Writing Style Guide: Family Brewers

Ward's sign, Sheffield.

We need to compile notes on how brewery names ought to be treated for whoever is lucky enough to get the job of copy editing and proofreading our book, and thought we might as well share them.

If you are a blogger or beer writer who frets over your apostrophes, you might disagree with our judgement: let us know if you think we’re way off the mark, but bear in mind that ‘style’ (as opposed to grammar) is to some extent a matter of taste.

If you are not in the habit of writing about beer, or like to do so in a free-form, convention-defying way which pushes the boundaries of traditional grammar and spelling, you’ll probably find this extremely boring. Sorry.

1. Legal names

Most breweries have formal company names which are rarely used, e.g. Young & Co is almost always referred to as Young’s. The only time most writers will need to use the formal name is if making very precise distinctions between different phases in a company’s history, or when describing the foundation of a new legal entity, e.g. after a takeover.

So, Young’s Bitter is still Young’s Bitter, even though it is now actually Wells & Young’s Ltd’s Bitter.

2. Apostrophes

If the family name is Watney, and if the company and any individual beers are supposed to belong to an unspecified, almost symbolic Mr. or Ms. Watney, then they are Watney’s.

The famous brewing company was Watney’s. The beer was Watney’s Red Barrel. It was sold in Watney’s pubs.

You might just about get away with referring to ‘senior figures at Watney’, but  Watney’s is better. Watney Red Barrel just seems stupid. (The underlying base rule of style guides in action, there.)

3. Brand style

Breweries sometimes insist on alternative styles for the sake of branding: Watney’s was almost always written as ‘Watneys’ on labels and in marketing material, probably because designers thought the apostrophe looked ugly.

You might feel more comfortable writing the name of a brewery and its beers as they appear on labels, and that is also a legitimate approach.

4. Family names ending with S

We were shocked when we realised yesterday that the brewing family is Adnams, and that it is therefore Adnams’ Broadside. Or perhaps Adnamss, depending on taste. Either way, it is not Adnam’s Broadside, because there has never been a Mr Adnam.

There are a handful of other brewing families whose names also end with S, and who ought to be treated the same way:

  • J.W. Lees | Lees’ Bitter
  • Thwaites | Thwaites’ Nutty Black
  • Jennings (not Jenning) | Jennings’ Cumberland Ale

5. Place or family name?

Devenish is a family name, not a village in the West Country as we once thought, so, for consistency, should we ever need to, we will refer to Devenish’s Bosun Brown Ale. We’re not sure if there are others that might cause similar confusion, but it’s worth checking if you have any doubts.

6. Breweries with multiple family names

In the rare instances where a brewery owned/run by several families has not come to be known by one name (Fuller, Smith & Turner is almost always called Fuller’s). This is about the only time you ought to use ‘&’ in prose, and only the final proper name in the list needs an apostrophe to indicate possession. In this instance, you might also do away with the possessive apostrophe altogether, treating the brewery name as an adjective, as in ‘Nike (brand) trainers’ (a matter of taste; be consistent).

  • Company name: Eldridge Pope & Co.
  • In prose: Eldridge Pope’s Crystal Ale; Eldridge Pope Crystal Ale.
  • Not: Eldridge’s and Pope’s Crystal Ale.
  • Company name: Starkey, Knight & Ford Ltd.
  • In prose: Starkey, Knight & Ford’s Tivvy Ale; Starkey, Knight & Ford Tivvy Ale.
  • Not: Starkey’s, Knight’s and Ford’s Tivvy Ale.

If you’ve got any questions (‘What about Brodie’s, founded by two people called Brodie?’) or suggestions, leave a comment below.

 

Ancient Adnams’ Tally Ho

Adnams' Tally Ho c.1977.

When we saw the tiny 275ml bottle in the window of an antique shop, we couldn’t resist spending £1 on a bottle of Adnams’ Tally Ho that we guessed was at least thirty years old.

“Whatever you do, don’t drink it,” said the man in the shop.

Having consulted various authorities, including current Adnams’ Head Brewer Fergus Fitzgerald, who may well not have been born when this beer was bottled, we decided to ignore the shopkeeper’s advice, not least because of the opportunity this presented for a sensory encounter with the period of British beer history in which we have recently been so immersed.

Tally Ho is a bottled beer produced in draught form for a few outlets at Christmas. It has an original gravity of 1075.

