Another Round of #BeeryLongreads: 18 Dec 2015

We’re going to post something longer than usual (1,500+ words) on Friday 18 December, to give our readers something to chew on over the Christmas lull.

If any oth­er beer blog­gers fan­cy join­ing us, that’d be great – just post on or around the same date.

We won’t be putting togeth­er a round-up this time but will be shar­ing links on Face­book and Twit­ter using the hash­tag #Beery­Lon­gReads.

Also, by way of encour­age­ment, we’re going to send the best UK-based entry this pile of good­ies:

Prize bundle feat. Mikkeller book, Brew Britannia, Watney's half-pint glass, BrewDog keyring &c.

And, because of the cost of postage, the best from out­side the UK will get an Ama­zon vouch­er or sim­i­lar.

We’ll decide the win­ners entire­ly sub­jec­tive­ly and our deci­sion will be final.

PS. Alan at A Good Beer Blog is run­ning a writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion at his blog; if you also want to sub­mit your #Beery­Lon­gRead as your entry for that, make sure it is more than 2,500 words long and meets the require­ments set out at the link above. He’ll be for­mal­ly launch­ing the con­test, along with his annu­al pho­to com­pe­ti­tion, fair­ly soon – we’ll update this post when the announce­ment goes live.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Anoth­er Round of #Beery­Lon­greads: 18 Dec 2015”

The Lure of Luxury, The Call of Craft?

Why do people buy ‘fancy beer’ – because it tastes better, or because it ‘signals’ status?

Psy­chol­o­gist Paul Bloom’s arti­cle ‘The Lure of Lux­u­ry’ men­tions beer only in pass­ing – ‘the attrac­tive stranger in a bar is aroused by your choice of beer’ – but any­one who’s been called a snob for drink­ing a £6 pint, or rolled their eyes at the glitzy pack­ag­ing of a lim­it­ed edi­tion IPA, will get the rel­e­vance.

Dr Bloom sets out two oppos­ing points of view:

  1. Peo­ple want lux­u­ry goods because they look, feel or taste good – they give plea­sure in and of them­selves.
  2. Lux­u­ry goods are sta­tus sym­bol designed to impress oth­ers and sig­nal ‘intel­li­gence, ambi­tion, and pow­er’.

The truth, he argues, lies some­where in between:

Now, only a philis­tine would deny Postrel’s point that some con­sumer pref­er­ences are aes­thet­ic, even sen­su­al. And only a rube would doubt that some peo­ple buy some lux­u­ry items to impress col­leagues, com­peti­tors, spous­es, and lovers. Per­haps we can divvy up the con­sumer world. An appre­ci­a­tion of beau­ty explains cer­tain acces­si­ble and uni­ver­sal con­sumer pleasures—Postrel begins her book in Kab­ul after the Tal­iban fell, describ­ing how the women there rev­eled in their free­dom to pos­sess burkas of dif­fer­ent col­ors and to paint their nails—while sig­nal­ing the­o­ry applies to the more extrav­a­gant pur­chas­es. A crim­son bur­ka? Aes­thet­ics. A $30,000 watch? Sig­nal­ing. Aris­to­tle Onassis’s choice to uphol­ster the bar stools in his yacht with whale fore­skin? Def­i­nite­ly sig­nal­ing.

He goes on to con­sid­er why an exact repli­ca of an object isn’t as desir­able as the real thing; why when peo­ple buy a celebrity’s jumper in a char­i­ty auc­tion they don’t want it dry-cleaned first; and whether any­one needs six mechan­i­cal wrists to auto­mat­i­cal­ly wind their col­lec­tion of Rolex watch­es.

Let’s attempt to trans­late those ques­tions: Why do peo­ple con­tin­ue to hunt down and pay through the nose for West­vleteren 12 when none but the most refined palates can tell it from St Bernar­dus Abt 12? Why is beer brewed under con­tract less appeal­ing than oth­er­wise? Does any­one need a £168 six-pack of beer?

