News, Nuggets & Longreads for 9 June 2018: Etiquette, Esters, Ethics

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that we bookmarked in the past week, from matters of manners to jars of juice.

Well, most of the last week: we wrote this on Thursday and scheduled it to post so if anything big happened on Friday, sorry, it’s probably missing.

Let’s start with this piece for the Guardian by Tony Naylor on the new etiquette of the pub. We can’t say we agree with every word but it’s a fascinating snapshot of where things stand in 2018:

People making phone calls, texting and tweeting in the pub is to be expected and, unless they are giving it the full Dom Joly, of no issue. Volume is key. Showing your mate that hilarious video on YouTube? Mute it. Pacifying your kids with Paw Patrol episodes on the tablet? Get their headphones on. Spare us that tinny racket.

See also: R.M. Banks. on Modern Pubmanship.

Cash Money Pound Signs.

Dave ‘Hardknott’ Bailey has gone on record with some details of the anti-competitive measures he understands large suppliers to be taking to push the products of smaller brewers off the bars of UK pubs:

[A bar owner] contacted me a couple of months ago as they were negotiating with suppliers of their major brand lager. It seems that they were being offered a cash lump sum for a two year exclusivity deal. They were being offered £2k cash to kick our Intergalactic Space Hopper off the bar. Apparently it isn’t just one major beer producer that is doing this, it is most of the big multinational brands and is looking a little bit like a cartel and anti-competetive action…. £2k is roughly the annual value of this particular account. We cannot compete in this territory.

Illustration: 'Citrus burst'.

For the Takeout Kate Bernot analyses the brewing industry’s obsession with ‘juiciness’ and the interesting ways it is being achieved by American brewers in 2018:

California-based Ballast Point Brewing (owned by Constellation Brands)…. recently introduced a new variant of its popular Sculpin IPA called Aloha Sculpin. It’s not brewed with pineapple, as the name might imply, but with a yeast strain called Brux Trois that supplies its fruity notes and slightly more rounded texture…. “We played around with this weird new yeast strain that made all these beautiful, tropical flavors. We put it on tap and the beer was gone before we knew it,” says Ballast Point’s director of quality Lauren Zeidler. “We had this collective lightbulb go off that this yeast makes so many amazing tropical flavors and this could be a great pair for some of the best attributes of the base Sculpin.”

Telescope in Cornwall.

We should have written this piece about beer in Cornwall, but we didn’t. Somehow, when we lived there, we never quite got it together, or couldn’t see the overall picture clearly enough, and so held back. For Good Beer Hunting Jonny Garrett, however, has spoke to a wide range of interesting people and given a rather sharp reading. We particularly like the fact that he spoke to the founders of a brewery that failed because of the realities of brewing in the far west:

“A common saying down here is that Cornwall is ‘five years behind London,’ and unfortunately, that’s the case in the beer world,” [Rob] Lowe says. “Traditional cask beer dominates the Cornish pub scene, and seasonality can be a killer. Many small breweries can’t produce anywhere near enough to meet demand in summer, but then spend months barely brewing when the tourists leave. It makes cashflow a nightmare.”

Cornwall has 44 breweries, but 9 have closed in the last decade. That’s not exactly an impressive success rate—clearly, competition for the hearts and mouths of the local cask-drinking population is fierce.

A canal boat and beers.

From Lydia and Lorna at Liquortrips comes a late contribution to #BeeryLongreads2018 in the form of a report on the Worcester Ale Trail:

The Ale Trail – which is the result of a partnership between The Cardinal’s Hat and the Worcester Food Festival – sends you around eight pubs with the view of ordering a pint of real ale in each. Punters have until June 17 to complete the challenge…. The recommended order of completion is you begin your adventure at The King’s Head in Sidbury, heading next to The Cardinal’s Hat on Friar Street before then stopping off at The King Charles on New Street. Then you go on to The Firefly in Lowesmoor, the Imperial Tavern on St Nicholas Street, The Paul Pry in The Butts, Tonic Bar on Foregate Street and finally finishing at The Oil Basin in Copenhagen Street.

And we’ll finish with some sad news:

Our Advice on Beer and Pubs in Bristol

Bristol has a huge number of pubs and bars and an ever-growing number of breweries. If you’re in town for a few days or hours, where should you go to drink?

We’ve been asked a few times for advice on this and so decided that, rather than keep typing up the advice in emails and DMs, we’d risk public humiliation, and the fury of local beer geeks and publicans, by giving it a sort-of permanent home here.

We haven’t been to every pub in Bristol — in fact we’re 152 down with, we think, about another 250 to go — but we’ve visited most of those in the city centre, and most several times.

In general, Bristol pubs are pretty easy to find, and fairly easy to read — chain pubs look like chain pubs, craft bars look like craft bars, and so on — so you won’t go too far wrong following your instincts. There are lots of hidden gems so do explore.

And if you want to keep things loose there are some decent crawls: St Michael’s Hill, Gloucester Road and King Street all have runs of varied and interesting pubs close together, one after the other.

Before we get down to business we must once again thank Patreon supporters like Jonathan Tucker, Peter Allen and Andrew Brunton who justified us spending a bit too much time putting this together. If you find this post useful please do consider signing up or at least buying us a pint via Ko-Fi.

