News, Nuggets & Longreads 22 July 2017: Quality, Icebergs, Cheesecloth

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that’s caught our eye in the last week, from beer quality to iceberg water.

A debate about beer qual­i­ty has flared up in New Zealand prompt­ed by this piece by vet­er­an beer writer Geoff Grig­gs in which he sug­gests there is too much faulty self-pro­claimed craft beer on the mar­ket. It’s an inter­est­ing piece in its own right – ‘Peo­ple aren’t look­ing for qual­i­ty beer, as long as it isn’t s…, and you have super sweet pack­ag­ing and an even bet­ter sto­ry you will sell heaps.’ – but this response from Jason Gur­ney at Brewhui is arguably more so. In it, while sug­gest­ing that Grig­gs is wrong to have made such a sweep­ing state­ment at this stage, he pro­pos­es some con­crete, con­struc­tive actions for improv­ing beer qual­i­ty over­all, e.g.

We need to facil­i­tate an audit sys­tem regard­ing brew­ing, pack­ag­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­els. If a brew­ery is hav­ing an issue with beer qual­i­ty, then it’s fea­si­ble that this issue is caused by a sys­tem­at­ic prob­lem with the way they are brew­ing, pack­ag­ing, and/or dis­trib­ut­ing their beer.  There’s noth­ing like doc­u­ment­ing each step of your process for iden­ti­fy­ing where things can be done bet­ter – and as such, the Brewer’s Guild need to facil­i­tate an audit sys­tem that is easy to access and actu­al­ly valu­able from the per­spec­tive of the brew­ery.  I would sug­gest that inter­na­tion­al, inde­pen­dent advi­sors could again be use­ful here – but it’s also pos­si­ble that a nation­al peer-review sys­tem could be effec­tive too.  It real­ly depends on how much we tru­ly believe in the col­le­gial­i­ty of the brew­ing com­mu­ni­ty.

That’s an inter­est­ing idea, as are the oth­ers – but which body could admin­is­ter some­thing like this in the UK? Sure­ly not the cur­rent­ly under fire SIBA.


A London pub glimpsed up an alleyway.

After the slight­ly con­tro­ver­sial inclu­sion of Mari­na O’Lough­lin’s ‘I don’t like pubs’ piece last week, here’s anoth­er, by Jes­si­ca Brown for Lon­greads, which reach­es a sim­i­lar con­clu­sion, but via a more pos­i­tive, thought­ful, lit­er­al­ly mean­der­ing route:

I won­dered if the Britons’ third place could be pubs… The pub seems to be a per­fect fit; at least, it does when you’re look­ing through the lens of nos­tal­gia, as one can eas­i­ly do when under the alien sky­scrap­ers and mys­ti­cal spell of the city… But recent­ly there’s been a decline in the num­ber of pubs, and the ones that remain are strug­gling to sur­vive. Part­ly to blame is a shift from the tra­di­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty pub of locals to strangers’ cock­tail bars and pop-ups — a new kind of plague on the city.


Josh Noel writes about beer for the Chica­go Tri­bune and is try­ing out a new for­mat: a sim­ple report of a crawl around a sin­gle neigh­bour­hood in one evening. His first ram­ble was around Pilsen which sounds fas­ci­nat­ing:

As recent­ly as nine months ago, Pilsen had no tap­rooms or brew­pubs. In the midst of a food and drink upris­ing — some call it gen­tri­fi­ca­tion — Pilsen, a home to Mex­i­can immi­gra­tion since the 1950s, sud­den­ly has three.


Quidi Vidi Brewing, Newfoundland.

Rebec­ca Pate, a Cana­di­an based in the UK, made a vis­it home recent­ly and reports on a trou­bled New­found­land brew­ery that uses an unusu­al ingre­di­ent in its flag­ship beer:

The brew­ery has an ice­berg har­vester con­tract­ed to extract ice­berg water, a dan­ger­ous process involv­ing cranes and grap­pling hooks. An unfor­tu­nate effect of cli­mate change means that Ice­berg Alley, a col­lo­qui­al term used for the eco­zone that stretch­es from Green­land to New­found­land, is replete with ice­bergs tra­vers­ing the waters. Some have been vis­i­ble from St John’s har­bour, accord­ing to the locals.


Beer being poured through a cheesecloth.

Patrick Daw­son, who lit­er­al­ly wrote the book on age­ing beer, recounts his expe­ri­ence of drink­ing Vic­to­ri­an beers from crust­ed bot­tles for Craft Beer & Brew­ing:

The beer had to be poured through a piece of cheese­cloth to strain out crum­bled bits of ancient cork. After 15 min­utes and four dif­fer­ent corkscrews, it became appar­ent that hold­ing back 10 per­cent ABV beer for more than 145 years had been too much for the aged stop­per. This bot­tle of the vaunt­ed Rat­cliff Ale, a bar­ley­wine brewed by Bass in 1869, just four short years after the end of the Amer­i­can Civ­il War, must have had an Enci­no Man-moment being poured out into this rad­i­cal­ly changed world.


