News, Nuggets and Longreads 2 March 2019: Retirement, Simplification, Adjuncts

Here’s all the bookmarkworthy writing about beer and pubs that landed in the past week, from the mysterious behaviour of dads to corn syrup.

First, some depress­ing news from the north west of Eng­land, in a sto­ry that’s unfold­ing right now: Cloudwater’s much-antic­i­pat­ed Fam­i­ly & Friends beer fes­ti­val has run into a licenc­ing issue and may not go ahead today. In a state­ment issued first thing this morn­ing, the brew­ery said:

The police have informed us that Upper Camp­field Mar­ket is not, as we have been assured on many occa­sions by the man­ag­ing agent act­ing on behalf of Man­ches­ter City Coun­cil, licensed for the sale of alco­hol. The attend­ing police offi­cer ear­li­er this evening, the two licens­ing offi­cers, a licens­ing solic­i­tor, and even the night-time tzar of Greater Man­ches­ter, appear to have exhaust­ed every option to allow us to oper­ate in Upper Camp­field Mar­ket tomor­row. If we ignore the licens­ing team, and run tomor­row any­way, I risk an unlim­it­ed fine or six months impris­on­ment.

It’s a reminder of just how much behind-the-scenes bureau­crat­ic bat­tling has to go on to put on any event with booze, and gives a glimpse into why entre­pre­neurs so often seem to end up regard­ing local gov­ern­ment as the ene­my.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 2 March 2019: Retire­ment, Sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, Adjuncts”

Q&A: Harmonising European brewing methods, 1973

Newspaper headline from 1975Via Twitter, we’ve been asked to provide more information on plans by the European Common Market in 1973 to “harmonise European brewing methods”, as mentioned in Fintan O’Toole’s book  Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain.

Mr O’Toole quotes from a sto­ry in the Dai­ly Mir­ror (25/06/1973) head­lined EUROBEER MENACE:

A Com­mon Mar­ket threat to British beer unit­ed labour and Tory MPs yes­ter­day. The threat came in reports of a plan by Mar­ket author­i­ties to ‘har­monise’ brew­ing meth­ods in mem­ber coun­tries.

Mr. William Wil­son, tee­to­tal Labour MP for South Coven­try, and Tory Sir Ger­ald Nabar­ro both plan to raise the issue with Food Min­is­ter Joseph God­ber “in the inter­ests of the beer drinkers of Britain.”

Sir Ger­ald said: “This would be a dis­as­ter. Our beer is world famous for its strength, nutri­tion­al val­ue and excel­lence.”

It’s not hard to work out what peo­ple thought har­mon­i­sa­tion might mean: mild and bit­ter banned, Ger­man-style lager every­where, by order of Brus­sels.

But there’s very lit­tle detail in the sto­ry and it reads like typ­i­cal fuss-about-noth­ing tabloid report­ing wil­ful­ly miss­ing the point for the sake of caus­ing out­rage. (On the same page: NOW FRIED ONIONS ARE BANNED AT WIMBLEDON.)

Sure enough, it didn’t take much dig­ging to find a report from the Econ­o­mist from two days ear­li­er (23/06/1973) announc­ing that these pro­pos­als had already been aban­doned by the time the Mir­ror ran its piece.

"Ideal Suit in Lager" -- a hand with playing cards depicting lager brands.
Detail from the cov­er of Whit­bread Way No. 13.

Beer geeks, how­ev­er, were talk­ing about at least one spe­cif­ic tech­ni­cal issue: in the dis­cus­sion around har­mon­i­sa­tion pro­pos­als, there was a sug­ges­tion that only female (seed­less) hops ought to be used in brew­ing across Europe. In Eng­land, how­ev­er, male hops were his­tor­i­cal­ly grown along­side female, and peo­ple had a vague sense that male hops… er… made our beer taste more vir­ile? Or some­thing.

Richard Boston wrote about this in his Guardian col­umn for 29 Sep­tem­ber 1973:

You can imag­ine the con­ster­na­tion with which I received the ugly rumour that in order to con­form with the prac­tice of our Com­mon Mar­ket part­ners the male hop was going to be rout­ed out here too… I got straight on the blow­er to the Hops Mar­ket­ing Board… and asked their spokesman if it was true… “Absolute balls,” he replied.

