Drinking, and the Spaces Between

Take a gulp and put the glass down.

Place it on the beer mat, right in the cen­tre, right in the ring of dark ink.

As you talk, as you lis­ten, turn the glass on the mat, twist­ing it clock­wise, then back, as if tun­ing in the con­ver­sa­tion on a short­wave dial.

Take a gulp and put the glass down.

Tilt it so that light plays in the depths of the beer, so the foam clings to the sides and then slides back. Swirl it so the foam grows and flows.

Take a gulp and put the glass down.

Sweep the sides of their con­den­sa­tion with your fin­gers, trac­ing the shape, clear­ing the fog to reveal the gold.

Turn the glass, lights flash, sweep again.

Take a gulp and put the glass down, almost emp­ty, light in the hand, almost dead.

Last gulp, then, “Same again?”

Defer the plea­sure. Dip a fin­ger­tip in the cream and lick it. Let the beer sit a bit, then sweep, turn, tilt…

Take a gulp.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 13 August 2017: Steel, Skittles, Sexism

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week from dwile-flonking to brewery takeovers.

For the BBC David Gilyeat returns to a favourite sil­ly sea­son top­ic: tra­di­tion­al pub games. There’s noth­ing espe­cial­ly new here but it’s an enter­tain­ing round-up that draws on the exper­tise of, among oth­ers, Arthur Tay­lor, whose book on the sub­ject is defin­i­tive:

Arthur Tay­lor, author of Played at the Pub, sug­gests Aunt Sal­ly – which is played in Oxford­shire and parts of Buck­ing­hamshire – has rather gris­ly ori­gins.

It can be traced back to a bar­barous busi­ness called “throw­ing at cocks”, when you threw sticks at a cock teth­ered to a post that if you killed you took home,’ he says.

What was bar­barous turned into some­thing that was­n’t, and the cock became a coconut shy… and even­tu­al­ly it became the game we know.’


Thornbridge, 2013.

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Oliv­er Gray has inves­ti­gat­ed the man­u­fac­tur­ing and sales of stain­less steel brew­ing kit, much of which orig­i­nates in Chi­na, even if the ven­dors might like buy­ers to think oth­er­wise:

Chi­nese steel pro­duc­ers like Jin­fu have begun estab­lish­ing ‘reseller’ com­pa­nies that sell their goods under dif­fer­ent names. One such com­pa­ny, Cru­sad­er Kegs & Casks LTD, works out of Rush­den, Eng­land, and was on site at CBC 2017. At quick glance, one would have no idea they weren’t sell­ing British kegs. The cap­i­tal U in the name is a St. George’s flag kite shield, and the reverse side of their busi­ness cards have a sword-wield­ing, armor-clad Tem­plar, almost like they’re try­ing real­ly, real­ly hard to ensure they look as ‘British’ as pos­si­ble.

There are plen­ty of oth­er dis­con­cert­ing details in the sto­ry which is a great exam­ple of the kind of insight gen­er­at­ed by ask­ing awk­ward ques­tions.

(GBH has con­nec­tions with AB-InBev/ZX Ven­tures; pro­vides marketing/consultancy ser­vices to small­er brew­eries; and has also been one of our $2‑a-month Patre­on spon­sors since May.)


Macro image: 'Hops' with illustration of hop cones, 1970s.

There’s some spec­tac­u­lar hop-nerdi­ness from Stan Hierony­mus at Appel­la­tion Beer: a new study sug­gests that first-wort hop­ping makes no dif­fer­ence to the qual­i­ty of the bit­ter­ness in the final beer. But many brew­ers dis­agree:

Fritz Tausch­er at Kro­ne-Brauerei in Tet­tnang, Ger­many, uses a slight­ly dif­fer­ent process. He adds 60 to 70 per­cent of his hops as he lauters wort into the brew­ing ket­tle.… He explained that ini­tial­ly he added all his first wort hops (what he calls ‘ground hop­ping’) in one dose. ‘I thought the bit­ter­ness was not so good,’ he said. He opened his right hand, put it to his chin and slid it down his throat to his clav­i­cle, track­ing the path a beer would take. ‘It was, I’m not sure how you say it in Eng­lish, adstringierend.’ No trans­la­tion was nec­es­sary.


Beer is Best poster, 1937 (detail)

This is excit­ing news, brought to us by Mar­tyn Cor­nell: the clas­sic British ten-sided pint glass is back in pro­duc­tion, and avail­able at pub- and con­sumer-friend­ly prices. We look for­ward to drink­ing, say, Fuller’s Lon­don Porter from them in a prop­er pub at some point in the not too dis­tant future.


Takeover news: Con­stel­la­tion Brands has acquired Flori­da’s Funky Bud­dha brew­ery, adding it to a port­fo­lio which already includes Bal­last Point. (Via Brew­bound.)


GBBF con­tro­ver­sy: in an open let­ter Man­ches­ter’s Mar­ble Brew­ing has alleged that the local CAMRA branch effec­tive­ly pre­vent­ed their beers appear­ing at the Great British Beer Fes­ti­val, sug­gest­ing that a dis­pute over an inci­dent of sex­ist behav­iour might be the cause. CAMRA head office has con­firmed it is inves­ti­gat­ing the issues raised. (But don’t read too much into that state­ment.)


