Everything we wrote in May 2019: Guinness, pubs, tea gardens

Oof, this was not a highly productive stretch… Let’s just say we were running low on energy in the run up to the holiday we’re now on. Anyway, slim or not, the month was not without interesting stuff.

First, there was a long piece actu­al­ly pub­lished at the end of April, but after the cut-off for our last month­ly round-up: the sto­ry of Guinness’s brew­ery at Ike­ja in Nige­ria told through an inter­view and archive research. One read­er kind­ly wrote to tell us it was ‘far and away the best beer blog of 2019’ and that it reflect­ed his own expe­ri­ences of work­ing in Africa (not in brew­ing) in the 1980s, which was nice.

We announced our new bookBalmy Nec­tar, which we’re pleased to say has been sell­ing quite well. If you haven’t bought a copy, do take a look; and if you have, please leave a review.

Sev­er­al months ago, some­one asked us if we knew the ori­gins of an appar­ent­ly unique pub name from Leices­ter­shire and after weeks of dig­ging, we think we’ve cracked it. Spoil­er: freema­son­ry!

One of those peri­od­ic debates about sparklers popped up on Twit­ter and, watch­ing the con­ver­sa­tion play out, we thought we’d achieved clar­i­ty: they’re nei­ther good nor evil, it depends on the under­ly­ing con­di­tion of the beer.

We picked some bits of about beer from a 1945 mag­a­zine for British armed forces sta­tioned in India, like this:

Advertisement for Dyer Meakin Breweries and their Solan brand beers.

We final­ly made it to Beese’s Tea Gar­dens, a Vic­to­ri­an insti­tu­tion on the out­skirts of Bris­tol, where you can drink beer in the shade of ancient trees on a river­bank:

Last Sat­ur­day, we approached from Broomhill, cut­ting from a coun­cil estate into a slop­ing park where teenagers flirt­ed on the climb­ing frame next to a bas­ket­ball court. A short walk down a wood­ed path brought us to a gate that might have been trans­plant­ed from Bavaria…

Cam­den Hells didn’t seem that big a deal in 2011; we’ve now come to realise that there was a time before Cam­den, and a time after, and the post-Cam­den beer scene is an alien plan­et:

What we should have paid more atten­tion to was that our friends who weren’t espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in beer – who would turn pale if you accused them of being beer geeks – seemed to like Hells a lot. They were switch­ing from Foster’s, Stel­la, Per­oni, and (per­haps cru­cial­ly) drink­ing Hells just as they’d drunk those oth­er beers: by the pint, pint after pint.

The cover of 'Pub', 1969.

Osbert Lan­cast­er was an illus­tra­tor and writer with strong opin­ions about pubs, espe­cial­ly Vic­to­ri­an ones, as set out in a 1938 book:

In the ear­li­er part of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry it was assumed, and right­ly, that a lit­tle healthy vul­gar­i­ty and full-blood­ed osten­ta­tion were not out of place in the archi­tec­ture and dec­o­ra­tion of a pub­lic-house, and it was dur­ing this peri­od that the tra­di­tion gov­ern­ing the appear­ance of the Eng­lish pub was evolved.

Anoth­er mid-cen­tu­ry writer and illus­tra­tor, Geof­frey Fletch­er, set out sim­i­lar views in his book The Lon­don Nobody Knows in 1962. We picked out a few choice lines, like this:

The archi­tects of the late Vic­to­ri­an pubs and music-halls knew exact­ly what the sit­u­a­tion demand­ed – extrav­a­gance, exu­ber­ance, and plen­ty of dec­o­ra­tion for its own sake.

We also put togeth­er our usu­al round-ups of news and good read­ing from beer blogs, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines:

At Patre­on we gave $2+ sub­scribers run­downs of the best beers of each week­end plus a few extra nuggets, such as an account of a (no-injuries) car crash out­side a pub that turned into a seri­ous spec­ta­tor event.

Our month­ly newslet­ter was a prop­er whop­per with notes on tea in pubs in the 1920s and links to archive footage of pubs in action. Sign up here.

We Tweet­ed a ton, too, espe­cial­ly from Tewkes­bury:

Everything we wrote in April 2019: mostly barley wine

The blog turned 12 this month, did you know? It’s not a major anniversary but, still, we’re astonished that it’s still going and that we’re only 150 posts off 3,000.

April 2019’s con­tri­bu­tion to that ridicu­lous total amount­ed to 17, includ­ing this one.

Mind you, almost all of them were reviews of bar­ley wines, old ales or strong ales.

Collage of barley wines.

We tast­ed:

Not bad for a month asso­ci­at­ed more with spring-sig­nalling gold­en ales. What we didn’t find any­where except a super­mar­ket was Gold Label, the clas­sic mass mar­ket bar­ley wine.

Which was our over­all favourite? It’s a tough call but prob­a­bly… The Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry effort, with Mar­ble short­ly behind, and Fuller’s Gold­en Pride behind that.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote in April 2019: most­ly bar­ley wine”

Everything we wrote about beer and pubs in March 2019

We managed about the usual number of posts in March, despite trips to London and Penzance, with a handful of real good ‘uns among them.

Before we get to the round-up, though… If you like what we do, and want to give us some encour­age­ment to keep doing it:

We began the month, as we so often have late­ly, with some notes from the Guin­ness archives, this time on the stout brewer’s attempts to appeal to female drinkers in the late 1970s. Even if you saw this first time round, it’s worth click­ing the link again as Jon Urch was kind enough to send us a scan of the glossy mag­a­zine ad we hadn’t been able to track down when we first pub­lished the post.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing we wrote about beer and pubs in March 2019”

Everything We Wrote in February 2019: Zero Degrees, Beer Deliveries, Connect Four

We managed a couple more posts in February than January, including one proper longread, and another chunky piece from the print archives.

