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News, nuggets and longreads 6 June 2020: Black Lives Matter

Here’s everything about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from #BlackLivesMatter to the mysteries of bitter.

For Good Beer Hunting, beer writer and broadcaster Jamaal Lemon provides a succinct, cutting summary of his experience as a black American, from worrying about how to teach his son to present himself to the world to being the odd man out at craft beer events:

My great-great-grandfather Ernest Barber Sr. was born in Catawba, South Carolina on April 15, 1889. His grandfather was born in 1845, and his grandmother in 1830. They, too, lived, worked, and died in Catawba, but they were born into slavery. Ernest Barber Sr. died in 1976… I was born in January 1979… Slavery in America is only a few generations away from all of us—in my case, its direct reach extends to three years prior to my birth. Most Americans mark their birth year by a TV show they remember, or a popular song. I mark it by how far away slavery was from my body.


Dr. J Nikol Jackson-Beckham has been reflecting on the purpose behind her Craft Beer for All project. Perhaps beer doesn’t feel hugely important at this particular moment, she suggests, but…

it is in the banality of beer that I see its greatest potential to affect positive social change. Systemic anti-black racism is not born of malicious intents, spectacular violence, or complex conspiracies. Rather, it is continuously reproduced in everyday acts of carelessness and comfort, quiet omissions and revisions, and unthinking webs of justification that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives–webs so well made that when malicious and spectacular acts of racist violence are set before us, we swaddle them–excuses drifting from our lips like lullabies. I can think of no better tool, no better place, no better community than craft beer to do the everyday work of unraveling American racism.


At Craft Beer AmethystRuvani urges the US craft beer industry to opt-in to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and to mean it:

No one is dying in the beer industry. It’s not our fault that ignorant, brutal police officers and other individuals are committing racially motivated murder. What possible relation could this have to our own lack of diversity and inbuilt reluctance to do anything about it? Everything. Absolutely everything… Whether you work in the beer industry or are a regular beer consumer, this is your landscape, your everyday, your home-from-home. This is the world that you inhabit, the world you see as normal, and if that world is not reflective of the wider world at large it becomes easy to forget that other people, different people, exist. If they cease to exist through their absence, then their concerns, needs and ultimately their voices disappear from that landscape and unconscious bias self-perpetuates in their absence.

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News, nuggets and longreads 30 May 2020: Farewell, Roger Ryman

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that struck us as especially interesting in this final week of May.

First, some very sad news: Roger Ryman, brewing director at St Austell and creator of Tribute and Proper Job, has died of cancer at the age of 52. This obituary by Cornwall-based beer writer Darren Norbury at Beer Today says it all, really. We met Mr Ryman a few times and he was always a pleasure to deal with and remarkably open in response to any question we asked.


Illustration: "Wodge of cash."

For his own blog, journalist Will Hawkes has written a piece breaking down the financials of a pub in lockdown. Could The King’s Arms in Bethnal Green, East London, be doomed?

“That is pretty much all down to our landlord,” Chatwin, 40, says. “I think at the end of the day, [with] him being an old publican and an individual as opposed to a massive company, we will be able to salvage that somehow… On the other hand, we owe a lot of suppliers money, about £30,000. Pretty much all of them have been pretty understanding because they are often in the same boat as us… But I think it will come to a crunch point. It’s a massive elongated chain, isn’t it? As soon as one person in that chain is like, “Fuck, I need money,” then the whole pyramid falls down. But at the moment everybody has been pretty nice about the situation.”

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News, nuggets and longreads 23 May 2020: Marston’s, Duration, Urquell

Here’s a round-up of beer-related news, commentary and history from the past week, from Carlsberg to classified information.

The week’s big news was the announcement of a ‘joint venture’ between multinational giant Carlsberg and the UK’s largest independent brewery, Marston’s. The new company, Carlsberg Marston’s, is 60% owned by Carlsberg and does not include Marston’s estate of 1,400 pubs. Carlsberg now owns, to all intents and purposes, not only the Marston’s brand but also Brakspear, Ringwood, Banks’s and others.


Martyn Cornell informs us that yesterday was the 299th anniversary of the first known mention of porter in print:

The passing mention came in a pamphlet dated Wednesday May 22 1721 and written by the then-23-year-old Whig satirist and polemicist Nicholas Amhurst (1697-1742). Amhurst implied that porter was a poor person’s drink, writing that “Whigs … think even poverty much preferable to bondage; had rather dine at a cook’s shop upon beef, cabbage, and porter, than tug at an oar, or rot in a dark stinking dungeon.”… The fact that Amhurst (who is buried in Twickenham, less than a mile and a half from where I am writing this) felt no need to explain what porter was suggests it would have been a familiar word to his audience, even if no one had ever put it into print before.

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News, nuggets and longreads 16 May 2020: Prague, palates, pints of plain

Here’s all the writing about beer, pubs and brewing of which we took particular note in the past week, from pawned trumpets to malfunctioning palates.