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Q&A: What’s the Story of Lanted Ale?

Froth blowing.

In a brief exchange with @HappyBeerTime and @bierocratie on Twitter last month we agreed to see what we could find out about the practice of ‘lanting’ ale — that is, adding urine to it.

It turns out this has been written about fairly frequently especially on ‘Wacky Word of the Day’ type blogs, probably at least in part because of the sheer glorious grottiness of the idea.

Here’s what Sally Magnusson has to say in her 2011 book The Life Pee: How Urine Got Everywhere:

The eponymous Tinker of Turvey claims in 1630 to have “drunke double-lanted ale, and single-lanted”. Thirty years later the anonymous Renaissance drama, The Marriage Broker, includes a lament that: “My hostess takings will be very small,/ Although her lanted ale be nere so strong.” John Wright’s burlesque Mock-Thyestes in 1674 has a character “dead drunk with double lanted ale” and by 1691 the practice is so common that it wins a place in John Ray’s North Country Words: “To leint ale: To put urine into it to make it strong.”

But not everyone approved. The brewers’ bible, The London and Country Brewer, complained in 1743 of the “nasty, horrid and detestable piece of cunning and knavery… of putting chamberly, or human urine, into their pale or amber twopenny malt drink.”

Another frequently quoted instance can be found in a 1639 comic play by Henry Glapthorne called Wit in a Constable:

I doe believe you sir, your face does tel me,
You’r one that feed on bacon and bagpudding,
Your nose by its complexion does betray
Your frequent drinking country Ale with lant in’t,
Have you no hobnayls in your boots, driven in
To save the precious leather from the stones
That pave the streets of London.

But is any of that convincing evidence for this actually happening in practice? The references are mostly in comedy and it strikes us that it’s probably a folk legend highlighting the backward habits of bumpkins, and/or the foul cunning of brewers and publicans. (See also: KFCs mutant chickens.)

And, as it happens, these historians on Reddit tend to agree with us.

Before we’d really be willing to believe that anyone was putting wee in beer we’d want to see something like a brewers’ manual advising on how to go about it, and perhaps explaining why on earth you would bother; or an official document recording instances of it occurring in the real world.

Pub Life: Shaving the Zebra

A zebra.

Two barmen in matching polo shirts, one small, one tall, stand behind the bar with arms folded engaged in debate with a regular sat at the bar.

The tall barman leads: “No, you’re not getting what I’m saying: I’m asking, does a staircase go up or come down? Which way does it go?”

“Up,” says the baffled regular. “If it didn’t go up, you wouldn’t need it to come down. That it comes down is a side effect of it having gone up in the first place.”

“No, it’s both. It goes up and comes down. It doesn’t matter that it was built specifically to go up. Once you’ve got an up, the staircase has to go down as well. So it goes both ways.”

The small barman frowns, laughs quietly, and shakes his head.

“What are you on about? What are you actually on about?”

“Alright, scratch that, here’s another one: is a zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes? Eh? Think about it.”

The regular says, confidently: “White with black stripes.”

“Yeah, but how do you know for sure?”

“Shave it.”

The small barman claps in delight.

“He’s got you there, mate!”

“Alright, what about this one: we’re all agreed stairs go up and down–”

Regular: “No, but carry on.”

“– but what about escalators? Does an escalator go up, or come down?”

“You’ve hoisted yourself by your own petard here,” says the regular. “It depends which way it’s going, doesn’t it? I mean, you literally get one to go up, and another to come down.”

“Ah, see, no, you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why: because it has to come down on the underside or it can’t go up. It’s a loop. So escalators always go up and down, just like staircases. Makes you think, doesn’t it?”

News, Nuggets & Longreads for 2 June 2018: Flanders, Erith, Easterly Road

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from D&D to WWI.

First, a great story by Liam Barnes that just missed the cut off for last week’s round-up, about the part pubs and bars are playing in the resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons:

On first glance this branch of BrewDog in Nottingham might seem like your typical hipster hangout, but one thing gives it a slightly different air: numerous hand-drawn maps, some character sheets, and voluminous bags of 20-sided dice…. It’s the bar’s monthly tabletop gaming night – and regulars love it…. “I think the escapism is the best bit,” says 27-year-old gamer Hannah Yeates. “For a few hours you can become a completely different person living a completely different life, making decisions you’d never make and forgetting what’s happening in the real world…. It’s liberating.”

German troops sharing beer during World War I.

For All About Beer Christopher Barnes has written a long, detailed, heavily illustrated account of how World War I affected French and Belgian breweries:

The monks of Westmalle and Achel were forced to flee to The Netherlands. The Belgians, in their defense of Antwerp, destroyed a tower at Westmalle to prevent it being used as an observation post by the approaching Germans. Achel was occupied by the Belgians and shelled by the Germans until they were able to solidify their hold on Belgium. To keep citizens from going back and forth over the border with The Netherlands, the Germans erected an electrified fence along the border. Since Achel straddles the border of The Netherlands and Belgium, the fence bisected the abbey’s lands. When the call went out from the German War Department, the monks of Achel were able to sadly watch as their brewery was dismantled. No beer was brewed at Achel until 2001.

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