CAMRA Good Beer Guide 1980

In the early nineteen-eighties, there was some controversy among beer geeks over Adnams’ yeast: their Bitter, once held up as an example of what ‘real ale’ should taste like, began to seem bland. The brewery eventually admitted there had been problems, especially with infections in their yeast in the summer of 1983 (letter from John Adnams, What’s Brewing, Feb 1986). The beer was cleaner and more consistent thereafter, but did it have the same character?

And was our antique bottle of Tally Ho a chance to get a glimpse of the old, dirty, more interesting Adnams?

We got our yeast from Adnams… it was really Whitbread B yeast, and they’d got it from Lacon’s in Great Yarmouth…

Patrick Fitzpatrick of Godson Freeman & Wilmot, recalling 1977

We’ve drunk old beers before, but those had been ‘cellared’, and we had no idea how this one might have been kept. We were delighted, therefore, to hear an assertive hiss on popping the cap: it was neither flat nor a ‘gusher’. Its condition was remarkable given its age, and a fairly compact, sandy-coloured head formed on top of a near-black body. An aroma reminiscent of raisins steeping in brandy — distinctly Christmassy — enveloped the glass. There was plenty of life in it. 

In the course of thirty years, it had thinned out, and so felt rather watery for its (supposed) strength. It also seemed a little slick. We noted a tongue-numbing clove or Szechuan pepper quality; a streak of rubberiness; a snatch of nail polish; a passing suggestion of rotting veg; some port-wine fruitiness; and an aroma that reminded us of leather-bound books decaying under a coat of dust. Extremely complex, in short, but not all that pleasant.

As for the yeast, we concluded that it was remarkably similar to the Harvey’s strain, which we’ve got to know quite well from the case of their strong beers we bought last year. Does anyone happen to know if Harvey’s use Whitbread B or a descendant thereof?

This has been educational, and we’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for more old bottles of barley wine or imperial stout on our travels.

Getting to Know All About You

Adnam's Jack Brand Innovation IPA.

In the last year or two, we’ve started doing something quite new for us: ordering entire cases of the same beer.

Many beers have a superficial glamour on first tasting, or if enjoyed only occasionally, but when you have twelve, eighteen or twenty-four bottles to drink, you get beyond all that. If the tenth bottle tastes as good as the first, then you know you’ve got a keeper.

We were, for example, gushingly impressed with Adnams’ Jack Brand Innovation, a 6.7% American-inspired India Pale Ale, when we first tried it: a sweet orange liqueur, caramel toffee, ripe mango character made it seem bright and exciting. As we near the end of the case, however, that enthusiasm has waned. It’s still a perfectly decent beer, but one-dimensional and a little sickly, like a big bag of Haribo.

Twenty-four cans of the same brewery’s Ghost Ship, however, proved to be an excellent investment. Pilsner-pale, with a hard bitterness and big herbal hop aroma, it gave us much of what we enjoy in Brewdog Punk IPA but at 4.5% ABV instead of 5.9% — much better for school nights and long sessions. It’s also great value, even in dinky little 440ml cans, and perfect for throwing into rucksacks and handbags for parties and train journeys.

Two other cases we ordered, we must confess, mostly so that we could reuse the easy-to-clean bottles for home brewing.

Hopf Helle Weisse (5.3%) is as pale as Erdinger but tastes much better, with a dab of acid making it a full fruit salad (pineapple and pear) rather than a muddy, one-trick banana Angel Delight. We drank the last bottle this week and would happily buy another case.

Finally, there were 20 bottles of Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier (4.3%) — not actually made with smoked malt but in a thoroughly smoked Bamberg brewery, which adds a subtle autumnal bonfire aroma. Even though they’d travelled a way, and were pretty near bang on their best before, that extra layer of flavour from the smoke made them taste fresh (interesting) even if they weren’t fresh (in peak condition). Better than bottled Pilsner Urquell from Tesco? Maybe.

Does anyone have any suggestions for beers that are good value by the case and will retain their appeal over the course of a long-term relationship?

24 X 440ml cans Ghost Ship cost us £26.99; 12 x 330ml bottles of Adnams’ Jack Brand Innovation cost £18.99; delivery was free through their online store. We ordered the Hopf and Schlenkerla Helles through Beermerchants.com but have misplaced the receipt; they’re currently £2.23 and £2.85 a bottle with a case discount, plus delivery, which sounds about right.

Strong, fruity, wrong and funky

Two beers: Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale and Bateman's Vintage Ale.

Last night, we got round to drinking a couple of strong beers we were sent by Shepherd Neame and Aldi respectively in the run up to Christmas.

In one sense, Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale (7%) is a cause for rejoicing: it comes in a proper brown bottle, rather than the clear glass they’ve been using to disastrous effect for the last decade or so. This is a huge turnaround and a ‘positive behaviour’ (thanks, Dr Tanya Byron) we definitely want to encourage.

