News, Nuggets and Longreads 9 February 2019: London, Chuvashia, Viborg

Here’s everything that struck us as especially interesting in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from the origins of craft beer to best practice in bars.

A cou­ple of years ago we put togeth­er a short his­to­ry of beer weeks with input from Will Hawkes, then involved in organ­is­ing Lon­don Beer Week. Now, Will has writ­ten his own piece reveal­ing just how much stress and work was involved, and for how lit­tle reward:

It had all been a ter­ri­ble error. I should have known that I was doing some­thing very stu­pid before I start­ed; I’d asked around to see if any­one else in the Lon­don beer demi-monde was inter­est­ed in help­ing, and got a series of respons­es along the lines of “Good idea! No, sor­ry, I’m too busy,” gen­er­al­ly from peo­ple with enough time to be dis­cussing the idea with me in a pub in mid-after­noon… Not only that, but I was nev­er real­ly sure why I was doing it: it just sort of kept on hap­pen­ing, for four long years.

For The Take­out Kate Bernot writes about the expe­ri­ence of drink­ing out as a woman, and how much she appre­ci­ates con­crete steps tak­en by bars to make women feel safe:

The Rhi­no bar in Mis­soula, where I live, has post­ed fly­ers indi­cat­ing its bar­tenders have under­gone “bystander inter­ven­tion” train­ing. The bar has also host­ed police-led class­es on the top­ic. “What our train­ing specif­i­cal­ly talked about was inter­ven­ing in things like sex­u­al assault,” Mis­soula Police Depar­ment detec­tive Jamie Mer­i­field told KGVO years ago. “When you see some­one in trou­ble, the train­ing helps you to inter­vene, and not just turn a blind eye. Most peo­ple would want to help, they just don’t know how.” In a sim­i­lar vein, oth­er estab­lish­ments around the coun­try have intro­duced “angel shots,” drinks that peo­ple can order as a sig­nal to bar­tenders that they’re in trou­ble.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 9 Feb­ru­ary 2019: Lon­don, Chu­vashia, Viborg”

Artyfacts from the Nyneties #6: Beers of ’94

Sainsbury's Biere de Garde.
SOURCE: JS Jour­nal Online (PDF).

Yesterday we stumbled upon a 2006 ‘top ten bottled British ales’ listicle by Pete Brown which we shared on Twitter, and which reminded us of something we found during research on Brew Britannia: a list of 101 bottled reviewed by Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jackson’s for an article in British tabloid the People in 1994.

It appeared in the Sun­day edi­tion for 21 August that year and offers an excel­lent snap­shot of what was then read­i­ly avail­able in British shops.

It’s from just the moment when Pre­mi­um Bot­tled Ales were com­ing into exis­tence in their almost-a-pint bot­tles and at around pub strength, shov­ing aside tra­di­tion­al half-pint brown and light ales.

There are some sur­pris­es but, gen­er­al­ly, we think, it brings home how far things have come.

Jack­son sub­scribed to the view that it was a waste of time to write bad reviews when you could focus on things you’d enjoyed but in this exer­cise was essen­tial­ly forced to give a short note for each beer, some of which were unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly sting­ing.  Carls­berg Spe­cial Brew, for exam­ple, he found “sweet and yucky” and Scor­pi­on Dry prompt­ed him to ask: “Where’s the sting? More like cab­bage water.”

On the whole, though, he remained quite gen­tle, even find­ing diplo­mat­ic words to say about some fair­ly bland lagers such as Rolling Rock with its touch of “new-mown hay”.

