News, Nuggets and Longreads 9 February 2019: London, Chuvashia, Viborg

Here’s everything that struck us as especially interesting in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from the origins of craft beer to best practice in bars.

A cou­ple of years ago we put togeth­er a short his­to­ry of beer weeks with input from Will Hawkes, then involved in organ­is­ing Lon­don Beer Week. Now, Will has writ­ten his own piece reveal­ing just how much stress and work was involved, and for how lit­tle reward:

It had all been a ter­ri­ble error. I should have known that I was doing some­thing very stu­pid before I start­ed; I’d asked around to see if any­one else in the Lon­don beer demi-monde was inter­est­ed in help­ing, and got a series of respons­es along the lines of “Good idea! No, sor­ry, I’m too busy,” gen­er­al­ly from peo­ple with enough time to be dis­cussing the idea with me in a pub in mid-after­noon… Not only that, but I was nev­er real­ly sure why I was doing it: it just sort of kept on hap­pen­ing, for four long years.

For The Take­out Kate Bernot writes about the expe­ri­ence of drink­ing out as a woman, and how much she appre­ci­ates con­crete steps tak­en by bars to make women feel safe:

The Rhi­no bar in Mis­soula, where I live, has post­ed fly­ers indi­cat­ing its bar­tenders have under­gone “bystander inter­ven­tion” train­ing. The bar has also host­ed police-led class­es on the top­ic. “What our train­ing specif­i­cal­ly talked about was inter­ven­ing in things like sex­u­al assault,” Mis­soula Police Depar­ment detec­tive Jamie Mer­i­field told KGVO years ago. “When you see some­one in trou­ble, the train­ing helps you to inter­vene, and not just turn a blind eye. Most peo­ple would want to help, they just don’t know how.” In a sim­i­lar vein, oth­er estab­lish­ments around the coun­try have intro­duced “angel shots,” drinks that peo­ple can order as a sig­nal to bar­tenders that they’re in trou­ble.

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Watch the 1989 Beer Hunter TV Series at Leeds Beer Week

Michael Jackson’s influential TV series about beer isn’t available commercially in the UK but several episodes are going to be shown next week in his native Yorkshire.

It’s being shown as part of Leeds Beer Week which runs from Sun­day 28 August to Tues­day 6 Sep­tem­ber. We saw a Tweet about the Beer Hunter episodes from Sam Con­g­don (@greenarmysam) and asked him for a bit of back­ground. Here’s what he sent us with a cou­ple of small edits:

Like many oth­ers, I watched the Beer Hunter series when it was freely avail­able on YouTube or Vimeo, with Dutch sub­ti­tles, about six years ago, and I loved it. It fit­ted in per­fect­ly with where I was on my ‘beer jour­ney’, after mov­ing to Leeds from Ply­mouth and find­ing North Bar. I think I found it online after watch­ing all the avail­able Zak Avery video blogs about clas­sic beers.

It’s prob­a­bly best I don’t go into where I final­ly sourced copies of the six Beer Hunter episodes, but since then I can’t fault Chan­nel Four for being so open and will­ing to let us use these episodes for the events. I need­ed the exper­tise of the Leeds Bicy­cle Film Club (who put on cin­e­ma events at The Reliance) to con­tact the right peo­ple and ask the right ques­tions but all Chan­nel Four want is a cred­it for them and the pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny (Hawk­shead Ltd) to be vis­i­ble at the events.

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A Brief History of Beer Weeks

It’s Sheffield Beer Week this week (14–22 March) which got us thinking about beer weeks in general – where did they come from, what are they for, and where are they going?

