News, nuggets and longreads 4 May 2024: Project Hail Mary

Every week, we round-up the most interesting writing about beer and pubs from the past week. This time, we’ve got flyovers, pub grub and hard data.

First, a few bits of brewery news, including one that’s close to home for us:

  • Buxton, founded in Derbyshire in 2009, has announced that it intends to appoint administrators, as reported at The Business Desk. This feels like a big one in the context of the craft beer boom of the 2010s. (We now have a standing search for brewery + administration, by the way.)
  • Bristol Beer Factory, founded in 2004, is moving its brewery… slightly. And expanding. Our observation on the ground would be that they’ve been pretty rampant in the past year or two, hoovering up accounts across the city, advertising on billboards, and achieving what seems like remarkable success with their non-alcoholic brand, Clear Head.
  • Greene King, founded in Suffolk in 1799, is also moving its brewing operation a similar distance, physically, but a long way in emotional, historic terms. As Jessica Mason reports at The Drinks Business: “The British brewer, known for beers such as Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale, has been brewing cask ales at its Westgate Brewery in Bury St Edmunds for over 200 years… However, despite its provenance attached to the historic brewery, it has made the decision to move and build a new brewery at Suffolk Park, next to Moreton Hall.”
  • And finally, the latest UK brewery tracker numbers are out from SIBA: “[The] UK total number of active brewers now stands at 1777, a -38 drop since the end of Q4 2023.”

A derelict London pub with a sign advertising Courage Beer.

Sticking with numbers, briefly, the author of the wonderful A London Inheritance blog has shared details of the London Data Store created created by the Greater London Assembly:

[It] has made available a very extensive range of raw data, and information, freely available, to view and download, and to use to understand different aspects of London today, how the city has, and continues to evolve… There is data in the London Data Store on things you would expect (such as population growth) as well as unexpected data, such as a spreadsheet of every recording studio in the city… There is also a spreadsheet of London’s pubs and bars in 2023, however with over 4,000 entries I did not want to overload the site on which the blog is hosted by importing and creating a map, so I will use a graph on the number of London pubs between 2001 and 2022… What is interesting about the graph is that whilst there has been a general decline in the overall number of pubs, this has mainly been a result of the closing of small pubs, those employing fewer than ten staff, whilst larger pubs employing more that ten have increased in number.

The spreadsheet and data obsessive in our house (Jess) will certainly be playing with these numbers.

An Edwardian pub with a tiled frontage underneath a huge concrete flyover.
SOURCE: Chris Dyson.

At Real Ale, Real Music Chris Dyson reports on the reinvention of The Olde Shears Inn, a pub in Halifax, West Yorkshire, as The Hop Monkey Music Bar. His post touches on the history of the town, its industry, and the coming of a mighty flyover which looms over the pub. This leads to an interesting final act to the post in which Chris recalls other pubs beneath bridges:

Aside from the micro pubs, taprooms, and breweries which are to be found in railway arches up and down the country from London to Newcastle via Manchester that are within the structure of the bridge, there are a number of free-standing pubs in different parts of the country that have a bridge or viaduct above them. One that stands out is the Crown in Stockport, which lies beneath the one of the 27 arches that make up the huge viaduct which dominates the town. In fact the viaduct is the largest brick-built structure in the country with an incredible 11 million bricks used in its construction. The Crown, one of many fine pubs located in the town, is a former Boddingtons pub as indicated by the vintage pub signage.

Jonathan Buford and Patrick Ware. SOURCE: Jordan Griffith/Good Beer Hunting.

