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News, nuggets and longreads 12 June 2021: BrewDog, Gateshead, Soviet beer

Here’s all the writing around beer, breweries and pubs that struck us as important or interesting in the past week, from breweries under scrutiny to pub life in Gateshead.

Undoubtedly the biggest story of the week was the open letter from former BrewDog employees to the Scottish brewery’s management, criticising its “culture of fear”. Eloquently expressed, calmly indignant and signed by more than a hundred individuals, it prompted a series of responses from BrewDog – clumsy, at first, then sinister (an invitation to current staff to sign a counter-letter) until a careful party line coalesced. The story went viral appearing on the BBC, Guardian and CNN, not to mention across the trade press. The story trended on Twitter in the UK for around 24 hours. Punks With Purpose, the campaign group, responded with a second open letter, refusing to let up the pressure. Martin Dickie, co-founder of BrewDog, issued his own separate statement via Instagram.

This story has its own momentum and it doesn’t feel to us that there’s much to be added by commentary from the sidelines, especially of the popcorn.gif variety. This shouldn’t be about gloating, entertainment or vindication – that original letter is what matters. We’ve all had bosses we didn’t like or worked at companies that were imperfect but how many of us have ever felt moved to band together with a hundred former colleagues to demand change?


The museum building.
SOURE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

At Brussels Beer City, Eoghan Walsh treats us to a long piece on the difficult birth of a new museum of Belgian beer:

Fear of corporate dominance was just one of the criticisms Belgian Beer World received following the July 2015 announcement. The activists who had strong-armed the city government into pedestrianising the central boulevards were turning their attention to what this new public space would look like, and who it would be for… Soon posters began appearing in windows decrying a “Disneyfication” of Brussels caused by a city administration as more interested in catering to tourists than the needs of local residents. In Belgian Beer World they saw the corporate privatisation of what was nominally a public space. The entrance steps to the Bourse were long used as a rallying point for protests, for the celebration of sporting triumphs, and in 2016 – in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks – as a spontaneous memorial. Public intellectuals like Lieven Van Cauter feared the building would abandon this civic role in its new guise, saying it was a project to make you vomit.


Women in a brewery.
SOURCE: Alexei Bryanov/TASS/Russia Beyond.

At Russia Beyond (hmm…) Anna Sorokina tells the story of the Soviet beer Zhigulevskoye, brewed in numerous places, to different recipes – a brand that became a style:

The shop and bar at the Zhigulevsky brewery in the city of Samara on the Volga River is always busy. At any given time, customers are enjoying a few beers, either inside or near the takeaway window outside, or they are milling around waiting for a fresh batch of their favorite brew to be served. The beer is delivered to the store via an underground pipe, and locals say that it is far superior to what is available in shops elsewhere since proper Zhigulevskoye beer cannot be stored for more than a couple of days… Despite a long queue, customers at the brewery shop are served quickly. Each customer eagerly removes the top from an empty bottle they have brought with them and hands it over to the shop assistant, who fills it with beer from a hose. The customer then quickly replaces the top before the foam begins to rise, and the shop assistant is already serving the next customer.

(Via @kmflett.)


Black letter on a stone beer mug.

Andreas Krennmair bought an old stone beer mug from one of his favourite breweries but was puzzled by the specific brand name printed on it. As any normal person would, he immediately embarked on several days’ worth of research to work out when it was manufactured:

The earliest person named Franz Köllerer that I was able to identify was Franz Seraphim Köllerer, born on Sept 14, 1839 in Schönram. The Köllerer family must have been reasonably wealthy, as Franz was able to attend grammar school in nearby Salzburg… Another sign of Franz Köllerer’s wealth is how well-travelled he was. Not only can his name be found in public records that he stayed in Salzburg, Linz and Graz several times during the 1860s and 1870s, a book titled Deutscher Parlaments-Almanach (German Parliament Almanac) credited him with having travelled abroad to Hungary, the principalities along the river Danube, Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Greece and Italy… “Why would he be mentioned in such a book?”, you wonder. Very simple: because he got elected as Member of Parliament to the German Reichstag in Berlin in 1874, for the district of Rosenheim, a role in which he served until he stepped down in 1877. According to Salzburger Chronik in 1874, he was “not a studied man” but a well-known man with a “healthy heart and mind from the midst of the German people”.


Low resolution image of a glass of water.