The aster­isked beers are those he par­tic­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend­ed – quite a high bar, evi­dent­ly.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Arty­facts from the Nyneties #6: Beers of ’94”

Two Jacksonian Scholars Debate NEIPA

In the impos­ing Inner Tem­ple of Beer Writ­ers’ Hall in the City of Lon­don two schol­ars sit beneath a vast por­trait of the Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jack­son, who died in 2007. They wear Guild robes and are sur­round­ed by leather-bound vol­umes. A small group of acolytes sits near­by, wait­ing for the debate to begin. On her throne the Grand Imbiber, who every­body had thought asleep, clears her throat: “What might the Mas­ter–” She salutes the por­trait of MBHJ, dip­ping her eyes respect­ful­ly. “–have made of this ‘NEIPA’, one won­ders?” The schol­ars reflect for a moment and then open their books, scan­ning the pages with their fin­gers.

The NEIPA, or New Eng­land India Pale Ale, is defined by its hazi­ness, is it not? And Jack­son wrote, “The pos­si­bil­i­ty of hazy beer is only one of the dif­fi­cul­ties encoun­tered when work­ing with new­ly har­vest­ed bar­ley and hops.” [1] If haze is char­ac­terised as a dif­fi­cul­ty, we can con­clude with cer­tain­ty that NEIPA would dis­please him.

No. It is clear that his sug­ges­tion here was that haze would be a dif­fi­cul­ty for those par­tic­u­lar brew­ers, brew­ing that par­tic­u­lar beer. Did he not also write of Coop­er’s, the bot­tle-con­di­tioned Aus­tralian pale ale, “Sparkling or opaque, It would enliv­en the most Boy­cott­ian innings”? And did he not also call it “a ‘whole­food’ of the beer world”? [2]

When read­ing the sacred texts we must always remem­ber the Mas­ter’s love of irony. The pas­sage you quote qui­et­ly mocks fad­dish young drinkers and their “more clum­sy” pour­ing tech­nique; it by no means marks approval of their pref­er­ence. “Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, sed­i­ment­ed beers.… should be poured with­out the sed­i­ment”, he wrote on anoth­er occa­sion, when asked direct­ly whether yeast should be mixed with beer. [3]

Again, you treat His words as a blunt tool. Who was more aware of the vari­a­tions between beer styles, and beer cul­tures, than Jack­son? He did not use the word “gen­er­al­ly” care­less­ly – this was no com­mand­ment! He had no objec­tion to cloudy or hazy beer in the right con­text – approv­ing com­ments of Ger­man and Bel­gian wheat beers appears abound – but I will con­cede that a con­cern is evi­dent in His words when describ­ing the min­gling of dis­tinct beer cul­tures.

You refer, of course, to his com­ments on Eng­lish cask wheat beers? [4]

Quite so. But he does not con­demn or deny, only observes: “Doubt about the will­ing­ness of British drinkers to accept cloudy beer remains the biggest wor­ry of brew­ers mak­ing this style.” He does not say that British-style beers ought to be clear, only that they gen­er­al­ly are. This might be inter­pret­ed as a crit­i­cism, espe­cial­ly of old­er peo­ple, set in their ways – “the young, pre­fer the hazy ver­sions of wheat beer”.

Illustration: Micheal Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

Or not. He was him­self old when this was writ­ten and, as I have already point­ed out, viewed the crazes of the young with scep­ti­cism. I detect noth­ing in his writ­ing on Young’s Wheat Beer to sug­gest whole­heart­ed delight and, indeed, detect between-the-lines a lack of faith in the very idea.

Ah, as so often he presents us with a mir­ror reflect­ing our own prej­u­dices. We know, at least, that he believed it was pos­si­ble for “yeast… to add a lit­tle tex­ture, but no bite”. [5]

Though we are told the haze of an NEIPA is not gen­er­al­ly the prod­uct of sus­pend­ed yeast, but hop mat­ter, aren’t we? Appear­ance aside, what of the flavour? He insist­ed, always, that India Pale Ale should be “above aver­age in… hop bit­ter­ness”, but NEIPAs are char­ac­terised by low bit­ter­ness. This would have been a black mark against them in his eyes.