For Good Beer Hunting Ruvani de Silva has profiled an American brewery called Arizona Wilderness based in Phoenix – or, rather, the latest incarnation of that brewery, in terms of its culture. It’s interesting because it acknowledges that rapid growth and sudden fame can make it easy for brewery owners to make bad decisions:

Within eight months [of opening], RateBeer awarded them Brewery of the Year, they were interviewed by Esquire Magazine, and they started collaborating with pretty much every craft beer superstar brewer around the world… Following the rush of attention and demand, there was a period where, while they didn’t lose sight of their goals pertaining to either brewing quality or sustainability, they struggled to balance the pressures of leadership and creativity. As they took on first the taproom adjacent to the Gilbert brewpub and then their downtown location, along with an ambitious wild ale program in the Woodnotes Cellar, the pair found themselves overstretched and at a greater distance from the heart of the business than they wanted to be. “It felt like I was sprinting up a mountain with Pat behind, then I would veer off course and Pat would have to decide whether to follow me or stick to the original route – with a group of people behind him, which was stressful for staff members,” says [brewery co-founder Jonathan] Buford.

A fancy old-fashioned shoe.

You might be interested to know that we also produce footnotes for these posts for Patreon subscribers. Here’s last week’s as a freebie taster. Please do consider signing up.

A pie, mash, mushy peas and gravy on a plate on a pub table. There is also a bottle of Henderson's Relish.

Paul Bailey (no relation) has written about the disappearance of the affordable pub lunch from the south of England. This is something we sometimes feel wistful about, too – whatever became of the sub-£5 pub lasagna? As Paul writes:

Pre-filled rolls remain the best option, and whilst these are really readily available in both the Midlands and the North, the opposite applies in London and the south east… In these parts of the country, the simple sandwich has ceased to exist, and if it is available, the description simple, no longer applies. Instead, the hungry trencherman is served a filling, between thick-cut slices of artisan bread – nothing wrong with that so far, but when its embellished with some type of greenery, ranging from few springs of rocket to a full-blown, and largely unwanted salad, complete with a fancy dressing that’s going to affect the taste of the beer, that’s a different matter… All these unwanted “extras” bump up the price, so much so that it’s not uncommon to be looking at £7 to £10 for a simple sandwich, especially in some of the posh “dining pubs” in the southeast.

This post is also where we learned the worrying news that the historically significant pubs The Barton Arms in Aston, Birmingham, has closed.

The illuminated box sign of the Chesham Arms.
SOURCE: Beer Insider/Glynn Davis.

At Beer Insider Glynn Davis has an observation from an East London pub that highlights an important customer service issue: really busy pubs aren’t fun places to be. As he reports:

You can catch the rather unique characteristics of the Chesham Arms in E9 on a Friday and Saturday evening when there is invariably a queue at its door and a one-in-one-out policy being implemented by its friendly manager Joe Garcia… Joe has a maximum capacity of a modest 180. Interestingly he had on occasions previously had as many as 250 people in the place but he found this delivered no more money into the tills. In fact it had actually worked against him because it annoyed customers because many had to stand when drinking as well as navigating long queues at the bar – that can only house seven servers standing shoulder-to-shoulder – and deal with seriously long waits at the toilets. No doubt the lack of queues outside the women’s toilets is a factor in the Chesham Arms having such a high percentage of female customers.

Finally, from social media, some Brussels boozing food…

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

20th Century Pub pubs

When did video games appear in pubs – and where did they go?

In the 1970s and 80s pubs added video game arcade machines to their roster of attractions, in pursuit of younger customers and additional revenue.

We sort of knew this but had forgotten it. We both recall seeing arcade machines in unusual places when we were kids – Chase HQ at the swimming pool, Space Invaders at the chip shop.

And, yes, we must have seen them in pubs here and there, perhaps glimpsed through cracks in the door as we sat on steps with Panda Pops, or ran around beer gardens.

What brought this memory back with a rush was this clip from 1983 via the excellent BBC Archive, From 23 seconds.

It shows office worker Chris Carter spending his lunch break playing Mr Do! in a very normal looking Truman’s pub, presumably in London. Next to the arcade game there’s a gambling machine, a cigarette machine, and a payphone – coin-op corner!

One detail we get about the business model is that the machines in this pub were changed once a month so that there would always be a new game, with novelty value, for people to play.

The questions the video prompted in our minds were when did video games first start appearing in pubs – and where did they go? Because you rarely see them these days, except as retro novelties.

Pong, 1972, running in an emulator.

