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.

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”