u­lar­ly on Elec­tion Day—that is, they’re pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, whose turnout num­bers lag behind old­er groups. And because Heineken drinkers are con­cen­trat­ed in the Northeast—not friend­ly ter­ri­to­ry for Republicans—they, too, skew Demo­c­ra­t­ic… Repub­li­cans have an entire­ly dif­fer­ent alco­holic pro­file. “They’re big bour­bon drinkers,” [researcher Will] Fel­tus says…


Betty Bowes

A new source for us, tele­vi­sion his­to­ry web­site Red­if­fu­sion, offers an archive arti­cle from the defunct inde­pen­dent broadcaster’s in-house mag­a­zine from 1958 by Peter Ling, about Bet­ty Bowes, man­ag­er of the stu­dio social club:

In Tele­vi­sion House, Bet­ty has to know peo­ple. Not always their sur­names, per­haps, and prob­a­bly not their jobs — but she knows a thou­sand faces, and can fit a Chris­t­ian name to most of them. Best of all, she knows what they like to drink. Most­ly it’s straight­for­ward; the Stu­dios come in thirsty and hot, need­ing beer; the Fourth Floor splice the main­brace with some­thing stronger; a Third Floor cus­tomer might occa­sion­al­ly ask for a Pimm’s Num­ber One… But the Fifth Floor demands — and usu­al­ly gets — any­thing and every­thing: “I think I know most drinks by now.” Bet­ty Hash­es a smile as bright as a new pen­ny. “A ‘Cameraman’s Kick’, for instance —That start­ed with the cam­era-boys from Wem­b­ley; it’s a lager-and-lime, but lots of oth­er peo­ple besides cam­era­men have tak­en it up now.”


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

The Guardian saved us the trou­ble of dig­ging in the archives our­selves this week by resur­fac­ing a piece by Peter Cor­ri­g­an from 1988, about the drink­ing cul­ture of Fleet Street:

[The pub] was some­thing more than an exten­sion of the news­pa­per: for some a home from home, for oth­ers an air-lock between the desk and sub­ur­bia. A man could get the bends going straight from one to the oth­er. Not all jour­nal­ists get on with each oth­er, so each office pub would have a few satel­lites to accom­mo­date polit­i­cal over­spills. Most of the Dai­ly Mail staff, for instance, use the Har­row, while oth­ers fre­quent the Mucky Duck, as the White Swan is tra­di­tion­al­ly known, or the Welsh Harp, which once housed a glum group of Mail men known as the Fin­ger­tip Club, because that best described how they were hang­ing onto their jobs.

But that did remind us of a sim­i­lar piece from the US, from half a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er, by H.L. Menck­en, that we’d come across in the back cat­a­logue of the New York­er:

Between 1899 and 1904 there was only one reporter south of the Mason and Dixon line who did not drink at all, and he was con­sid­ered insane. In New York, so far as I could make out, there was not even one. On my first Christ­mas Eve in the news­pa­per busi­ness but two sober per­sons were to be found in the old Bal­ti­more Her­ald office, one of them a Sev­enth Day Adven­tist office boy in the edi­to­r­i­al rooms and the oth­er a super­an­nu­at­ed stereo­typer who sold lunch­es to the print­ers in the com­pos­ing room. There was a print­er on the pay­roll who was reput­ed to be a teetotaller—indeed, his sin­gu­lar­i­ty gave him the curi­ous nick­name of the Moral Element—but Christ­mas Eve hap­pened to be his night off.


And final­ly, a short but evoca­tive tale of pub life fea­tur­ing the late Prodi­gy front-man Kei­th Flint:

For more read­ing check out Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­days and Alan McLeod on Thurs­days.