News, Nuggets & Longreads for 11 August 2018: Price, Parenting, Popstars

Here’s all the beer and pub related news, opinion and history that’s grabbed us in the past week, from kids in pubs to Never Gonna Give You Up.

First, mon­ey. As part of the pub­lic­i­ty around its Great British Beer Fes­ti­val (last day today) the Cam­paign for Real Ale pub­lished the results of a sur­vey sug­gest­ing that the major­i­ty of British drinkers who expressed an opin­ion find the price of a pint of beer unaf­ford­able.

Cash Money Pound Signs.

There were var­i­ous bits of inter­est­ing com­men­tary around this, from mus­ings on the ques­tion of val­ue from Katie Tay­lor

Afford­abil­i­ty is quite an abstract con­cept, isn’t it? In my expe­ri­ence as some­one who’s lived in extreme pover­ty and in rel­a­tive com­fort and all the incre­men­tal stages of debt, exhaus­tion and errat­ic spend­ing in-between, things like pints come down to how much you val­ue them. They’re not essen­tial – unless you have an addic­tion – and yet as part of our cul­ture they’re a cen­tral point of our social lives.

…to Richard Cold­well’s reflec­tions on the dif­fer­ence between afford­abil­i­ty and pri­or­i­ties:

I think there are many who are mak­ing the choice between going out for a pint and oth­er things… Sim­ple choic­es like; Sun­day after­noon at the local pub with the fam­i­ly or a full day out at the beach with sand­wich­es and maybe an ice cream and a few bob on the amuse­ments. I reck­on it’s about 50 miles from our house to Scar­bro’, so the biggest cost of the day is fuel… Round here, the price of the first round of say, a pint, glass of pros­ec­co, three soft drinks and a few snacks would just about cov­er the fuel costs of a return jour­ney to the sea­side. The sec­ond round would more than pay for the pic­nic and sun­dries and we’ve only been in the pub for about an hour, max.

Jon­ny Gar­rett, mean­while, is unim­pressed with this focus on price which he regards as ulti­mate­ly dam­ag­ing to the image of cask ale:

Per­haps the great­est step CAMRA could take toward restor­ing growth in cask beer would be to invest in train­ing and equip­ment for pubs that show loy­al­ty to cask and price it fair­ly. For some rea­son, this call for qual­i­ty brew­ing falls on deaf ears at CAMRA, who this week lament­ed how expen­sive pints have become. The par­ty line of cham­pi­oning cask above all else appears to include the mil­lions of cheap, dull, vine­gary pints poured across the UK each year. Some of them even at their own fes­ti­vals.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads for 11 August 2018: Price, Par­ent­ing, Pop­stars”

Pints and Halves: Statements and Pragmatism

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Everything we do sends signals – even something as apparently unimportant as the size of the glass out of which we choose to drink our beer.

I (Jes­si­ca) hit my teenage years dur­ing the era of the ladette when drink­ing beer, and espe­cial­ly drink­ing beer in pints, was a way for women to stake a claim on blokes’ ter­ri­to­ry. Big boots, no make-up, pints, swear­ing – don’t tell me what’s lady­like or how to behave! Up yours!

For as long as I’ve been inter­est­ed in beer one of the annoy­ing minor man­i­fes­ta­tions of sex­ism has been the ten­den­cy to assume I’ll want a half, or a fruit beer, or whichev­er of the two drinks we’ve ordered is (as decid­ed by a whole set of com­plex sub­con­scious cal­cu­la­tions) the ‘girly’ one.

I realised a few years ago, though, that most of the time I do want to drink halves. I’m not very big; don’t have a great gut capac­i­ty; and even at the peak of my pissed fit­ness could only han­dle so much beer by vol­ume before I made myself sick, which only seems to be get­ting worse as I slide into mid­dle age.

Some­times, though, I find myself order­ing a pint because I can’t face anoth­er crap­py, scratched tum­bler, full to the brim with no head. Some­times it’s because I’ve had a tough day and I know that I’d only be back at the bar after five min­utes oth­er­wise. And some­times it’s the teenag­er in DMs rear­ing her head, mak­ing a point.

* * *

I (Ray) used to drink halves more often because there were so many excit­ing beers to taste and it was the only way to get through them all; and, hon­est­ly, because I was being an awk­ward sod in response to male friends refus­ing – lit­er­al­ly refus­ing – to buy me halves because they thought it com­pro­mised my mas­culin­i­ty and, more impor­tant­ly to them, theirs.

As I’ve drift­ed out of five sta­tus and into a com­fort­able sev­en, I’ve come back to pints. I drink a pint in about the time it takes Jess to drink a half. I like the feel of a pint glass in my hand, and the rhythm it gives to drink­ing.

My hang­over lim­its are high­er, my gut more elas­tic: my four pints to Jess’s two over the course of a ses­sion leaves us in about the same place.

But per­haps I’ve also just revert­ed to my deep pro­gram­ming: in my fam­i­ly, a bloke order­ing a half is send­ing a sig­nal that he’s not plan­ning to stick about, or isn’t ful­ly com­mit­ted to the ses­sion.

I some­times order a half just to remind myself I can and I always think, “I should do this more often.”

* * *

Ulti­mate­ly, what we’d both like is this:

  1. To be able to order whichev­er beer we fan­cy in what­ev­er vol­ume we feel like at that par­tic­u­lar moment with­out assump­tions or com­ment, and with­out hav­ing to explain the rea­sons.
  2. For halves to be treat­ed with as much rev­er­ence by pubs and bars as the sacred pint – nice glass­ware makes such a dif­fer­ence.