In the UK arguably the orig­i­nal beer week is Nor­wich City of Ale, which first took place in May 2011. It involves mini-fes­ti­vals in pubs across the city fea­tur­ing brew­eries from the region, and spe­cial events designed to cre­ate a buzz such as tasters of beer being giv­en out in the street. It was the brain-child of lec­tur­er Dawn Leed­er and pub­li­can Phil Cut­ter, AKA ‘Mur­der­ers Phil’. As Dawn Leed­er recalls there was no par­tic­u­lar inspi­ra­tion except per­haps, oblique­ly, Munich’s Okto­ber­fest. Its launch was cov­ered by an enthu­si­as­tic Roger Protz in this arti­cle for Beer Pages which con­cludes with a call to action:

It’s an ini­tia­tive that could and should be tak­en up oth­er towns and cities in Britain with a good range of pubs, craft brew­eries and a pub­lic trans­port net­work. Not­ting­ham and Sheffield, with their tram sys­tems, spring to mind.

Red Routemaster bus with Norwich City of Ale livery.
Nor­wich City of Ale pro­mo­tion­al bus, 2013. SOURCE: Nor­wich City of Ale web­site.

Glas­gow’s beer week first ran in 2011. It was inspired equal­ly by US beer weeks and by the Glas­gow Beer and Pub Project organ­ised by Eric Steen in 2010, a six-week arts and cul­ture event which cul­mi­nat­ed with a home-brew­ing event in a pop-up pub. Glas­gow Beer Week co-organ­is­er Rob­bie Pick­er­ing recalls some of the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by ama­teur vol­un­teers:

We had our dis­as­ters, like the time we man­aged to sched­ule a meet-the-brew­er in a pub where a live band was play­ing on the same night. I am very lucky that brew­er still speaks to me. I am still proud of some of the events we put on even if hard­ly any­one came to them. We did the first beer and cheese tast­ing in Glas­gow and the first UK screen­ing of the US Michael Jack­son doc­u­men­tary, and got Ron Pat­tin­son over to speak about British lager togeth­er with peo­ple from the Scot­tish Brew­ing Archive Asso­ci­a­tion. And I have a lifetime’s sup­ply of beau­ti­ful let­ter­press beer mats with a spelling error.

It ran for three years the last being in 2013:

I think GBW col­lapsed in the end because of lack of inter­est. After the first year most of the oth­er peo­ple involved had moved away and I was left run­ning around on my own… I announced the dates for 2014 before decid­ing not to go ahead with it. Nobody ever asked what had hap­pened to it which kind of sug­gests it was the right deci­sion.

From our dis­tant van­tage point it also seemed to bring to a head ten­sions in Glas­gow’s beer com­mu­ni­ty with expres­sions of ill-feel­ing still being expressed via social media three years lat­er.

Rob­bie Pick­er­ing sees some pos­i­tives in it, how­ev­er: the kinds of events that the Beer Week was built around now occur organ­i­cal­ly and fre­quent­ly in Glas­gow negat­ing the need for a spe­cial event.

In 2012, the Cam­paign for Real Ale (CAMRA) ran a Lon­don City of Beer cel­e­bra­tion pig­gy­back­ing on the surge in vis­i­tors to the cap­i­tal dur­ing the Olympic Games. But it was two months long, not a week, and did­n’t turn into an annu­al event.

The next British city to get a beer week prop­er was Bris­tol. It launched in Octo­ber 2013 when, hav­ing bub­bled under as a beer des­ti­na­tion for a few years before­hand, the city was just on the cusp of a boom in spe­cial­ist bars and brew­eries. The ini­tial idea came from Lee Williams who was born in Bris­tol but lived in the US for ten years where he ran a blog, Hop­topia, and wrote a guide­book called Beer Lover’s Col­orado. When he returned to Bris­tol to work in the beer indus­try he brought with him expe­ri­ence of sev­er­al US beer weeks and sug­gest­ed the idea of run­ning some­thing sim­i­lar to a friend and fel­low beer blog­ger, Stephen Pow­ell.

Bris­tol Beer Week fea­tured more mini-fes­ti­vals, talks, tast­ings and spe­cial one-off beers brewed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with beer writ­ers who duly plugged the event.

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