News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from AB-InBev to Samuel Smith.

Hol­lie at Globe Hops, a UK beer blog that’s new to us, recent­ly went back to Not­ting­ham where she stud­ied and noticed that many of her favourite pubs had tons more choice in their beer ranges, but some­how less char­ac­ter:

My brow fur­rowed. I strug­gled to artic­u­late how it felt to me like some­thing had been lost from the place, even though all that had real­ly hap­pened was that more options had been added. I’d loved the pub for pre­cise­ly its niche; the reli­a­bil­i­ty of excel­lent­ly kept Cas­tle Rock ales, the chance to try the brewery’s sea­son­al ranges, and guest ales from oth­er small local brew­eries, such as the fan­tas­tic Spring­head. But now there was a smor­gas­bord of choice that was almost dizzy­ing. I quick­ly realised the prob­lem; were it not for the recog­nis­able brick walls and beams lov­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pump labels, I could be any­where. The pub had retained its charm, but the bar choice had lost its accent.

(Via Peter McK­er­ry | @PeterMcKerry.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 29 September 2018: Runcorn, Rochefort, Rules of the Tavern

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from PR disasters to art installations.

Last year Kirst Walk­er wrote up a pub crawl of Run­corn’s Vic­to­ri­an pubs with her trade­mark spark; this year, she notes plen­ty of changes, giv­ing the exer­cise a cer­tain aca­d­e­m­ic inter­est as well as pure enter­tain­ment val­ue:

Time for the Lion, where every­body knows your name! Last year’s win­ner was where we we would end the night once more. I didn’t dou­ble up last time but as we’d already had time bonus­es, sam­buc­ca, and sand­wich­es I threw cau­tion to the wind. Alan bought a round of pies like a freak­ing bil­lion­aire and we had a group de-brief with plans to repeat the oper­a­tion next year on the same week­end… The Lion has lost much of its orig­i­nal room lay­out since it was refur­bished and part of it con­vert­ed into hous­es, but it’s still the type of tra­di­tion­al cor­ner pub which is a hub for the com­mu­ni­ty, and in my opin­ion it as bet­ter to try and save the pub than keep the entire sprawl­ing space.

Price list in a pub.

We tend to ignore click­baity brouha­has over indi­vid­ual expen­sive pints these days but Mar­tin Stew­ard at Pur­suit of Abbey­ness has wait­ed for the dust to set­tle before reflect­ing on one such recent inci­dent, pro­duc­ing a slow-cooked opin­ion rather than a flash-fried ‘hot take’:

The most remark­able thing about the price of Ale­smith Speed­way Stout Hawai­ian is not that it is five-times high­er than the price of Rochefort 10, but that it is three-times high­er than Alesmith’s ordi­nary Speed­way Stout… That pre­mi­um buys you some toast­ed coconut flakes, some vanil­la and some rare Hawai­ian Ka’u cof­fee beans, which are indeed three-times more expen­sive than your bog-stan­dard joe… If you can taste the dif­fer­ence after those beans have had beer fer­ment­ing on them, I com­ple­ment you on your sen­si­tive palate. If you think it jus­ti­fies a 200% pre­mi­um, I have a bridge to sell you.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 29 Sep­tem­ber 2018: Run­corn, Rochefort, Rules of the Tav­ern”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 31 March 2018: Moorhouse’s, Memel, Mellowness

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past seven days, from ongoing developments in the discussion around sexist beer branding to the ever-expanding BrewDog empire.

Katie Tay­lor has an inter­est­ing run-down on Moor­house­’s rebrand­ing exer­cise. Pack­ag­ing re-designs are usu­al­ly among the world’s most bor­ing top­ics but this case sees a long­stand­ing prob­lem solved as poor­ly ren­dered ‘sexy’ witch­es in flim­sy frocks are out, replaced by more abstract, mod­ern designs that come with an unam­bigu­ous state­ment of intent:

When I joined, Moor­house­’s was a strong brand, tied into the prove­nance of the local area,” said Lee [Miller] when I met with him a cou­ple of weeks ago. “But we are guilty as charged. Our brand­ing was inde­fen­si­ble and real­ly could have hap­pened soon­er. What I want­ed to make sure of was that when we did this, we did it right. I want­ed Moor­house­’s to set out its stall, to bring in a new brand ready for the future. We hold our hands up.”

But the stuff about the tem­per­ance influ­ence on their new range of beers is almost as inter­est­ing.

Illustration: lambic blending.

Return­ing to his favourite top­ic Roel Mul­der gives us‘Eight Myths About Lam­bic Debunked’, with plen­ty of reas­sur­ing ref­er­ences.

Quite a lot is made of the fact that lam­bic is made out of wheat, today usu­al­ly 30% to 40%. In the 19th cen­tu­ry, that was even more: a 1829 recipe spec­i­fies no less than 58% raw wheat.[15]How­ev­er, at that time all-bar­ley beers were only just start­ing to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty in Bel­gium. In fact, at the start lam­bic was quite mod­ern for not hav­ing any oats, spelt or buck­wheat in it.… only in the 20th cen­tu­ry did it become spe­cial for not being an all-bar­ley beer.