It’s a shame, then, that the beer itself seemed to be… wrong. There was a whiff of elastic bands when we popped the cap, and it tasted waxy, rubbery and, finally, of slightly singed cardboard. An intriguing minty hop flavour we detected early on passed too quickly and, unfortunately, we only got half way through before giving up.

We’re not huge fans of SN’s beers in general (though we have a soft spot for their porter) but this particular bottle disagreed with us on a level beyond ‘house style’ — a technical issue, perhaps? We won’t write off the beer altogether, though we’d want to wait a few months before trying another from a different batch.

Bateman’s Vintage Ale (7.5%) comes in a cardboard box with a sticker sealing the lid — these apparently, thanks to Fuller’s, are the universal indicators of ‘vintagey-ness’.

On pouring, we were immediately reminded of Black Sheep Progress, another strong ‘special’ from a British regional brewer that we got to try at a tasting do run by Darren ‘Beer Today’ Norbury. Where Progress caused one of our fellow tasters to mention “armpits” in his notes, this beer’s aroma gave us (bear with us) old socks and white cheese rind. The taste was similarly odd, with some savoury vegetal character coming up against a tot of salty, coppery sherry-vinegar.

We didn’t love it, and, no, that doesn’t sound appetising, we admit, but the beer’s not wrong, just funky, in the same way Harvey’s or Adnam’s beers can be. If we drank enough Bateman’s, we could probably get to like it, and it certainly kept us interested, if not delighted, to the end.

Beer Labels are not History Lessons

We’ve talked before about how certain beer descriptors have more than one equally correct meaning depending on context. Most recently, the issue arose again in a conversation about old ale and barley wine.

Those two styles, says Martyn Cornell, are not all that easily distinguished. One contributor thought he’d cracked it, however, when he pointed out that Adnams Old Ale (dark, 4.1%) bears no resemblance whatsoever to, say, Fuller’s Golden Pride (dark amber, 8.5%).

The problem is that Adnams Old Ale is the exact opposite: a mild.

Brewers can call their beers whatever they like. What’s written on the label or pumpclip of a beer today is rarely any help in understanding a beer bearing the same descriptor a hundred years ago. In fact, they can be downright confusing.

Historical (19th c.) Common understanding (what it’s come to mean) US homebrew judging guidance
Old Ale
The aged version of a beer also sold fresh (mild). Possibly strong, but not necessarily (see above): something a bit special; “warming”. Sherry/port flavours, usually dark, 6-9% abv.

Are there any bad pubs in Highgate?

adnamsold

In addition to the Flask (which we love) there are plenty of other pubs in Highate, north London, to make a crawl worthwhile.

On our visit, the Prince of Wales was serving Butcombe Bitter, Bateman’s Jester IPA, Woodforde’s Wherry and Adnam’s Old Ale. We had the first and last, both being in great condition. The Old Ale (4.1%) was, perhaps unsurprisingly, like a darker version of Broadside, and very nice with it. The pub was a cosy place with knackered furniture, low light and cricket bats on the walls. You wouldn’t think it was on a square full of millionaires — it felt like a real local.

Just down the road is the Angel Inn, a much trendier pub. As at Zero Degrees in Bristol, the tone was set by a cheerful barman who, before we got down to business, asked: “How are you, guys?”. Very civilised. They were selling Adnam’s attempt at a Koelsch and, conveniently, an example of the real thing (Kueppers) for comparison. The Adnam’s was very tasty although not really like a koelsch — we thought it would need to be colder and fizzier to fool anyone — but then it is an ale inspired by koelsch, rather than an attempt to clone it. It tasted, we though, very similar to their East Green. As koelsch tends to be when served away from its home city, the Kueppers was pretty bland and sweet, although there were some chalky, sherbety flavours to be enjoyed, and it came in a nice branded koelsch glass.

We went to three pubs in Highgate, two of them chosen at random, and liked them all.

Adnams get experimental

adnams

It’s easy to think of Adnams as a rather stolid, big, unexciting regional brewery. They have some lovely branding and design and have been very innovative in ‘green brewing’ but, nonetheless, the beers of their’s you see most commonly in London are quite conservative in their flavour.

They’ve obviously decided to go beyond Bitter/Broadside/blonde beer, though, and (with thanks to Steve the Beer Justice for the tip off) are now brewing a wide range of monthly specials in continental styles, starting with a Koelsch-style beer.