When you choose a beer is it real­ly ‘about flavour’ – the defen­sive cry of the craft beer drinker accused of extrav­a­gance – or some­thing else? And, of course, some­thing else might be fine, depend­ing on your val­ues, and the plea­sure it brings is just as real.

We found Dr Bloom’s arti­cle via BoingBoing.com. If you can’t be both­ered to read it you can see him speak­ing on relat­ed top­ics at the TED Talks web­site.

All the #BeeryLongReads from November 2014

Once again, our fears that we would be going it alone on #BeeryLongReads day proved to be unfounded – thanks, everyone, for taking part. Here are all the posts that we’ve spotted or been told about.

→ Old Fam­i­ly Brew­ers of Britain. Part Sev­en – Brak­s­pears of Hen­ley-on-Thames by Paul Bai­ley (no rela­tion) recounts the his­to­ry of a brew­ery and the author’s own long expe­ri­ence of drink­ing its beer: “I had learnt of the company’s exis­tence late in 1973 after read­ing Christo­pher Hutt’s excel­lent and pio­neer­ing book, The Death of the Eng­lish Pub… [but]it was not until the spring of 1975, dur­ing my stu­dent days, that I first had the chance to sam­ple them.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing “All the #Beery­Lon­gReads from Novem­ber 2014”

Beery Long Reads, August 2014

These are all the respons­es to our call to ‘go long’ that we know about so far. If we missed yours, com­ment below, and we’ll add any strag­glers to this list and when we find out about them either in the com­ments below or through Twit­ter.

Bulimba Gold Top

A Brief History of Bulimba Gold Top

by Drunk­en Spec­u­la­tion (@DrunkSpec)

[This] is the abridged his­to­ry of a local beer that was dis­con­tin­ued before I was born but holds my inter­est for rea­sons I can’t quite fath­om. It might be the notion of brew­ing beer in Brisbane’s inner river­side sub­urbs, some­thing that has only recent­ly become a thing again. It might be the roman­tic fil­ter through which I view late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry Bris­bane. It might just be the name: Bulim­ba Gold Top.

[Read more at Drunk­en Spec­u­la­tion…]

[ezcol_1third]Bolivian Flag (detail)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Cerveza at 11,000 feet in Bolivia

by Bre­wolero

My first arrival to La Paz made for a weird epiphany, but a rev­e­la­tion nonethe­less. Of course, head-pound­ing and dehy­drat­ed is not quite a state of mind that screams for beer. Nonethe­less, we head­ed for what to any beer-mind­ed per­son was the promis­ing­ly-named Adven­ture Brew Hos­tel, although the cranky old­head lurk­ing in me was a tad wary.

[Read more at Bre­wolero…][/ezcol_2third_end]
[ezcol_1third]Beer in Lille.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Lille: a Beer Odyssey and Much More

by Justin Mason (@1970sBOY)

I sus­pect that many of you, as I have done, gazed unin­ter­est­ed­ly out of the win­dow as your Eurostar train pulled into Lille sta­tion, a seem­ing­ly unnec­es­sary stop on your way to Brus­sels and maybe beyond, with your head full of all the good things that Bel­gium, where beer is almost a reli­gion, will have in store for you.

[Read more at Get Beer, Drink Beer…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]London Beer City.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Lon­don Beer Peo­ple

by Matthew Cur­tis (@TotalCurtis)

What Lon­don beer city did was cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that made beer more acces­si­ble to every­one else. I watched onlook­ers, strag­glers and casu­al passers by not only stop and look what was going on but wan­der in and start a beer jour­ney of their very own.

[Read more at Total Ales…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]Brewdog beers.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Inter­view with Baron Dick­ie of Ellon

by Matthew Lawren­son (@seethelizards)

Arti­cle tak­en from telegraph.com (3rd March 2034): View­ing Lord Dick­ie today, it’s hard to imag­ine him as the flat-cap wear­ing fire­brand enfant-ter­ri­ble of British Brew­ing. Repos­ing on an antique Chester­field, dressed head-to-toe in tweed, he looks every inch the mid­dle-aged Scot­tish coun­try gent.

