Today, with its wood and tiles and punk soundtrack, [the Fenton] is almost as it was; Gill observes that the jukebox has moved rooms. “Pre-mobile phones, you’d have to go where you knew people would be,” Mekons singer Tom Greenhalgh explains, remembering “intense political debates and insane hedonism”, and legendary scene characters such as Barry the Badge. “A huge gay guy covered in badges from Armley Socialist Worker’s party. He was rock-hard, but then he could just grab you, snog you and stick his tongue down your throat.”
I was asked for my views by Carlsberg’s London-based PR company, who sent me some samples. The bottled version said it was brewed in the UK – presumably this means the Northampton factory – while the can says “brewed in the EU”. I said this made a mockery of the new beer being called “Danish Pilsner”… I added that 3.8 per cent ABV was too low to merit being called Pilsner: the classic Pilsner Urquell is 4.4 per cent and all claims to be a Pilsner should be judged against it. I found the Carlsberg beer to be thin and lacking in aroma and flavour.
A footnote from us: we were asked to take part in market research by Heineken earlier this week, which leads us to suspect some similar post-Camden reinvention is in the pipeline there, too.
Here’s all the beer- and pub-related writing we’ve most enjoyed in the past week, and all the news that’s struck us as important.
First, a small thing that might not be: two chains of upmarket London pubs have effectively merged with the takeover by Draft House of Grand Union. So what? Well, from where we’re sitting, this looks like another step towards Draft House becoming a national chain. It’s a strong brand, ‘well craft’ without being too obnoxious about it, and we can well imagine a branch in every town and city.
Meanwhile, in the US, shot have been fired: the Brewers’ Association, which represents craft breweries as defined here, has announced a new badge to help consumers identify beer from independent breweries. This is intended to counter AB-InBev’s strategy of acquiring smaller local brewers which the BA apparently believes is leaving consumers confused. In retaliation, AB’s High End division, which ties together the craft breweries it has acquired over the past few years, has released a video saying, essentially, ‘The logo looks bad and doesn’t mean anything and we should be banding together to fight wine and spirits anyway and and and…’
For commentary on this we endorse the always thoughtful Jeff Allworth at Beervana: post 1 | post 2.
With all these factors happening at the same time, BBPA spokesman Neil Williams says it is ‘pretty impossible’ to unpick exactly what the individual impact of the ban has been.
And of course, many pubs have thrived since the smoking ban, changing to focus more on high-quality food and trying to attract families – including those with young children – who would previously have avoided smoky atmospheres.
‘Pubs have had to adapt. We’ve seen those that can invest in food and they’ve made a very good job of it.
‘But some pubs – the traditional street-corner boozer – simply haven’t had the space to do that. They are the ones that have suffered.’
We’ve attempted to address this in our forthcoming book, 20th Century Pub, and reached much the same conclusion: it probably has been bad news for a certain type of booze-led working class pub.
[One problem is that] the events themselves cost upwards of €11 each to get into, with the three beer-and-food dinners €60 a plate. That quickly makes a probably already expensive trip to Hamster Jam even more wallet-bending. But hey, you’re getting to try beers that will sometimes be once-in-a-lifetime experiences… Certainly, for me, the punch in the overdraft was utterly worth it: I’ve not enjoyed a beery gathering so much for a long time, lots of great conversations with eager, enthusiastic, experienced, knowledgeable, people…
It’s as easy to be charmed by Monocle as it is to hate it. Who doesn’t like a good Japanese leather origami bag? But if nationalists have a point in decrying the ‘global citizenship’ that Monocle epitomizes, it lies in the magazine’s subtle approach to cultural homogenization. [Editor Tyler] Brûlé’s stylistic vision has reproduced itself to the point of banality: Whether due to his own efforts or to the changing tide of taste, Danish furniture, clean cafés, shared offices, and artisanal food and clothing can now be found everywhere, attracting a floating tribe of international consumers the way flowers attract bees. The magazine’s worst offense may be that it is boring.
If you want some pure blogging to read, as opposed to longreads and news, we’ll take this opportunity to remind you to catch up with Martin Taylor’s ongoing Good Beer Guide pub crawl. As we’ve said before, there’s rarely any one post that warrants a fanfare, but as an ongoing project themes emerge and incidents accumulate until something like an argument begins to form. This week, we were particularly struck by a Wetherspoon’s moment:
The Thumper tasted a bid odd to me. I said so to the Spoons barmaid, who, unbelievably;
1. Seemed interested in my £1.99 pint
2. Tasted it herself ‘Just tastes fruity, like it should do’
3. Popped down the cellar to check whether it was the bottom of the barrel (it wasn’t)
And, finally, those who enjoy being appalled at the antics of those wacky craft brewers will enjoy this intel from Joe Stange:
TIL that Préaris (Vliegende Paard) made a gose with Katsuobushi. That’s smoked, fermented tuna.