News, nuggets and longreads for 27 July 2019: Majorca, Manchester, meniscus

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from London brewers in Dublin to Irish pubs in Majorca.

First, some news – recent­ly released sta­tis­tics on pub clo­sures seem to sug­gest that the rate at which they’re dis­ap­pear­ing has slowed:

There were 42,450 pubs at the begin­ning of 2018 but 914 few­er by the end of the year, a rate of 76 net clo­sures a month. But 235 van­ished dur­ing the first half of this year, or near­ly 40 a month, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics… The com­mer­cial real estate con­sul­tan­cy Altus Group, which com­piled the data, said gov­ern­ment mea­sures designed to staunch the flow of pub clo­sures appeared to be hav­ing some effect.


The Brown Cow pub.
SOURCE: Man­ches­ter’s Estate Pubs

It’s always excit­ing to see that there’s been a new post by Stephen Mar­land at Man­ches­ter’s Estate Pubs and this week we got two:

There’s the usu­al poignan­cy and the usu­al mix of pho­tog­ra­phy, near poet­ry and his­to­ry, now with added spice from notes by the late Alan Win­field.


Beer foam

At The Pur­suit of Abbey­ness Mar­tin Stew­ard has been reflect­ing on the mag­i­cal prop­er­ties of beer foam:

There is some­thing in cask-ale cul­ture that has long looked with dis­taste upon an abun­dance of bub­bles. In this world, quite at odds with that of the bot­tle-con­di­tion­ing Bel­gians, fizz is for­eign. The bar­tender who can pump a pint of Bit­ter to the menis­cus-strain­ing lip of a ses­sion glass achieves the appro­ba­tion of the pen­ny-pinch­ing pub-goer… These old geezers were the ur-Ice­men… Do I com­mit an injus­tice against them? Is this an aes­thet­ic choice, rather than one of econ­o­my? Or per­haps an ide­o­log­i­cal one—a man­i­festo state­ment on the seri­ous­ness of cask ale?


Alcudia
SOURCE: Lady Sinks the Booze

Kirsty is back! An account of crawl­ing around Irish and Eng­lish pubs in Spain might not imme­di­ate­ly seem as if it’s going to be essen­tial read­ing but her writ­ing could make notes on a trip to Tesco enter­tain­ing:

Like every­one has a favourite ring on the cook­er, every­one has a favourite cor­ner of the bar, and mine is front right for both. I think I had a John Smiths, I can’t remem­ber, but it cer­tain­ly wouldn’t be any­thing either craft or Span­ish. I was on hol­i­day from more than work, I declared myself on hol­i­day from beer geek­ery… When we returned to O’Malley’s the fol­low­ing day, our host actu­al­ly greet­ed us. “How’s life Richi?” asked Dar­ren with a cheery demeanor. Richi shrugged. “You want the real answer or the bull­shit cus­tomer answer?” We asked for the real answer. “I hate my life, I hate my job, I wish I was on hol­i­day like you, now what do you want?”


Partizan menu at Guinness
SOURCE: The Beer Nut

We had­n’t heard about the col­lab­o­ra­tion between Eng­lish craft brew­ery Par­ti­zan and Guin­ness until the Beer Nut post­ed a typ­i­cal­ly sharp review of the beers:

It was odd see­ing some inter­net oppro­bri­um being met­ed out to Lon­don brew­er Par­ti­zan when they announced they had cre­at­ed a col­lab­o­ra­tion series of beers with the Guin­ness Open Gate Brew­ery. Craft die-hards tak­ing a pop at the macros and any­one too close to them is not unusu­al, but I did­n’t see any­one hav­ing a go at anoth­er Lon­don­er, 40FT, when it did some­thing sim­i­lar. Par­ti­zan seems to be held to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard… Three col­lab­o­ra­tion brews were cre­at­ed, two at Open Gate and one at Par­ti­zan. The theme of the series was Ital­ian-style aper­i­tifs.

Final­ly, here’s a use­ful sign­post:

For more read­ing check out Stan Hierony­mus’s round-up from Mon­day and Alan McLeod’s from Thurs­day.