[Read more at See­ing the Lizards][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]BeerBud[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Beer­Bud Beer Club

by Glen Humphries (@26bear)

Unlike a num­ber of oth­er journos, I didn’t both­er writ­ing any­thing for the paper because I knew it was noth­ing spe­cial. I knew the media release head­line “Aussie barons brew ale rev­o­lu­tion” was sim­ply not true.

[Read more at Beer is Your Friend…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]Vintage beer glass illustration.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Who Will Save the Idea of Craft Beer?

by Alan McCormick (@GrowlerFills)

Papaz­ian is exact­ly right. A craft brew­er is a sub­jec­tive idea, some­thing neb­u­lous left to each of us to define as relates to our own expe­ri­ences and val­ues. But Papazian’s orga­ni­za­tion defines it any­way.

[Read more at Growler Fills…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]Hop farming in Idaho.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Farm­ing Hops, Ida­ho Style

by Stan Hierony­mus (@StanHieronymus)

This was by no means a del­uge. You could almost count the ear­ly morn­ing rain­drops hit­ting the tent roof. There’s one where Ori­on would be locat­ed, a cou­ple by the Big Dip­per. Rain and wind can be a very bad thing at a hop farm this time of year. A few days ear­li­er rain and wind in Wash­ing­ton and south­ern Ida­ho had knocked down about 140 acres of hop trel­lis­es.

[Read more at Appel­la­tion Beer…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]Some beer books that we've used for research.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Rec­om­mend­ed Brew­ing His­to­ry Books

by Ed Wray (@TheBeerFather)

Back in May when Chris March­banks gave a talk on brew­ing his­to­ry he gave out a list of books he rec­om­mend­ed. Here’s the list with com­ments and some sug­ges­tions of my own. I’ve pro­vid­ed links for the books which in some cas­es link will take you to the com­plete book online, in oth­ers it’s to an online retail­er. Some of the books are dirt cheap and some are dead expen­sive.

[Read more at Ed’s Beer Site…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]Gareth (left) and Tim, at the brewery door.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Mel­low Brown vs. the Amar­il­lo Kid?

by Boak & Bai­ley (@boakandbailey)

The ten­sion between new world and old school is being played out at Spin­go Ales in sleepy Hel­ston, Corn­wall, but which side has the upper hand?

[Read more…][/ezcol_2third_end]

ADDED 31/08/2014

[ezcol_1third]James Watt of Brewdog.[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Inter­view with BrewDog’s James Watt

by Chris Hall (@cshallwriter)

I asked var­i­ous Beer Peo­ple I know what they would ask Brew­Dog if they had the same chance as me… What fol­lows is a series of ques­tions put to James Watt on Fri­day 22 August, some from me, some from oth­er peo­ple.

[Read more at the Beer Diary…][/ezcol_2third_end]

[ezcol_1third]Upper Hudson Valley Beer cover (detail)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_2third_end]Upper Hud­son Beer From 1700 to 1750

by Alan McLeod (@agoodbeerblog)

On Feb­ru­ary 15, 1700, one of the church’s poor died. She was Ryseck, the wid­ow of Ger­rit Swart… There were more than a few expens­es in addi­tion to the cost of the cof­fin and the fee paid Hen­drick Rose­boom, the doo­d­graver. In addi­tion to 150 sug­ar cakes and suf­fi­cient tobac­co and pipes… twen­ty-sev­en guilders were paid by the con­gre­ga­tion for a half vat and an anker of good beer.

[Read more at A Good Beer Blog…][/ezcol_2third_end]

Mellow Brown vs. the Amarillo Kid?

The tension between new world and old school is being played out at Spingo Ales in sleepy Helston, Cornwall, but which side has the upper hand?

A brew­ery has oper­at­ed from the rear of the Blue Anchor, a ram­bling gran­ite-built pub on Helston’s main drag, since at least the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, and to say it has a cult rep­u­ta­tion among enthu­si­asts of tra­di­tion­al British beer would be an under­state­ment.

