Here’s everything that grabbed us in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from American history to donkeys in pubs.
First, picking up on the topic of the day, the BBC’s Chris Baraniuk has investigated the question of cashless pubs and bars in some detail. This line seems like the key to understanding the trend:
Ikea found that so few people – 1.2 in every 1,000 – insisted on paying in cash that it was financially justifiable to offer them free food in the shop cafeteria instead.
For Good Beer Hunting Dr J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham has written an absorbing piece about Peter Hemings, the enslaved man who actually did the brewing with which President Thomas Jefferson is sometimes credited:
With several years of experience, Peter Hemings came into his own as a maltster and brewer, and may have taught these trades to other enslaved men in Virginia. On April 11, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, “Our brewing for the use of the present year has been some time over. About the last of Oct. or beginning of Nov. we begin for the ensuing year and malt and brew three, 60-gallon casks successively which will give so many successive lessons to the person you send… I will give you notice in the fall when we are to commence malting and our malter and brewer is uncommonly intelligent and capable of giving instruction if your pupil is as ready at comprehending it.”
Martyn Cornell has attempted to tackle the world’s thorniest philosophical conundrum: what’s the difference between a pub and bar?
In the New Town where I grew up, all the estate pubs had been built to look like New Town homes on steroids, following the ‘pub as a home from home’ idea, but their newness stripped them of any of the ‘sense of permanence and continuity’ that all the pubs in the Old Town had dripping from every brick and beam, and they felt like zombie pubs, lifeless and without character. A bar, in contrast, never feels ‘homey’: indeed, I’d suggest that the slightest pinch, jot or iota of ‘a home-like character’ turns a bar into either a pub or a teashop.
We were intrigued by the Beer Nut’s observation that Copenhagen has become ‘Mikkeller World’:
Last time I was in town, the brewer’s retail outlets consisted solely of the little basement bar on Viktoriagade; now there are over a dozen premises in Copenhagen alone, with more worldwide.
And that’s not all – even flights in are awash with the stuff.
A side order of nuggets
- We know the Wetherspoon chain has a fascinating history – we wrote about it at length in 20th Century Pub – and now that history is going to be celebrated with a museum above a Wolverhampton superpub. We suspect this will have a certain kitsch appeal and become a pilgrimage site for Spoons worshippers in years to come.
- Some sad brewery news: York Brewery has gone into administration. We’ve generally enjoyed York’s beers over the years, and certainly associated them with weekends away in one of England’s most fascinating cities, even if in recent years they’ve perhaps struggled to stand out.
- A minor story, but amusing for its juxtaposition of Hollywood and Huddersfield: actor Tara Reid is suing the producers of Sharknado 5 in part because they allowed Northern Monk to use her image on packaging for a tie-in beer earlier this year. (Via @QueerBeerBrewCo.)
Classics corner: Charles Dickens’s ‘dropsical’ inn
We promised to flag some famous bits of beer and pub writing and this week’s piece – one of Jess’s absolute favourites – is the description of a London riverside pub that appears at the start of Chapter 6 of Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend:
The bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters was a bar to soften the human breast. The available space in it was not much larger than a hackney-coach; but no one could have wished the bar bigger, that space was so girt in by corpulent little casks, and by cordial-bottles radiant with fictitious grapes in bunches, and by lemons in nets, and by biscuits in baskets, and by the polite beer-pulls that made low bows when customers were served with beer, and by the cheese in a snug corner, and by the landlady’s own small table in a snugger corner near the fire, with the cloth everlastingly laid. This haven was divided from the rough world by a glass partition and a half-door, with a leaden sill upon it for the convenience of resting your liquor; but, over this half-door the bar’s snugness so gushed forth that, albeit customers drank there standing, in a dark and draughty passage where they were shouldered by other customers passing in and out, they always appeared to drink under an enchanting delusion that they were in the bar itself.
Finally, here’s an old Tweet that’s new to us:
D is for Dandy the Donkey #ArchiveZ with coalman, Benny off for a pint at the Masonic Arms in Longcroft near Cumbernauld in spring 1971@TheScotsman @ARAScot https://t.co/6IGK5yHmMe pic.twitter.com/24rvuN6kFj
— SCRAN (@Scranlife) March 26, 2018