Pints West: a mine of information

We’ve found ourselves getting a bit excited when we find a new edition of the local CAMRA magazine, Pints West, in the display holder at The Drapers Arms, because we always learn so damned much.

The lat­est issue, for autumn 2019, is just out and is a good exam­ple of why we like it so much.

First, with #Every­Pu­bIn­Bris­tol in mind, there’s a com­pre­hen­sive update on what’s going on with local pubs based on exten­sive field­work from the Bris­tol Pubs Group. It tells us which pubs have closed, reopened and changed hands, usu­al­ly before we hear via social media.

We’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the fate of The Merchant’s Arms in Sta­ple­ton which just sits there with its big, blank, board­ed-up facade; Pints West always gives us an update – stale­mate, appar­ent­ly, with the own­er deter­mined not to re-open it as a pub despite its ACV sta­tus.

But there’s more: we don’t dri­ve (and wouldn’t dri­ve to the pub if we did, obvi­ous­ly) so the pub crawls focused on walk­ing and pub­lic trans­port are always inspir­ing. This quar­ter, Vince Mur­ray sug­gests a cou­ple of trips in South Glouces­ter­shire by bus while Dun­can Shine gives a run down of all the pubs along the Bris­tol-Bath Rail­way Path. We’re already work­ing out ways to tack­le some or all of those on the list.

We were also struck by a piece in the last edi­tion by Robin E Wild on the best val­ue pubs in the area – a pos­i­tive way to address the fraught issue of the some­times exclu­sive price of beer.

In gen­er­al, there’s an open­ness about it that shows CAMRA at its best. All brew­eries are cov­ered with enthu­si­asm and hon­esty, regard­less of their par­tic­u­lar cask-ale cre­den­tials. Licensed premis­es of all kinds get a look in and there are heart­en­ing tales of local activism to save appar­ent­ly doomed pubs.

Now, dis­clo­sure, before some­one brings it up: in the past, before we moved to Bris­tol, we pub­licly rolled our eyes at one of the car­toons in the mag­a­zine. It irri­tat­ed us then and look­ing back, it’s still irri­tat­ing. But we haven’t noticed any­thing like that since.

Any­way, our piece said, we’re off to explore a cou­ple of the pubs men­tioned in the most recent edi­tion – and isn’t that what a local CAMRA mag­a­zine ought to inspire?

News, nuggets and longreads 22 June 2019: Birmingham, Bottle Shares, Books

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting, amusing or eye-opening in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from Burning Soul to the future of CAMRA.

First, some sad news: Mor­due Brew­ery has gone into admin­is­tra­tion. Found­ed in North Shields in 1995, Mor­due was best known for its Workie Tick­et real ale. The New­cas­tle Chron­i­cle includes some telling lines from co-founder Gar­ry Faw­son:

We have been look­ing to get invest­ment over the last 12 months but with no luck. We then put the brew­ery up for sale and again no seri­ous inter­est, which was par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­ap­point­ing to Matt and I… If you have won the amount of awards that we have and still no inter­est in buy­ing the busi­ness then we are just lost for words, to be hon­est… [The] mar­ket has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly. It has shrunk whilst at the same time there are now more brew­eries than there ever have been before.”

(Via @robsterowski.)


Old sign: B'HAM (Birmingham).

For Pel­li­cle Nic­ci Peet has pro­duced a pro­file of Birm­ing­ham’s Burn­ing Soul brew­ery with side notes on the city’s beer scene. You may think you’ve read enough of these ori­gin sto­ry pieces to last a life­time but, seri­ous­ly, this is a good one:

Chris Small: I used to work for the NHS. The job was fine and I was pret­ty good at it. It was mon­ey and I had a lit­tle place in Edg­bas­ton but I had quite a bit of debt and I didn’t real­ly have any sav­ings to make this work, so I sold close to every­thing. I sold the flat, all the fur­ni­ture, every­thing that I had at the time. I had four things: a van, my clothes, my mobile and I had…I’m not sure what else, there was def­i­nite­ly a fourth thing…

Nic­ci Peet: A brew­ery?

Chris Small: Half of a brew­ery!