The Econ­o­mist fol­lowed the Eurobeer sto­ry close­ly, report­ing on its progress over the next few years, as in this par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing piece from 2 Novem­ber 1974:

Much non­sense is talked by Euro­pean politi­cians about Brus­sels busy­bod­ies try­ing mad­ly to stan­dard­ise Euro­pean food and drink. Britain’s Mr Harold Wil­son is just about the worst offend­er. At long last it has pro­voked a Euro­pean civ­il ser­vant into putting the record straight. Anony­mous­ly, he is cir­cu­lat­ing a paper dis­sect­ing each com­plaint. Most are exposed as innacu­rate…

Plans for Eurobeer and Euro­bread – now with­drawn for review – nei­ther out­law nor stan­dard­ise nation­al brews and loaves. The aim is rather to demol­ish pro­tec­tion­ist bar­ri­ers which impede the free sale of these prod­ucts across nation­al bound­aries. Ger­many, for exam­ple, has strict rules which vir­tu­al­ly mean that if a beer is not brewed in the Ger­man way it can­not be called beer. The Commission’s Eurobeer plan would make Ger­many open its mar­ket to import­ed beers, includ­ing British ales, which meet a com­mon Euro­pean stan­dard.

In 1975, the UK Gov­ern­ment held a ref­er­en­dum on con­tin­ued mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty. The threat of Eurobeer came up repeat­ed­ly in ref­er­en­dum cam­paign mate­ri­als such as this pam­phlet from the Gov­ern­ment itself. A Q&A with the Con­sumer Asso­ci­a­tion in the Dai­ly Mir­ror for 30 May 1975 answers our ques­tion head on:

Q: What does ‘har­mon­i­sa­tion’ mean? Shall we be drink­ing Eurobeer?

A: Har­mon­i­sa­tion means get­ting our stan­dards in line with those of oth­er coun­tries to enable us to sell our prod­ucts to them. There are two types in the Com­mon Mar­ket:

TOTAL: When a Com­mon Mar­ket law says that only prod­ucts which com­ply with that law can be sold at all in the Com­mon Mar­ket;

OPTIONAL: When indi­vid­ual coun­tries can allow prod­ucts which do not con­form to the law to be sold in their own coun­tries…

But if there is a reg­u­la­tion on beer or bread, this will almost cer­tain­ly be option­al.

Odd­ly enough, even though the EC/EU didn’t imple­ment any such plan, by the late 1980s, lager was every­where in Eng­land any­way, much of it brewed in the UK under the super­vi­sion of con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean brew­ers, and sold under con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean brand names. Mar­ket eco­nom­ics and con­sumer demand did what the EC didn’t.

Cold Beer in the Australian Outback, 1961

We’re increasingly convinced that if you pick up most popular novels published between about 1945 and 1970 and start flipping the pages you’ll soon stumble upon an extended passage about beer and/or pubs.

Ken­neth Cook’s 1961 nov­el Wake in Fright gets straight down to busi­ness: with­in the first 10 pages the pro­tag­o­nist, Grant, hits the hotel bar in the des­o­late out­back set­tle­ment where he teach­es.

Schooner, Char­lie,” he said to the hotel-keep­er, who emerged from his dark back room wear­ing, for some rea­son, a waist­coat over his drenched shirt.

Char­lie pulled the beer.

In the remote towns of the west there are few of the ameni­ties of civ­i­liza­tion; there is no sew­er­age, there are no hos­pi­tals, rarely a doc­tor; the food is drea­ry and flavour­less from long car­ry­ing, the water is bad; elec­tric­i­ty is for the few who can afford their own plant, roads are most­ly non-exis­tent; there are no the­atres, no pic­ture shows and few dance halls; and the peo­ple are saved from stark insan­i­ty by the one strong prin­ci­ple of progress that is ingrained for a thou­sand miles, east, north, south and west of the Dead Heart – the beer is always cold.

The teacher let his fin­gers curl around the bead­ed glass, quelling the lit­tle spurt of bit­ter­ness that rose when he saw the size of the head of froth on the beer, because, after all, it didn’t mat­ter, and this poor dev­il of a hotel-keep­er had to stay here and he was going east.

He drank quick­ly at first, swamp­ing the dry­ness in his throat in a flood of beer; and then, when the glass was half emp­ty, he drank slow­ly, let­ting the cold alco­hol relax his body.

Wake in Fright has been adapt­ed for the screen twice, most­ly recent­ly in 2017, and the most recent edi­tion from Text Clas­sics is a TV tie-in. Our edi­tion is a Pen­guin paper­back from 1967 and cost £2.50.

A Brutalist Brewery: Arup and Carlsberg in Northampton, 1974

The March 1974 edition of the Arup Journal is an amazing artefact, offering a blow-by-blow breakdown of the design and construction of Carlsberg’s state of the art Danish brewery in Northampton.

You can read the full mag­a­zine here in PDF form, and it’s a love­ly thing in its own right – all white space and sans serif, as styl­ish as the build­ings it depicts.

Arup Journal, March 1974, cover.

Arup is an archi­tec­ture firm found­ed in 1946 by Ove Arup, born in New­cas­tle  upon Tyne in the UK to Dan­ish par­ents in 1895, and edu­cat­ed in Den­mark. Though he died in 1988 the com­pa­ny lives on, its name a byword for mod­ernism.

