News, Nuggets and Longreads 9 March 2019: Politics, Tokenism, Firestarters

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that prompted us to bookmark, favourite or ReTweet in the past week, from US politics to the politics of beer culture.

First, an impor­tant and eye-open­ing post from Craft Beer Amethyst on the sub­ject of tokenism in the world of beer:

Read­ing Wiper & True’s Vic Hels­by in the Inde­pen­dent say­ing that Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day risks becom­ing tokenis­tic unless diver­si­ty and inclu­sion become a real­i­ty in the indus­try real­ly hit home with me, because I see this as the most impor­tant and under-addressed prob­lem in beer and beyond – how to trans­form the cul­tur­al space into a place where we no longer need words like diver­si­ty and inclu­sion because every­one is seen as com­plete­ly equal and no less or more deserv­ing of spe­cial atten­tion? How do we reach a point where we stop talk­ing about women in beer and minori­ties in beer and just talk about beer?

A bottle of Cloudwater V 10 enveloped in steam.

Now things are a lit­tle less raw Will Hawkes has tak­en a moment to reflect on last week’s Cloud­wa­ter beer fes­ti­val hoo-ha, observ­ing (as did we) that reac­tions to the threat of the event being can­celled were mixed, and reveal­ing:

On the one hand, there were peo­ple who felt under­stand­ably aggriev­ed at hav­ing coughed up £60, plus train fares, for an event that didn’t seem to be hap­pen­ing; On the oth­er, there were peo­ple who felt the first group were being a bit neg­gy, and should just, you know, chill… It’s obvi­ous that many peo­ple feel craft beer is a com­mu­ni­ty… The prob­lem is that not every­one feels this way. For those whose inter­ac­tion with beer is less inti­mate, for those who earn their crust else­where, this idea of com­mu­ni­ty can be a prob­lem. After all, who ben­e­fits from the notion that a com­mer­cial rela­tion­ship is also a friend­ship? Brew­eries, def­i­nite­ly. Pub land­lords, Bot­tle-shop own­ers, dis­trib­u­tors, yup. Drinkers? Only in the most neb­u­lous sense.

Letter from America.

For Bloomberg Joshua Green reports on research into how the pol­i­tics of Amer­i­can drinkers man­i­fests in their choice of alco­holic drinks:

Democ­rats will be heavy con­sumers of cognac and brandy, both favored by African-Amer­i­can drinkers, who over­whelm­ing­ly lean left. Mex­i­can beers such as Coro­na, Tecate, and Mod­e­lo Espe­cial are also pop­u­lar with Democ­rats, espe­cial­ly those who don’t turn out reg­u­lar­ly on Elec­tion Day—that is, they’re pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, whose turnout num­bers lag behind old­er groups. And because Heineken drinkers are con­cen­trat­ed in the Northeast—not friend­ly ter­ri­to­ry for Republicans—they, too, skew Demo­c­ra­t­ic… Repub­li­cans have an entire­ly dif­fer­ent alco­holic pro­file. “They’re big bour­bon drinkers,” [researcher Will] Fel­tus says…

Betty Bowes

A new source for us, tele­vi­sion his­to­ry web­site Red­if­fu­sion, offers an archive arti­cle from the defunct inde­pen­dent broad­cast­er’s in-house mag­a­zine from 1958 by Peter Ling, about Bet­ty Bowes, man­ag­er of the stu­dio social club:

In Tele­vi­sion House, Bet­ty has to know peo­ple. Not always their sur­names, per­haps, and prob­a­bly not their jobs — but she knows a thou­sand faces, and can fit a Chris­t­ian name to most of them. Best of all, she knows what they like to drink. Most­ly it’s straight­for­ward; the Stu­dios come in thirsty and hot, need­ing beer; the Fourth Floor splice the main­brace with some­thing stronger; a Third Floor cus­tomer might occa­sion­al­ly ask for a Pimm’s Num­ber One… But the Fifth Floor demands — and usu­al­ly gets — any­thing and every­thing: “I think I know most drinks by now.” Bet­ty Hash­es a smile as bright as a new pen­ny. “A ‘Cameraman’s Kick’, for instance —That start­ed with the cam­era-boys from Wem­b­ley; it’s a lager-and-lime, but lots of oth­er peo­ple besides cam­era­men have tak­en it up now.”

