News, Nuggets & Longreads 25 February 2017: Babylon, Oldham, Cologne

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer- and pub-writing in the last week, from memories of a glamorous landlady to, yet again, the question of sexism in beer.

It’s true: when any archive releas­es a new batch of dig­i­tal con­tent, pub­lic domain or oth­er­wise, it is a beer blog­ger’s duty to search that col­lec­tion for ‘BEER’. That’s how Alan Mcleod came across a Bably­lon­ian cuneiform tablet from the 1st Mil­le­ni­um BC con­tain­ing infor­ma­tion on beer:

How is it that I can read a Mesopotami­an clay tablet and pret­ty much imme­di­ate­ly under­stand what is going on? If it was about reli­gion, gov­er­nance or astron­o­my I wouldn’t have a clue. But beer and brew­ing are not strange. They are, in a very mean­ing­ful way, con­stant. You can see that if we go back to col­umn 2 where you see words for 1:1 beer, 2:1 beer, 3:1 beer and even triple beer. The ratio is the rela­tion­ship of grain input to beer out­put.

Public Bar etched on a Manchester pub window.

For the Guardian Rachel Rod­dy uses a recipe for cheese and onion pie as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to rem­i­nisce about a child­hood spent in and around an Old­ham pub:

A good slice of my child­hood was spent at my granny’s pub, The Gar­den­ers Arms: a large, red-brick Robinson’s pub at the bot­tom of Durham street… I remem­ber her both in her house­coat buff­ing the brass tables and flush­ing out the pipes – good bit­ter comes from a clean cel­lar and clean pipes – then, lat­er, when reg­u­lars had tak­en their place, com­ing down the stairs ready for the night. ‘You look a mil­lion dol­lars Al,’ my grand­pa Ger­ry would say, Bob Seger curl­ing out of the juke box in agree­ment: ‘She was look­ing so right, in her dia­monds and frills…’

(Via @phil55494)

Fuller's Vintage Ale 2016.

Mar­tyn Cor­nell wants to know where the hell all the 2016 Fuller’s Vin­tage Ale has gone:

Fuller’s is being tight-lipped about why the 2016 is now impos­si­ble to find: there are rumours that some­thing went ter­ri­bly wrong with the pack­ag­ing, but no one seems will­ing to say. It’s a great pity, because the 20th iter­a­tion of Vin­tage Ale since it was first brewed in 1997, is a love­ly, love­ly beer, already, at approach­ing a year old, deep and remark­able.

Shipping container: KOLN.

Barm has been in Cologne and paints a won­der­ful­ly evoca­tive pic­ture of a busy ses­sion at a pub with a cult rep­u­ta­tion:

When we arrive at 1620 there are already 60 peo­ple wait­ing for the pub to open at 1630. By the time the doors open the crowd has swollen to 80 or more. Thir­ty sec­onds after the doors open, every seat inside is tak­en… Because there is no choice, the beer pours con­stant­ly, nev­er becom­ing flat or warm. One wait­er is ded­i­cat­ed to pour­ing beer. Clack-clack-clack go the small glass­es as he rotates the round tray under­neath the tap.

An example of the iceman pour.

We’ve been ignor­ing the so-called ‘Ice­man Pour’ – a weird trend among a small group of drinkers on social media that has some beer folk growl­ing with irri­ta­tion – but we could­n’t resist Richard Tay­lor’s attempt to explain its ori­gins and appeal:

Users like theiceman13 and benhur345 love noth­ing more than run­ning out of room in their glass­ware, push­ing the lim­its of flu­id dynam­ics by leav­ing a gen­tly con­vex beer sur­face cling­ing to the tops of their Tekus. The rest of us look on in bemused won­der think­ing that in our day some­thing hand­ed over like that would result in a trip back to the bar for it to be be-frothed once again. Although when the menis­cus is wob­bling like a week-old jel­ly it takes some skill to take the glass any­where with­out it drib­bling down the sides. As I dis­cov­ered for myself.