Snapshot: Guinness in Nigeria

In 1962, Guinness opened a brewery at Ikeja in Nigeria. The management was made up largely of British and Irish migrants, such as Alan Coxon, who went to Nigeria in 1966 to work as plant technical director.

We know this because his daugh­ter, Fiona Gudge, is the own­er of the large col­lec­tion of Guin­ness papers we’ve sort­ing through and cat­a­logu­ing for the past six months.

What fol­lows, with Fiona’s input, is a brief snap­shot of the emer­gence of a new kind of colo­nial­ism that emerged in the wake of Nigeria’s inde­pen­dence in 1960, and the strange dom­i­nance of Irish stout in West Africa.

Timeline

1958 | Britain agrees to grant Nigeria independence
1959 | Guinness Nigeria founded
1960 | Nigerian independence
1962 | Guinness opens brewery in Nigeria
1963 | Federal Republic of Nigeria declared
1965 | Guinness Nigeria listed on Nigerian stock exchange
1966 | Two military coups
1966 | Alan Coxon begins working at Ikeja
1967 | Beginning of the Nigerian Civil War (Biafran War)
1970 | End of Nigerian Civil War
1970 | Second National Development Plan, 1970-74
1971 | Coxon family leaves Nigeria
1972 | Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree (Indigenisation Decree)
1974 | NEPD into effect
1984 | Notice given of ban on import into Nigeria of barley
1998 | Stout production ceases at Ikeja

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Snap­shot: Guin­ness in Nige­ria”

Guinness: a nice, interesting drink for nice, interesting women, 1977–79

In 1977–78, grappling with falling sales and quality problems, Guinness commissioned yet another marketing strategy in the hope of turning things around. One idea was to appeal to young women.

We’ve just fin­ished scan­ning and cat­a­logu­ing the col­lec­tion of Guin­ness mate­r­i­al we wrote about a few times last year. These mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy doc­u­ments (there are sev­er­al) are full of fas­ci­nat­ing details, not least in the anno­ta­tions in pen­cil by (we assumed from con­text) Alan Cox­on, the head brew­er at Park Roy­al to whom these doc­u­ments belonged.

Here’s what the 1977–78 doc­u­ment says under ‘Strat­e­gy & Objec­tives – Women’:

i) To recruit to more reg­u­lar drink­ing the younger female drinker who iden­ti­fies with the assur­ance, matu­ri­ty and inde­pen­dence asso­ci­at­ed with Guin­ness for women.

ii) To reduce defec­tion from Guin­ness by rein­forc­ing the loy­al­ty of exist­ing fre­quent and less fre­quent users.

The sec­ond group were like­ly to be ‘old­er and poor­er’, the kind of peo­ple who’d tra­di­tion­al­ly drunk Guin­ness, but the oth­er group were a new tar­get:

[Younger], social­ly active and bet­ter off. Guin­ness may already be a part of their drink­ing reper­toire, though remote. These are like­ly to be C1 C2 women aged 25 to 44.

Here, though, Alan Cox­on had some thoughts of his own, neat­ly marked in the mar­gin:

I just do not believe in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of this. It is not a young wom­an’s drink, sure­ly. If we get it right it will have the wrong image for young women & sure­ly we can­not expect them to like it!!

The pro­posed cre­ative approach for appeal­ing to young women was inter­est­ing, too, based on ‘the cor­rect blend­ing of four key ele­ments’:

i) The user-image of a self-assured woman who is inde­pen­dent, socia­ble and healthy; equal­ly at ease in both a man’s and wom­an’s world.

ii) The prod­uct as a unique, attrac­tive, long drink, nat­ur­al and enjoy­able.

iii) The mood as one of relaxed and socia­ble enjoy­ment.

iv) The qual­i­ty and style of the adver­tis­ing as attrac­tive, cred­i­ble and con­tem­po­rary (rather than fash­ion­able or trendy).

The brand posi­tion reached as a result of this cre­ative approach should be:

Guin­ness is the drink for the self-assured woman.”

