Out of the loop

A milk carton of IPA.

I ended up sat in Bottles & Books on my own on Friday night, hovering around the edge of a conversation about beer that made me feel totally ignorant and out of touch.

Bot­tles & Books is our local craft beer phan­tas­mago­ri­um, with fridges full of cans, a wall of bot­tles, and a few taps of draught beer served by the third and two-thirds mea­sure.

On Fri­day, the dis­cus­sion turned to IPA, and it was when I heard this sen­tence that I knew I was out of my depth:

Brut IPA died a death fair­ly quick­ly, didn’t it? And NEIPA just tastes a bit… old fash­ioned. It’s all about the Hud­son Val­ley style now.

Hud­son Val­ley? Is that a region? Yes, but it’s also a brew­ery, as pro­filed in this arti­cle, which has a head­line appar­ent­ly designed to annoy con­ser­v­a­tive beer geeks who already think brew­ing has been fatal­ly com­pro­mised by the ama­teur ten­den­cy:

Hud­son Val­ley Brew­ery Makes Beer Based on Instinct, not Instruc­tions

Sour IPA is, I gath­er, the long and short of it, and sure enough, when Jess and I went to the Left Hand­ed Giant tap­room yes­ter­day, there was one on the menu.

We gave up try­ing to stay on top of trends years ago but there was some­thing intox­i­cat­ing about all this new infor­ma­tion, all the names and details, that made me think… Should we try?

The odd edu­ca­tion­al eaves­drop­ping ses­sion prob­a­bly wouldn’t do us any harm, at least.

Craft Lager and Whatever IPA

Whatever IPA.

We’ve been observing the way people, including some of our own friends and colleagues, order their drinks in pubs these days.

Here’s a fair­ly typ­i­cal exchange:

What you hav­ing?”

[Point­ing at the keg taps] “What­ev­er IPA they’ve got.”

Maltsmith’s?”

Yeah, fine.”

Maltsmith’s (Caledonian/Heineken, 4.6%) is the same as Samuel Smith India Ale (5%, cop­pery, Eng­lish hops) is the same as Brew­Dog Punk (5.6%, pale, pun­gent) is the same as Goose Island IPA (AB InBev, 5.9%, amber, piney).

We’ve noticed more or less the same ten­den­cy with ‘craft lager’ – a phrase we geeks could prob­a­bly lose weeks bick­er­ing over but which to most con­sumers has a fair­ly clear mean­ing: some­thing with CRAFT LAGER writ­ten on its label, and a brand invent­ed in the past decade.

Fuller’s Fron­tier, Hop House 13 (Guin­ness), St Austell Korev, Cam­den Hells (AB InBev), Lost & Ground­ed Keller Pils… They’re all seen as avatars of the same thing, despite the vast diver­gence in flavours, and regard­less of own­er­ship, inde­pen­dence, and so on.

It was weird the oth­er night to be in Sea­mus O’Donnell’s, a cen­tral Bris­tol Irish pub, and see on draught not only Guin­ness stout but also a Guin­ness brand­ed gold­en ale, cit­ra IPA, and two craft­ed-up lagers – Hop House 13 and Guin­ness Pil­sner.

This line-up is what peo­ple expect to find in 2018, and brew­eries are oblig­ed to respond if they don’t want to lose space on the bar to com­peti­tors.

The frus­tra­tion for beer geeks is that this feels and looks like what they want­ed, what they clam­oured for, but the beers them­selves are so often dis­ap­point­ing – hops a lit­tle more in evi­dence than the old main­stream, per­haps, but rarely more than that.

And if you’re wed­ded to ideals of inde­pen­dence, qual­i­ty and choice, it’s all a bit wor­ry­ing: most con­sumers are appar­ent­ly easy to befud­dle, or don’t care, which is bad news for those who do.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 13 October 2018: Pine, Pubs, Pilsner

Here’s everything in beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past seven days, from nostalgia to grapefruit IPA.

First, some mild melan­choly: Becky at A Fledg­ling Blog­ger has been reflect­ing on the part being alone in the pub has played in the state of her psy­chol­o­gy over the years:

As a stu­dent in New­cas­tle when times were hard (which they often were) I would head to The Car­riage alone and stare into a pint until I felt that I could face the world again. I can’t say I always felt bet­ter after sit­ting in the pub alone for hours, but it made me feel like I was able to go home and talk to my friends. After all alco­hol is a depres­sant but it also loosens the lips and it meant that I felt able to con­fide in my long-suf­fer­ing flat mate who reg­u­lar­ly dragged me out of my pit of despair.


Casks in a pub yard.

Jes­si­ca Mason AKA the Drinks Maven has joined the wave of dis­cus­sion around cask ale that always fol­lows pub­li­ca­tion of the Cask Report with obser­va­tions on oppor­tu­ni­ties missed dur­ing the craft beer hype of the past half-decade:

This might have been the piv­otal point where cask appre­ci­a­tors repo­si­tioned ale. Effec­tive­ly, remind­ing how it is nat­u­ral­ly flavour­some, fresh­ly cre­at­ed and diverse in its myr­i­ad of vari­eties. All of this would have been com­pelling; as would flag­ging up the trend for pro­bi­otics and nat­ur­al ingre­di­ents… But the ver­nac­u­lar sur­round­ing cask ale lacked some­thing else: sheer excite­ment.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 13 Octo­ber 2018: Pine, Pubs, Pil­sner”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Keptinis, Craeft

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that inspired us to hit the BOOKMARK button in the past week, from pubs to hazy IPAs.

But let’s start with some items of news.


Illustration: intimidating pub.

For Orig­i­nal Grav­i­ty Emma Inch has writ­ten about the feel­ing of being on edge in pubs, even if noth­ing con­crete hap­pens, because of a sense that peo­ple are just a lit­tle too aware of “what makes you dif­fer­ent”:

Through­out my drink­ing life I’ve been asked to leave a pub on the grounds that it’s a ‘fam­i­ly friend­ly venue’; I’ve wit­nessed a friend being eject­ed for giv­ing his male part­ner a dry peck on the cheek; I’ve had a fel­low cus­tomer shout homo­pho­bic abuse in my ear whilst the bar­tender calm­ly con­tin­ued to ask me to pay for my pint… Once, I had to shield my face from fly­ing glass as the pub win­dows were kicked in by big­ots out­side, and I still remem­ber the sharp, breath­less fear in the days fol­low­ing the Admi­ral Dun­can pub bomb­ing, not know­ing if it was all over, or who and where would be tar­get­ed next.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Kep­ti­nis, Craeft”

Further Reading #2: Understanding IPA

We’d love to be able to buy a reference anthology of great writing on the subject of IPA. This post, a manifestation of wishful thinking, is the next best thing.

There is also an idea that when peo­ple ask for advice on where to read about the his­to­ry and cul­ture of IPA, which hap­pens from time to time, we can just point them here.

Hope­ful­ly, this series of links, in rough­ly this order, pro­vides the out­line of a nar­ra­tive with­out too many details and diver­sions.

It’s aimed at learn­ers, or peo­ple after a refresh­er, but we hope even jad­ed vet­er­ans will find a cou­ple of items they’ve missed.

Where we have been able to iden­ti­fy free-to-access sources we’ve pro­vid­ed links and in the cas­es of mate­r­i­al you have to pay for we’ve tried to sug­gest free alter­na­tives.

This one feels like more of a work in progress than the lager list. If you can sug­gest sub­stan­tial, solid­ly researched arti­cles that fill in gaps then let us know either in the com­ments or by email.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Fur­ther Read­ing #2: Under­stand­ing IPA