A reminder, this, that snap­py sto­ries and sim­ple expla­na­tions in beer his­to­ry are usu­al­ly the work of sto­ry­tellers and mar­ket­ing peo­ple; the truth is almost always more com­pli­cat­ed and, frankly, less fun.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 31 March 2018: Moorhouse’s, Memel, Mel­low­ness”

Irish Pubs, English Pubs and the Essence of Pubness, 1964

A pint of stout.

Was part of the appeal of the Irish pub in the 1980s and 90s that real Irish pubs were more like ideal of the English pubs than English pubs had become?

This fan­tas­tic arti­cle by Irish jour­nal­ist Mary Hol­land (1935–2004) pub­lished in Jan­u­ary 1964 cov­ers mul­ti­ple issues in a few hun­dred pithy words.

First, the mys­tique of Dublin pubs: ‘I’ve always gone along with the belief that any Dublin bar has a mag­ic aura which caus­es the talk to shim­mer and sparkle as fast as the Guin­ness flows.’

Then their true qual­i­ties: ‘I now think the Dublin pub mys­tique is thriv­ing as nev­er before for the sim­ple rea­son that its pubs are more com­fort­able.’

(See also a relat­ed 1996 columns from the Pub Cur­mud­geon here.)

And, final­ly, there’s a point­ed exam­i­na­tion of the state of Eng­lish pubs in the mid-1960s:

One of the most recent attempts to revamp a pub­’s image in cen­tral Lon­don is a bar designed to appeal to ‘busi­ness exec­u­tives and the younger set,’ in which rat­tan cane, murals of brood­ing bud­dhas, slat­ted bam­boo swing doors and a back­ground of jun­gle nois­es are among the attrac­tions. Yet this is only an extreme exam­ple of the way the brew­ers seem bent on cater­ing to a city of pub-lovers. Giv­en that the beer is good (and I know that this is anoth­er ques­tion), I can’t believe that any­one wants to drink his pint, let alone talk the evening through with friends, in the kind of South Seas Traders tav­ern or sub-Scan­di­na­vian bar which seems to appear when­ev­er the painters and dec­o­ra­tors move in on an ordi­nary pub.

You can imag­ine how that delight­ed us, what with our ongo­ing obses­sion with theme pubs.

In gen­er­al the Spec­ta­tor archive is a fan­tas­tic resource: search­able, ful­ly indexed, with mate­r­i­al pro­vid­ed as both OCRd text and orig­i­nal page scans. Our ram­blings through it to date sug­gest that it was very much a wet office – there’s lots of cov­er­age of beer and pubs – so if you’ve got a pet obses­sion, give it a search and see what you can turn up.

HELP US: Irish Theme Pubs

We’re keen to hear from people who drank at, worked in or were otherwise involved with Irish theme pubs in England between the 1980s and the early 2000s.

Here’s a list of spe­cif­ic pubs and chains we’re inter­est­ed in:

  1. Flana­gan’s Apple, Liv­er­pool – con­vert­ed from a ware­house by local entre­pre­neur Bob Burns it opened in 1984 and is still trad­ing.
  2. Minogues, Lon­don N1 (Isling­ton) – for­mer­ly the Isling­ton Tup/Tap it was con­vert­ed into an Irish pub in 1986; it became the Pig & Butch­er in 2012.
  3. Mul­li­gan’s, Lon­don W1 (May­fair) – an Irish pub from c.1991.
  4. Waxy O’Con­nor’s, Lon­don W1 (Covent Gar­den) – opened in 1995; still there, still mas­sive.
  5. Mid-1990s chains: Scruffy Mur­phy’s (Allied-Domecq), Rosy O’Grady’s (Greene King), J.J. Mur­phy (Whit­bread) and O’Neil­l’s (Bass). We’re real­ly inter­est­ed in what they were like in their prime which ran from about 1994–1998.

Guinness promotional clock, South London.

And, going back a bit further, because it can’t hurt to ask…

  1. Any of the Mur­phy’s pubs that oper­at­ed in Lon­don between the 1930s and 1980s, e.g. The White Hart on Mile End Road. (More info.)
  2. Ward’s Irish House, Lon­don W1 (Pic­cadil­ly Cir­cus) – in the base­ment of the Lon­don Pavil­ion where you will now find Rip­ley’s Believe it Or Not.
  3. Any branch of Mooney’s, found across Lon­don up until the 1970s, e.g. at 395 The Strand.

Com­ment below or, even bet­ter, email us at if you can help.

PS. We’re also still after rem­i­nis­cences of theme pubs (espe­cial­ly the Nag’s Head, Covent Gar­den) and pre­fabs.

Main image adapt­ed from ‘Flana­gan’s Apple’ by Adam Brud­er­er via Flickr under a Cre­ative Com­mons License.