News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2019: Pub Crawling, Carlsberg, Craftonia

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from Leeds to low alcohol beer.

For the Guardian Dave Simp­son writes about the devel­op­ment of the post-punk scene in Leeds in the late 1970s, which took place in pubs, with the York­shire Rip­per as a dark back­ground pres­ence:

Today, with its wood and tiles and punk sound­track, [the Fen­ton] is almost as it was; Gill observes that the juke­box has moved rooms. “Pre-mobile phones, you’d have to go where you knew peo­ple would be,” Mekons singer Tom Green­hal­gh explains, remem­ber­ing “intense polit­i­cal debates and insane hedo­nism”, and leg­endary scene char­ac­ters such as Bar­ry the Badge. “A huge gay guy cov­ered in badges from Arm­ley Social­ist Worker’s par­ty. He was rock-hard, but then he could just grab you, snog you and stick his tongue down your throat.”

Roger Protz has been writ­ing about lager in Britain for 40 years so his com­men­tary on where the new ‘Dan­ish Pil­sner’ Carls­berg has just launched in the UK fits in was bound to be inter­est­ing. Where oth­ers have been cau­tious­ly pos­i­tive, Mr Protz essen­tial­ly dis­miss­es the beer as more the same:

I was asked for my views by Carlsberg’s Lon­don-based PR com­pa­ny, who sent me some sam­ples. The bot­tled ver­sion said it was brewed in the UK – pre­sum­ably this means the Northamp­ton fac­to­ry – while the can says “brewed in the EU”. I said this made a mock­ery of the new beer being called “Dan­ish Pil­sner”… I added that 3.8 per cent ABV was too low to mer­it being called Pil­sner: the clas­sic Pil­sner Urquell is 4.4 per cent and all claims to be a Pil­sner should be judged against it. I found the Carls­berg beer to be thin and lack­ing in aro­ma and flavour.

A foot­note from us: we were asked to take part in mar­ket research by Heineken ear­li­er this week, which leads us to sus­pect some sim­i­lar post-Cam­den rein­ven­tion is in the pipeline there, too.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 20 April 2019: Pub Crawl­ing, Carls­berg, Crafto­nia”

These are a Few of our Favourite Pubs

Over a few beers the other week we found ourselves making a list of pubs we love and find ourselves longing to be in.

It’s not The Best Pubs, it’s not a Top Ten, it’s just some pubs we like enough to feel wist­ful for. We’ve been tin­ker­ing with it since and decid­ed to share it.

Brains bitter at the City Arms, Cardiff.
The City Arms, Cardiff

10–12 Quay St, CF10 1EA
This is, in fact, the pub where we had the con­ver­sa­tion. It was our first vis­it but love at first pint. The per­fect mix of old school, new school, cask and keg, it just felt com­plete­ly right to us. Worn in and unpre­ten­tious, but not cur­mud­geon­ly, and serv­ing a rev­e­la­to­ry point of Brains Bit­ter. (Not SA.) Is it an insti­tu­tion? We assume it’s an insti­tu­tion.

The Brunswick, Derby.
The Brunswick Inn, Derby

1 Rail­way Ter­race, DE1 2RU
We loved this first time, and it’s still great. Flag­stones, pale cask ale, cradling cor­ners, a view over the rail­way, and the mur­mur of love­ly local accents. Worth break­ing a train jour­ney for.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “These are a Few of our Favourite Pubs”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 18 August 2018: Bartram’s, Belgium, the Barley Mow

Here’s everything published on beer and pubs in the past week that grabbed our attention, from teetotal tendencies to the extraordinary nature of ordinary pubs.

First, some trade­mark thought­ful reflec­tion from Jeff Alworth at Beer­vana who asks ‘What If We Just Stopped Drink­ing?

[What] if we just keep drink­ing less and less until we’re con­sum­ing it like our old aun­tie, who only pulls out the sher­ry for spe­cial occa­sions? This won’t hap­pen imme­di­ate­ly, but the trend lines are pret­ty clear… A dirty lit­tle secret of the alco­hol indus­tri­al com­plex: it relies on very heavy drinkers, many of them alco­holics, for the bulk of sales. Among drinkers, the medi­an con­sump­tion is just a cou­ple drinks a week. That’s the median–some “drinkers” basi­cal­ly don’t drink at all. That means, of course, that someone’s doing a lot of drink­ing…

A Belgian Brown Cafe.

There’s a new links round-up in town: Bre­andán Kear­ney at Bel­gian Smaak has put togeth­er a rather won­der­ful rat­tle through all the Bel­gian beer and bar news from the last few months. How can you resist a 15 item list includ­ing such head­ers as CHINESE HOEGAARDEN and BEAVERTOWN GOES BELGIAN?