Jess has been reading How Bad Are Bananas? – the carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee and so we were interested to see a pair of posts (one | two) on sustainability in beer by Kelsey Picard at Science Made Beerable:

Brewing is a very water and energy-intensive process. On average, the entire production process of brewing will consume 60 kWh for every 100 litres of beer produced, which can be regarded as a significant contributor of greenhouse gases… Water is used in every step of the brewing process, but only a small amount actually makes it into the final product. Inside the average brewhouse, it takes 8L of water to produce 1L of beer. At less efficient breweries, the ratio can go as high as 13L to one. Cleaning uses the most water; 4-10L per L of beer, and additional water is needed for cooling and packaging. Much of the water used in breweries is lost to evaporation or is simply sent down the drain… Where breweries are sourcing their water, how much they are using and what they do with it after makes a big difference to the sustainability of a beer. Australian craft breweries are increasingly installing water meters at various sections of the operation to reduce water consumption during the beer production process as well as recovering water throughout the brewing process to be used in cleaning processes that do not require high quality water… This 8L of water per 1L beer usage doesn’t account for the irrigation and chitting of the barley or growing hops. 

You’ll notice a mention of BrewDog in there which has sparked a thought in our minds about how much easier it might be for consumers to assess a brewery’s green credentials than some vague notion of its decency.


The Three Tuns
SOURCE: JThomas/Geograph, CC BY-SA 2.0

For Esquire, would you believe, Chris Stokel-Walker has written about a community rallying round to keep The Three Tuns in Gateshead afloat and what it might say about the fate of pubs in a post-pandemic world:

The road is almost at an end – hopefully. The Three Tuns reopened outdoors on 12 April, like many pubs able to carve out an outdoor seating area. The regulars who remained – those not carried away by old age and loneliness – pulled together to help Smith. Some of the lads who most devotedly propped up its bar of an evening converted old barrels into seating… “It was just hands-on to make sure it could reopen again, because it is important to people,” says [Lauren] Tierney on a glorious summer evening a week after it reopened. That night was the first time Tierney and [partner Steve] Parnell would take a night off from visiting the Three Tuns since it opened. After a long period of closure and lost money, the pair wanted to ensure the pub’s landlord felt justified in reopening – and who could blame them? “It’s that novelty of being able to go back out again,” says Tierney. “A lot of the people I see in the pub I’ll only see in the pub,” says Parnell, who is godfather to a fellow drinker’s children, and was best man at another’s wedding. “You get very close, then it all shuts down, and you never see each other for months.”


Finally, from YouTube, new-to-us archive footage of a prefab post-war pub being thrown into existence.

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

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News, nuggets and longreads 5 June 2021: Theocracies, Desi Pubs, Downtown Hops

Here’s the writing about beer culture and pubs from the past week that grabbed our attention, from rampant egotism to the value of cask ale.

The conversation about sexism, harassment and bullying in beer has continued. Charlotte Cook’s piece for Ferment, the promo mag for a beer subscription service, is a must-read, combining righteous anger (based on personal experience) with precise criticism:

Greg Koch of Stone is often humorously called ‘The Beer Jesus’, but there are plenty of brewery owners out there who would take that at face value. These companies are not run as businesses but as theocracies, where the Good Book is in fact the proclamations on Twitter of the brewery owner – and the disciples are those who have invested in whatever crowdfunding scheme they have shilled… I strongly feel that this is the root of the problem with misogyny in beer. The ego trip that takes place when someone tells you that you’re incredible and make the best beer in the world can easily drive people to act in ways that they wouldn’t normally, and as the praise keeps pouring in, so does the need for the serotonin hit that it provides. This also leaches out into the wider company culture and explains how these abuses can be enabled without repercussions from within.

Meanwhile, Jan Rogers, the managing director of Marble Brewery has announced that she is stepping down in the wake of accusations of a toxic working environment. That she also mentions having considered suicide underlines why, in our view, it’s important to avoid so-called pile-ons, if possible. Equally, the conversations still need to be had – and telling people who feel they’ve been abused or mistreated to ‘calm down’ won’t cut it either.


SOURCE: @thegladpub on Twitter.