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

The Guardian saved us the trou­ble of dig­ging in the archives our­selves this week by resur­fac­ing a piece by Peter Cor­ri­g­an from 1988, about the drink­ing cul­ture of Fleet Street:

[The pub] was some­thing more than an exten­sion of the news­pa­per: for some a home from home, for oth­ers an air-lock between the desk and sub­ur­bia. A man could get the bends going straight from one to the oth­er. Not all jour­nal­ists get on with each oth­er, so each office pub would have a few satel­lites to accom­mo­date polit­i­cal over­spills. Most of the Dai­ly Mail staff, for instance, use the Har­row, while oth­ers fre­quent the Mucky Duck, as the White Swan is tra­di­tion­al­ly known, or the Welsh Harp, which once housed a glum group of Mail men known as the Fin­ger­tip Club, because that best described how they were hang­ing onto their jobs.

But that did remind us of a sim­i­lar piece from the US, from half a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er, by H.L. Menck­en, that we’d come across in the back cat­a­logue of the New York­er:

Between 1899 and 1904 there was only one reporter south of the Mason and Dixon line who did not drink at all, and he was con­sid­ered insane. In New York, so far as I could make out, there was not even one. On my first Christ­mas Eve in the news­pa­per busi­ness but two sober per­sons were to be found in the old Bal­ti­more Her­ald office, one of them a Sev­enth Day Adven­tist office boy in the edi­to­r­i­al rooms and the oth­er a super­an­nu­at­ed stereo­typer who sold lunch­es to the print­ers in the com­pos­ing room. There was a print­er on the pay­roll who was reput­ed to be a teetotaller—indeed, his sin­gu­lar­i­ty gave him the curi­ous nick­name of the Moral Element—but Christ­mas Eve hap­pened to be his night off.

And final­ly, a short but evoca­tive tale of pub life fea­tur­ing the late Prodi­gy front-man Kei­th Flint:

For more read­ing check out Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­days and Alan McLeod on Thurs­days.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 19 January 2019: Bottleshares, Boddies, Brand Loyalty

Here’s everything on beer and pubs we felt the urge to bookmark in the past seven days, from coolships to kask kontroversy.

Joe Stange is now writ­ing for Craft Beer & Brew­ing and has announced his arrival with an excel­lent piece on Fran­co­nia which suc­ceeds in find­ing some new angles on this much-writ­ten-about beer region:

Here is anoth­er thing you can see upstairs, in the attic: a wide, riv­et­ed cop­per cool­ship… Or rather: You can see it, until the boil­ing-hot wort hits the pan—littered with a sur­pris­ing amount of hops pel­lets for a burst of aroma—and opaque steam rapid­ly fills the attic. After that, it’s dif­fi­cult to see any­thing in there for a while. This cool­ship is the kind of thing you might expect to see in a lam­bic brew­ery, or in an ambi­tious Amer­i­can wild-beer brew­ery, or in a muse­um. Its orig­i­nal pur­pose, how­ev­er, has noth­ing to do with sour beers. It is sim­ply an old-fash­ioned way to cool wort. Andreas Gän­staller uses it every time he brews lager… “The wort streams out real­ly clear,” he says. “The beer is much more clear because all the bad stuff goes away in the steam.”

Illustration: beer bottles.

If you’ve ever fan­cied organ­is­ing a bot­tle share, or won­dered exact­ly what a bot­tle share is, then you’ll find this primer by Rach Smith at Look at Brew use­ful. In in, she explains how the bot­tle share she runs in Brighton works, and offers tips on set­ting up your own:

Think about the order in which you’ll be pour­ing. If there are pale/low abv beers for exam­ple, start with them and leave the big, bold Impe­r­i­al stouts for last so you don’t com­plete­ly destroy your taste buds ear­ly on… [And] don’t judge. It’s not about who can bring the rarest beers, it’s about social­is­ing, learn­ing a lit­tle bit along the way and hav­ing a damn good time.