Final­ly, there were sug­ges­tions on how to reach women. With tele­vi­sion reserved for male-ori­en­tat­ed adverts, the idea was to place ads tar­get­ing women in mag­a­zines – ‘their per­son­al medi­um’.

How did all this go? For­tu­nate­ly, we have some handy fol­low-up infor­ma­tion, from the next year’s mar­ket­ing plan, cov­er­ing 1978–79. It sug­gests that dou­ble-page spreads did run in wom­en’s mag­a­zines (we’d love to track some of these down) and that they were felt to be suc­cess­ful enough to con­tin­ue with.

An amus­ing punch­line, though, is a restate­ment of the mar­ket­ing objec­tive:

The pri­ma­ry task of the adver­tis­ing is to change atti­tudes about the kind of woman who drinks Guin­ness: to over­sim­pli­fy, ‘Guin­ness is a nice, inter­est­ing drink which is drunk by nice, inter­est­ing women.’

UPDATE 08/03/2019: Jon Urch, who works for Guin­ness, sent us a copy of one of the ads, which we’ve now added as the main image above.

Session #142: Funeral Beer

Guinness.

This is our con­tri­bu­tion to the final edi­tion of the Ses­sion host­ed by Stan Hierony­mus: “Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a rela­tion­ship. So hap­py or sad, or some­thing between. Write about the beer. Write about the aro­ma, the fla­vor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.”

Funeral beer is whatever beer they have on at the pub near the crematorium, or the social club in town.

That usu­al­ly means big brand lager or smooth­flow bit­ter. Aun­tie Joan on the sher­ry, let’s raise a whisky in mem­o­ry, it’s what they would have want­ed.

Or Guin­ness.

And, let’s face it, Guin­ness fits a funer­al best of all, per­ma­nent­ly dressed in that old black suit.

It feels as if Ire­land owns funer­al drink­ing in some sense born of stereo­types and heavy lit­er­a­ture, so even if you aren’t even slight­ly Irish on your mother’s side, Guin­ness fits.

It is dark, slow, bit­ter.

And these days, a lit­tle sad, too.

A mono­chrome beer for a mono­chrome mood, sit­ting on your stom­ach like a rain­cloud.

Draught Guinness 1958: Two Casks, One Tap

Draught Guinness™ is something different to draught Guinness. Exactly how it worked, and how it changed over time, has long puzzled us. Now, we at least have a clear explanation from one point in time – 1958.

The edi­tion of Guin­ness Time for spring that year includes a four-page arti­cle, heav­i­ly illus­trat­ed, on draught Guin­ness. It clears up some of the con­fu­sion we felt when we wrote this piece a cou­ple of years ago based on a sim­i­lar arti­cle from 1971.

Men working with metal casks.
‘T. Byrne and A.E. George cleans­ing casks under the super­vi­sion of Fore­man L. Elliott.’
1. Wood gives way to metal

It begins by set­ting out the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion around met­al and wood­en casks:

Although a few Pub­lic Hous­es still serve Draught Guin­ness ‘from the wood’, is is now nor­mal­ly set out in Stain­less Steel met­al casks. The devel­op­ment of met­al casks suit­able for con­tain­ing Draught Guin­ness was not as easy as it may sound and it involved the intro­duc­tion of new taps and oth­er asso­ci­at­ed fit­tings. The orig­i­nal inven­tor of the equip­ment was Mr J.F.T. Barnes, the founder of Uni­ver­sal Brew­ery Equip­ment Ltd… but many improve­ments in design were effect­ed by the late Mr E.J. Grif­fiths and J.R. Moore. The tran­si­tion from wood­en to met­al casks, which attract­ed a great deal of crit­i­cism dur­ing the ear­ly days just after the last War, has now been vir­tu­al­ly com­plet­ed and is accept­ed every­where.

There are hints of the Soci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of the Wood yet to arrive, in 1963, and this helps us pin down when ‘beer from the wood’ became a com­mon phrase.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Draught Guin­ness 1958: Two Casks, One Tap”