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 22 June 2019: Birm­ing­ham, Bot­tle Shares, Books”

News, Nuggets and Longreads 13 April 2019: Peroni, Pricing, Perceptions

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting or readworthy in the past week, from notes on enamel signs to news of the CAMRA AGM.

First, a sug­ges­tion for a dif­fer­ent way of think­ing about beer from Stan Hierony­mus:

What if we tast­ed beer in some sort of his­toric reverse? That is, start­ing with a par­tic­u­lar type of beer as it is brewed today, and fol­low­ing it with pre­vi­ous episodes of the same beer… I ask this, and ask it this way, because the Game of Thrones returns Sun­day, and like Zak Jason I didn’t start watch­ing the series when it debuted in 2011 and haven’t since.


Enamel Orval signs.
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

At Brus­sels Beer City Eoghan Walsh has turned his atten­tion to an aspect of Bel­gian beer cul­ture we’ve been aware of with­out real­ly think­ing about – who makes all those enam­el signs you see in bars?

Email­lerie Belge is the last enam­el advert pro­duc­er in the Low Coun­tries, and it has been mak­ing ad pan­els for Bel­gian brew­eries for almost a cen­tu­ry… The com­pa­ny sur­vived a tumul­tuous 20th cen­tu­ry and sev­er­al flir­ta­tions with bank­rupt­cy. Now under new man­age­ment, it’s work­ing to recap­ture the glo­ry days of the enam­el ad indus­try, bet­ting that its small scale, cus­tom, and high qual­i­ty out­put can suc­ceed against low-cost, indus­tri­al enam­el pro­duc­ers.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 13 April 2019: Per­oni, Pric­ing, Per­cep­tions”

News, Nuggets and Longreads 06 April 2019: Berlin, Brett, Better Lager

Here’s all the news, commentary and thinking about beer that’s seized our attention in the past week, from Berlin to Peckham, via Huddersfield.

First, some inter­est­ing news: Brew­Dog has acquired the brew­ery Amer­i­can out­fit Stone launched in Berlin a few years ago. Stone says Ger­mans didn’t take to their beer or brand; Brew­Dog, which already has a bar in the city, cites a need for a post-Brex­it con­ti­nen­tal brew­ing baseJeff Alworth offers com­men­tary.


Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

It’s fit­ting that the new lead­er­ship at the Cam­paign for Real Ale should use an inter­view by vet­er­an beer writer Roger Protz as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a state­ment of intent:

Nik [Antona] and Tom [Stain­er] are quick to point out that a pro­pos­al to allow CAMRA beer fes­ti­vals to include key kegs was sup­port­ed by the nec­es­sary major­i­ty and many fes­ti­vals are now sup­port­ing this change.

A num­ber of fes­ti­vals have key kegs with expla­na­tions that are not dog­mat­ic about the dif­fer­ent ways beer can be served. I accept that we’ve poor about explain­ing this in the past,” Tom says. “We need to rep­re­sent all pub­go­ers.”

We may revis­it Revi­tal­i­sa­tion in a few years,” Nik adds, “but in real­i­ty we’re doing it now. Younger peo­ple are drink­ing cask but they want to try dif­fer­ent things – they want to drink good beer but not nec­es­sar­i­ly from casks.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 06 April 2019: Berlin, Brett, Bet­ter Lager”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 5 January 2019: Gratitude and Onions

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past few weeks (given that we took Christmas off) from St Albans to air raid shelters.

At The Pur­suit of Abbey­ness Mar­tin Stew­ard asks an excel­lent ques­tion: why do peo­ple vis­it brew­ery tap­rooms?

On the face of it, this is an odd thing to do. Brew­eries with­out tap­rooms may give you a taste of their beer, but they are hard­ly places to kick back and put the world to rights over a good ses­sion. They can be inter­est­ing for beer lovers, but, if we’re hon­est, set­ting aside the few with spe­cial archi­tec­tur­al, his­tor­i­cal or brew­ing points of inter­est, one is much the same as anoth­er.

But per­haps there is some­thing deep­er going on:

When we knock on the door of a pokey lit­tle brew­ery at the ragged end of a rain­swept indus­tri­al estate, are we real­ly respond­ing to a soul-deep thirst to express our grat­i­tude, in per­son, to the brew­ers of our much-loved beer?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 5 Jan­u­ary 2019: Grat­i­tude and Onions”