After all, if in 50 years time we’re all drink­ing our beer this way, Richard’s blog post might end up being an impor­tant his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment.

Wetherspoons sign: All Ales £1.69.

If you’ve been try­ing to find an excuse to wrig­gle out of boy­cotting Wether­spoon pubs over CEO Tim Mar­t­in’s vocal sup­port for Brex­it Hen­ry Jef­frey’s has you cov­ered in an arti­cle for The Spec­ta­tor:

This seemed to me the def­i­n­i­tion of cut­ting your nose off to spite your face; imag­ine turn­ing down cheap beer because of the EU! But it also dis­rupts one of the fun­da­men­tals of a lib­er­al soci­ety: that you do busi­ness even with those whom you dis­agree. Voltaire mar­velled at this con­cept on his vis­it to the Lon­don Stock Exchange: ‘Here Jew, Mohammedan and Chris­t­ian deal with each oth­er as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infi­del to peo­ple who go bank­rupt.’

There’s been a fresh flur­ry of arti­cles about sex­ism in beer late­ly but John Holl, edi­tor All About Beer, is doing more than mere­ly talk about the issue:

We will not be qui­et about this impor­tant issue. We want to do our part so that the next gen­er­a­tion of beer drinkers can focus on the fun, the fla­vor­ful and the future. Beers that demean women or pro­mote rape cul­ture will not be reviewed or pro­mot­ed in this mag­a­zine or on

A lot of angry com­ments fol­low the arti­cle – ‘Take this left­ist PC garbage and shove it.’ – and it is pos­si­ble All About Beer will lose some read­ers and sub­scribers over this. But maybe it’ll gain some too.

(DISCLOSURE: We are occa­sion­al­ly paid to write for AAB.)

Green Bottles Standing on a Wall

Not hap­py about UK craft brew­eries switch­ing over from 500ml pack­ag­ing to 330ml? It’s only going to get worse, said Ed. And then, as if on cue, Weird Beard made an announce­ment

And, final­ly, here’s an inter­est­ing nugget of news:

Still more to enjoy in Cologne

We can’t believe that, with all our trips to Cologne, includ­ing a cou­ple of ded­i­cat­ed Koelsch crawls, we’ve not made it to the Paef­f­gen brew­ery tap before. Per­haps it’s because it’s a bit out of the way; or per­haps it’s because we had­n’t done our research – Ron Pat­tin­son calls it a “Euro­pean must vis­it”.

Any­way, we made it right on our most recent trip, and were glad we did. For one thing, the beer is superb – hon­eyed and spicy – very much like an Eng­lish ale, but also dis­tinct­ly not. We’ve had it before and liked it but, here, it was stun­ning.

We loved observ­ing the way the place is run, too.  All the Kobes (wait­ers) com­pete for the same bar­rel, half-fill­ing glass­es in a kranz, then let­ting it sit in a fun­ny kind of uri­nal until they’re ready to go, when they top them off. The super­vi­sor barks at them from his perch as they pass, mak­ing them stop so he can count the num­ber of glass­es they’re tak­ing, pre­sum­ably as some kind of fraud con­trol, but alsop­er­haps so they know when the bar­rel needs chang­ing. And when that hap­pens, with lots of chains and an elec­tric winch, it’s quite a thing to behold.

Inter­est­ing­ly, this was one of the few times we’ve been in a Cologne beer hall at a qui­et time and it  seems to mean you wait a lot longer for your beers – if there isn’t an absolute kran­zload of pun­ters, you have to wait until there is.

Cologne: not just about the Koelsch


We end up in Cologne so often these days  on our way in and out of Ger­many that it’s a strug­gle to find new pubs or beers to try. This time, how­ev­er, we spot­ted an advert for Freis­chem’s Brauhaus on a free city map and trekked out of the imme­di­ate city cen­tre in the rain to give it a go.

