News, Nuggets & Longreads 19 May 2018: Boozers, Brussels, Benin

It’s Saturday morning and time for us to round up links to all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve found stimulating, entertaining or engaging in the past week, from Huddersfield to West Africa.

But first, it’s pub geek Christ­mas: His­toric Eng­land has list­ed five notable post-war pubs, this being the first fruit of a research project by Dr Emi­ly Cole we first got excit­ed about back in 2015. It was love­ly to see not-beer-Twit­ter get all excit­ed about this sto­ry yes­ter­day and we sus­pect some of these pubs will find them­selves a bit busier than usu­al today. We’re plan­ning a trip to The Cen­tu­ri­on for next month.

A moose head at The Grove

At Beer Com­pur­ga­tion Mark John­son reflects on his sup­port for Hud­der­s­field Town, his con­nec­tion with his father, and how all this become entan­gled with his affec­tion for one par­tic­u­lar pub:

For many fans, foot­ball is about the match­day rit­u­als and expe­ri­ence as much as it about the 3pm Sat­ur­day kick-off. For my father and I the rou­tine became embed­ded – the Grove at 1pm. It stopped requir­ing organ­i­sa­tion with oth­ers com­ing from else­where. The texts about atten­dance weren’t nec­es­sary. We were in the Grove at 1pm.

You don’t have to be inter­est­ed in foot­ball to enjoy this post which is real­ly about the pre­car­i­ous­ness of impor­tant rela­tion­ships, whether they are with peo­ple or places. (Sug­gest­ed song pair­ing: ‘In My Life’ by the Bea­t­les.)

Adnams sign on brewery wall, Southwold.

It’s worth read­ing a pair of arti­cles by vet­er­an beer writer Roger Protz for his track­ing of one par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant ques­tion: how com­mit­ted are the estab­lished fam­i­ly brew­ers to cask ale? St Austell (and its sub­sidiary Bath Ales) seems very much so; Adnams? Maybe not quite so much:

When I sat down with chair­man Jonathan Adnams in the opu­lent splen­dour of the Swan Hotel fronting the brew­ery I checked I heard him cor­rect­ly when he said ear­ly in our con­ver­sa­tion: “By 2019 keg pro­duc­tion will over­take cask.”

Sure­ly not Adnams falling to keg? What has caused this aston­ish­ing turn round?

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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.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 24 February 2018: Labels, Lollies, Lambic,

These are all the beer- and pub-related links we’ve enjoyed most, or found most informative, in the past week, covering everything from breakfast beer to computer games.

First, from Jeff Alworth, a clever idea: using rank-my-boss web­site Glass Door to gain insight into the employ­ment cul­tures of Amer­i­can craft brew­eries. He writes:

In my expe­ri­ence, peo­ple are uni­form­ly tight-lipped about their employ­ers, and try­ing to suss out which brew­eries treat their employ­ees well and which don’t has always been elu­sive.… There are some real sur­pris­es here. Rogue has long had a rep­u­ta­tion as a ter­ri­ble place to work, thanks in part to this report. But on Glass­door, it’s get­ting a quite-respectable 3.9. New Bel­gium, by con­trast, is usu­al­ly described as some­thing like heav­en to work for, and it’s get­ting only a 3.5.

A crowd outside the Market Porter.
SOURCE: Stacy/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Jes­si­ca Furseth has writ­ten a fas­ci­nat­ing piece for Atlas Obscu­ra on the hand­ful of Lon­don pubs that are open for break­fast, argu­ing that they are the last reminders of a time when Lon­don­ers drank at all hours of the day:

It’s 7 a.m. at The Mar­ket Porter in South Lon­don, and I’m eye­ing the choic­es behind the bar. “You alright there?” the bar­man asks. This is the first time I’ve stopped by the pub on my way to work in the morn­ing, and I have no idea what to get. Hon­est­ly, what I want is anoth­er cof­fee. But even­tu­al­ly I set­tle on a cider: the “Tra­di­tion­al Scrumpy,” which is a feisty six per­cent alco­hol. As the morn­ing sun pokes through the pat­terned glass win­dows, it goes down a lot bet­ter than I expect.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 10 February 2018: Lancashire, Lager, Lambic

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from northern pubs to northern clubs via Belgium.

First up, a post from Katie at The Snap & The Hiss which offers some insight from behind the bar into what pub­go­ers real­ly want to drink, and how they feel about being con­front­ed by a world of choice:

Mar­ket­ing a prod­uct to peo­ple who already love that prod­uct is about trends and loy­al­ty and sur­pris­es. Find­ing new fans is a more dif­fi­cult endeav­our, espe­cial­ly if you’re so far down your own rab­bit hole that you don’t know what they don’t know. A large per­cent­age of drinkers aren’t invest­ed in the brew­eries you care about/you are. Many peo­ple don’t under­stand what they’re buy­ing. A lot of drinkers aren’t actu­al­ly sure what the dif­fer­ence is between cask and keg. And yes – some drinkers, to our con­stant unfair deri­sion – tru­ly believe that cloudy beers are off. It’s time to admit it: we’re answer­ing the wrong ques­tions about beer.

Four brewers.

Will Hawkes, one of the few bona fide nose-pok­ing jour­nal­ists work­ing in beer, sniffed out the sto­ry that Mahrs of Bam­berg was open­ing a brew­ery in Lon­don. Now, for Imbibe, he has all the fas­ci­nat­ing details, includ­ing the fact that the brew­ery is now called Bray­brooke Beer Co and actu­al­ly end­ed up in Northamp­ton­shire:

It’s the result of a col­lab­o­ra­tion between restau­ra­teurs Luke Wil­son and Cameron Emi­rali, who run 10 Greek Street, dis­trib­u­tor Nick Trow­er of Bier­craft and Stephan Michel, the own­er of Mahr’s Bräu, the craft-beer world’s favourite tra­di­tion­al Ger­man brew­ery.… The result is a keller­bier, an unfil­tered and unpas­teurised amber lager inspired by Mahr’s world-renowned ‘Unge­spun­det’ (known as ‘U’). It’ll be made with Ger­man malt and hops, fer­ment­ed with Mahr’s yeast, and brewed in the tra­di­tion­al way, includ­ing a sin­gle decoc­tion step and four weeks’ lager­ing.