And, final­ly, pub pho­to of the week must sure­ly be this piece of misty, mourn­ful roman­ti­cism from 1960 (via @JamesBSumner):

News, Nuggets & Longreads 8 July 2017: London Fields, St Ives, Anywhere

Here’s all the beer writing and news from the past seven days that’s grabbed our attention, from brewery takeovers to the (literal) essence of craft beer.

First, a bit of beer blog­ging admin: the British Guild of Beer Writ­ers has launched its annu­al awards. If you’re a blog­ger, as opposed to a pro­fes­sion­al or semi-pro writer who hap­pens to have a blog on the side, do con­sid­er enter­ing in the Cit­i­zen Com­mu­ni­ca­tor cat­e­go­ry.

A sign points to London Fields Brewery.
‘Wall’ by Matt Gib­son from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

The big news of the week was that, hav­ing enig­mat­i­cal­ly trailed such a pur­chase a few months ago, Carls­berg has just acquired a UK craft brew­ery: the trou­bled, moral­ly murky, unloved Lon­don Fields. We did­n’t have time to pro­duce any­thing sub­stan­tial about this (just a Tweet) but if we had, we’d have writ­ten some­thing much like this from Richard Tay­lor at the Beer­cast:

From their Hack­ney base… the Danes will have a Lon­don-cen­tric brand to push across the coun­try and beyond. And the fact that it has the city name in the brew­ery title is an added bonus… Look­ing at some of the tweets from beer indus­try peo­ple – par­tic­u­lar­ly those based in Lon­don – was an almighty WTF moment. Of all the brands to acquire, why pick one with so lit­tle pub­lic recog­ni­tion and so much indus­try resent­ment? The con­tin­u­al atti­tude and actions of the founders have black­ened the name of Lon­don Fields with­in the beer com­mu­ni­ty – but, as we’ve all seen since time began, the big lager boys don’t real­ly care for that any­way. It’s the bot­tom line that mat­ters, and in their eyes, pick­ing up Lon­don Fields for even £4m is peanuts com­pared with what they would have to fork out for oth­er alter­na­tives.


The bar at Beer & Bird.

Those of you head­ing down to Corn­wall on hol­i­day this sum­mer might find the lat­est post at Pints and Pubs use­ful: it’s an extreme­ly com­pre­hen­sive run down of the pubs of St Ives. It includes news of an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment in the form of a bar that has spun off from the town’s impres­sive spe­cial­ist off-licence, John’s:

The most recent addi­tion to the beer scene in St Ives, next door to the Cas­tle Inn… It has eas­i­ly the most exten­sive bot­tle and can list of any of the St Ives pubs, but also a decent selec­tion of draught, with three cask and five keg when vis­it­ed – we had good pints of Fire­brand Equinot and Black Flag Sim­coe Amar­il­lo Pale.


Sign: "Traditional Real Ales".

Reflect­ing on the dif­fer­ence between Real Ale and Craft Beer as sub­cul­tures Pub Cur­mud­geon makes an inter­est­ing sug­ges­tion with ref­er­ence to a wider divi­sion in post-Brex­it Britain:

There’s obvi­ous­ly a big area of over­lap, as after all both are broad­ly about ‘qual­i­ty beer’, but the well­springs of sen­ti­ment from which real ale and craft grow are essen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent things. One is, at heart, about tra­di­tion and roots, the oth­er about moder­ni­ty and inno­va­tion. It’s basi­cal­ly the Some­where ver­sus Any­where divi­sion expressed in beer.

Those on the oth­er side of the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al divide from the Cur­mud­geon prob­a­bly would­n’t dis­agree with the idea but might spin it dif­fer­ent­ly: ‘Real ale is inward and back­ward look­ing, while craft beer points for­ward and out­ward!’ At any rate, he might be on to some­thing.


A portrait of Bim looking pensive.

Jor­dan St. John at St John’s Wort, one of the co-authors of the Ontario Craft Beer Guide, paints a por­trait of Luc ‘Bim’ Lafontaine, a revered Cana­di­an brew­er whose new ven­ture is strain­ing under the weight of expec­ta­tion:

[Peo­ple] talk about the brew­ery before the open­ing in mes­sian­ic terms; as though Bim walked into town across Lake Ontario. At one end of the spec­trum a local wag claims on twit­ter that the beer is ter­ri­ble and two of the first three batch­es should have been drain poured. At the oth­er end is a wine pro­fes­sion­al who pro­claims the Eng­lish style IPA the best he has ever had. On both ends is the response to the expec­ta­tion that God­speed will some­how redeem the Toron­to beer scene, as if it need­ed it… Bim has been try­ing not to look at the reviews although they fil­ter in. There are some con­cerns about the pric­ing. $3.75 a can for 355ml seems high to the pub­lic… The oth­er gripe is about the styles of beer being brewed. There are peo­ple review­ing it who are will­ing to dis­miss a third of the nascent brewery’s pro­duc­tion because there is a Dort­munder Lager involved. I know through the rumour mill that Bim has spent much of the last two years drink­ing Spat­en Munich Helles.


