News, Nuggets & Longreads for 28 July 2018: Blackburn, Belfast, Banked Bass

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that caught our eye in the past week, from the colour of pre-WWI beer to the mysteries of fermentation.

First, though, an admis­sion: we put this togeth­er on Thurs­day evening and sched­uled it to post auto­mat­i­cal­ly. If any­thing excit­ing hap­pened on Fri­day it might not be reflect­ed.

Right, down to busi­ness.


For Fer­ment, the pro­mo­tion­al mag­a­zine for sub­scrip­tion ser­vice Beer52, Katie Tay­lor has writ­ten about the pubs of Black­burn, Lan­cashire:

If you asked any­one in here what craft beers they enjoyed, they’d prob­a­bly think you were on about bot­tles,” said [bar man­age] Hilary [Carr]. “And they don’t drink those.”

I ask what a local drinker would call a beer brewed in a local micro­brew­ery. She answers: “Real ale.”

So with all this love for good, local real ale, what’s stop­ping north­ern craft beer brew­ers from mov­ing in? I ask Hilary to join me for a sit down and she brings her cof­fee mug – it says “Prog For­ev­er” on it.

It’s the price,” she says. “All our beers are £2.50 a pint. Nobody will pay more than that and to be hon­est, they don’t need to!”

(This is actu­al­ly from last week but we missed it then.)

Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Stan Hierony­mus writes about the fer­ment­ed food guru San­dor Katz and how his evan­ge­lism is leak­ing into the world of beer:

Mixed cul­ture is prob­a­bly the most annoy­ing buzz­word right now,” says Todd Steven Boera at Fonta Flo­ra Brew­ery in North Car­oli­na. “And we use it on our menu boards, labels, every­where. If you asked 10 ran­dom peo­ple, I think you would get 10 dif­fer­ent answers what it means.”

Mixed cul­ture may not tell con­sumers as much about what to expect in a glass as Boera would like, but it makes sense in the con­text of the first of two beers Boera and Katz col­lab­o­rat­ed on.

The John Hewitt pub in Belfast.

At An Seisiún Mac Siúrtáin (a pen name) has writ­ten a long piece about the expe­ri­ence of try­ing to drink any stout oth­er than Guin­ness in Belfast:

Before inde­pen­dent beer was a thing in North­ern Ire­land (pri­or to this decade, the only inde­pen­dent brew­eries were Hilden and White­wa­ter)’ Guin­ness was my ses­sion beer of choice. It had a hint of sat­is­fy­ing roasti­ness, there were no evil flavours or water­i­ness like you’d get in macro lagers and the nitro serve – while it stripped some flavour out – meant it went down smooth­ly with­out mak­ing you feel gassy and bloat­ed like the car­bon­at­ed beers. It’s there­fore the ulti­mate ses­sion beer – enough taste to be mor­ish but not enough to be sick­en­ing, and the nitro means it goes down eas­i­er and leaves room for more. While Yards­man and Belfast Black are objec­tive­ly bet­ter beers with more flavour, they are not quite direct sub­sti­tutes in terms of the pur­pose they serve the drinker.

There’s a fas­ci­nat­ing lit­tle ‘ouch’ in there for craft beer advo­cates, too: what if the craft clone of your favourite big brand beer isn’t an improve­ment but mere­ly the equiv­a­lent of super­mar­ket own-brand corn­flakes?

A clear pint of Bass pale ale.

On his trav­els in Stock­ton-on-Tees Mar­tin Tay­lor found the tra­di­tion of ‘bank­ing Bass’ alive, if not quite well:

Do you still sell Bass ?”  I squeaked.

Of course”  Next time I’ll ask if they’re actu­al­ly open or some­thing daft like that.

I was direct­ed to the oth­er side of the bar.  But where was the famous bankers fridge ?

Still there, but with just four bankers cool­ing down, rather than the twen­ty of a decade ago.  Still looked the busi­ness though.

Beer glasses.

Just in case you missed it when we Tweet­ed it last week, do check out this mag­nif­i­cent find by Gary Gill­man (@beeretseq): a chart from the peri­od before World War I depict­ing in full colour var­i­ous types of Euro­pean beer, each in their typ­i­cal glass­ware. (Detail above.) Gary has now tracked down the source of the image in the Toron­to library and found that it came with a table of fig­ures.

If you want more, check out Alan McLeod’s thoughts from Thurs­day and Stan Hierony­mus’s Mon­day round-up.

Final­ly, here’s one to pro­voke some thought:

Is Golden Ale Really White Ale?

Straw Hat by Wicker Paradise on Flickr, under Creative Commons.
SOURCE: Wick­er Par­adise on Flickr, under Cre­ative Com­mons.

Continuing a train of thought from Friday’s blog post, we’ve been considering another common beer colour descriptor – ‘straw’.

We read David Swift’s fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle about Devon White Ale some months ago at the blog he co-authors, but its re-appear­ance in the lat­est issue of the jour­nal of the Brew­ery His­to­ry Soci­ety was for­tu­itous. First time round, this 1939 obser­va­tion from Sir Gar­rard Tyr­whitt-Drake (!) did­n’t leap out at us, but with gold­en ale on our minds, it cer­tain­ly did:

When I was a pupil at Messrs Fox’s Brew­ery at Farn­bor­ough, Kent, in 1900 the firm was cel­e­brat­ed for its white ale. This beer was brewed the same as any oth­er beer, but from the very palest coloured malt and sug­ar, it was the colour of pale straw, but tast­ed just like any oth­er ale of sim­i­lar strength.

Now, believe it or not, there is a colour stan­dard for ‘straw’, from a 1930 Dic­tio­nary of Col­or by Maerz and Paul, which Wikipedia ren­ders like this:


For com­par­i­son, here’s 4 SRM from that beer colour chart (a lit­tle paler than Hop Back Sum­mer Light­ning):


And this is Maerz and Paul’s ‘gold’, via Wikipedia:


Final­ly, while we’re at it, let’s have a look at their rather lurid ‘amber’:


We would­n’t want to read too much into all of this, but could it be that Sum­mer Light­ning, had it been pro­duced before the First World War, might have been con­sid­ered a ‘white ale’? Per­haps it would have been con­sid­ered too dark.

At any rate, we’re cer­tain­ly going to have to attempt to devise a home brew­ing recipe for a c.1908 Ken­tish White Ale.