Vintage SIBA sign on a pub in London.

If you’re inter­est­ed in the non-sexy behind-the-scenes busi­ness of the beer indus­try then this post from brew­er Steve Dunk­ley of Beer Nou­veau offers an inter­est­ing take on moves by the Soci­ety of Inde­pen­dent Brew­ers (SIBAinto dis­tri­b­u­tion and whole­sal­ing, and its deep­en­ing con­nec­tions with pub com­pa­nies:

SIBA have cre­at­ed an expen­sive box-tick­ing exer­cise that repli­cates what brew­eries already have to do legal­ly. They’ve removed a route to mar­ket for non-mem­bers, are tak­ing mon­ey from Pub­Cos intent on drop­ping cask from local brew­eries, and are risk­ing fur­ther reduc­ing choice for drinkers whilst also increas­ing prof­its for Pub­Cos at the expense of brew­ers and drinkers alike.… I real­ly can’t see how they can claim to rep­re­sent the inter­ests of inde­pen­dent brew­eries, and I can’t see how CAMRA can con­tin­ue to use Fly­ing Firkin [which SIBA recent­ly acquired] as a rec­om­mend­ed whole­saler whilst it runs the very real and emerg­ing risk of reduc­ing con­sumer choice.

Collage: a fractured pub.

This week saw the release of sta­tis­tics from the British Beer and Pub Asso­ci­a­tion (BBPA) sug­gest­ing that though beer con­sump­tion over­all is up, sales of beer in pubs and bars (the on-trade) was down by 2.4% based on the pre­vi­ous year, equat­ing to some 88 mil­lion few­er pints. Tan­dle­man has some thoughts here: “For those with jobs and ‘just about man­ag­ing’, choos­ing to drink cheap beer at home as pub prices increase on those already wage squeezed, is rapid­ly becom­ing a no brain­er.”

(We’ve said sim­i­lar our­selves: the prob­lem is that nobody has any mon­ey!)

Illustration: lambic blending.

For Beer Advo­cate Gail Ann Williams and Steve Shapiro offer a por­trait of a new wave Bel­gian ‘nano-blendery’. As well as a dis­cus­sion of the cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance of a new blendery charg­ing what by Bel­gian stan­dards are eye-water­ing prices for chal­leng­ing prod­ucts (cin­na­mon Fram­boos!) it’s also full of inter­est­ing details on the process:

Sou­vereyns com­bines three inoc­u­lat­ed wort com­po­nents for all of his beers, rely­ing on rela­tion­ships with three Lam­bic pro­duc­ers: Girardin, Lin­de­mans (in Vlezen­beek), and De Troch (in Wambeek). In par­tic­u­lar, he believes the De Troch influ­ence is key to his fla­vor sig­na­ture. “De Troch is one of those brew­eries that is so under­rat­ed. The Lam­bic [it] makes is phe­nom­e­nal but peo­ple only relate that brew­ery to sweet­ened prod­ucts,” he laments, refer­ring to quick­ly-pro­duced fruit beers which sub­si­dize the old brewery’s lim­it­ed Oude Gueuze pro­duc­tion.

(We’re not quite sure when this piece appeared online but we only noticed it this week.)

We’ll fin­ish with this archive film from the BBC on the boom in north­ern clubs dur­ing the 1960s. It con­tains lots of shots of foam­ing pints.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 30 September 2017: Bang Chang, Meerts, Cork Mild

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that got our brainboxes revving in the past week, with bulletins from Bhutan to Runcorn.

The Cask Mar­que Cask Report was pub­lished this week (PDF) writ­ten this year by Rosie Dav­en­port. We’re still digest­ing it, and, like oth­ers, debat­ing its val­ue, but in the mean­time James Bee­son has writ­ten an excel­lent sum­ma­ry with addi­tion­al indus­try com­ment for the Morn­ing Adver­tis­er:

The head­line sta­tis­tic from this year’s report high­lights that sales of cask beer are down by 5% over the past six years, and 3.8% in the past year alone. While it is undoubt­ed­ly dis­ap­point­ing, and indeed wor­ry­ing, to see cask suf­fer­ing a sharp decline in sales, this is symp­to­matic of a wider decline in beer drink­ing across the UK, with keg beer and lager also falling by 25% and 11% respec­tive­ly.

Brewing in an outdoor kitchen, Bhutan.

For Beer Advo­cate** Mar­tin Thibault has vis­it­ed the Himalayan king­dom of Bhutan to explore its farm­house brew­ing cul­ture:

So, Bang Chang and Sin Chang, the nation’s two types of farm­house ale, are often made from 100 per­cent organ­ic raw wheat cul­ti­vat­ed by each house­hold. In some cas­es, even the yeast cul­ture itself is coaxed from these same fields… Some of these farm­ers not only grow their cere­al and brew from it, they also make their own yeast bagels from bits of dried bark, leaves, and pow­dered maize or wheat, which are cooked and solid­i­fied. Aun Nam­gay, a Schar­chop woman from Rad­hi, a ham­let in the country’s sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed east, explains that her new­ly baked cakes need to be coat­ed in an old­er ‘moth­er’ bagel for the fresh ones to be tru­ly effec­tive.

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