An inter­est­ing point from Ed – could the rea­son cask beer num­bers are down be because we lost a few big brands that made up the bulk of the num­bers, such as Bod­ding­ton’s?

Sierra Nevade Brewing Co neon sign.

With #Flag­shipFeb­ru­ary in mind (see last week’s round-up) Kate Bernot has writ­ten about con­sumer promis­cu­ity for The Take­out:

I say this whole idea of promis­cu­ity and no brand loy­al­ty is gross­ly mis­de­fined,” says Lester Jones, chief econ­o­mist for the Nation­al Beer Whole­salers Asso­ci­a­tion. “It was pret­ty easy 25–30 years ago to find a brand that you liked and trust­ed and had rela­tions to. I don’t think peo­ple have changed, I think it’s just tak­ing longer to sift through the mul­ti­tude of choic­es.… Instead of accept­ing the fact that their job is a lot hard­er, it’s easy for brew­ers to turn and say ‘The con­sumer is fick­le. He doesn’t know what he wants.’ No, the con­sumer knows what he wants and the con­sumer is tast­ing to find what he wants, but giv­en so many choic­es, it just takes longer,” Jones says.

Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

All this is well and good but what peo­ple real­ly want to know is this: where’s the beef at? Well, Jes­si­ca Mason wrote this piece argu­ing that the embrace of cask beer by the likes of Cloud­wa­ter sig­nals a resur­gence in the health of its image

[Cloud­wa­ter’s Paul] Jones [says] that a lot of tra­di­tion­al brew­eries up and down the coun­try are ‘com­plete pros and leg­ends’ with­in cask beer, even if they’re not turn­ing their hands to more mod­ern beer styles. ‘I think some­thing of a hybrid offer­ing from us real­ly ought to diver­si­fy what cask beer is and what it could be in the future.’

Wild Card’s head Brew­er Jae­ga Wise, who recent­ly won the title of Brew­er of the Year, will be relaunch­ing its cask-beer offer­ing next year. How­ev­er, she stress­es that it will be on the brewery’s terms, remind­ing how mod­ern brew­ers are reit­er­at­ing cask’s rel­e­vance, but are not will­ing to bow to out­dat­ed stereo­types.

…which prompt­ed this come­back from Tan­dle­man:

So we need mod­ern craft brew­ers to show us the way and revive cask? These are the same peo­ple that give you cask beer that looks like chick­en soup and under­mine the work done by brew­ers for many years to ensure clean, clear, bright beer with dis­tinct flavours.We’d more or less lost the “It’s meant to be like that” non­sense until craft got its hands on cask. Now it is back with a vengeance, as over­turn­ing the ortho­doxy has giv­en bar staff the right to say it once more, even if the beer looks like a mix­ture of lumpy fruit juices and smells like Hen­der­son­’s Rel­ish.

More point/counterpoint than beef, real­ly, but it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how the fault lines (cul­tur­al, gen­er­a­tional) con­tin­ue to reveal them­selves in new forms.

And final­ly, there’s this reminder of how many oppor­tu­ni­ties for dis­as­ter are built into the cask ale sup­ply chain:

As ever, for more links, check­out Stan on Mon­days (usu­al­ly includ­ing lots of stuff beyond beer, but still about beer) and Alan on Thurs­day (gen­er­al­ly thread­ing links togeth­er to make some sort of point).

Magical Mystery Pour #21: Cloudwater DIPA Version 10

The third of series of beers chosen for us by Rebecca Pate (@rpate), who blogs at Brewing East, is Cloudwater Double IPA Version 10.

