Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from takeovers to light ale.
First, some big news which would be more exciting if it hadn’t seemed inevitable, and if we hadn’t been through this cycle multiple times in the past decade: Huddersfield’s Magic Rock has been acquired by multinational brewing company Lion.
We’ve always found Magic Rock’s Richard Burhouse to be a frank, thoughtful sort of bloke, and his statement strikes home in a way these things often don’t:
Of course, I realise that this news will not be universally well received but I’m also conscious that internationally renowned brewing companies don’t invest in Huddersfield every day, and I’m delighted that the journey we started eight years ago has got us to this point… I’m proud that we continue to be a good news story in the town; the deal with Lion secures growth and longevity for Magic Rock, genuine job security for our employees and enables us to hire more people and contribute more to the economy of the local area going forward.
It’s interesting that of the four breweries involved in the founding of United Craft Brewers in 2015, three have now been bought by multinationals. We said at the time that UCB represented a statement of ambition, which ideas seems to have been borne out by the passage of time. Anyway, that’s one rumour down, leaving one more (that we’ve heard) to go…
More news, not perhaps unrelated to the above:
- Tesco is revamping its beer range to include Magic Rock, Wild Card, Five Points and other interesting breweries, though the formal announcement has yet to be made.
- The general feeling among independent beer retailers seems to be dismay – this, they argue, will wipe out the value of beers from these particular breweries, and generally skews public perception of the price of craft beer. There are moves to form a union of indie retailers.
- Meanwhile, the Bottle Shop, with a chain of shops across south east England and London, has gone into administration; the Beer Boutique (with three shops) has also folded; and another London bottle shop, We Brought Beer, has closed one shop because of a doubling of the rent.
Justin Mason at Get Beer. Drink Beer. has been researching and reflecting upon one of the most popular 20th century beer mixes, light and bitter:
Light and Bitter is, as you might expect, a half of Bitter (usually a bit more, three quarters wasn’t uncommon) served in a pint glass or mug with a bottle of Light Ale as an accompaniment. This was to be mixed as you saw fit, either in measured stages but more usually as half the bottle, taking it almost to the top, and the other half when you were down to the half pint level again… I couldn’t remember the last time I saw anybody order or drink a Light and Bitter in any pub I was in for at least ten years…
Staying in the realms of the old school, Deserter has been touring the working men’s clubs of south London:
Have you ever walked past those huge old buildings that have a Courage sign from another epoch, but offer no encouragement to enter? They’re members’ clubs, where the beer is as cheap as fibs and ‘refurb’ means a new snooker table. Liberal Clubs, Working Men’s Clubs, Social Clubs. A mystery to most. A sanctuary to some… Roxy and Gail had become members of a CIU club and that entitled them to visit any of their 1800+ clubs in the UK and take in their special ’70s-ness, low-price pints, massive function rooms and strong cue-sports presence. I borrowed a card and kicked off our club tour at the Peckham Lib.
Archive article of the week: can you imagine a newspaper today publishing anything as niche and geeky as this set of vertical tasting notes by Michael Jackson on J.W. Lees Harvest Ale from 1995?
The exact influence of age is open to argument. Ninety-nine out of a hundred beers will go downhill. Only the strong and complex might improve. Before this tasting, I would have said that Lees Harvest Ale might develop favourably for three to six months. Now, I think six or seven years. Beyond that, oxidation creates Madeira-like notes, which can become dominant. From day one, the herbal floweriness of the hop can recede, but it was still definitely evident in the 1990.