News, Nuggets & Longreads 25 March 2017: Morse, Ma Pardoe, Mild

Here’s all the writing on beer and pubs that’s stood out in the last seven days, from Inspector Morse to the provocative nature of lists on the Internet.

The crime nov­el­ist Col­in Dex­ter died this week which prompt­ed vet­er­an beer writer Roger Protz to dig out an inter­view he con­duct­ed with Dex­ter back in 1990, in an Oxford pub, nat­u­ral­ly. Although it first appeared in CAM­RA’s What’s Brew­ing news­pa­per, it isn’t pri­mar­i­ly about beer, but that’s a thread through­out:

When he was in hos­pi­tal a few years ago he dreamt he was win­ning a cross coun­try race but he was more con­cerned with get­ting a pint of beer after fin­ish­ing than being laud­ed as the win­ner. When he woke, slaver­ing for a drink, he saw the dread­ed mes­sage above his bed ‘Nil by mouth’.

Interior of the Old Swan.

The Wench at Black Coun­try Pub takes us on anoth­er jol­ly, this time to The Black Swan, AKA Ma Par­doe’s, where the local dialect is as thick as the doorstop sand­wich­es, and every detail has a sto­ry to tell:

You may think me a lit­tle strange, but one of my favourite things about Ma Par­does is the worn car­pet that leads you to the bar. Now it’s not one of them fan­cy Weath­er­spoons car­pets like those fea­tured in Kit Caless­es book and blog, how­ev­er I imag­ine the many Black Coun­try folk who’ve weari­ly trod that same path in search of fine ale, and the tales they have told.

Detail from a vintage ad for Tetley mild.

Ron Pat­tin­son has a recipe for a Tet­ley mild from 1946, with this inter­est­ing aside:

It’s typ­i­cal of a type of Mild brewed in York­shire, lying some­where between pale and dark. Weird­ly, all those years I drank it, I nev­er realised that it wasn’t real­ly that dark. More of a dark red than brown.

The Eagle Hotel.

Tan­dle­man has joined the wel­come trend of Epic Pub Quests (e.g. Cam­bridge, Bed­ford) with a mis­sion to vis­it all 30 Samuel Smith pubs in the catch­ment area for his local CAMRA branch. Only four sell real ale but this kind of endeav­our isn’t real­ly about the beer – it’s about going to and observ­ing places that might oth­er­wise get over­looked. The sec­ond report so far filed has pas­sages that would seem at home in a 20th Cen­tu­ry social real­ist nov­el:

The Irish woman walked over and warmed her arse on the roar­ing coal fire adja­cent to the card play­ers. She asked no-one in par­tic­u­lar if the clocks go back or for­ward this week­end.  There was some dis­pute about this, but it was final­ly agreed that the clocks go for­ward. The Old Irish­woman sniffed at this.‘Forward or back, you should­n’t inter­fere with the feck­ing clock,’ she announced, elic­it­ing no opin­ions either way.

A scared, angry mob.

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Bryan Roth shakes a weary head at peo­ple argu­ing online with a US Brew­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion list of ‘The Top 50 Brew­eries’ by beer sales vol­ume – an act as futile as debat­ing the iTunes Top 10. Tying it into the buzz-phrase of the day, FAKE NEWS!, Roth says:

The back­lash was swift. Push­back came over social media as com­menters offered their hot takes while ignor­ing the fac­tu­al basis of the list—it was, as it has been for at least a decade, orga­nized by pro­duc­tion lev­els. Even still, these inter­net denizens repeat­ed­ly asked, as if they were debat­ing a lis­ti­cle on Red­dit, ‘how can you leave [My Favorite Brew­ery Name Here] off this list?’

Detail from Ansell's beer mat, 1970s: "Brewed in Birmingham".

News from Birm­ing­ham via Dave Hop­kins at The Mid­lands Beer Blog Col­lec­tive: The Birm­ing­ham Beer Bash is dead (or at least in sta­sis); long live the Birm­ing­ham Beer Bazaar! This replace­ment event has dif­fer­ent organ­is­ers and, we sus­pect, might prove con­tro­ver­sial – there’s already a bit of mut­ter­ing on social media. At any rate, we’ll be adding this to the reg­is­ter of good and bad news, along with…

…the announce­ment of Leices­ter’s new spe­cial­ist bot­tle shop, the awk­ward­ly-named Brewk­lo­pe­dia:

The idea for the shop came about after the own­ers of 23 Wine & Whisky on Gran­by Street decid­ed to intro­duce some local beers into their range… Man­ag­er of Brewk­lo­pe­dia, Kunal Kapa­dia, said: “We had a real­ly good response, so we start­ed intro­duc­ing more beer from around the globe… ‘Cus­tomers quite liked the idea of hav­ing a sep­a­rate shop in the city cen­tre, so we decid­ed to take the risk and jump right in.’

(Report­ed by Hay­ley Wat­son for a local news web­site ren­dered bare­ly read­able by intru­sive ads – sor­ry.)

Final­ly, here’s a some sooth­say­ing from one of the authors of the World Atlas of Beer which, we sus­pect, has the weight of inside info behind it:

Swans and Bulls: Dipping Into The Black Country

We’ve long wanted to explore The Black Country and, with an unexpected free day on our hands, seized the opportunity to do so last week.

Our inter­est in this part of the world was raised pri­mar­i­ly by this mar­vel­lous 2014 arti­cle by Barm which deserves reg­u­lar resur­fac­ing and is a shoo-in for our imag­i­nary anthol­o­gy of great beer writ­ing. There was also a nag­ging sense that we’d screwed up by tast­ing The Batham’s in Wolver­hamp­ton rather than in or around Dud­ley.

We set our hearts upon vis­it­ing The Old Swan AKA Ma Par­doe’s AKA Mrs Par­doe’s at Nether­ton and The Vine Inn AKA The Bull and Blad­der at Brier­ley Hill. (All the pubs round here seem have at least two names.) The first we reached by train and bus. The weath­er was ter­ri­ble and every­thing looked a bit bleak through misty win­dows. The sight of the blunt­ly named Pork Shop in Cradley Heath was, it turned out, a por­tent of snacks to come.

Nether­ton in the rain, a group of blokes drink­ing cider out­side the con­ve­nience store, a road con­gest­ed with heavy goods vehi­cles, their grum­bling engines har­mon­is­ing with rum­bles of thun­der… Black Coun­try indeed we mut­tered, prob­a­bly not very orig­i­nal­ly. The pub had plen­ty of twee details but looked oth­er­wise like any oth­er small town booz­er, a bit down on its luck and chipped around the edges.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Swans and Bulls: Dip­ping Into The Black Coun­try”