We had a bit of a time get­ting hold of this, too, because being a lim­it­ed release, and much in demand, it tends to sell out pret­ty quick­ly. We end­ed up buy­ing sev­er­al bot­tles direct from Cloud­wa­ter via Eee­bria as part of a mixed case of six bot­tles of DIPA and IPA which cost us £20. Indi­vid­ual 330ml bot­tles of DIPA from oth­er retail­ers tend to go at around £4.50-£5.

Rebec­ca says:

I’d be lying if I denied being on the Cloud­wa­ter band­wag­on and haven’t sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly tracked down every ver­sion of their evolv­ing DIPA; how­ev­er, this great DIPA adven­ture rep­re­sents the first time I’ve found myself caught up in hype sur­round­ing a beer. I’ve stepped back slight­ly since, stum­bling upon all ver­sions fol­low­ing v5 more nat­u­ral­ly and with­out a fren­zied hunt as it became more read­i­ly avail­able around Lon­don. Regard­less of the hype, Cloud­wa­ter have done incred­i­ble things for the Dou­ble IPA. When I enjoyed my half pint of this v10, I not­ed that the aro­mas took on a more savoury edge than pre­vi­ous­ly, but the intense fruiti­ness in the body – likened by many to a fruit cup – was still present with­out much to indi­cate its 9% ABV. It’s almost mag­i­cal how eas­i­ly this goes down.

This is a real­ly tricky beer to write about for var­i­ous rea­sons. As we hint­ed at here in our non-review of a pre­vi­ous ver­sion there is so much talk about Cloud­wa­ter, and this beer in par­tic­u­lar, that you either end up sound­ing like a wil­ful con­trar­i­an, or part of the cult. And with the announce­ment that it is to cease pro­duc­ing cask ale the oth­er week Cloud­wa­ter has only become more polit­i­cal.

Then there’s the fact that each ver­sion real­ly is a dif­fer­ent beer. As we write this, Ver­sion 11 is just being launched, at which point Ver­sion 10 becomes an irrel­e­vance.

Final­ly, of course, there’s the fact that if you don’t drink a DIPA as fresh as pos­si­ble – ide­al­ly before it has even been brewed – then you can’t pos­si­bly have an informed opin­ion. This one is weeks old, for good­ness sake. Or per­haps it needs a bit of time to mel­low. It’s usu­al­ly one or the oth­er.

What fol­lows is our best attempt to ignore all of that and to give our hon­est reac­tion to this spe­cif­ic bot­tle of beer, ask­ing, first and fore­most whether we liked it, before unpack­ing the whys and how comes.

Cloudwater DIPA in the glass.

This beer was not designed to be clear. From the first splash in the glass it was dirty and only got dirt­i­er. There were no lumps or clumps – just some­thing like a man­go las­si or smooth­ie. It did not look unap­peal­ing to us but it might to you depend­ing on your pro­gram­ming with regard to sus­pend­ed yeast.

The smell was close to the ide­al for an IPA, a jum­ble of fresh­ly-picked, under-ripe trop­i­cal fruit, and mys­te­ri­ous, exot­ic aro­mas that brought to mind the alien plantlife of the Eden Pro­jec­t’s rain­for­est bio­me. Very excit­ing. Just won­der­ful.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, what we tast­ed was gar­lic, crisp green leaves and (to a much less­er degree) that same musty note that marred Ver­dant Head­band. Push­ing on, that fad­ed some­what, bring­ing to the fore sug­ges­tions of pineap­ple and unre­fined sug­ar. The prob­lem is we just don’t get this kind of flavour pro­file, where sal­ad dom­i­nates over sweet fruit. It does not make us hap­py. We can, how­ev­er, tell that this is a good exam­ple of the sub-style – it is 90 per cent clean-tast­ing, with­out the rough edges that mar many sim­i­lar beers, and is crammed full of flavour.

Lettuce, spring onions and pineapple.
Adapt­ed from pub­lic domain images at Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

We did not, when push comes to shove, like it, but we did­n’t exact­ly choke on it either. It’s con­stant­ly inter­est­ing, if noth­ing else, and, odd­ly, going back to the hazi­ness, one of the things we liked best was the rather milky, silky tex­ture.