But NEIPA is not IPA. Per­haps he might have ques­tioned the ter­mi­nol­o­gy, but that does not mean he would have dis­put­ed the right of the style to exist, or dis­liked the beers that fall with­in it. He pre­ferred man­go las­si to beer with cur­ry, I men­tion as an aside [6], and once laud­ed a beer with elder­flower essence. [7]

I con­tend that he was essen­tial­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, nonethe­less. When asked to choose his top ten Amer­i­can beers he picked pil­sner, dort­munder, impe­r­i­al stout, Bel­gian-style beers, steam beer… [8] He plead­ed for authen­tic­i­ty in IPA and porter, not rein­ven­tion. When what might have been seen as new styles emerged, such as gold­en ale, he was able to embrace them only by con­nect­ing them to the tra­di­tions of the past. [9]

And yet he was among the first to notice and laud the extreme beers of Sam Cala­gione! [10]

Laud? Again I detect more inter­est then admi­ra­tion in his words – the atti­tude of an observ­er at a cir­cus freak­show.

The Grand Imbiber ris­es from the throne, staff aloft, and the schol­ars fall silent.

I believe we have heard enough. Here is my judge­ment: there is noth­ing in his teach­ings to sug­gest that NEIPA would dis­please the Mas­ter, and much to sug­gest that it would have intrigued him. Whether it, or any indi­vid­ual exam­ple there­in, would have delight­ed him, we can­not pre­sume to say. Cer­tain­ly the Mas­ter would nev­er have pub­licly denounced NEIPA, even had he felt it in his heart, for first among his teach­ings was this: “If I can find some­thing good to say about a beer, I do… If I despise a beer, why find room for it?” [11]

Exhibit 1: Winemaker magazine, December 1971

Amateur Winemaker, December 1971 -- bright orange cover design.

All of the memorialising last week on the tenth anniversary of the death of Michael ‘the Beer Hunter’ Jackson gave Alan McLeod an opportunity to revisit one of his favourite challenges to the consensus: was Jackson really more influential than, say, Dave Line?

We heard Alan when he made this point a few years ago which is part­ly why we spent time track­ing down Mr Line’s wid­ow, Sheila, and inter­view­ing her for Brew Bri­tan­nia, where we devot­ed sev­er­al pages to pro­fil­ing him. In a lat­er arti­cle for CAM­RA’s BEER mag­a­zine we reflect­ed in more detail on his influ­ence:

While Dave Line was mak­ing a name for him­self as arguably the world’s fore­most home brew­ing writer, else­where, what we now know as micro-brew­eries were pop­ping up all across Britain. Most were found­ed by pro­fes­sion­als who had pre­vi­ous­ly worked for large com­pa­nies such as Watney’s or Courage but a hand­ful came from a home-brew­ing back­ground and it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have had what were then the defin­i­tive texts, Dave’s two books, at hand. Cer­tain­ly Bren­dan Dob­bin, who start­ed home brew­ing as a stu­dent in Belfast in the late 1970s, began his career by work­ing through the recipes in The Big Book of Brew­ing.

In Amer­i­ca, where the ‘craft beer rev­o­lu­tion’ was very much more dri­ven by home brew­ers, Dave’s books were even more impor­tant. Jack McAu­li­ffe, who found­ed New Albion Brew­ing in Cal­i­for­nia in 1976, learned to brew from kits pur­chased at Boots in Glas­gow while on naval ser­vice and has fre­quent­ly cit­ed Dave’s Big Book of Brew­ing as a key text. Oth­er famous names from the first wave of Amer­i­can craft beer such as Greg Noo­nan, Dave Miller and Ken Gross­man, the founder of Sier­ra Neva­da, also men­tion The Big Book as a key text in their ear­ly devel­op­ment – worth remem­ber­ing next time you hear an over­ly-sim­pli­fied account of the influ­ence of mod­ern US brew­ing on the British scene.