It was huge and most­ly emp­ty – because it was 4.30 on a wet Sun­day after­noon or because it only opened a month or two ago? The beer list imme­di­ate­ly had us a lit­tle excit­ed. It includ­ed a Koelsch, of course, but also some­thing called Trub, a weizen, a Christ­mas beer and a stout.

The Koelsch was of the slight­ly dark­er, hon­ey-tast­ing vari­ety (see also Paef­f­gen) and very pleas­ant. Trub was, unsur­pris­ing­ly, a cloudy light beer – their answer to the bland brauhaus zwickl and per­fect­ly drink­able, if unex­cit­ing. The weizen ticked all the usu­al box­es.

Wei­h­nachts­bier was a nice red colour with a good spicy aro­ma. We were split on this one, though. Boak thought it was dull, verg­ing on unpleas­ant, with an off yeast flavour and not much more. Bai­ley could taste roast­ed malt and liked the bit­ter­ness.

The stout was the stand-out beer, though. We real­ly weren’t expect­ing much – a bor­ing schwarz­bier, per­haps? – but it had a good thick body, a creamy choco­late flavour and a great roast­ed bit­ter after­taste. We’d have enjoyed this any­where but, by Ger­man brew­pub stan­dards, it was a knock­out.

Giv­en that it was­n’t far away, we also staged a return vis­it to Hellers, where there were a cou­ple of new beers for us to try as well as some old favourites. Win­ter­bock was an ama­teur take on Aventi­nus, with all the right clove and fruit flavours but  with absolute­ly no con­di­tion. Pity, as this would be stun­ning oth­er­wise. The new bot­tled Pils was very good – bit­ter, but not espe­cial­ly hop­py, and so malty it tast­ed like mash­ing grain.

Bot­tles of Hellers Wiess (the unfil­tered Koelsch) are cur­rent­ly on sale at Cask, the excel­lent pub in Pim­li­co we wrote about here.

I wish I was in Cologne

cologne1.jpgIt’s Shrove Tues­day (aka Pan­cake Day). I love pan­cakes, don’t get me wrong. But isn’t Shrove Tues­day in Britain a pret­ty tame cel­e­bra­tion, com­pared to the mul­ti-day ben­ders that go on in many parts of the world?

The Rhineland goes in for car­ni­vals in a big way. Whilst we were in Dues­sel­dorf a few weeks back, we saw plen­ty of posters adver­tis­ing the big events to come. The Cologne car­ni­val is even more famous.

I wish I was in Cologne, drink­ing koelsch tonight.

And that reminds me – we haven’t post­ed our post­script to our trip to Dues­sel­dorf – a brief round up of a cou­ple more cheeky koelsches downed between train con­nec­tions.

On the way out, it was a vis­it to the Gaffel brew­ery tap in the Alter Markt. Gaffel’s pleas­ant enough, par­tic­u­lar­ly when it’s the first beer of the trip. How­ev­er, more excit­ing was the fact that we saw the very wait­er from the pho­to that illus­trates the “Cologne and the North­west” sec­tion of the Eye­wit­ness Guide to beer.

On the way back, we thought we’d pop into the famous Frueh am Dom, which had always looked too touristy/busy to vis­it on pre­vi­ous trips. It being a wet Mon­day after­noon in Jan­u­ary, there was plen­ty of room, even with all the busi­ness­men and their suit­cas­es, await­ing their train con­nec­tions. It’s a nice place. The brew itself is a very clean, crisp koelsch, very refresh­ing but not one of the more inter­est­ing ones (in our hum­ble opin­ions).

High­light this time round was Peter’s Koelsch, from their out­let in the old town. We seemed to have missed this on our first crawl round Cologne. You can def­i­nite­ly taste the ale in this one – fruity and almost sul­phurous. We liked it.


A map con­tain­ing all of the places men­tioned here and in our pre­vi­ous post can be found on Ron Pat­tin­son’s Euro­pean Beer Guide, here, which also has stacks of oth­er inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion. You can also fol­low this link for Ron Pat­tin­son’s var­i­ous koelsch crawls, all enter­tain­ing reads.