A Brutalist Brewery: Arup and Carlsberg in Northampton, 1974

The March 1974 edition of the Arup Journal is an amazing artefact, offering a blow-by-blow breakdown of the design and construction of Carlsberg’s state of the art Danish brewery in Northampton.

You can read the full magazine here in PDF form, and it’s a lovely thing in its own right – all white space and sans serif, as stylish as the buildings it depicts.

Arup Journal, March 1974, cover.

Arup is an architecture firm founded in 1946 by Ove Arup, born in Newcastle  upon Tyne in the UK to Danish parents in 1895, and educated in Denmark. Though he died in 1988 the company lives on, its name a byword for modernism.

In 1970, Arup was commissioned by Carlsberg Brewery Ltd to design a new plant in Northampton in the English Midlands, just as the lager boom was beginning to bite. The cost of the project was £15 million; Carlsberg supplied the brewery equipment and defined the necessities of the space according to production need; and Arup commissioned Danish architect Knud Munk to produce a design that would “express the best in modern Danish architecture”.

As well as lots of detail in the text the magazine also includes process charts…

Process chart of lager brewing at Carlsberg.

…interior shots…

A control panel at the brewery.

…and lots of dramatic black-and-white photography of the brewery building at various stages of construction, set in the flat landscape against dramatic skies…

The exterior of the brewery.
CREDIT: Colin Westwood.

…which are either awe-inspiring or grim depending on your point of view.

It’s fascinating to think of this hulk appearing, with attendant talk of efficiency and automation, at just the exact moment the Campaign for Real Ale was taking off. This is about as far from all that imagery of wooden casks, old inns and pewter tankards as you can get.

And the emphasis throughout on the Danishness of the project – Danish brewers, Danish architect, officially opened by the Queen of Denmark – while canny in terms of underlining the authenticity of the product was also at odds with the growing sense that Local was somehow a sacred virtue.

We’ve been researching this building and Carlsberg’s arrival in the UK on and off for years and this showed up in one of our periodic check-ins. There are times we worry about the state of corporate archives and others when we feel like we’re living in the best possible age, with digitising getting cheaper and companies realising the value of their own history.

Cash or Cashless, the Problem is ‘Only’

Both cash-only and cashless-only are barriers, and both tend to be driven by the needs of the business rather than what works for customers.

We got talking about this in the pub last night because of a poll from the Beer O’Clock Show:

The arguments against card-only have been piling up for some time:

  • it excludes the poorest in society
  • it discriminates against older consumers
  • it plays into the machinations of global tech giants
  • it contributes to the tracking and influencing of our behaviour.

But on the ground, in daily life, we very much understand the appeal of paying by card in pubs, bars and bottle-shops.

It saves us having to wander round suburbs or industrial estates looking for cash machines, and makes it easier for us to manage our various bank accounts and budgets, with every transaction recorded and reported.

And not taking cards can be excluding in its own way. One publican in a cash-only business recently told us they’d been thinking about getting a card machine purely because they were aware of constantly turning away young people who expected to be able to use cards. About half of them were willing to find a cash machine and come back, but the rest just moved on down the road.

A lot is made of the cost of processing card payments but depending on the size of the business, cash can be just as expensive to handle, and certainly less convenient.  It can require extra staff-hours for counting and banking, and needs transporting, either at considerable cost (secure pickup) or risk, with a member of staff walking to the bank with a sack of readies. (I’ve managed cash-heavy concerns and write from experience. – Jess.)

The presence of cash can also make premises more vulnerable to crime or, rather, advertising total cashlessness can be a good way to deter it.

And some of the objections cash-only businesses have to cards seem to use to be a hangover from a decade ago when banks charged a lot more for the service, and when people who paid by card in the pub were amateurs and freaks.

It used to mean five minutes of faffing around with signatures and pin numbers, holding up the line. Sometimes, there’d also be another minute or two of trying to get up to the limit for paying by card without an additional charge – “What are your most expensive crisps?” Nowadays, it’s a quick one-handed tap and done, and its people fiddling with coins and waiting for change who seem to cause a delay.

Fundamentally, though, we bridle at the idea of businesses doing only one, or only the other, because it’s convenient for them, rather than offering both with the convenience of their customers in mind.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 24 November 2018: Jopengasse, Bermondsey, Cold Comfort

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from conclusions on cask beer to booze in cold climates.