1973: Pong in the pub

It seems to be accepted generally that the first commercially successful video game was Pong, a basic tennis simulator released to the market by Atari in 1972.

It was actually designed with pubs – or, rather, being American, bars – in mind. The first prototype was tested at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, which seems to have been a restaurant-bar with something of an English pub theme. (Further research required.)

It didn’t take long for real British pubs to start installing Pong-style video game cabinets. In August 1973 Ros Dunn reported for the Huddersfield Daily Examiner that Trevor Haigh, manager of The Albion in New Street, wanted to start a ping-pong pub league “using the new computer machines just coming in”:

They look like small television sets. The two small bars on the screen (the bats) are controlled by two knobs below it. A white dot (the ball) is bounced across the set by moving the bar up to meet it… Mr Haigh believes computer ping-pong wil be just as popular as the more traditional pub sports – darts, dominoes and cards.

Haigh reckoned he had about a dozen keen players even though his machine (a Pong knockoff called Space Ball, from Nutting Associates) had only been installed for a couple of weeks. That means we can pinpoint its arrival to around July 1973.

In December 1973 a firm called Dormer Projects Limited was advertising its “TV Tennis Non-Gaming” machines in newspapers and boasting that they were installed in “over 5,000 pub and club sites throughout the UK”. They were supposedly taking up to £80 per week on each site (pinches of salt required) and cost £650 plus VAT – just shy of £7,000 in today’s money.

In April 1974 a promoter called Len Bruce was trying to get a national Pub Olympics off the ground, in collaboration with a firm based in Morecambe that was producing 30 video game machines a week, and had sold about 500 to pubs up and down the UK. (Does anyone know which company this might have been?)

Most histories of video games, however, report a collapse in the market from about 1974 onwards. Once you’d done Pong, then Pong Doubles (1973) with two paddles per side, then Quadra Pong (1974) with a four-sided court, the novelty began to wear off.

Firms continued to advertise video games to pubs throughout the late 1970s but there were also reports that highlighted the extent to which the first wave of the craze was over. Like this from the Southall Gazette from July 1978:

Pub football and tennis machines fluctuate in popularity, enjoying seasonal success rather like rugby and soccer… Although there are no hard and fast seasons, their popularity can be gauged by the takings or rather the lack of them… The prospect of vidfeo machines lying redundant, naturally enough, causes concerns among the owners of these large and costly boxes of electronic tricks…

More from the BBC Archive including a Space Invaders cocktail table.

1979: Invasion of the Space Invaders

Space Invaders was released by Taito in Japan in 1978 and took a while to make it to UK pubs.

In June 1979 the Liverpool Echo reported that it was on its way, accompanying its report with stories of a wave of juvenile delinquency the game had supposedly unleashed in Japan. (More on this shortly.)

Then, in December 1979, the Liverpool Daily Post published a snarky column by John Williams with the headline “…to boldly bleep where no man can drink in peace any more”:

[The] bar had been equipped with a built-in migraine… This emanated from the lead-booted feet of creatures from outer space and became louder and louder as they neutralised the exploding missiles fired by Earthlings feeding 10p pieces into the Space Invaders machine… The object of the game, apparently, is to save humanity. But it’s too late, at least for our pubs. They have been taken over by the new age of the machine… In [one] pub I counted one video game, two juke boxes, a pin-ball game and two Bandits. Just imagine the whooping, hollering, bleeping, banging, rattling and wheezing when they are all operated simultaneously… At a time when CAMRA is trying to recapture the good old flavour of real ale, everyone else seems hard at work turning pubs into amusement arcades.

As it happens, CAMRA was on the case. An edition of its short-lived print magazine What’s Brewing (not to be confused with the monthly member newspaper) from summer 1980 had a feature by Mike Chapple called ‘Bar Invasion’:

Rick Zaple, CAMRA’s regional organiser for the West Midlands, tabled a motion at the Campaign’s recent Annual General Meeting to place curbs on the offending aliens… “The objection was not against the machines themselves,” says 27-year-old Rick. “It’s just the noise that they create.”… Understandably Rick maintains that Space Invaders, together with other such electronic gadgetry as juke boxes and fruit machines, tend to disturb drinkers out for a quiet pint and a chat… “Rather than banning the machines, there should be more stringent control on the amount of noise they actually make, so that people who do not want to become involved are not being disturbed in the pub,” he said.