Next month, they’re rolling out a Belgian abbey-type ale, and there are German and Belgian-style wheat beers in the pipeline. They’re also going to take on Guinness next spring with a dry stout.

Innovation doesn’t just need to mean ‘turning up the volume’ or putting coconut in your beer — more subtle experiments with hops and yeast can be just as mind-expanding — so we’re looking forward to trying these.

We emailed Adnams to ask where these beers will be on sale in London, and Danielle sent us this list:

The Carpenters Arms
73 Cheshire Street, E2    6EG

The Brewery Tap
69 High Street
Wimbledon Village, SW19  5EE

The Queens Arms
11 Warwick Way
Pimlico, SW1V  1QT

The Wenlock Arms
26 Wenlock Road, N1    7TA

The Old Dairy
1-3 Crouch Hill, N4    4AP

The Pineapple Public House
51 Leverton Street
Kentish Town, NW5   2NX

The Wimbledon Club
Church Road, SW19  5AG

The Edgar Wallace

It’s always great to stumble upon a nice pub in London selling more than the usual Adnam’s, Pride and Deuchars*.

A work outing of all things brought me to the Edgar Wallace, on Essex Street (opposite the Royal Courts of Justice) which had seven or eight handpumps featuring interesting brews from around the country.  It was a school night, so I stuck to a couple of corking sub-4%-ers. They were Dark Star Mild for May, and Phoenix Hopsack, a pleasantly bitter pale ale.  If you want more info on the range available, their website is regularly updated with what’s on tap and what’s in the cellar.

The pub also does decent, reasonably priced food.

Beer in the evening review here.

Boak

*Not that I have anything against Adnam’s, or Pride, but they seem to be on offer everywhere in central London.

The week of new pubs #5 – the King and Queen, Fitzrovia

kingandqueen_ewanm

Our eye was caught as we passed by the ancient Adnams advertising materials all over the exterior of the pub (1980s?). It looks like it hasn’t been properly decorated for a few years (this pub used to smell, apparently, until they changed the carpets) but was nonetheless crammed with students and media types.

We drank Adnams Bitter (pleasant) and Adnams Extra (best bitter, also pleasant, and apparently back from the grave for Cask Beer Week, complete with retro pump clip).

A bit of hidden gem, but not one to go out of your way to get to.

Picture nicked from EwanM; Randomness Guide reviews here.

Adnam’s East Green and the Crown pub, Victoria Park

The Crown pub, Victoria Park, as photographed by EwanM
The Crown pub, Victoria Park, as photographed by EwanM

On one of our random wanderings round East London, we stopped off at the Crown Pub, next to Victoria Park. I gather this has been through a few incarnations, and is now part of the Geronimo Inns chain. It’s gastro-y, with a lounge bit downstairs and a dining room upstairs.

Top marks for the feng shui — despite the cowskins and bare floors, they do manage to make it feel cosy (good lighting, darkish walls and a cleverly placed book case).

They had Adnam’s East Green on tap, which claims to be carbon neutral. We haven’t heard lots of enthusiastic reviews about this beer, so we weren’t expecting much. We were pleasantly surprised. It had an orangey, spicy aroma, like a Belgian wit beer, which was how it tasted too. The Adnam’s website makes no references to use of spices, but I’m blowed if I can work out how they got that flavour without them. Refreshing and different, and worth trying even if you don’t want to save the planet.

They also had Pride and Doombar on tap, in reasonable condition. In bottles, the usual selection of dull world lagers, but they also had Anchor Steam.

We liked this place, as it was genuinely relaxing and cosy — too many wannabe modern pubs just don’t manage to pull this off. We didn’t try the food, although it’s supposed to be good. Worth a visit if you’re in the area, and a great spot for a Sunday afternoon pint after a stroll through the park.

Boak (via text)

Notes

1. The Crown is at 223 Grove Road, E3, next to Victoria Park, and is equidistant from Bethnal Green and Mile End tubes. Beer in the Evening review here.

2. Adnam’s have achieved carbon neutrality through a mixture of genuine reductions in carbon emissions and by offsetting the rest. We’re not that convinced by offsetting, but it’s interesting to see a brewery quantify the carbon emissions created by brewing and attempt to do something about it.

3. Geronimo Inns also own the Phoenix in Victoria, which is rubbish, and The Betjemen Arms in King’s Cross St Pancras, where we haven’t yet been. So I don’t know what belonging to this chain is supposed to mean in terms of quality.

Once again, we find ourselves indebted to EwanM at Flickr for the picture. He appears to be on a mission to photograph every London pub and put up his pictures under a Creative Commons license. Thanks, Ewan!