Final­ly, the Beer Nut high­lights the exis­tence of Essence of Craft:

News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 January 2017: Spain, Sheffield and Sober Island

There’s been plenty of good reading this week from intelligence on the latest AB-InBev manoeuvring  to memories of 1970s Sheffield via a Sober Island.

First, the news head­lines: AB-InBev have tak­en over Span­ish brew­ery Cervezas La Vir­gen, as report­ed by Joan Vil­lar-i-Martí at Bir­raire:

A rather pecu­liar move, in my opin­ion, if we com­pare it to the Bel­gian brew­ing giant’s recent oper­a­tions, espe­cial­ly in Europe… La Vir­gen was born as a prod­uct designed for the Madrid mar­ket, and until a year ago it was basi­cal­ly focused on it. As a com­pa­ny, it has nev­er quite been in the cir­cles of the nation­al craft move­ment, appear­ing in few fes­ti­vals and with­out a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in spe­cialised bars. On the con­trary, it has suc­cess­ful­ly pen­e­trat­ed the mar­ket with a craft-labelled prod­uct that deliv­ers a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence to the ‘usu­al’ beers.


Fishing boats on Sober Island.
‘Sober Island’ By Den­nis Jarvis from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

For Mel mag­a­zine Angela Chapin gives an account of the dis­pute over the name and loca­tion of Sober Island brew­ery, which is not cur­rent­ly brew­ing on Sober Island, Nova Sco­tia, Cana­da, as the name might sug­gest:

One of the locals most excit­ed about her plan was [Rebec­ca Atkin­son’s] friend Trevor Munroe. He and his wife run an oys­ter farm on Sober Island, and the 43-year-old thought the brew­ery would be great for the com­mu­ni­ty. Not to men­tion, it was to be a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ship: Munroe want­ed to help Atkin­son find land; she want­ed to use his oys­ters in her beer. Bet­ter yet, they planned to team up to attract tourists to the island with tours that would end with cold beer and fresh oys­ters… But the rela­tion­ship began to sour when Atkin­son delayed the con­struc­tion of the brew­ery and start­ed brew­ing beer at her mom’s place instead.

The sto­ry high­lights all kinds of issues around prove­nance, mar­ket­ing, and the mean­ing of local – is Atkin­son exploit­ing the island’s quirky name or is she sin­cere in her stat­ed intent to even­tu­al­ly move pro­duc­tion there?

(Via @PivniFilosof.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 14 Jan­u­ary 2017: Spain, Sheffield and Sober Island”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 September 2016: Keith’s, Kwak and Kveik

Here’s the best of the beer- and pub-related writing that’s caught our attention in the last week, from Canadian IPA to sour celebrity-endorsed Guinness.

Illustration: Biere de Garde text on weathered wood.

Joe Tin­dall at The Fatal Glass of Beer has been con­sid­er­ing the rel­a­tive­ly unfash­ion­able Biére de garde style and espe­cial­ly British-brewed takes on it:

Biéres de garde are often grouped with saisons under the ban­ner of ‘farm­house ales’… [but] whilst the sai­son booms, its French cousin gen­er­ates far less inter­est. This is under­stand­able, in a way — if the dry, pep­pery qual­i­ty of a sai­son in the Dupont vein invites dry hop­ping, mixed fer­men­ta­tion and oth­er ‘crafty’ goings on, the soft, sweet, malty char­ac­ter of many biéres de garde hard­ly screams exper­i­men­ta­tion.


Yeast samples in jars.

Lars Mar­ius Garshol sum­maris­es high­ly tech­ni­cal lab analy­sis of the var­i­ous Kveik yeast strains he has col­lect­ed around Scan­di­navia and the Baltic region:

[These] yeasts are extreme­ly diverse, and that the yeasts don’t clus­ter by what region they came from. A Finnish yeast sits in between the Lithuan­ian ones, and some Lithuan­ian ones are clos­er to some Nor­we­gian ones than to the oth­ers. Even with­in Nor­way the geo­graph­i­cal rela­tion­ships don’t hold. Stran­da, fur­thest north, is the most sim­i­lar to a yeast from Voss, fur­thest south.


Bottles of Alexander Keith's 'Fundy'.

Lon­don­er Rebec­ca Pate of Brew­ing East has made a trip back to her native Cana­da which she finds her­self view­ing through a beery prism:

When I was a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of King’s Col­lege in Hal­i­fax, we hap­pi­ly cra­dled slosh­ing pitch­ers of Alexan­der Keith’s IPA with­out a thought of hop char­ac­ter­is­tics in our heads… In Hal­i­fax, you can’t go far with­out hav­ing a Keith’s thrust upon you- it’s the province’s favourite sup and was heav­i­ly mar­ket­ed under the slo­gan ‘those who like it, like it a lot’ through­out the sum­mit of its pop­u­lar­i­ty in the 90s.


Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 10 Sep­tem­ber 2016: Keith’s, Kwak and Kveik”