We’ll no doubt give Cloud­wa­ter DIPA anoth­er go in a few ver­sions time. It will have been through a few more regen­er­a­tions by then and might well be much more to our taste.

BREAKFAST DEBATE: Is the Cloudwater News the End of the World?

Eggs with sriracha chilli sauce.

The highly-regarded Manchester brewery Cloudwater is to stop producing cask ale – is this a portent of doom, or a drop in the ocean?

The news dropped this morn­ing in a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly open blog post from brew­ery boss Paul Jones:

We wor­ry that cask beer has backed itself into a cor­ner that risks becom­ing unat­trac­tive to mod­ern brew­eries. Where we can just about tol­er­ate today’s mar­ket pric­ing for our keg and bot­tled beer… we see lit­tle sense in con­tin­u­ing to accept the labour of rack­ing, han­dling, and col­lect­ing casks whilst we make insuf­fi­cient mar­gin… When we take into con­sid­er­a­tion the sort of beer the cask mar­ket laps up we see high demands for tra­di­tion­al beer, albeit with a mod­ern twist. In com­par­i­son, the keg and bot­tle mar­ket demands our most inno­v­a­tive and pro­gres­sive beer… There’s anoth­er often encoun­tered set of issues we face with the cask beer mar­ket – if cask beer isn’t bright the qual­i­ty is often ques­tioned (and in some cas­es our slight­ly hazy casks are flat­ly refused, regard­less of flavour), but if casks are still con­di­tion­ing out, and because of that, or because of inad­e­quate VDK re-absorp­tion at the end of fer­men­ta­tion, tast­ing of diacetyl, then it’s all too often good to go.

In oth­er words, for a brew­ery like Cloud­wa­ter, pro­duc­ing cask is fair­ly thank­less task, offer­ing poor finan­cial returns, lit­tle sat­is­fac­tion for the brew­ers, and huge risk to rep­u­ta­tion because of point-of-sale issues beyond their con­trol.

We read it bleary-eyed with our morn­ing tea and then dis­cussed over break­fast with this par­tic­u­lar ques­tion in mind:

Boak: This does wor­ry me. My impres­sion – and it is just an impres­sion – is that younger drinkers are less inter­est­ed in cask than our gen­er­a­tion was, and that this is part of an increas­ing diver­gence in the  mar­ket where­by cask is about price and keg is where the real­ly good beer is. I keep think­ing about that pub in Bolton that was sell­ing some well-kept but pret­ty ter­ri­ble cask ale pure­ly, as the land­lord admit­ted, to reach a price point his cus­tomers demand­ed, while at the same time my broth­er tells me [he works at Tap East] that some cus­tomers won’t drink cask at gun­point even if the beer is bet­ter and cheap­er than the near­est keg alter­na­tive.

Bai­ley: I think there’s some hys­te­ria here, though. How many keg-only craft brew­eries do we actu­al­ly have? Off the top of my head it’s Brew­Dog, Lovi­bonds, Cam­den, Bux­ton (kind of) and now Cloud­wa­ter. Let’s say there are a few more I don’t know about, or even let’s say the top twen­ty coolest craft brew­ers (def­i­n­i­tion 2) go keg-only – that’s still only a hand­ful of the 1,800 total. Most brew­ers are real­ly into it. And I don’t think we can equate the era of the Big Six with what’s going on today. Cloud­wa­ter’s keg beer isn’t Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel.

Boak: No, although there’s a dif­fer­ent kind of homo­gene­ity in craft beer. And your first point… That sounds com­pla­cent to me. I can eas­i­ly see this being a tip­ping point for some brew­eries that have been con­sid­er­ing going keg-only. Cloud­wa­ter is a role mod­el for a lot of small­er, new­er brew­eries – more so than Brew­Dog who have tend­ed to alien­ate peo­ple. And I reck­on we could quick­ly slip into a sit­u­a­tion where the places that are known for good beer ditch cask alto­geth­er. Or where more dis­trib­u­tors start to find it too much has­sle to han­dle cask when keg is eas­i­er and more prof­itable so that even pubs that want to stock cask can’t get a steady sup­ply of the good stuff.