We were prompt­ed to think about this by var­i­ous things but most impor­tant the recent report from Dea Latis on wom­en’s atti­tudes to beer. Do give it a read.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 August 2016: Ribbeltje, Gasholders and Serebryanka

Here’s all the writing about beer, pubs, beer glasses and gasholders that’s caught our eye in the last week.

Barm (@robsterowski) breaks the odd­ly sad news that the com­pa­ny behind Stel­la Artois is to cease serv­ing its pre­mi­um lager in so-called ribbelt­je glass­es in its native Bel­gium, going over instead to the fanci­er chal­ice design:

As is wide­ly known, despite the brewer’s attempt to punt it in oth­er coun­tries as a ‘reas­sur­ing­ly expen­sive’ pre­mi­um beer, in Bel­gium Stel­la is the bog stan­dard café beer, with a basic, pro­le­tar­i­an glass to match. This, of course, is pre­cise­ly why the mar­keters hate the glass so much. It’s not chic enough for their pre­ten­sions.

Dandelion saison in the glass.
SOURCE: Ales of the River­wards

With a cameo appear­ance from just such a glass, Ed Cof­fey at Ales of the River­wards has been reflect­ing on for­aged ingre­di­ents and his idea for dan­de­lion sai­son is sim­ple and, we think, rather bril­liant. Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 20 August 2016: Ribbelt­je, Gash­old­ers and Sere­bryan­ka”

Dimple Glasses

dimple.jpgIn yes­ter­day’s post, what I did­n’t men­tion was that the Old Monk is serv­ing its real ale in old fash­ioned han­dled dim­ple glass­es. I gath­er that a cou­ple of would-be trendy pubs in the Isling­ton area have start­ed to do the same thing.

This is an inter­est­ing affec­ta­tion which seems designed to appeal simul­ta­ne­ous­ly to the old school beer fan and the retro-iron­ic hip­ster. I sus­pect we’re going to see a lot more of it about.

I gath­er the rea­son for their demise was that they were rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive to make, prone to break­ing, and hard to stack. Those argu­ments hard­ly hold up now that fans of Ger­man wheat beers or Bel­gian obscu­ri­ties are get­ting their favourite tip­ples served in ever-more elab­o­rate­ly shaped and print­ed glass­es, some of them a foot tall, oth­ers as del­i­cate as egg shells.

Mild in par­tic­u­lar tastes a lit­tle bit nicer out of a dim­ple – well, it does to me, any­way, because that’s how my grandad used to drink it. Let’s hope that by May, when every decent pub in the land will have a mild on, the dim­ple has made its tri­umphant come­back every­where.

Pic­ture from h‑, who also sell dim­ples if you fan­cy a few to use at home.


German pub in London

Zeit­geist at the Jol­ly Gar­den­ers, Vaux­hall, South Lon­don is absolute­ly bizarre and absolute­ly bril­liant.

We fre­quent­ly get “home­sick” for Ger­many, despite being from the UK. When we heard about Zeit­geist through Metro, the free news­pa­per they give away on Lon­don Under­ground, we got very excit­ed. Tonight was our first vis­it. It won’t be our last.

It’s run by two expat Ger­mans from Cologne and offers 36 Ger­man beers, with at least 10 on tap. They took over in Octo­ber 2007 and reopened the pub in Novem­ber. Some of the reviews on Beer in the Evening paint a pic­ture of a pub in the mid­dle of a ter­ri­fy­ing coun­cil estate. Hav­ing grown up on a ter­ri­fy­ing coun­cil estate, I’m less scared of work­ing class peo­ple than some, but the fact that you can almost see Big Ben and MI6 from the pub makes it even less of a wor­ry­ing prospect. It seemed like a per­fect­ly nice area to us.

The pub itself was excel­lent. Def­i­nite­ly a pub, but equal­ly sure­ly a small piece of Ger­many 15 min­utes from West­min­ster. The land­lord and land­la­dy were both dressed in Ger­man foot­ball shirts and the bar­maid spoke to us in Ger­man – that’s the default lan­guage. Dur­ing our stay, the place filled up with expats keen to watch the Germany/Austria match on a big screen.

What about the beer? Well, here’s the menu. Noth­ing stag­ger­ing­ly excit­ing for any tick­ers out there, but all are in great nick, and with most of the com­mon Ger­man beer styles rep­re­sent­ed. We were espe­cial­ly excit­ed to find a decent Koelsch on tap (Gaffel). If you want to know what the fuss is about Koelsch but can’t get to Cologne, here’s your chance to try the real deal near­er to home.

We were amused to see British cus­tomers get­ting full glass­es with tiny heads, plus an apol­o­gy the glass was­n’t com­plete­ly full, which Ger­man cus­tomers were served tiny glass­es with tow­er­ing, frothy ice-cream heads. What’s the Ger­man for: “I’ll take mine like a native, please”?

The food was good, too. The menu divides it up by region. Notably, there are at least twelve schnitzel dish­es on offer, as well as Nuern­berg­er sausages and Cologne pota­to pan­cakes.

In short, we’ll be back. This pub deserves to be a big suc­cess.


Zeit­geist is also known as the Jol­ly Gar­den­ers, and is at 49–51 Black Prince Road, Se11 6AB. Map here. Clos­est tube sta­tions are Vaux­hall, Ken­ning­ton, Lam­beth North, and West­min­ster.