In May 1980 the Carmarthen Journal was reporting that…

Public bars in the Carmarthen area which normally echo to the sound of popular pastimes like darts dominoes may soon be buzzing with the strange electronic noises of a new amusement machine which is currently taking the country by storm. The machine, which is called ‘Space Invaders’, has already won the seal of approval from public houses in the large cities and is now being installed in many local pubs, clubs and coffee houses… And master-minding the ‘invasion’ of the machines in West Wales is the Pendine based Arm of Robot Machine Leasing, which has already distributed about 100 ‘Space Invaders’ throughout the area.

By August in the same year, however, a publican in Sevenoaks in Kent was complaining that Space Invaders was old hat and that punters were demanding newer, more sophisticated games:

Mr Gordon Hobson, the landlord of the Camden Arms… said that the craze had died down slightly over the last few weeks but added that manufacturers were constantly thinking up new ideas for video games He said: “At one stage we had a Space Invaders machine in the pub but as the novelty wore off we replaced it with a more advanced game. It is like most things, they tend to wear off after a time.”… Mr Hobson has a wide variety of video machines which budding Luke Skywalkers can pit their wits against and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your initials proudly displayed on the screen if you manage to achieve one of the highest scores.

1981: Won’t somebody think of the children?

In February 1981 Chief Superintendent David Jones of Gloucestershire Constabulary spoke at an annual licensing session in Cheltenham. He suggested that the presence of video games in pubs had led to a surge in under-age drinking because “Young people are being attracted into bars to play the machines”. Police in nearby Bristol said the same thing.

And in March the same year police in Stockport joined in the chorus, as reported in the Advertiser and Guardian:

Stockport schoolboys would seem to be deserting the playground for the pub in a bid to master the Space Invader craze… Moreover the mania for video games – which have flooded the country – has brought fears from the police that the micro-chip fever could lead to a new generation of teenage tipplers.

There were also stories, echoing those from Japan, of children stealing to pay for their video game addiction, or fiddling the machines to get free plays.

An anti-video-game lobby emerged in the UK, arguing that video games should be treated like films, with venues required to have a licence to ‘exhibit’ them. This debate rumbled on throughout the rest of the decade.

1982: Game over?

If the purpose of putting video games in pubs was to attract younger customers, and authorities were saying, “Oh no you don’t!” then perhaps a crash was inevitable.

In January 1982 the Daily Mirror was convinced the craze was reaching an end:

Space Invaders are being beaten off by the recession… Many pubs and clubs are replacing them with fruit machines because of a big drop in profits… One video games firm, Sabelectro of Cheltenham, has lost £600,000… Broadway coins of London said: “Last year every machine netted £200 a week. Now we’re lucky to get £40.”

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the home computer boom kicked off in earnest at about this. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was launched in 1982, for example, and a major selling point was that for a relatively small initial outlay, you could save a fortune in 10 pence pieces.

The story of the decline of the British amusement arcade is told in some detail in Arcade Britannia: a social history of the British amusement arcade by Alan Meades published by the MIT Press, and available to read online for free.

He describes an odd sort of feedback loop where, by the early 1990s, home video game consoles were being installed in pubs in the guise of the PlayChoice-10:

The PlayChoice-10 contained a robustly built [Nintendo Entertainment System] home console in an arcade cabinet, as well as a mechanism for the player to select from up to ten games installed by the operator. The PlayChoice-10 performed well in Britain, especially as an arcade machine for the pub trade, where space was at a premium. Of the estimated 30,000 PlayChoice-10 machines manufactured globally, 6,000 were sited in Britain…

The supply of ‘proper’ video games from Japan, with dedicated circuit boards, began to dry up.

And gambling machines based on recognised licensed properties became more popular, such as a unit based on the board game Monopoly launched in 1992 that we think we remember seeing in pubs when we were students.