The mad collection at the Prince of Greenwich.
SOURCE: Desert­er

For Desert­er the pseu­do­ny­mous Dirty South gives an account of a day spent try­ing to enter­tain a sullen teenag­er in the cul­tur­al pubs of South Lon­don:

The Prince is run by Pietro La Rosa, a Sicil­ian who has not only brought Ital­ian hos­pi­tal­i­ty and splen­did Ital­ian food to SE10, but opened a pub full of curios that he and his wife Pao­la have col­lect­ed from their trav­els around the world. An enor­mous whale’s jaw bone hangs over var­i­ous objets d’arts, a rhi­noc­er­os’ head pro­trudes above an antique barber’s chair, sur­round­ed by art­work from afar.

It’s mad,’ con­clud­ed Theo.

The Bridge Inn, Clayton.
SOURCE: John Clarke.

Here’s some­thing we’d like to see more of: vet­er­an CAMRA mag­a­zine edi­tor  John Clarke dust­ed down a pub crawl from 30 years ago and retraced his steps to see how time had treat­ed the booz­ers of Clay­ton, Greater Man­ches­ter:

The Folke­stone was closed, burnt out and demol­ished. New hous­ing now occu­pies the site. The Greens Arms strug­gled on and then had a brief exis­tence as the Star Show­bar… The Grove also con­tin­ues to thrive as a Holts house and the war memo­r­i­al remains on the vault wall. No such luck with the Church.

The Barley Mow, London.
SOURCE: Pub Cul­ture Vul­ture.

Ben McCormick has been writ­ing about pubs on and off at his Pub Cul­ture Vul­ture blog for a few years now and a recent flur­ry of posts has cul­mi­nat­ed with what we think is a pro­found obser­va­tion:

[The Bar­ley Mow] must be the best Bak­er Street booz­er by a bil­lion miles… I was on the point of writ­ing there is noth­ing spe­cial about the place, but stopped abrupt­ly on the grounds that’s com­plete horse­shit. There ought to be many, many more exam­ples of pubs like this dot­ted around cen­tral Lon­don and fur­ther afield. But there aren’t.

Any pub, how­ev­er, ordi­nary, becomes extra­or­di­nary if it resists change – that makes sense to us.

A bit of news: Bartram’s, a brew­ery in Suf­folk, seems to have giv­en up brew­ing (the sto­ry is slight­ly con­fus­ing) which has giv­en the local news­pa­per an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on the health of the mar­ket:

Now Mr Bar­tram is cur­rent­ly no longer look­ing to export over­seas, and is not pro­duc­ing any beer. “There are about 42 brew­eries in Suf­folk – when I start­ed 18 years ago, there were just five,” he said. “There is a lot more com­pe­ti­tion. The mar­ket is sat­u­rat­ed, it’s ridicu­lous.”

Anoth­er Suf­folk brew­er, who declined to be named, claims over­crowd­ing in the mar­ket­place is true of the cask ale indus­try that Mr Bar­tram is part of, but not the key keg ale mar­ket.

Also unclear: the key mar­ket for keg ale, or the keykeg ale mar­ket? Any­way, inter­est­ing.

If you want more good read­ing check out Stan Hieronymus’s Mon­day round-up and Alan McLeod’s reg­u­lar Thurs­day link­fest.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 24 March 2018: Glitter, Ilford, AK

Here’s everything we’ve read about beer and pubs in the last week that excited us enough to hit the bookmark button, from glitter beer to Kölsch.

And what a week it’s been – a pos­i­tive flood of inter­est­ing writ­ing, lots of it on the hefty side. We’ll nev­er work out the rhythms. It’s just odd that some weeks we post five links and think, well, that’s it, we’re done, and then on oth­er occa­sions… Well, brace your­self.

Madeleine McCarthy (L) and Lee Hedgmon holding glasses of glitter beer.

First, a sto­ry we didn’t expect to care about but which did some­thing inter­est­ing: it actu­al­ly changed our minds. Glit­ter beer is the lat­est Oh, Sil­ly Craft Beer! trend, easy to dis­miss out of hand, but Jeff Alworth made the effort to go and try some and was won over:

What you can’t appre­ci­ate from still pho­tos is that glit­ter expos­es how dynam­ic a beer is. The tiny flecks ride the cur­rents in bands and whorls, fol­low­ing the con­vec­tion of released car­bon diox­ide or the motion of the drinker’s hand. As you look down into the glass, you see it roil and churn. It’s riv­et­ing. Beyond that, imag­ine drink­ing a green, shim­mer­ing Bel­gian tripel and try­ing to make it track to the taste of, say, West­malle. It’s an object les­son in how much appear­ance fac­tors into our men­tal for­mu­la­tion of “fla­vor.” The slight breadi­ness and vivid effer­ves­cence have fused in my mind with the qual­i­ties that define a tripel; look­ing at Lee’s beer, I was forced to go back to the basics of what my palate could tell me.

We’re not say­ing we now des­per­ate­ly want to drink a glass of spark­ly pale ale but if we see one on sale, we’ll def­i­nite­ly try it, which is not what we’d have said last Sat­ur­day. Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 24 March 2018: Glit­ter, Ilford, AK

Further Reading #3: Boddies and Opening Times at Manchester Library

Researching 20th Century Pub we spent time in some great libraries and archives with rich collections of pub- and beer-related material. This is the third in a series of blog posts intended to highlight great resources we hope you’ll go an look up yourself.

