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”

Hilltop, “a new venture in public houses”, 1959

All pictures and text from Guinness Time, Autumn 1959.

“Guinness have, in the past four years, been privileged to take part in a project which has now resulted in the opening of a new public house which, both in its physical layout and in the method of its planning, exhibits several new features.”

Modern pub windows.
The exterior of Hilltop.

“The new pub is called Hilltop , and is in the South End neighbourhood of Hatfield New Town. It is owned and operated by Messrs. McMullens of Hertford, and it came into being after a most unusual piece of co-operation.”

A crowd around the ale garland.
“Once the ale was pronounced good the Ale Garland was hoisted.”

“It began when we found that the Hatfield Development Corporation had no public funds available to provide the meeting place it had planned for the new population of this rapidly growing neighbourhood. The central site which had been reserved for this community centre would remain empty and the only social building would be a small public house which could not be expected to meet all the needs of the locality. We thought this situation offered a wonderful opportunity for an experiment.”

1950s pubgoers.
“The busy scene in the Saloon Bar after the official opening.”

“We approached the Corporation and asked them if they would consider permitting a brewer to provide the amenities they had planned to include in their community centre. They agreed. We asked Messrs. McMullens if they would consider expanding the plans of the public house they were to build in the neighbourhood to provide these amenities, and they readily agreed.”

A bland looking modern cafe.
The cafe.
A group of families and children.
“The children, too, had free drinks (and buns) on opening night.”

Hilltop offers the usual facilities of a pub, three bars and an off-licence where alcoholic refreshment is available during licensing hours. It also has an unlicensed cafe where soft drinks and light meals are served. Then there is a large hall for use as a theatre or for dancing or dinners, and three committee rooms. All these rooms may be attached either to the licensed or unlicensed part of the building… by locking the necessary doors. In additional the Hertfordshire Health Authorities have two rooms allotted to them in which they run a local Health Clinic.”

Cool looking young men with guitars and cowboy hats.
“A local skiffle group entertains customers on opening night.”

Notes: Hilltop was designed by Lionel Brett, opened on 11 August 1959, and is still trading as a pub under McMullen’s, albeit renamed The Harrier. Here’s how it looks today:

GALLERY: Guinness Time in the 1950s – design of the times

The set of Guinness papers we’ve been sorting through for their owner includes a fairly complete two-decade run of Guinness Time, the in-house magazine for the brewery at Park Royal.

While the contents is on the whole fairly dull (egg and spoon races, meet the toilet attendants, and so on) the covers are works of art, redolent of the periods in which they were produced.

Those presented below are all from the 1950s and so there are a couple of references to TV, the hot trend of the day.

Guinness Time Summer 1956 -- a topiary seal.
Summer 1956. Illustrator: Tom Eckersley.
A man uses a giant bottle of Guinness as a telescope.
Autumn 1956. Illustrator: John Gilroy.

Continue reading “GALLERY: Guinness Time in the 1950s – design of the times”

Guinness: ‘PR 2/50/12 — Mr Shildrick’s Programme’

Among the big pile of Guinness documentation we’ve been sorting through on behalf of its owner there is one item sexier than all the rest: a head brewer’s process chart, about a metre long, printed on canvas.

Here’s a photo:

Guinness brewery wallchart.

On the back in pencil is written:

  • PR 2/50/12
  • Mr Shildrick’s Programme
  • 10 am mash

From David Hughes’s invaluable reference A Bottle of Guinness Please we know that Mr Shildrick was Major Lance Shildrick, Guinness head brewer from 1949 to 1953. From that, and the code written on the back, we’d guess that this chart was produced in 1950, but that is only a guess.

Because this document is such an odd shape, and is fairly battered, it proved challenging to scan until we bit the bullet and did it one tiny section at a time using a small portable device.

We then tried to stitch it together automatically using various bits of software but none worked.

In the end, we had to manually fit the pieces together in Photoshop, lining them up, nudging them this way and that, straightening and rotating by tiny degrees.

We then converted it to black and white and inverted the colours it to make it, we think, easier to read.

The end result isn’t perfect, but it’s not terrible either.

You can view or download the full 1mb image file here.

We’ll be trying to make some sense of this ourselves but in the meantime would welcome insight and commentary from brewers, or anyone else who can glean useful info from the chart.

* * *

Scanning, stitching and tidying up this document took something like five hours so we must once again thank Patreon subscribers like Mason Singleton, Sam Schwab and Tom Furniss whose ongoing support encourages to spend our free time on this kind of thing.

Guinness Confidential, 1977: Economic Crisis, Quality Problems, Image Issues

In 1977 Guinness commissioned consultant Alan Hedges to look into why sales of the bottled version of the stout were dropping off. His research revealed changes in the beer, and changes in society.

Hedges is, it turns out, something of a legend in the world of market research having written an important book called Tested to Destruction, published in 1974.

We guess from the odd contextual clue that he got the Guinness gig because he had worked for S.H. Benson, an advertising firm that held the Guinness account in the 1960s.

He may well still be around — he was active in the industry in the past decade or two — so maybe he’ll pop up to tell us more if he ever stumbles across this post. (That’s one reason we like to put things like this out into the world.)

This particular item is yet another document from the collection of Guinness paperwork we’re currently sorting through on behalf of its owner. We’re not going to share the whole thing, just highlight some of the most interesting parts.

Continue reading “Guinness Confidential, 1977: Economic Crisis, Quality Problems, Image Issues”

The Mother lode: Attitudes to Beer, 1963

In 1963 Guinness hired Public Attitude Surveys Ltd to compiled research into the attitudes of drinkers towards stout, and the state of the beer market more generally.

The resulting report feels to us like an important document, recording statistics on different types of beer, and different types of drinker, based on gender, social class and attitudes to alcohol.

It’s about Guinness but almost accidentally gives us great insight into the rise of lager, the death of mild, and so on.

Unless we’re mistaken, this is a source that hasn’t previously made its way into the public domain or otherwise been much exploited, though there were some contemporary newspaper reports picking up on its findings. We only have our hands on a copy because it came as part of the collection of Guinness papers we’re sorting through on behalf of the owner.

It begins with a summary of what was learned from previous ‘National Stout Surveys’ carried out in 1952-53 and 1958-59:

Guinness was markedly more dependent on the heavy drinker than Mackeson, the next most successful stout on the market… Recruitment to Guinness was not to any substantial amount from sweet stouts… [And] Guinness was much more dependent on the older drinker – those over 45 – than Mackeson and the other sweet stouts.

This helps us understand what Guinness was worried about: that younger drinkers were turning away from dark, bitter, heavy beers. That’s a problem when your flagship product — more or less your only product — is a dark, bitter, heavy beer.

Graph -- main drink by sex

This is the first big splash from the document. It shows that in the early 1960s women hardly touched draught bitter or mild, and weren’t especially keen on the then fashionable bottled ales either. But lager and stout – two opposite ends of the spectrum you might say – were about equally popular with men and women.

Continue reading “The Mother lode: Attitudes to Beer, 1963”