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.

Everything We Wrote in October 2018: Guinness, Pub Lists, BrewDog

October was another manic month in the real world but the urge to blog was strong throughout and we managed 19 posts here on the blog proper, and 11 on the Patreon feed.

We start­ed the month, as we often seem to do, with a ‘Pub Life’ piece on bar staff being trained in the art of dis­pens­ing strong beers: “As long as they’re not rat-arsed, and not act­ing the arse­hole, you can serve them pints. Obvi­ous­ly, if they’re absolute­ly arse­holed, don’t serve them any­thing.”


In philo­soph­i­cal mood, we reflect­ed on whether anoth­er way to arrange the line-up of beers in a pub might be Clas­sic | Stan­dard | New/Local, e.g. Old Peculi­er, Lon­don Pride and Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry Nova.


How Guinness is made.
1970s leaflet: ‘How Guin­ness is Made’.

This was a big one: over the course of 2,000 words we digest­ed an inter­nal doc­u­ment from Guin­ness dat­ing from 1977 when the firm was in ago­nies over drop­ping sales and image prob­lems:

No sur­vey of beer in the sev­en­ties would be com­plete with­out men­tion of CAMRA…. CAMRA has undoubt­ed­ly been suc­cess­ful as a move­ment, in that it has become more than a nation­al beer-drinker’s talk­ing point. CAMRA claims cred­it for the intro­duc­tion of 18 cask con­di­tioned beers, and the with­draw­al of adver­tis­ing sup­port from kegs tells its own sto­ry…”

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in Octo­ber 2018: Guin­ness, Pub Lists, Brew­Dog”

Everything We Wrote in September 2018: Munich, Memoirs, Market Research

September 2018

September was, as it often is, relatively light on posts because we spent a week of it on holiday, pointedly not writing, or even thinking all that much.

Still, a few of the things we did post were (a) sub­stan­tial and (b) attract­ed a bit of inter­est.

We start­ed the month with a ‘Pub Life’ post, giv­ing a (delib­er­ate­ly vague) para­phras­ing of a con­ver­sa­tion about an impend­ing refur­bish­ment over­heard a few months ago. By way of an update, we have since been back to the pub in ques­tion and the refurb was… Not as bad as it could have been. The old reg­u­lars were still there, at any rate.


The Gamekeeper, Harlington.

Hav­ing acquired a par­tic­u­lar­ly jam-packed issue of Watney’s Red Bar­rel mag­a­zine we decid­ed to scan almost all of it and share the pic­tures. (@Pubs_Of_Mcr liked some of them espe­cial­ly, and pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al con­text.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in Sep­tem­ber 2018: Munich, Mem­oirs, Mar­ket Research”

Everything We Wrote in August 2018: Old Haunts, Wheat Beer, Bierkellers

Here’s everything we wrote in August 2018 in one handy round-up, from blog posts to magazine articles, via a blizzard of social media.

This was our low­est out­put since April this year, press­ing fam­i­ly and work busi­ness for both of us mean­ing that we just didn’t get round to the huge list of posts we’re itch­ing to write and have half-draft­ed in our heads.

Any­way, nev­er mind – what we did turn out wasn’t bad, and we’re hop­ing to find time for a bit more writ­ing over the course of this bless­ed­ly emp­ty week­end.

If you think all the effort below is worth any­thing do con­sid­er sign­ing up for our Patre­on (with yet more exclu­sive stuff) or just buy­ing us a one-off pint via Ko-Fi.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in August 2018: Old Haunts, Wheat Beer, Bierkellers”

Everything We Wrote in July 2018: Community, Mild, Tripel

July 2018: hot sun, parched land, cool beer.

Here in one handy round-up is everything we wrote in the past month. We managed to keep up the output up despite the heat, including one whopper of a post.

The month began with the kick-off of our Tripel Taste-Off. This time, we’ve gone with a knock­out com­pe­ti­tion. The first round games so far have been:


In what turned out to be quite a his­to­ry-filled month we dis­sect­ed Ted Elkins 1970 book about the his­to­ry of the North­ern Clubs Fed­er­a­tion, AKA The Fed, and its empire in the north east of Eng­land:

What is the max­i­mum out­put pos­si­ble to the brew­ery?
Answer: One hun­dred bar­rels per week.
What is the min­i­mum required to make the brew­ery sol­vent?
Answer: thir­ty bar­rels.
Then am I right in under­stand­ing that you can live on 30 bar­rels and will grow rich on 100 bar­rels week­ly?
Answer: Yes.
Then three of four large clubs in any local­i­ty could eas­i­ly and prof­itably free them­selves of pri­vate brew­ers?
Answer: Yes.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in July 2018: Com­mu­ni­ty, Mild, Tripel”