Categories
Environmental stuff opinion pubs

Climate Change and British Beer

The Guardian today features a story about the Cantillon brewery in Brussels which, owner Jean Van Roy says, is suffering as a result of climate change:

“Ideally it must cool at between minus 3C and 8C. But climate change has been notable in the last 20 years. My grandfather 50 years ago brewed from mid-October until May – but I’ve never done that in my life, and I am in my 15th season.”

This reminded us of an exchange we had with a senior figure at one of the larger British breweries last year who said that climate change was among their biggest long-term worries.

In particular, they suggested, cask ale still relies to a great extent on naturally cool pub cellars. (And, as a result, warm summers can already be a problem for cask ale quality.) If those summers last longer, and get hotter, traditional British beer will struggle. Cellar refrigeration is already common but might become absolutely necessary, even in pubs that haven’t needed it in the past.

That’s on top of concerns over how it might affect hop farming and malting barley; a nagging sense of guilt over the amount of water used in brewing; and about the amount of energy used to ship it, and its ingredients, very often under refrigeration.

We’d be interested to hear from others involved in brewing and the pub trade: is climate change on your ‘risk register’?

Categories
pubs

Smoke

On walking through the door of the Rusty Bike in Exeter we noted with pleasure the comforting aroma of wood smoke.

It’s an earthy, wholesome kind of smell that triggers certain assumptions in the primitive human brain:

I am home, I am warm, food is one the way.

Open fires have long been associated with proper pubs. The Campaign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide used to be sponsored by the Solid Fuel Advisory Service during which time a symbol appeared to show whether a pub had a real fire or not. The 1984 edition was a ‘real coal fire’ special with a two-page advertorial on their appeal.

As it happens, though, there is no open fire in the Rusty Bike.

‘Oh, yeah — we’ve been smoking pigeons all afternoon,’ said the red-eyed young man behind the bar, possibly suppressing a sooty cough.

But it turns out that doesn’t really matter: the smell was enough to make it feel as if we’d walked into a snug village pub, possibly via a 100-year time warp, rather than a modern gastropub a five minute walk from Exeter Prison.

(PS. We’re no food critics but the great big hunks of corned beef at the Rusty Bike struck us as astonishingly good, as did the pig cheek fritters. It’s part of the Fat Pig brewery estate and, though the beers are quite homely, a strangely coconutty cask ESB was just the job. We didn’t try the smoked pigeon.)

Categories
Beer history pubs

East Anglian Pubs, 1965

Batsford published a whole series of guides to pubs in the South and East of England in the 1960s. Vincent Jones wrote the guide to East Anglia and here are some nuggets that caught our eye.

Introduction: ‘Houses owned by all sorts of brewers are here; but there is a preference for those which belong to East Anglian breweries and sell East Anglian beer. This choice is purely personal.’ Buying local, resisting monopoly — the SPBW-CAMRA tendency?

Sorrel Horse, Barham, Suffolk: ‘Those who fear that the bread and cheese and pickles pub has altogether disappeared may take courage for here one is and a very fine one too.’ We can’t recall the last time we found a pub like this though we remember them from childhood.

→ Queen’s Head, Blyford, Suffolk: ‘Among the snacks he is noted for his Scotch eggs.’

Lord Nelson, Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk: ‘They are mainly drinkers of mild ale in this area: it is drawn from the cask.’ More evidence of the East Country as mild territory; interesting to note cask, draught and ‘drawn from the wood’ are used interchangeably throughout. (More on the development of the language around cask/keg here.)

Categories
pubs real ale

Cornwall Update: Falmouth Levels Up

Falmouth’s already thriving beer ‘scene’ has a (relatively) new addition in Mono, a music-focused bar and gig venue on the corner of Killigrew Street.

We first spotted it in July but didn’t actually get chance to sit down for a drink until last weekend. This doesn’t constitute a review — we had one pint each during a quiet Friday lunchtime — but though it worth flagging.

It looks a bit like a BrewDog bar — doesn’t everything these days? — even down to those ubiquitous ‘craft’ light-bulbs, and has 10 keg taps as well as four for cask-conditioned beer mounted on the wall behind the bar.

Lightbulbs and interior at Mono, Falmouth, October 2015.

On our visit, the keg offer included beers from Brew By Numbers, Wild Beer Co and Harbour Brewing, all priced at between £4-£4.70 per pint. The cask tended more to the traditional and featured Timothy Taylor Landlord and Bass (a Falmouth staple) at a rather competitive £3 a pint, alongside Siren Liquid Mistress (£3.40) and Harbour Amber (£3.10). The Landlord was in good-as-Yorkshire condition.

Its owner, Peter Walker, is also behind the nearby Hand Bar and runs his own beer distribution operation. We visited both bars on Friday and were pleased to find different draught beers on offer in each. When we spoke to him briefly at Mono, he was keen to stress that it is a gig venue rather than targeted at beer geeks, but if you’re pub crawling in Falmouth, and craving up-country beer, you’d be daft not to take a look.

Categories
Beer history pubs

How Old is the Phrase ‘Lock In’?

The Oxford English Dictionary research team is asking for help identifying the origins of the phrase ‘lock in’ in relation to pubs.

The earliest verifiable usage they’ve found is from as recently as 1991, which they’re sure can’t be right:

The elder members of the OED’s staff know from personal experience that this practice existed before 1991, but we have been unable to find earlier verifiable evidence of this term for it. Can you help us find earlier evidence of lock-in referring to a period after closing time in a bar or pub when customers already inside are allowed to continue drinking?

(Via @JamesBSumner, via @WilliamHaydock.)

Our instincts are that it must be much older — post-WWII, probably — and so we got out some books and logged into a few newspaper and magazine archives to nose around.

Online, once we’d worked out how to filter out references to people called Lock, and Enfield Lock, and lock picking, and so on, we found… nothing.

Nor did we find anything in hard copy books — pub guides, Michael Jackson, publicans’ memoirs — from the 1930s through to the 1980s.

There are various convoluted ways of referring to what is obviously a lock in along the lines of ‘the licensee closed the door and invited certain guests to remain for a “private party” with the curtains drawn’, but the phrase ‘lock in’ is not used.

When we found this clip from 1986 we thought we’d got something:

…but they don’t actually say ‘lock in’ in the sketch — it’s referred to as ‘an after hours session’.

We’re currently reading through every single issue of the London Drinker from the 1980s (as you’ll have noticed if you follow us on Twitter…) and compiling an index as we go. We reckon if ‘lock in’ is going to turn up anywhere, it will be in a publication with an informal tone aimed at serious pub-going drinkers, but, so far (we’re up to 1981) it hasn’t shown up.

We’ll keep looking but if you happen to know of a documented usage of the term, please let the OED team know, and/or comment below.