First, an astonishing revelation – researchers have discovered that living in a cold, dark climates makes you want to drink more:

Senior author Ramon Bataller, associate director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre, said: “This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that worldwide and in America, in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis.”


The old city of Gdansk.

We’re not generally that interested in Wot I Dun on my Holiday blog posts but knowing that Barm, AKA @robsterowski, is a serious scholar of European beer, and being long-time Polonophiles ourselves, we were excited to read his account of a visit to Gdańsk. He did not disappoint:

This is Ulica Piwna in Gdansk. In the past when the town was predominantly German, the street was called Jopengasse. Both names redolent with beery history, for Jopengasse is named after the legendary Danziger Jopenbier (or perhaps the beer is named after the street), whereas Piwna literally means Beer Street… Danzig in the 19th century also had a Mälzergasse, maltsters’ street. The street then called Hinter Adlers Brauhaus, “Behind Adler’s Brewery” is now called Browarna, brewery street and the one-time Hopfengasse is now Chmielna, both meaning Hop Lane.


We thought it was odd when Moor and Cloudwater opened bars on the Bermondsey Beer Mile but it’s now got even weirder with the announcement of plans by New Zealand brewery Panhead to launch a spearhead there too. The full story is at Australian industry news site BrewsNews in a story by Matt Curtis:

Lion-owned Panhead Custom Ales is set to open a taproom in the UK before the end of 2019… This new retail site will be headed-up by Fourpure, itself acquired by Lion in July 2018. The project will be led by Fourpure Marketing Manager and former 4 Pines marketing head Adrian Lugg, according to its co-founder Dan Lowe.

There’s further commentary, insightful as ever, from Will Hawkes at Imbibe:

Little Creatures, founded in 2000 in Western Australia and now owned by Kirin, is preparing to open in King’s Cross, and Panhead, a Kiwi brand also owned by Kirin, is set for Bermondsey. There are also persistent rumours that Sierra Nevada, which is independently-owned but still huge, has similar plans. Brewdog, Britain’s only representative in the big-craft league, opened a brewpub in Tower Bridge earlier this year… The value of brewpubs to big brands is simple: provenance is important to craft-beer drinkers, so it pays to muddy the water.


Source: Kirsty Walker.

At Lady Sinks the Booze Kirsty Walker is on a mission: to go drinking in the towns where the former members of defunct pop group One Direction were born. Obviously. She has started with Bradford, hometown of Zayn Malik, where she had a perfect pint of Timothy Taylor Boltmaker in “Car Wash and Tyre Centre Land” and got chatted up by a bloke who gladly drank a foul pint of Sam Smith’s she’d abandoned:

The pint I had just returned wasn’t just on it’s way out, it was downright rancid, and yet this specimen gulped it down like it was that pint of Boltmaker I pined for. I drank the Sovereign. It was fine, it was good in fact. How someone could taste both this and the pint of swamp water I had just consumed and say they were both the same was beyond me.


Pint glasses in a pub.

We’ve featured both previous pars of Pete Brown’s reflections on the health of the cask ale market and can’t omit his concluding post which is full of fascinating details:

On my questionnaire, before we got onto the business side of things, I asked respondents how they felt about cask themselves. Now – I split the data by size of pub, by whether it was freehold, leased, tenanted or managed, whether or not it had Cask Marque accreditation, and there was little variation in the data. The one difference that was significant was when I compared publicans who said they personally adored cask and drank it themselves to everyone else. These were the guys for whom cask ale was making money, who put in the extra time, who trained their staff properly.


The lingering existence of Young & Co is fascinating: the brands are now owned by Marston’s and brewed… in Bedford, maybe? But the heart and soul of the brewery remains in Wandsworth, south London, even if the site of the old place is in the process of becoming a residential and retail ‘quarter’. For the Brewers Journal Tim Sheahan has interviewed the keeper of the flame, John Hatch:

John is the head brewer at Wandsworth’s Ram Brewery. He’s also the assistant brewer, head cleaner, packaging operative and everything in-between… You see, the Ram Brewery is no normal brewery. Instead, it’s a truly unique operation housed on the grounds of the old Young’s brewery. A passion project that came into being upon the news that Young’s was to shutter it’s London brewing business back in 2006, Hatch has ensured that although the brewery would be leaving the site, brewing wouldn’t.