As ever, we’re grate­ful to our Patre­on sub­scribers for their encour­age­ment. If you fan­cy join­ing them, you can sign up here. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, just buy us a one-off pint.

We start­ed the month with one of our short pub life posts, recount­ing the tale of a flir­ta­tious game of Con­nect 4 in an oth­er­wise quite unerot­ic pub.

A new ver­sion of an old post next: we sub­stan­tial­ly updat­ed our Bris­tol pub guide, remov­ing some that have gone off the boil (the Com­mer­cial Rooms, for exam­ple) and adding a few that we’ve come to appre­ci­ate, as well as one that’s com­plete­ly new.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in Feb­ru­ary 2019: Zero Degrees, Beer Deliv­er­ies, Con­nect Four”

Everything We Wrote in January 2019: Watney’s, London Pubs, European Harmony

We seem to have settled into a new pace of about 12–15 posts per month as opposed to 19–21, but that’s fine.

It’s in the con­text of hav­ing giv­en up writ­ing for mag­a­zines and instead pub­lish­ing one ‘lon­gread’ here every month, with the sup­port of our Patre­on sub­scribers. There are cur­rent­ly 73 peo­ple encour­ag­ing us via that route, and get­ting some exclu­sive con­tent in return.

Best Beers of the Christ­mas Break | What ‘Wel­com­ing’ MeansBeers of the Week­end 4–6 JanPub Match­mak­ingBeers of the Week­end 11–13 JanBonus Notes on Watney’s Red Bar­relBeer of the Week­end 18–21 Jan: Titan­ic Plum Porter| Beers of the Week­end 25–27 Jan (OPEN ACCESS) | Talk Police

Please do con­sid­er sign­ing up, or maybe just buy us a one-off pint instead, or per­haps one of our books.

Watney's Red -- detail from beer mat.

Here on the blog prop­er, the main event was this 2,700-word whop­per on Watney’s Red Bar­rel – how bad could it real­ly have been?

This piece prompt­ed lots of reac­tion includ­ing this from Gary Gill­man and a clear answer from Kei­th Flett to a ques­tion we didn’t quite ask: “No, it is not time to reha­bil­i­tate Watney’s Red.

We eased our­selves gen­tly into blog­ging in 2019 by shar­ing details of brew­ery life in St. Helen’s between the wars, via Indus­tri­al Town, an oral his­to­ry edit­ed by Charles For­man.

Hav­ing spent the gap between Christ­mas and New Year in Lon­don we enjoyed, observed and took notes on four notable pubs:

  1. The Forester in Eal­ing – a majes­tic Edwar­dian Fuller’s pub.
  2. The Cat’s Back in Wandsworth– a Harvey’s pub with com­plex social sta­tus.
  3. The Bricklayer’s Arms in Put­ney – a Tim Tay­lor out­post in Lon­don.
  4. The Grenadier in Bel­gravia – a posh pub that’s been famous for­ev­er.

Brows­ing a 1967 book about the north of Eng­land we came across an intrigu­ing note on the mean­ing of pub car­pets in Sad­dle­worth: “The King William… has treat­ed itself to wall-to-wall car­pet­ing, an extrav­a­gance which [local char­ac­ter] John Ken­wor­thy thinks has changed them from forums of dis­cus­sion into mere drink­ing places.”

Liam asked us what was meant by ‘har­mon­is­ing brew­ing meth­ods’ in the mid-1970s prompt­ing one of the more inter­est­ing his­toric rab­bit-holes we’ve found our­selves down of late:

It’s not hard to work out what peo­ple thought har­mon­i­sa­tion might mean: mild and bit­ter banned, Ger­man-style lager every­where, by order of Brus­sels… But there’s very lit­tle detail in the sto­ry and it reads like typ­i­cal fuss-about-noth­ing tabloid report­ing wil­ful­ly miss­ing the point for the sake of caus­ing out­rage. (On the same page: NOW FRIED ONIONS ARE BANNED AT WIMBLEDON.)

An obser­va­tion: there’s a lin­ger­ing pref­er­ence for com­plete­ly head­less pints in Bris­tol – a gen­uine expres­sion of local beer cul­ture that’s prob­a­bly on the way out.

Oh, woe! We had a strong emo­tion­al reac­tion to the sale of Fuller’s brew­ing oper­a­tion to Asahi, but also focused on  how it might feel to those work­ing in the com­pa­ny. (Spoil­er: bad.)

We enjoyed a week­end in Southamp­ton and found lots of pubs, and lots of types of pub, to explore and pon­der on:

Off the main run, into the sub­ur­ban streets with their schools and church­es, we had more luck. The Water­loo Arms is a Hop Back pub and looks, feels and even smells just like the Sul­tan in Lon­don SW19. That is, plain but not aus­tere, clean but not ster­ile, ‘prop­er’. A kid in a Bat­man cos­tume was over­see­ing the meat raf­fle; darts went thump, thump, thump; and when a fam­i­ly left, the elder­ly lady next to us tut­ted: “Didn’t even take their glass­es back, look.”

We post­ed DN round-ups of links and news:

5 Jan­u­ary – grat­i­tude and onions

12 Jan­u­ary – bit­ter­ness, Brüpond, bur­lesque

19 Jan­u­ary – bot­tle­shares, Bod­dies, brand loy­al­ty

26 Jan­u­ary – as a thread on Twit­ter.

Our biggest Tweet of the month was this:

And there was also this kind of thing on Insta­gram: