News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 June 2018: Lager, Gas, Glass

Here’s everything around beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Belgium to Oregon via Moscow. (And with special thanks this week to our Patreon subscribers for suggestions.)

Some news: there is a shortage of CO2 (carbon dioxide) which is affecting not only the food industry but also pubs which rely on it to add sparkle to certain beers and soft drinks. It’s been brought about by a combination of factors, not least of which is the World Cup which causes a Europe-wide surge in demand for lager, especially in Moscow. But…

The [British Beer and Pub Association] has issued some guidance to its members reminding them that CO2 used in drinks, including for dispensing beer at the pumps, must be food grade gas…. “We’d be concerned this is not the time to go looking for a white van man who says they can supply you with CO2,” [Brigid Simmons] said.

(On the whole, people did not take well to the Campaign for Real Ale’s attempt to score a cheeky goal off the back of this by pointing out that cask ale produces its own CO2.)


Graffiti: lager, lager, lager.

Alec Latham has been reflecting on the recent resurgence of lager in the UK, updating on a similar post from last year:

The acid test is when the traditional ale oases that dominate Britain’s rural areas and smaller towns give way to this proper matured beer style – hopefully reflected in pubs where corporate Lager still holds a 70% hold…. Last year in that local catchment, I found evidence of just four breweries (not including a giant – Wells & Young’s). This year, the tally has shot up to thirteen. These counties are by no means brewing epicentres, so this augmentation could be applied nationally – probably with a margin in its favour.

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Session #135: Sepia-Toned Pubs

The Session, when bloggers around the world get together to write on the same subject, is a fragile thing, only ever one dropped ball away from disappearing altogether. This month’s was looking dicey until Al at Fuggled stepped in heroically to save the day, proposing for Session #135 the topic ‘Sepia Tones’. Here’s our contribution.

Over the past few years we’ve spent a lot of our time thinking in monochrome, thumbing through decaying papers, and staring into the eyes of long-dead brewers and pubgoers. But something about Al’s particular choice of words made us think not of archives but of a particular category of pub that we’ve sometimes struggled to describe.

The Blue Bell, York.

We’ve sometimes used the shortcut ‘proper pub’ but calling them sepia toned is rather more poetic, and also implies less of a judgement against other less ‘proper’ pubs.

The Marble Arch, Manchester.

These are places dominated by shades of brown, from the dark wood of the bar to walls either stained with nicotine or painted to look that way. The prints on the walls are yellowed, the paintings dark and varnished to death, the photographs jaundiced.

Swan With Two Necks, Bristol.

The beer probably sits somewhere on that stretch of the colour spectrum, too — perhaps Courage Best, Bass, Tetley, or some other brand from a long-gone brewery frozen in the flash-bang of nostalgia, fading away with mishandling and neglect.

Two pints of Courage Best.

They have them on the Continent, too, where the clue is in the name: brown cafes, or brown bars.

A Belgian Brown Cafe.

Here’s one test: take a photo in a sepia-toned pub and compare it to one  of the same place from a hundred years ago — can you see much difference?