It was as we were wind­ing up an after­noon drink­ing ses­sion that we first met the head brew­er, Tim Sears, in the back yard of the pub and asked whether he would mind telling us which vari­ety of hops were used in Spin­go Jubilee IPA. (We were obsess­ing over East Kent Gold­ings at the time.)

Amar­il­lo,” he said, with a just-notice­able curl of his lip.

An Amer­i­can vari­ety not­ed for its pun­gent pop-art tan­ger­ine aro­ma, Amar­il­lo was first released to the mar­ket in 2000. There are pint glass­es at the Blue Anchor that have been in ser­vice longer.

That’s Gareth’s doing,” he con­tin­ued. “He’s the brew­ery man­ag­er. See those sacks of spent hops?” He point­ed to a cor­ner by the gents’ toi­lets. “That lit­tle one’s mine; his is over­flow­ing! I tell him he uses too many.”

Fas­ci­nat­ing,” we thought, Spock-like.

A few weeks lat­er, we got hold of Tim’s email address and explained that we were inter­est­ed in find­ing out more. “Ten­sion is a bit strong!” he replied, “but I know what you mean.” And so, on a paint-peel­ing­ly hot after­noon in July, Bai­ley took a trip to the brew­ery.

* * *

Poster for the Bruges Beer Festival at the Blue Anchor.
Poster for the Bruges Beer Fes­ti­val at the Blue Anchor.

As he lives in Penzance, Tim agreed to pick me up and save me a bus fare, “As long as you don’t mind me smoking and Dutch music… Gezondheid, tot dinsdag!”

Sure enough, as we hur­tled along the coast road, weav­ing around trac­tors and con­voys of Ger­man tourists, the car stereo played a stream of oom­pah-ing Ned­er­landse pop-rock.

What’s the Dutch con­nec­tion?” I asked.

Bel­gian beer,” he replied. “About ten… twelve… ten or twelve years ago, we went on a trip, a coach trip, to Bel­gium, and I loved it. I got on well with the bloke who ran the hotel where we were stay­ing and now he’s sort of a pen pal. I write to him every week, in Dutch.”

Tim isn’t a native Cor­nish­man but has been brew­ing Spin­go Ales at the Blue Anchor in Hel­ston since 1981. “I’d been home brew­ing for a while and win­ning awards,” he said, lift­ing a hand from the steer­ing wheel to cir­cle his cig­ar in air for empha­sis, “so when I saw that they were adver­tis­ing for a new brew­er I said, ‘Yes, please! I’ll have some of that.’” The land­lord gave him a six week tri­al: “I nev­er did find out if I’d got the job.”

Peo­ple some­times talk about the Blue Anchor as if it’s been exact­ly the same, and brew­ing the same beer, for 400 years. It’s more com­pli­cat­ed than that, but ‘Mid­dle’, its flag­ship beer, is cer­tain­ly near­ing its 100th birth­day, hav­ing first been brewed to cel­e­brate the return of Hel­ston boys from the First World War, in 1919. “As far as I know, it’s the same recipe,” Tim said, “but the orig­i­nal paper­work isn’t avail­able. It’s been 1050 OG, Gold­ings, as long as I’ve been brew­ing it.”

Ye Olde Special Brew.

Else­where, there have been tweaks: Spin­go Spe­cial went from 1060 to 1066 to cel­e­brate the mar­riage of Charles and Diana in 1981, and at some point, crys­tal malt got added to the recipe. “Devenish [a defunct region­al brew­ery] used to sup­ply the malt and they weren’t too care­ful clean­ing out the chutes for our order, so we got pale malt with a bit of crys­tal mixed in, which I used for spe­cials. Nowa­days, we mix it our­selves.”

To put some space between it and the amped-up Spe­cial, Christ­mas Spe­cial went up to 1076. (It’s now back down to 1074, to avoid the high­er duty brack­et.) Spin­go Best, too close in grav­i­ty to Mid­dle, got qui­et­ly dropped, as did a 1033 ‘Ordi­nary’: “We called that Mrs Bond, because she was the only one that drank it.”