Manchester’s Cen­tral Library feat. Archives+, as we think it is for­mal­ly called, is on St Peter’s Square oppo­site the famous Mid­land Hotel. It’s a grand build­ing con­struct­ed in the 1930s but in clas­si­cal style and is round with a dome. You’ll find most of the impor­tant stuff on the ground floor – not only ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al on open access but also the archive read­ing room.

We found access­ing the archives a bit of a bureau­crat­ic ordeal, if we’re hon­est. News­pa­pers on micro­fiche are avail­able on site along with a cer­tain num­ber of ref­er­ence texts but the stuff we were after – brew­ery records, local plan­ning doc­u­ments – had to be ordered well in advance, a few at at ime. That’s fine if you hap­pen to live in Man­ches­ter but trav­el­ling from Pen­zance as we were at the time it was rather lim­it­ing. Still, the library staff could not have been more help­ful, not least in point­ing us to alter­na­tive sources for some doc­u­ments such as this online archive of his­toric plan­ning pub­li­ca­tions.

City of Manchester Plan, 1945

Via those off-site stacks we did man­age to get access to some beau­ti­ful hand-drawn and coloured city plan­ning maps the size of bed­spreads, their text applied with sten­cils or rub-down let­ter­ing. They were a night­mare to han­dle and not actu­al­ly all that much use in the end though there was cer­tain­ly a thrill attached to see­ing PUBLIC HOUSE or PH marked here or there. (See main pic­ture, above.)

The best things we looked at – again, not much of which actu­al­ly informed 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub – were records from Boddington’s Brew­ery. Of course we looked up recipes in the brew­ing logs, though Ron Pat­tin­son has done a much more thor­ough job of pro­cess­ing those since we tipped him off to their renewed avail­abil­i­ty. We also ploughed through board minute books which were crammed with fas­ci­nat­ing details – notes on spe­cif­ic pubs and pub­li­cans, indus­tri­al acci­dents, local pol­i­tick­ing and the birth of the nation­al Beer is Best cam­paign in the 1930s, to name but a few. There are also lots of inserts like this:

Report on the 1966 hop crop.

Out­side in the main ref­er­ence library, into which you can wan­der from the street more or less when­ev­er you like, for as long as you like, and help your­self to mate­r­i­al from the shelves, there is a real trea­sure trove of use­ful stuff.

First there’s what would seem to be a com­plete set of the beer and pub his­to­ry pam­phlets pub­lished by Neil Richard­son. Most are about the size and weight of a stan­dard mag­a­zine and have the appear­ance of fanzines with coloured card cov­ers, rough­ly repro­duced pho­tographs and word-proces­sor-for­mat­ted text. The qual­i­ty of the con­tents varies too but the best among them, e.g. The Old Pubs of Chorl­ton-upon-Med­lock, are trea­sure troves of oral his­to­ry and for­aged fact. (Some are now avail­able for Kin­dle at rea­son­able prices if you fan­cy a quick taster with­out trav­el­ling to Man­ches­ter.)

The Old Pubs of Ancoats

Then there’s the bound set of edi­tions of the local Cam­paign for Real Ale mag­a­zine Open­ing Times run­ning from 1994 to (we think) the present day. Man­ches­ter was an inter­est­ing place on the beer front in the 1990s with Bren­dan Dobbin’s pio­neer­ing exper­i­ments with New World hops, the birth and evo­lu­tion of Mar­ble, the com­ing of Mash & Air, and the arrival of the biggest pub in Britain. Open­ing Times record­ed all this as it unfold­ed so that over the course of a few issues you can see, for exam­ple, adver­tise­ments for Dobbin’s ales fol­lowed by wor­ry­ing reports of the health of the busi­ness and, final­ly, a notice of its clo­sure. It was also rather star­tling to come across the arti­cle below among the pub crawl reports and tast­ing notes:

Headline: "THE BOMB".

Final­ly, there are numer­ous local his­to­ry books and mem­oirs which, though not exclu­sive­ly about pubs or beer, touch upon them at var­i­ous points, often at length. We were par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed to dis­cov­er Jere­my Seabrook’s 1971 book City Close Up which was based on inter­views and con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple in Black­burn, Lan­cashire, dur­ing the sum­mer of 1969. There are sev­er­al sec­tions touch­ing on pubs and drink includ­ing one chap­ter called ‘Evening in the Wheat­sheaf’ in which three young men, engi­neer­ing appren­tices, dis­cuss ‘going out’:

ALAN: You start drink­ing when you’re about fif­teen, pubs around [the cen­tre of Black­burn], nobody stops you. There’s nowt else to do. When you first start drink­ing, you sup a right lot of shit, you don’t know what a good pint is. They’ll serve you any­thing, they’re just mak­ing their mon­ey out of you when you start.

And once you’re done with Man­ches­ter there’s always Bolton a short train ride away where you can find copies of the raw notes from the Mass Obser­va­tion pub obser­va­tion project of the late 1930s, or the Greenall Whit­ley papers at Chester.