In 1970, Arup was com­mis­sioned by Carls­berg Brew­ery Ltd to design a new plant in Northamp­ton in the Eng­lish Mid­lands, just as the lager boom was begin­ning to bite. The cost of the project was £15 mil­lion; Carls­berg sup­plied the brew­ery equip­ment and defined the neces­si­ties of the space accord­ing to pro­duc­tion need; and Arup com­mis­sioned Dan­ish archi­tect Knud Munk to pro­duce a design that would “express the best in mod­ern Dan­ish archi­tec­ture”.

As well as lots of detail in the text the mag­a­zine also includes process charts…

Process chart of lager brewing at Carlsberg.

…inte­ri­or shots…

A control panel at the brewery.

…and lots of dra­mat­ic black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy of the brew­ery build­ing at var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion, set in the flat land­scape against dra­mat­ic skies…

The exterior of the brewery.
CREDIT: Col­in West­wood.

…which are either awe-inspir­ing or grim depend­ing on your point of view.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to think of this hulk appear­ing, with atten­dant talk of effi­cien­cy and automa­tion, at just the exact moment the Cam­paign for Real Ale was tak­ing off. This is about as far from all that imagery of wood­en casks, old inns and pewter tankards as you can get.

And the empha­sis through­out on the Dan­ish­ness of the project – Dan­ish brew­ers, Dan­ish archi­tect, offi­cial­ly opened by the Queen of Den­mark – while can­ny in terms of under­lin­ing the authen­tic­i­ty of the prod­uct was also at odds with the grow­ing sense that Local was some­how a sacred virtue.

We’ve been research­ing this build­ing and Carlsberg’s arrival in the UK on and off for years and this showed up in one of our peri­od­ic check-ins. There are times we wor­ry about the state of cor­po­rate archives and oth­ers when we feel like we’re liv­ing in the best pos­si­ble age, with digi­tis­ing get­ting cheap­er and com­pa­nies real­is­ing the val­ue of their own his­to­ry.

Incidental Lager, Pubs and Breweries in Photos of Edwardian London

Someone – we don’t know who – spent the week of 22–28 August 1908 visiting the capital of the British Empire and brought home as a souvenir a photo book called 350 Views of London.

They wrote the dates of their hol­i­day on the inside cov­er in pen­cil. The book then spent at least some of the past cen­tu­ry some­where damp – an attic or shed – so that its cov­er buck­led and the sta­ples hold­ing it togeth­er rust­ed away. That’s why we were able to by this rel­ic for a cou­ple of quid from the junk box in a sec­ond­hand book­shop in Bris­tol.

Among those 350 pho­tos, some full-page, oth­ers fair­ly tiny, there are a hand­ful that par­tic­u­lar­ly grabbed our atten­tion, for obvi­ous rea­sons.

The Spaten Beer Restaurant, Piccadilly, c.1908.

This is one of the clear­est, most detailed views we’ve seen of the Spat­en Beer Restau­rant at Pic­cadil­ly – a pio­neer­ing Lon­don lager out­let that we obsessed over dur­ing the writ­ing of Gam­bri­nus Waltz. We still des­per­ate­ly want to see a view of the inte­ri­or but this is nice to have.

The King Lud, Ludgate Circus

The King Lud, Ludgate Circus

The book con­tains two views of one par­tic­u­lar pub, The King Lud at Ludgate Cir­cus. This is inter­est­ing to us because Jess drank in it fair­ly reg­u­lar­ly in its final years when it was brand­ed as part of the Hogshead chain. It is now a Leon restau­rant, but recog­nis­ably the same build­ing.

Omnibuses outside the Royal Exchange.

The beer con­nec­tion in this shot of the Roy­al Exchange is a lit­tle less obvi­ous: look at those two omnibus­es in the cen­tre – they’re adver­tis­ing Tennent’s Lager, as dis­trib­uted in Lon­don by Find­later & Co of Lon­don Bridge. This is a reminder that Ger­many and Aus­tria-Hun­gary weren’t the only coun­tries import­ing lager to Lon­don in the years before World War I.

Tottenham Court road from the south.

We haven’t seen this shot of Tot­ten­ham Court Road before, or any oth­er from quite this angle. That’s Meux’s Horse Shoe brew­ery and the attached brew­ery tap to the right – the site of the famous beer flood. The sign above the brew­ery door adver­tis­es MEUX’S ORIGINAL LONDON STOUT. We’d like to know more about the Horse Shoe Hotel’s ‘Amer­i­can Bar’.

The Saracen's Head, Snow Hill.

The Saracen’s Head was on Snow Hill in the City of Lon­don. We can’t quite pin down the pre­cise loca­tion, even after look­ing at con­tem­po­rary maps, aer­i­al pho­tos and the com­pre­hen­sive Pubs His­to­ry web­site. An edu­cat­ed guess is that it was destroyed dur­ing the Blitz – if you know oth­er­wise, or can tell us exact­ly where it was, do com­ment below.