So, we reckon it’s fair to say it might have been surprising to see a video game in a pub after about, say, 1995. If you know otherwise, let us know.

News opinion

News, nuggets and longreads 27 April 2024: Race Across the World

Every Saturday we round up the most interesting writing about beer and pubs. This time we’ve got tickers, micropubs and Australia.

First, some news. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is digging on the matter of ‘Fresh Ale’, a concept being pushed by Carslberg-Marston’s, and has now taken its complaint to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade. CAMRA chairman Nik Antona said in a letter to Kemi Badenoch:

“We are now asking the Business Secretary to step in and allow National Trading Standards to investigate Carlsberg Marston’s misleading ‘Fresh Ale’ dispense method at a national level…Of course, if Carlsberg Marston’s were interested in being transparent, they could simply serve their ‘Fresh Ales’ from keg fonts, and be proud and clear about the characteristics of the beers.”

It feels to us as if CAMRA is excited to have found an issue that it can campaign around in high 1970s style – something that, surely, almost the whole membership can agree on. (Or at least won’t care about enough to argue.) If the outcome of this is that hand-pumps become somehow legally associated with cask-conditioned beer, that would certainly be interesting. And perhaps in an election year, with a government scrambling for feel-good ‘announceables’, CAMRA might manage to pull it off.

The Untappd logo – two bottles clinking together.

At Beer Nouveau Steve Dunkley shares thoughts on Untappd, the social media app for beer tickers. Alongside views on the usefulness of publicans using it as a source of data there’s this astonishing anecdote from the front line:

I once had a ticker of repute come into a pub I was working in only to find out a beer he’d heard was on (and this was in the days before mobile phones, let along smartphones and apps) only to find that the particular beer he wanted to tick off had run out a couple of hours earlier. Not to be deterred, he ordered a half of something standard, and under the guise of popping to the loos, made his way to the cask storage to take the cork out of the empty and pour the yeasty, trubby dregs into a small plastic bottle to take away – purely to be able to say he’d “tried” the beer. I’d hate to think what his tasting notes might have been.

A wall at the Butcher's Arms in Herne with books, posters, leaflets, and a cut out of Kylie Minogue.

Scott Spencer at Micropub Adventures has been back to the birthplace of the micropub, Kent, and has dropped a series of posts crammed with reports from places like Sandwich, Margate and Herne Bay:

First a walk down Herne Bay Pier brings me to my first call here to “Beer on the Pier”, run by local brewery “Goody Ales”. Beer on the Pier is a wooden hut located on the pier which has a bar and seating area inside, a lovely area inside with a front room like comfy feeling, along with outside seating when the weather’s nicer (it was a bit windy today). A really nice welcome here from Elaine, and was great chatting to her and a couple of regulars in the pub. I love the wording above the front saying “I do love a beer beside the seaside”.

A sign on a building advertising an Augustiner Bierhalle (Augustiner Beer Hall).

There’s some interesting, properly footnoted research from Franz Hofer at Tempest in a Tankard about the emergence of lager in Munich:

At first blush, the Munich Baker-Brewer Dispute might look like a curious footnote in the annals of medieval history. But it’s much more than that. Flaring up sporadically between 1481 and 1517, this inter-guild dispute is not only a colourful story, it also illuminates a momentous transformation in brewing history: the shift from top fermentation to bottom fermentation in Bavaria, and the emergence of what we now call lager. For when we zoom in and focus on what the decades-long dispute was all about, we notice something interesting: yeast… Besides furnishing us with documentary evidence confirming that medieval brewers and bakers knew what yeast was, the dispute also reveals that brewers were beginning to practice a different kind of brewing. Significantly, the yeast for this new process required more time and lower temperatures. What’s more, brewers were in the process of learning that more malt, higher hop rates, and long periods of cold storage resulted in a beer that was resistant to souring microbes during fermentation, kept longer, and, most importantly, tasted better.

This isn’t our turf or period – our contribution to the history of lager is distinctly provincial – but the various references throughout the piece give us considerable confidence.