In Prague, Max Bahnson, AKA Pivni Filosof, has been surveying pub and brewery owners on the subject of business during lockdown and their hopes for after pubs are allowed to re-open there on 25 May. Some are philosophical, others angry, all of them interesting:

Jan “Hanz” Charvat (Zlý Časy, Pivkupectví, Bad Flash): The news caught me in Vietnam and I had to sort everything out with the staff over WhatsApp. The pub was fully closed over the first weekend and on the first Monday we opened the takeaway window, which has remained open throughout. The turnover is 15% of the normal. This covers the wages of the person at the window and maybe the energy costs. I’ll borrow money for the rent and the rest. The sales at Pivkupectví (the bottle shop) are the same, maybe a little higher.

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News, nuggets and longreads 9 May 2020: VR, influenza, McEwan’s

Here’s all our favourite reading on beer and pubs from the past week, excluding #BeeryLongReads2020 contributions, which will get their own round-up tomorrow.

For Good Beer Hunting, American beer historian Brian Alberts provides an account of the flu pandemic of 1918 and how it affected drinkers and brewers in Milwaukee:

Milwaukee’s leaders stepped up in a crisis, and largely handled it well. But, for the city’s brewers and saloonkeepers, this wasn’t the only battle to fight. From a business standpoint, it probably wasn’t the most important battle in the fall of 1918, nor the second, and maybe not even the third. After all, when the President criminalizes your beer supply, a university threatens to shut you down completely, the Senate tries to brand you a traitor, and a pandemic ravages your community—all at the same time—how do you decide what takes priority?


VR pub: barman and bar.
SOURCE: Tristan Cross/Wired.

Is it even possible to write about pubs without getting lost in philosophical questions about what makes a pub a pub? For Wired magazine, Tristan Cross writes about how yearning for his South London prompted him to build a virtual reality replica of the pub from scratch:

Finally, after weeks of effort and days of rendering, I’ve done it. I’ve made Skehans, and I’ve brought my friends inside. Despite beaming at being able to hear to their utterly depraved nonsense again, it’s still not quite right… I’m there, in Skehan’s with my nearest and dearest, but they can’t see or hear me. It’s like I’ve died and been sent to haunt them on a night out. The simulation is nearly there. It has the pub and the people, but you, the player, are absent.


Anchor brewery, San Francisco.

Jeff Alworth continues his survey of classic beers at Beervana with notes on Anchor Steam, somehow finding new things to say, and wrapping it all up in an elegantly readable package:

In choosing the combination of two-row and pale, Anchor created the blueprint that would dominate craft brewing for two decades. The pale malt available then was so free of character it was often called ‘sugar’ for its capacity to ferment cleanly. The caramel malts provided body (not typical in lagers), sweetness, and flavor. Until well into the 2000s, that was the character of most craft beer… They chose an old hop variety in Northern Brewer, first grown in England in 1934. This, combined with the open fermentation, gave the beer a distinctly British flavor. When craft breweries started opening up along the West Coast in the 1970s and 80s, they followed this general profile…


Illustration: 'Yeast'.

Lars Marius Garshol asks an intriguing question: is the distinction between baking yeast and brewing yeast a false one?

[It’s] not only me who thinks baking yeast can make good beer. Kristoffer Krogerus did a scientific evaluation of Suomen Hiiva and found it to be “perfectly usable for beer fermentations”. Brulosophy also did a recent experiment with baking yeast and although people could tell the difference, 1 in 3 preferred the version with baking yeast… So a lot of different bread yeasts really do produce good beer. Why?

A footnote from us: a few years ago, we wrote about Cornish swanky beer, including a recipe, and recommended fermenting with baking yeast. That really seemed to annoy people even thought it worked, based on the evidence of our own tastebuds.


McEwan's Pale Ale
SOURCE: Sontarans on Flickr.

Tandleman asks an interesting question: which long lost beers do you most miss? His own list is intriguing, including several names that don’t often crop up as candidates for The Canon:

McEwan’s Pale Ale… Always in pint screwtop bottles. I used to drink this in Dumbarton when in certain pubs. McEwan’s Pale Ale was also the first beer I ever tasted. Darkish, not too sweet and hardly strong at all. A great thirst quencher. And I liked pints bottles. Sometimes it was a Belhaven Screwtop or, if flush, Whitbread Pale Ale.

The comments are great, too, though, with plenty of other people joining in the game. Us? We’re still thinking.


Brew2You

The Campaign for Real Ale has taken the interesting step of launching a consumer beer retail platform, Brew2You. The idea is that drinkers download an app and use it to buy beer from local brewers and pubs. CAMRA doesn’t take a cut but it does add a 5% admin fee to cover costs. We’ll probably be giving it a go.


Finally, from Twitter – cor, blimey, what a turn up!


For more good reading, check out the round-ups from Alan and It Must Beer Love.