And final­ly @nickiquote has found the moment where Doc­tor Who and the real ale craze inter­sect­ed:

Updat­ed 14.o8.2017 15:29 – the dis­clo­sure state­ment for the GBH arti­cle has been amend­ed at GBH’s request.

QUICK ONE: Turning Casuals into Regulars

Detail: a 1970s pub table.

If someone comes into your pub twice you’re missing a trick if you don’t say hello.

We were hang­ing out with Bai­ley’s par­ents recent­ly when his mum told us this sto­ry about their pub-going in the 1970s:

The sec­ond time we went into The Cob­ble­stones the land­la­dy came over and said, ‘Right, if you’re going to be com­ing in reg­u­lar­ly, I ought to know your names.’ Then a few months lat­er she said, ‘I’ve got some­thing for you,’ and gave Dad a pint glass with a euchre hand on it, and Grand­pa a glass with cher­ries on, because he liked the fruit machines. We drank in there for years.

This seems like such a sim­ple, effec­tive, emo­tion­al­ly manip­u­la­tive approach. If you see the same face twice, make a for­mal intro­duc­tion, and then use those names at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. Then after, say, three months of reg­u­lar cus­tom ask if they’d like a loy­al­ty card, or a glass behind the bar, or make some oth­er small ges­ture – ‘That one’s on the house.’

Lock them into the rela­tion­ship, like the free sand­wich thing at Pret a Manger.

In prac­tice, there are prob­a­bly all sorts of rea­sons this does­n’t hap­pen so often these days, not least the fact that it feels ever rar­er to actu­al­ly find the licensee behind the bar. We often ask (because we want per­mis­sion to take pho­tos or need to ask some ques­tions for one Thing or anoth­er) ‘Is this your place, then?’ and we can’t think of many occa­sions when the answer has been any­thing oth­er than, ‘No, I’m just the man­ag­er.’

In big chains, though, Cre­at­ing Reg­u­lars could be built into staff objec­tives and the per­for­mance man­age­ment pro­gramme… Aaaaaaaaand we’ve depressed our­selves.

News, Nuggets & Longreads for 4 June 2016

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Here are all the blog posts and articles from the past week that have captured our attention in one way or another, from ponderings on the pint to the state of Orval.

Whether you like to drink your beer by the pint or in small­er mea­sures is anoth­er of those fault lines between Them and Us in British beer. Chris Hall (who works for Lon­don brew­ery Brew by Num­bers) con­sid­ers whether the fact that the pint is the default UK beer serv­ing is dis­tort­ing the mar­ket:

Even in the most wide-rang­ing, small­er-serv­ing-focused craft beer bars in the coun­try, we remain inter­est­ed in fill­ing a pint-shaped hole, and if it remains an unchange­able line in our pro­gram­ming, our indus­try will remain defined by the beers that fit this space, and not by what we could, or per­haps should, be brew­ing.


The brewhouse at Orval.
SOURCE: Bel­gian Smaak.

2015 Beer Writer of the Year Bre­andán Kear­ney con­sid­ers the state and his­to­ry of the brew­ery at Orval in a lux­u­ri­ous­ly long post at Bel­gian Smaak, which also has lots of juicy detail for home brew­ers and the gen­er­al­ly inquis­i­tive:

The malt bill is an evolv­ing one, bar­ley vari­eties such as ‘Alek­si’ and ‘Pris­ma’ used pre­vi­ous­ly hav­ing been replaced for exam­ple with the ‘Sebas­t­ian’ vari­ety. ‘It is dif­fi­cult to speak about vari­eties of bar­ley malt because a lot of them dis­ap­pear for new ones,’ says Anne-Françoise [Pypaert]. ‘Brew­ers don’t have much con­trol on that because farm­ers val­ue vari­eties with a good yield. What I can say is that we use two pale malt vari­eties, one caramel malt and a lit­tle bit of black bar­ley.’

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads for 4 June 2016”

Q&A: Who Started Branding Glassware, When, and Why?

I’m interested in the history of the branded beer glass in pubs. Any idea when it came about, who started it and why?’ Mark Dredge

Oof. This turned out to be too big a ques­tion for us. Mark orig­i­nal­ly asked back in Decem­ber and we’ve been try­ing, on and off, with some effort, to find a defin­i­tive answer since then.

We did­n’t get one.

In the hope that some­one out there knows, or might fan­cy doing some research them­selves, here’s what we have learned.

1. Britain

In his mono­graph Pub Beer Mugs and Glass­es (2007) Hugh Rock includes pho­tographs of a vast range of antique British beer drink­ing ves­sels. There are sev­er­al late Vic­to­ri­an earth­en­ware mugs bear­ing the names of pubs (to help pre­vent theft, pre­sum­ably); and a cou­ple of glass­es from around 1890 etched with what appear to be beer or brew­ery names. But the ear­li­est exam­ples of what we would recog­nise as mass-pro­duced brand­ed glass­ware, with colour logos, date from as late as the 1960s.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Q&A: Who Start­ed Brand­ing Glass­ware, When, and Why?”