Bai­ley: But that has­n’t hap­pened! Peo­ple are bor­row­ing trou­ble. Cask ale is every­where and, admit­ted­ly with a bit of research, you can reli­ably get good cask ale almost every­where in the coun­try. Sure, chalk this up as a warn­ing sign and be wary, but do you real­ly think we’re worse off for cask now than around 2005 when we start­ed tak­ing an inter­est?

Boak: I think maybe Lon­don is worse than it was, and I think it’s on the verge of get­ting much worse again. I love Fuller’s but the fact that we can have such a vari­able expe­ri­ence of cask ale in Fuller’s own pubs wor­ries me. Oh, I don’t know… Maybe it’s not worse but cask in Lon­don has­n’t made much progress and I still find it hard to get sat­is­fy­ing pints there which sure­ly can’t be right in the age of the Craft Beer Rev­o­lu­tion.

Bai­leyOK, so if this is one warn­ing sign, what might be some oth­ers?

Boak: If a big region­al went keg-only, I would be very con­cerned – Fuller’s, Adnams, one of the brew­eries that’s been exper­i­ment­ing with craft beer in keg. Or Oakham. Or Thorn­bridge! If they went keg-only, that would real­ly freak me out.

Bai­ley: Me too but I can’t see that hap­pen­ing any time soon. I’d be more wor­ried if Doom Bar or Greene King IPA sud­den­ly became keg-only beers because I bet there are a lot of pubs that would ditch cask alto­geth­er with­out those – would lit­er­al­ly, 1975-style, rip out their beer engines and lose the capac­i­ty to sell cask. The infra­struc­ture would dis­ap­pear.

Boak: If the Craft Beer Com­pa­ny stopped sell­ing cask that would be a real­ly bad sign. They seem pret­ty com­mit­ted to it at the moment – lots of pumps – but who knows? I’d love to know how much they actu­al­ly sell and what the split is with keg.

Bai­ley: That microp­ub in New­ton Abbot sells 60 per cent keg, 40 per cent cask.

Boak: Hmm. Relat­ed to that, I guess microp­ubs might be the coun­ter­bal­ance, because (that one in New­ton Abbot aside) they’re so cask-led, and so flex­i­ble when it comes to pur­chas­ing, that they might give that side of the indus­try a boost. But they’re not, to gen­er­alise, pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, are they? So they don’t do much to win the next gen­er­a­tion over to cask.

Bai­ley: There’s Wether­spoon’s, too – they’re play­ing with craft keg and cans and what have you but there’s no indi­ca­tion that they want to ditch cask. If any­thing, they seem more com­mit­ted to it now than ever. Maybe what we need is a big chart with plus and minus columns for the health of the cask ale mar­ket in the UK.

Boak: That’s our home­work, then. On bal­ance, the reac­tion to this par­tic­u­lar news does seem over the top, but I have to say I’m less con­fi­dent in my view that The Bat­tle has Been Won than I was when we wrote the book. I think it’d be pret­ty cat­a­stroph­ic if the only cask ales you could get any­where were Doom Bar and GK IPA.

Bai­ley: Me too, I sup­pose, although I’m only a tiny bit con­cerned. As I’ve said before, we can’t be on a per­ma­nent war foot­ing–

Boak: But we have to be ready to remo­bilise if the threat re-emerges and, at the risk of invok­ing God­win’s Law, make sure that the next gen­er­a­tion is edu­cat­ed in the dan­ger signs so that they don’t repeat the mis­takes of his­to­ry.

This has been edit­ed to make it vague­ly coher­ent. We actu­al­ly ram­bled a lot more and you don’t need details of our dis­cus­sion about what to have for tea.