Old drawing of a brewery.
Dreher’s brewery. SOURCE: The Penny Illustrated Paper, 28 May 1870, via The British Newspaper Archive.

Andreas Krenmair has made yet another breakthrough in his attempts to pin down the specifications of historic Vienna beer. This time, it’s the colour:

Back in 2015, when I started looking more closely into the historic specifications of Vienna Lager, one question where I started speculating and couldn’t really get a good answer was the question of colour. I based this off historic records that I had found in one of Ron Pattinson’s books, Decoction!. The provided value of 6.3 (no units) seemed reasonably close to be SRM, but as Ron commented below my posting, the beer colour is not in SRM, and that he’s not sure what exactly it is… Well, today I can proudly proclaim that I have finally discovered not only what the 6.3 means but also how the value relates the modern beer colour units like SRM or EBC.


We don’t normally do this but we’re going to finish with one of our own Tweets — a short thread, in fact, and the kind of thing we might normally put on the blog, but wanted to experiment with.

Want more? Alan posts a splendidly splenetic links round-up every Thursday.

Writing About Pubs

Last night we won a gold tankard from the British Guild of Beer Writers for writing about pubs.

Though we’ve yet to receive the post-mortem notes we assume this was primarily for 20th Century Pub which, in case you haven’t heard, is a 230-page run through how pubs have changed in the past century or so.

Oscars™-style, we’d like take this opportunity to thank Jo Copestick and Tim Webb for taking a punt on publishing it, and Dale Tomlinson for his excellent work on the design.

We worked hard on it and would love people to read it. Please buy a copy, or ask your local library to get it in, or borrow it from a mate, or dip into the copy on the shelf at the Drapers Arms. There’s even an extract here you can read for free.

As well as the book, though, we also submitted:

We know that when this new category was announced there was some concern that, being sponsored by the pro-pub campaign Long Live the Local, it might reward only cheerfully uncritical writing about pubs but we think our win proves that fear unfounded.

Now, perhaps for 2019, we’ll pull the balance back from pubs to beer a bit.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have another think about that book on the history of lager in Britain we’ve been wanting to write for a few years. A trilogy sounds quite good right now.

Notable Pubs: The Milestone, Exeter, 1985-1988

"Pub with no beer"

There have been repeated attempts to test the idea that the identity of the pub need not be tied to alcohol. The Milestone, which opened in Exeter in 1985, was one such experiment.

On the bookshelf at the Drapers lurks a yellowing copy of the Wordsworth Dictionary of Pub Names, a cheap 1990s reprint of a book by Leslie Dunkling and Gordon Wright first published in 1987. The naming of pubs is an area of study requiring more pinches of salt than most, and the book is not without its inaccuracies, but flipping through it over our Sunday night pints, we often find some nugget or other, and that’s how we first heard of the Milestone:

The pub sells only soft drinks, non-alcoholic beers and wines. It was set up in 1985 by the Devon Council on Alcoholism and the Exeter Community Alcohol team to help people with a drink problem. It is in the basement of an office block, and those who named it clearly see it as a highly significant step.

A contemporary report from the Liverpool Echo (20/11/1985) offers more information:

Mr Murray French, chairman of Exeter District Health Authority, will pull the first pint — or rather pour the first soft drink — at noon [today].

The pub, complete with pool table, dart board and the usual bar fittings, is the brain child of Exeter Community Alcohol Team.

Mr Stan Ford, executive director of Devon Council on Alcoholism, said: “The main aim is to provide an environment where people can get the atmosphere of a pub without alcohol.

“A lot of my clients have asked where they could go if they stopped drinking. There was nowhere. Now there is.”

Laudable as this might sound, it’s hard to imagine anyone convincing friends who are still drinking (possibly heavily) to come to a teetotal pub, and however convincing the facsimile, there’s no denying that an air of merriness is an essential part of the pleasure of the pub.

Without booze, it will just feel like a youth club, won’t it?

There’s a certain inevitability to the next mention we can find in the newspaper archives, from the same newspaper for 25 October 1988:

MILLSTONE

Britain’s first alcohol-free pub, the Milestone in Exeter, Devon, is to close next month after three years. It failed to attract enough custom.

This feels like the kind of thing that might have generated the odd academic paper or official study but, if so, we can’t find them online, on this side of a paywall.

It would certainly be interesting to see pictures of the Milestone, or to hear from anyone who remembers (not) drinking there.