Tim is clear about his own tastes: “I don’t like a hop­py beer. I pre­fer that malty sweet­ness – that sort of Cor­nish tra­di­tion­al taste.”

(We have long felt that West Coun­try ale is almost a style in its own right – less atten­u­at­ed, heav­ier in body, with bare­ly any dis­cernible hop char­ac­ter. If you’ve tried the bland, sweet Sharp’s Doom Bar, or St Austell’s HSD, then you’d recog­nise Spin­go Mid­dle from the fam­i­ly resem­blance, though it’s less smooth, and less con­sis­tent, than either of those big­ger brew­ery brands.)

Obvi­ous­ly, you’ve got to have hops,” he con­ced­ed, “but they’re there for bit­ter­ness. They shouldn’t make your beer smell of fruit. I can’t stand when peo­ple say they can smell lemon or cit­rus or pas­sion fruit, or what­ev­er.”

I can’t stand when peo­ple say they can smell lemon or cit­rus or pas­sion fruit…”

A cou­ple of years ago, his col­league Gareth, and Ben, a son of the Blue Anchor’s licensees, went on a three-week course at Brewlab in Sun­der­land. They came back with new ideas. The stout Ben designed for his course­work is now a reg­u­lar at the pub, and is called, obvi­ous­ly, Ben’s Stout. Corn­wall isn’t stout-drink­ing coun­try, but it ticks over. “Ben doesn’t drink it, though,” said Tim. “He drinks my Bragget – no hops, malt, hon­ey, apple juice, first brewed to com­mem­o­rate the town’s char­ter, grant­ed by King John in 1201.”

But it was Gareth upon whom the course had the most pro­found effect. “The IPA, that was my beer orig­i­nal­ly, brewed for the Queen’s Jubilee in 2002. But then Gareth got hold of it and now it’s all–” A faint shake of the head. “Amar­il­lo.”

At the pub, Tim, in sleeve­less T-shirt and wellies, dis­ap­peared up the gran­ite stair­case into the steam of a brew­ery which is cramped and hot on the best of days, and hand­ed me over to Gareth, who was just con­clud­ing his morn­ing shift.

We had devel­oped a pic­ture of a mav­er­ick young hip­ster obsessed with ‘craft beer’, per­haps rid­ing around the brew­ery on a skate­board. In fact, though he is younger than Tim by some years, he is soft­ly-spo­ken, prac­ti­cal­ly-mind­ed, and, in his black work­ing t-shirt, more mechan­ic than artist. A Hel­ston local, he worked his way up to the post of brew­ery man­ag­er from clean­ing bar­rels and the occa­sion­al stint behind the bar.

I do like hop­py beers,” he said, sip­ping instant cof­fee from a chipped mug at a plas­tic table in the pub’s gar­den, “but I most­ly drink more mel­low things, if I’m hon­est. Mid­dle, St Austell HSD – things like that.”

I most­ly drink more mel­low things, if I’m hon­est.”

This did not bode well for our hopes of find­ing a British ver­sion of the feud­ing Bjergso broth­ers: Tim and Gareth do not hate each oth­er. They are def­i­nite­ly not ‘at war’. So I decid­ed to poke the nest with a stick: what did Gareth think of Tim’s asser­tion that hops should real­ly only be used to add bit­ter­ness?

I dis­agree with him about that,” he said, with some­thing just approach­ing roused pas­sion. “Hops should be there to give flavour. Def­i­nite­ly.”

Anoth­er new Spin­go ale for which Gareth takes the cred­it (or per­haps the blame, from Tim’s per­spec­tive) is the 4% gold­en Flo­ra Daze. When we first tried it on the week­end it was launched, in March 2012, it seemed star­tling­ly dif­fer­ent to its sta­ble-mates, and we observed con­ser­v­a­tive reg­u­lars at the bar recoil­ing at its lemon-zesti­ness.