One con­crete exam­ple of Dave Line’s influ­ence can be found in Scot­tish brew­ery Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil, a ‘black ale’ at 4.5% ABV in cask. The brewery’s founder, Ken Brook­er, con­ceived the beer using a Dave Line recipe as his start­ing point, as he told Michael Jack­son in 2000.

So we cer­tain­ly acknowl­edge Dave Line’s impact on a gen­er­a­tion of home-brew­ers and, by exten­sion, micro­brew­ers, but main­tain that Michael Jack­son was (a) a bet­ter writer (a mat­ter of opin­ion, of course) and (b) more influ­en­tial in the broad sense in that he inspired brew­ers to look beyond basic domes­tic styles and to explore ‘world beer’. He also © basi­cal­ly invent­ed the pat­tern for mod­ern beer writ­ing.

Last week, though, Alan clar­i­fied his argu­ment help­ful­ly:

No. As I said above, my ques­tion is the influ­ence of AW group on ear­ly micro brew­ers, not about ‘mod­ern beer writ­ing style’

For some time he has been urg­ing some­one, any­one, to dig up the archives of Ama­teur Wine­mak­er mag­a­zine (for which Line and oth­er ear­ly home-brew­ing gurus wrote) and renewed his call. We asked (not snark­i­ly, only to clar­i­fy the mis­sion) what he expect­ed or hoped to be found there:

Sub­scribers lists? Read­ing the columns to see what was dis­cussed in the ecosys­tem before key dates? Who wrote let­ters to the edi­tor?

All of this (as Alan’s hec­tor­ing often does) got us think­ing – per­haps, even acknowl­edg­ing Dave Line as we did, we’d still not giv­en him and his col­leagues their due. We test­ed the water by email­ing anoth­er pio­neer­ing UK brew­er, Sean Franklin. When we spoke to him back in 2013 he talked glow­ing­ly of Michael Jack­son, at length, but did­n’t men­tion Dave Line at all. But per­haps (as Alan sug­gest­ed in anoth­er Tweet) that’s because we failed to prompt him. So we prompt­ed him. He replied (this light­ly edit­ed):

Like all home-brew­ers, I looked at those books but for the main part my days at Bor­deaux Uni­ver­si­ty put me fur­ther ahead. It was most­ly malt extract in those days. I did a recipe from Dave Line’s book as one of my first beers – the first one was hor­ri­ble (my fault for using an old can of extract) but the sec­ond was much bet­ter. Fuller’s ESB, as I remem­ber. I’d worked in Lon­don so I knew what that tast­ed like. After that I switched to full mash.

We can’t make it to the British Library just now but we were prompt­ed to order a cou­ple of copies of Ama­teur Wine­mak­er from the 1970s by way of test-drilling. One order fell through but the oth­er worked out and a copy of Wine­mak­er (the mag­a­zine’s actu­al title, it turns out) came through the door yes­ter­day.

Ted Wade.

Here’s what it con­tains that strikes us as being of rel­e­vance to Alan’s argu­ment:

  1. Some sur­pris­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed brew­ing kit adver­tise­ments list­ing spe­cif­ic vari­eties of hops, var­i­ous types of malt and even odd addi­tives such as lic­quorice sticks for liven­ing up stout.
  2. Some debate over a then top­i­cal news sto­ry about a Glas­gow home-brew­er who may or may not have con­tract­ed ‘ero­sive gas­tri­tis’ from con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed beer.
  3. A fea­ture arti­cle by Ted Wade called ‘Design­ing a Beer’. This is a fair­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed piece sug­gest­ing that, by 1971, home-brew­ers had already moved beyond plas­tic dust­bins and gravy brown­ing. Hav­ing said that, hops (he says) should smell hop­py, and that’s it. The accom­pa­ny­ing recipe is for a New­cas­tle Brown Ale clone.
  4. A recipe for Was­sail Bowl that includes three pints of brown ale.
  5. An arti­cle with anoth­er recipe for Was­sail Bowl and sev­er­al oth­er sea­son­al beer punch­es.
  6. An arti­cle about the var­i­ous risks of home beer- and wine-mak­ing (fines, chil­dren drink­ing your stash, etc.).
  7. A pho­to­graph of D. Haynes receiv­ing a tro­phy for best bit­ter (light or dark) from the Rom­sey Wine­mak­ers Cir­cle.
  8. Branch reports: most­ly wine but a cou­ple of men­tions of beer, and of a trip to the Bel­gian beer fes­ti­val at Wieze from the Bas­ingstoke crew.
  9. An Index for 1971, repro­duced in part below.
  10. An advert for North­ern Brew­er hops from ‘Wine and the Peo­ple’, a firm based in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia.

