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:

Everything We Wrote in November 2018: Backstreet Pubs, Cashless Payments, Guinness (again)

Here’s a round-up of everything we wrote in the past month. We managed 17 posts here in total, plus a few pieces over on the Patreon feed.

Just to shake up the run­ning order, let’s start with the lat­ter:

Illustration: Hilltop.

Here on the blog prop­er, we start­ed the month with notes on, and pho­tographs of, Hill­top, a res­olute­ly mod­ern pub, the design of which was tied up with post-war social ideals.

Back from a trip to Sheffield, with the pubs of Kel­ham Island in mind espe­cial­ly, we thought a bit about how stand­ing in crowds can be part of the fun of a real­ly busy pub. (And why qui­et pubs, though pleas­ant, might not be in the best of health.)

Still in Sheffield, we brought our 100-word #BeeryShort­reads for­mat out of retire­ment to describe a brief moment of rap­port between bar staff and cus­tomer: “Sure?”

A man dispensing Guinness from a cask.

We flagged anoth­er gem found in the pages of an old Guin­ness Time mag­a­zine: a detailed account on the sta­tus and ongo­ing devel­op­ment of draught Guin­ness from 1958, with spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion on the two-cask method, and some excel­lent pho­tographs.

The Ses­sion is on its death bed. For the penul­ti­mate edi­tion we reluc­tant­ly blogged about blog­ging, offer­ing some notes on where beer blog­ging was, where it is now, and where it might be going:

In gen­er­al, we’d say the feel­ing of glob­al com­mu­ni­ty has dimin­ished, but that’s not a whinge. It’s been replaced (prob­a­bly for the best) by many active, more local­ly-focused sub-com­mu­ni­ties: the pub crawlers, the his­to­ri­ans, the tast­ing note gang, the pod­cast­ers, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pis­stak­ers, and so on.

Host Jay Brooks round­ed up the pal­try six respons­es here. The very final last edi­tion of the Ses­sion is next Fri­day, 7 Decem­ber. Stan Hierony­mus has asked us to think about beer for funer­als. Do join in.

Observ­ing friends, fam­i­ly and col­leagues in the past year, we’ve noticed a new behav­iour emerg­ing: the ten­den­cy to order “What­ev­er IPA they’ve got”, or whichev­er ‘craft lager’.

pub life obser­va­tion­al piece gave an account of a Big Lad offer­ing unwant­ed and per­sis­tent com­pli­ments on a Mod’s admit­ted­ly atten­tion-grab­bing hair­do:

No, lis­ten, seri­ous­ly… If I was as good look­ing as you, I’d go out and get that hair­cut today. The girls wouldn’t know what hit ‘em.”

Silence. Shift­ing in seats. The Big Lad’s wheez­ing breath.

Then, remem­ber­ing his pri­ma­ry mis­sion, he lurch­es away into the gents toi­let, smash­ing through doors like a bull­doz­er.

After a crawl around the pubs of Tot­ter­down in Bris­tol we found our­selves think­ing about how mag­i­cal back­street pubs can be, and almost always look, espe­cial­ly in the dark, espe­cial­ly in rain or snow:

You know the feel­ing – walk­ing up the cen­tre of the road because there’s no traf­fic, TV light flick­er­ing behind cur­tains here and there, and the sound of your boots crunch­ing and echo­ing in the qui­et.

Read­ing a tat­ty old edi­tion of a 1934 book by J.B. Priest­ley we were delight­ed, if not entire­ly sur­prised, to find some piquant obser­va­tions on inter-war ‘improved pubs’:

The trick is – and long has been – to make or keep the beer-house dull or dis­rep­utable, and then to point out how dull or dis­rep­utable it is. Is is rather as if the rest of us should com­pel tee­to­tallers to wear their hair long and unwashed, and then should write pam­phlets com­plain­ing of their dirty habits: “Look at their hair,” we should cry.

After a Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tion about find­ing, shar­ing and hoard­ing archive mate­r­i­al on beer and pub his­to­ry, we put some thoughts into words. Short ver­sion: nobody owns his­to­ry, we’re all bet­ter off when peo­ple share, and the more you share, the more peo­ple share with you.

An out-of-date hack paper­back on pub names put us on the track of an inter­est­ing sto­ry: an Exeter pub which opened in 1985, designed to give peo­ple with alco­hol prob­lems the feel of a prop­er night out with no booze on the premis­es. How do you think it went?

We briefly acknowl­edged that we won an award, that we are very pleased about it, and point­ed to the stuff wot won it.

The post that got most traf­fic this month, per­haps because it dealt with a con­tem­po­rary hot-but­ton issue rather than what kind of pies they served in the Watney’s can­teen in 1962, was about cash­less pubs, and pubs that don’t take cards, and putting the needs of con­sumers first:

One pub­li­can in a cash-only busi­ness recent­ly told us they’d been think­ing about get­ting a card machine pure­ly because they were aware of con­stant­ly turn­ing away young peo­ple who expect­ed to be able to use cards. About half of them were will­ing to find a cash machine and come back, but the rest just moved on down the road.

Any­way, back to those Watney’s can­teen pies: in the ear­ly 1970s cut­ting edge archi­tec­ture firm Arup designed a new bru­tal­ist brew­ery for Carls­berg in Northamp­ton. Arup’s own in-house jour­nal is now avail­able online and the March 1974 edi­tion has a wealth of infor­ma­tion on the brew­ery, as well as some fab­u­lous­ly indus­tri­al pho­tographs.

We pro­duced our usu­al round-ups of news, nuggets and lon­greads:

We Tweet­ed quite a bit (but per­haps not as much as usu­al) and Insta­grammed a touch, too. Face­book, frankly, bare­ly got a look in.