We have our beer dis­trib­uted through Jolly’s – LWC – and they want­ed some­thing lighter and hop­pi­er,” Gareth said. “I’d just learned recipe for­mu­la­tion at Brewlab and Flo­ra Daze is what I came up with.”

Gareth (left) and Tim, at the brewery door.
Gareth (left) and Tim, at the brew­ery door.

A short while lat­er, we all three recon­vened at the top of the steps by the brew-house, where Tim was stir­ring the mash with a wood­en brewer’s pad­dle. He fin­ished it by swing­ing a great wood­en lid onto the blue-paint­ed tun dat­ing from the 1920s, and cov­ered that with eight old malt sacks, for insu­la­tion.

Per­spir­ing and out of breath, he leaned on the sta­ble door and took a long draught from a cool pint of Spin­go Mid­dle. “Jolly’s want­ed some­thing under 4%,” he said, pick­ing up the Flo­ra Daze sto­ry, “but we just can’t go that low. Spin­go Ales are strong – that’s what makes them spe­cial.” He admit­ted, though, that he did roll his eyes on first see­ing the recipe. “Gareth usu­al­ly brews it, but I can do it, and have. I fol­low the recipe and stick to the spec.” He paused before deliv­er­ing the punch­line: “I just don’t drink the stuff.”

In the qui­et tug of war, Tim seems to be slow­ly get­ting his own way, and Gareth acknowl­edged that both the re-vamped IPA and Flo­ra Daze have, at Tim’s urg­ing, become less intense­ly hop­py. “I’m hap­pi­er with them as they are, though,” Gareth said. “They’re more in bal­ance now.”

Gareth’s real influ­ence is in the pur­suit of con­sis­ten­cy, as he explained show­ing me around the crowd­ed pub cel­lar which dou­bles as a home for six hot-tub-sized fer­ment­ing ves­sels. “Our beer is slight­ly dif­fer­ent every time,” he acknowl­edged, with a mix of pride and anx­i­ety. “It’s a small brew-house, we do every­thing by hand, and the malt and hops vary from batch to batch. The weath­er, too — that can have an awful effect. Oh, yeah – a big effect.”

But he is work­ing on this prob­lem and has insti­tut­ed lots of small changes. In the last year, for exam­ple, he has tak­en the rad­i­cal step of hav­ing lids fit­ted to the fer­ment­ing ves­sels, so that the beer is no longer exposed to the air. Noth­ing fan­cy, though – just sheets of Per­spex. There’s a sense that, with too much steel and pre­ci­sion, it would cease to be Spin­go.

Fermenting vessels at the Spingo brewery.
Fer­ment­ing ves­sels at the Spin­go brew­ery.

But per­haps this most tra­di­tion­al of British brew­eries will see more change yet. Tim, not per­haps as con­ser­v­a­tive as we thought, con­fessed that he had some­times won­dered about brew­ing some­thing to reflect his inter­est in Bel­gian beer. And Gareth, some­what wist­ful­ly, and almost embar­rassed, mut­tered: “I have… Well, I have thought about a sin­gle-hop beer, Amar­il­lo – some­thing a bit stronger.”

A US-inspired Spin­go IPA?

Yeah, I sup­pose that’s the kind of style I’d be going for…” He shook his head. “But, no, we’ve got enough dif­fer­ent beers for now.”

* * *

In the end, what we found at the Blue Anchor wasn’t high dra­ma or a bit­ter feud, but a kind of dia­logue, and our orig­i­nal choice of word, ten­sion, feels about right. We sus­pect that sim­i­lar debates are occur­ring in tra­di­tion­al brew­eries up and down the coun­try, and around the world, per­haps not always in such a civilised man­ner.

If you enjoyed this, check out the #beery­lon­greads hash­tag on Twit­ter for oth­er people’s con­tri­bu­tions, and also (need we say it?) get hold of a copy of our book, Brew Bri­tan­nia, to which this is some­thing of a com­pan­ion piece.