The sign for a London pub, The Old Justice, with a Charrington logo and the face of a judge in a long wig.
The Old Justice, Bermondsey Wall.

Ron Pattinson continues to explore and reminisce about British beer in the 1970s with a catalogue of the breweries and beers absorbed into Bass Charrington:

The company was formed in 1967 by the merger of Charrington United Breweries and Bass Mitchells & Butlers… They started the decade with a bewildering array of breweries, some quite small and many in close proximity to each other. For example, in the West Midlands and Northwest England. Heavy pruning ensued… The chairman’s insane plan was to have just two breweries, Cape Hill in Birmingham and the new brewery in Runcorn serving the whole of the UK. Which led them to closing most of their breweries. Though, when they discovered Runcorn couldn’t brew acceptable versions of some of their Northern brands, breweries such as Stones in Sheffield and the Tower Brewery in Tadcaster were reprieved.

An ornate pub-hotel in Adelaide with tiles and Victorian lettering: "Young and Jackson".

Tandleman has been to Australia and has published a series of posts about his experience snatching pub visits between other activities. The most recent piece is about Melbourne:

Bodriggy Brewery was quite small and very welcoming, and we enjoyed the banter with the barman and locals. I even won a free pint on a (free) scratch card – well, it was a half pint, but they gave me a pint anyway.  Going for a pee, I was shocked to see that behind the cosy front bar was a huge beer hall with the brewery at the back.  Blimey. How had we not noticed that?  Again, the staff were great – they even charged my mobile for me – and we had a fine time checking out the beers. Sadly – a recurring theme – none were remotely dark.

You can work your way back from there for more of the same in Perth, Adelaide, and elsewhere.

Finally, from BlueSky, another nugget around video games in pubs…

A post from videogame history ( with a flyer advertising 'Pub Pong' from 1972.

imagery: a camera man projecting an image of two people playing pong on a table tennis table. there is a real image of the arcade cabinet (very plain, brown wooden finish with a metallic plate where the player button are with 'pub pong' printed neatly in black on it and a thin metallic centralized coin slot below.
text: the australian made t.v. table tennis game
* suitable for all locations
* solid state, trouble free operation
* realistic game sound
* phenominal earnings - lasting appeal
* 20c play
* 18 months warranty
* formica - cabinet
size. height 62" width 27" depth 24" packed. weight 79 kilos, 174 lbs.

videogame history
pub pong, flyer, arcade (1972)
imagery: a camera man projecting an image of two people playing pong on a table tennis table. there is a real image of the arcade cabinet (very plain, brown wooden finish with a metallic plate where the player button are with 'pub pong' printed neatly in black on it and a thin metallic centralized coin slot below.
text: the australian made t.v. table tennis game
* suitable for all locations
* solid state, trouble free operation
* realistic game sound
* phenominal earnings - lasting appeal
* 20c play
* 18 months warranty
* formica - cabinet
size. height 62" width 27" depth 24" packed. weight 79 kilos, 174 lbs.
Apr 11, 2024 at 13:01


More feeds

imagery: a camera man projecting an image of two people playing pong on a table tennis table. there is a real image of the arcade cabinet (very plain, brown wooden finish with a metallic plate where the player button are with 'pub pong' printed neatly in black on it and a thin metallic centralized coin slot below.
text: the australian made t.v. table tennis game
* suitable for all locations
* solid state, trouble free operation
* realistic game sound
* phenominal earnings - lasting appeal
* 20c play
* 18 months warranty
* formica - cabinet
size. height 62" width 27" depth 24" packed. weight 79 kilos, 174 lbs.

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


News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2024: Slap Shot

Every Saturday we share links to a selection of articles or blog posts about beer and pubs. This time we’ve got Art Deco pubs, posh publicans and lethal breweries.

First, some news. The Stonegate pub chain has issued a profit warning putting the future of its more than 4,000 outlets in doubt. This story also highlights the problem with chains: when they go, it can potentially wipe out a bunch of pubs at once, rather than the slow drip-drip of closures, causing a jolt across the industry.

An illustration from an old book of a village inn.

Still on the subject of pubs under threat, for Pellicle Jacob Smith has written a provocative piece questioning the benefits of pubs being taken over and run by local communities:

In a 2022 report, the Plunkett Foundation, a charity which helps rural communities in Britain to create and run community-owned businesses, reported that only one in 12 rural community-owned pub projects reached trading status. That means 91.7% of all rural community ownership pub bids failed without ever pouring a pint. These failed bids are rarely, if ever, highlighted by mainstream media. And while it’s human nature to focus on the winners and allow the also-rans the dignity of anonymity, such blatant survivorship bias risks distorting our perception.

The Art Deco Yacht Inn in Penzance, in the sun.

We’re going to bundle together two related posts here, both about inter-war pubs. First, there’s a piece by Joshua Abbott of Modernism in Metroland about modernist and Art Deco pubs in outer London:

The breweries of the 1920s and 30s wanted to overhaul the image of the pub, changing it from a dirty, dark place of drunkenness to somewhere light, spacious and family friendly. To do this they employed architects or even founded their own in-house design departments to produce pubs that the average, respectable citizen would be happy to be seen in. These new pubs were often built besides the new ring roads and bypasses being constructed at the time. Middle class families could take their newly purchased car out for a Sunday drive and have lunch at a suitable pub along the way. A nice example is the neo-Tudor style Daylight Inn in Petts Wood opened in 1935 by Charringtons Brewery, and designed by their in-house architect Sidney Clark.

Then, over at Pub Gallery, Dermot Kennedy has part one of a series of heavily-illustrated posts about Art Deco pubs, starting with those to be found on the English coast:

The trend for streamline moderne in architecture coincided with a boom in ocean going liners, and the launch of the SS Normandie in 1935 and the RMS Queen Mary in 1936 was huge news at the time. Both had art deco interiors and architects were inspired to incorporate features from the liners into their new pubs. The obvious place to locate them was by the sea, and a number of ports and resort towns found themselves with art deco pubs by the end of the 1930s.

A semi-crushed beer can.

Jeff Alworth has shared a chunk of a memoir in progress focusing on his father and stepfathers and how the relationships they had with alcohol might have shaped his attitude to beer:

I know almost nothing about my birth father, yet he looks back at me from the mirror. My thin body, over six feet of it, is Gorostiza rather than stocky Metcalf. It’s a Basque body, or partly so, which isn’t uncommon in Boise, with the largest population of Basques outside Europe… He left me one more inheritance—an affection for booze… The Gorostizas were drinkers. At large Gorostiza family gatherings, the wine and liquor flowed. Mom recalled them more with wonder than affection. The Metcalfs also had big family gatherings, even loud ones. But they were sedate, whereas the Gorostiza get-togethers were tinged with the chaos of drink… Unlike her parents and sister, Mom liked to drink, too. And she liked drinking with Richard; it was something they did together. I think that’s part of the reason Mom liked Richard—he was older, had this strange family, and loved to go out at night. Mom loved getting all dressed up, selecting one of the wigs from the collection she kept on Styrofoam heads in her bedroom, do her nails, and go out on the town.

A warning sign on a brewing vessel: DANGER, CAUSTIC.

Liam K is back with another instalment of his series ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’. This time he’s used a copy of the Guinness in-house magazine from 1963 as the jumping off point for an exploration of health and safety in Irish breweries – or, more specifically, of their absence:

The newspapers of the 1800s and early 1900s are dotted with reports of deaths in Irish breweries to the point where almost every decade had a report or two of workers being killed on or off site. It is, even at this remote juncture, a difficult read, as many of the reported inquests go into the details of precisely what happened these individuals, and often include a list of the people they have left behind, where sometimes, almost an afterthought, the reporter will mention the wife, children, parents or siblings that were left in heartache and possible destitution at the loss of a loved one. It is worth remembering at all times that we are dealing with actual human beings who lived not terribly long ago and who possibly still have ancestors walking our streets whose lives were affected directly or indirectly by such a dreadful occurrence.

A jumble of pubs.

On Substack David Jesudason has dug up the story of an aristocratic publican whose snobbery and racism were shameless:

“One has an absolute right to refuse service to anyone without reason. Or rather, one has until this moment.”… The words above were spoken in 1969 by the ‘esquire’ and proprietor of the Tickell Arms, Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, Joseph (AKA John or Kim) Hollick de la Taste Tickell… Tickell had been a publican there since 1958; his family (he claimed) at one time owned 11,000 acres but in 1970 this had dwindled to fewer than 100 acres. Despite this shrinking Cambridgeshire empire – or because of it – he ran the Tickell Arms as a mini-fiefdom which largely manifested itself as him deciding who was or wasn’t allowed to drink there… He barred people for a lot of class-based reasons which seem bizarre today. One of his biggest annoyances were people who wore braces – calling them “hideous apparel worn by grubby people and are offensive to me and other customers”. In fact, a lot of the reasons for barring people were ridiculous, like in 1973 he threw out a group of drinkers for wearing nuclear disarmament badges.

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2024: Slap Shot

Blogging and writing

BOOK REVIEW: The Devil’s in the Draught Lines

Christina Wade has written an accessibly scholarly book about women in beer that offers a refreshingly different lens on the world.

It tells us, with overwhelming heaps of evidence, that women have always been involved in brewing, and still are.

But more than this, it shows us that it’s possible to write a 180-page book almost without citing or talking about men at all.

Women are the centre of the stories told. Academic texts by women are cited in every other paragraph – many of them, more than most of us could digest in a lifetime. And when punditry and insight are required, Wade is able to call on a cast of sharp, experienced experts, all of whom are women. It feels effortless, too, and natural. Who else’s opinion or experience could possibly have more weight or authority?

Despite its clear focus, as a result of when it was researched and written, this is also a vital text about brewing and hospitality during the pandemic. Wade draws parallels between COVID-19 and historic plagues, which also affected the brewing industry, and women’s roles in it.

One particularly eye-opening argument is that the Black Death reduced the population, increased wages, increased demand for better beer, and thus gave men an incentive to muscle into the brewing trade, displacing the women who’d dominated it for centuries. Then, whoosh, we’re back in the 21st century and Wade asks, will COVID-19 have a similar effect? Post-pandemic trading conditions, she suggests, favour larger, better-funded breweries… which happen to be run by men.

One of Wade’s hobby horses, explored in blog posts and articles, is the muddled mythology around brewing and witchcraft. That is, the pervasive story that ‘alewives’ inspired the modern image of the witch. Fun and empowering as these stories might be, and easy as it would no doubt have been to sell a book on the strength of these stories, Wade is as rigorous in debunking them as Ron Pattinson and Martyn Cornell have been in correcting the popular understanding of the histories of porter and IPA.

Structurally The Devil’s in the Draught Lines resists the simplicity of chronology. Instead, each chapter covers a different angle and whizzes us back and forth through hundreds of years, from the mediaeval world to the 21st century.

There’s also room for stories around race, culture, gender identity, with names and faces unfamiliar to us, like Lizzie and Lucy Stevens of Closet Brewing, and Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela of the Tolozaki Beer Company. In fact, there’s the equivalent of about 25 Pellicle articles hidden throughout the book – and we mean that as a compliment to both parties.

This helps leaven the wholemeal archival research that underpins the book. Any time we start to suspect we’re being fed a chunk of thesis we’re given an interview with a woman working in beer today. These are often cleverly chosen and placed to underline what has changed since the historical examples were recorded – and what has not.

It’s clear Wade put a lot of effort into finding the balance between academic style and plain language – something she’s practised rather brilliantly on her blog for many years. Sources and authorities are named in the text, but not with scary foot- or endnote numbers. Then more detail for each is provided at the back of the book.

If you want to understand the deeper history of brewing in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it’s a readable survey of previous research. And it’s a must-read if you want your world view shaken up a little – something which is good for all of us to do from time to time.

We bought our copy from CAMRA Books for £15.99 delivered with a member discount.