The rest of the mag­a­zine (about 60 out of 84 pages) are about wine, as are all the read­ers let­ters.

Index for December 1971, beer section.

You’ll see from the index above that there’s not much that seems to her­ald the com­ing of the age of craft beer, but of course it’s hard to tell from only two or three words per arti­cle.

But 1971 is still ear­ly and there’s enough here to make us think it might at least be worth look­ing at issues from, say, 1974 (when CAMRA was mak­ing seri­ous waves) and 1976 when Michael Jack­son’s World Guide to Beer was still a work in progress.

It goes with­out say­ing that if you or any elder­ly rel­a­tives have copies of this mag­a­zine knock­ing around in the attic, we’d love to see scans or pho­tos – do get in touch.

PS. The mag­a­zine also con­tains a let­ter from some­one apol­o­gis­ing for an anti-Semit­ic joke in a pre­vi­ous issue, but point­ing out that he has many Jew­ish friends, and, any­way, as a Scot he has to put up with worse. Yikes!

Michael Jackson’s Writing for CAMRA 1977–1988

Like 80 per cent of those who write about beer in anything like a professional capacity, we’ve been commissioned to write a substantial piece about Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jackson as the tenth anniversary of his death approaches.

As part of that, we’ve been exchang­ing emails with Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod who is a not­ed Jack­son scep­tic. He habit­u­al­ly ques­tions whether Mr Jack­son’s influ­ence was as great as the con­sen­sus would have it, and whether oth­er influ­en­tial writ­ers (Richard Boston, Dave Line) aren’t being short-changed by Jack­son’s ele­va­tion.

One spe­cif­ic ques­tion he put to us was this: what exact­ly was Jack­son writ­ing between the World Guide to Beer in 1977 and the next item on his Wikipedia bib­li­og­ra­phy, a 1986 pock­et guide to beer? How could he be so influ­en­tial with one book every ten years?

One answer is that that real­ly is only a select­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy – we have a copy, for exam­ple, of the 1982 Pock­et Guide to Beer, which is the one vet­er­an brew­ers we have spo­ken to car­ried with them as they explored Europe and the US in the 1980s, and there were paper­back reprints/revisions of the World Guide too.

But, as is often the case, Alan’s nig­gling has high­light­ed a real issue: the lack of a com­pre­hen­sive list of Michael Jack­son’s writ­ing for mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers which, of course, is ephemer­al by nature.

For the sake of the col­lec­tive brain, and also because it’s use­ful for our arti­cle, we agreed to make a start on a list of mate­r­i­al pub­lished in the UK. We’ve start­ed with the month­ly col­umn he wrote for CAMRA, a fil­let­ing of which is repro­duced below with notes on the con­tent of each arti­cle.

If you see any­thing there that might help with your research drop us an email ( and we’ll be hap­py to pro­vide more infor­ma­tion.

The hard­er job, now, is track­ing down the mate­r­i­al he wrote for the nation­al press in the same peri­od. We have searched The Times and Guardian archives but if you have clip­pings, or per­haps have access to the Sun­day Times archive online through your local library ser­vice, we’d wel­come any tips.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Michael Jackson’s Writ­ing for CAMRA 1977–1988”