For Pellicle, David Jesudason has written about ‘desi pubs’ – pubs in England run by British Asians. From his own experiences of racism in pubs as a young man to a focus on the story of a specific pub in South London, it’s a fascinating read, sometimes grim, often hopeful:

I was hoping my first visit to a pub would be a rite of passage… Aged just fifteen, I felt more anxious about being the lone brown face in a white environment than I was about being served my first pint. Opening the door, an old man at the bar shouted: “Anyone order a mini-cab?”… The town I lived in, Dunstable which borders Luton in Bedfordshire, had very few Asians like me in it—apart from, guess what? Nothing could have prepared me for the humiliating laughter that broke out after being mocked for daring to enter their world… It didn’t stop me from having my first ever pub pint that evening (Wadworth 6X) and it hasn’t dimmed my love for pubs in the intervening 20 years. Moving to a more diverse area helped, but even then there were many establishments that I didn’t feel comfortable in… I found my confidence by visiting so-called desi pubs, where I was served by other British-Asians keen to make these spaces their own.


Cask ale

Roger Protz has been writing about beer for, oh, a couple of years now, and it’s a memory of a marketing campaign of 30-odd years ago that brings his latest piece to life for us. It’s a call to action for the industry, arguing that to boost cask ale, it needs to be treated with some reverence:

I recall some years ago, when Whitbread was still involved in brewing, that it produced an oyster stout and placed small booklets on pub tables describing the history of the style and the way it’s made… When I sat in the Blacksmiths Arms in St Albans supping this delicious beer and reading the booklet, I noticed that many other customers were doing the same. They not only had a fine drinking experience but had also learned a little about the history and heritage of British brewing… We should build on that experience. We should encourage brewers to top their pump clips on beer handles with the simple message ‘Great British Beer – our heritage’. This should be backed by booklets with explanations about the myriad beer styles in the cask sector – mild, bitter, IPA, barley wine, stout, porter, golden ale and many more.


Khaya Maloney outside his greenhouse.
Khaya Maloney. SOURCE: Lucy Corne/GBH.

For Good Beer Hunting, Lucy Corne has written about a “startup hop farm” in the unlikely location of downtown Johannesburg, South Africa:

Originally constructed as a fort, Constitution Hill in Johannesburg is best known as a prison—both Nelson and Winnie Mandela were incarcerated here during the apartheid years. Today, the low-rise, red-roofed complex is a museum, made up of the 19th-century fort; the Women’s Jail, with its castle-like facade; and the stark cells known as Number Four, where Black male inmates were held… Away from the main building sits the car park, a near-empty garage with nothing to single it out but a gently snoozing security guard and a dark doorway tucked away in a shaded corner. That door leads to a rickety staircase that climbs upwards. Here, on the roof, Maloney meticulously tends downtown Johannesburg’s first hop farm. 


Illustration: "Wodge of cash."

You might or might not make it through the paywall to read this piece – we find the Financial Times quite erratic in that regard. At any rate, it’s an interesting piece by Judith Evans and Alice Hancock about the business end of British brewing in these strange times:

Most [breweries] been supported by UK government loans and support schemes, but operators fear that as that tapers out, small brewers could face tough decisions on the viability of their businesses… The number of UK breweries declined in 2020 for the first time in 18 years, after more than doubling in size in the previous decade to 1,823, according to data from the Campaign for Real Ale… Some have spied an opportunity. Luke Johnson, an investor in hospitality businesses including Patisserie Valerie and Gail’s, completed a £5m deal this month to buy Curious Brewery, a brewer run by the English vineyard Chapel Down, out of administration… Johnson plans to create “an alliance of beers” that could be brewed through the Curious facility. “We will pursue a buy-and-build strategy . . . In the coming 12 months there will be quite a few craft beer brands that need recapitalising and we have the resources to do that,” Johnson said.

That sounds… Is ominous too loaded a word?


Distancing poster in a pub.

We’ve put this at the end because, ugh, it’s all a bit miserable. With the COVID-19 stats currently having a wobble the proposed end to COVID-19 restrictions in England on 21 June is looking less likely. That means pubs might have to continue trading with controls and restrictions in place. One the one hand, we feel their pain – it’s hard work to administer, more difficult to make a profit and compromises the experience for drinkers. At the same time, there has been a slew of outbreaks and hot-spots connected to pubs, including this notable example in Leek. All anyone can do, we suppose, is try to follow the rules and support pubs in whichever way they feel comfortable. For our part, that means sticking to outside, for a little while more at least; and being as little nuisance as possible to hot, stressed, masked-up staff.


On a more cheerful note, check out the replies to this Tweet for some enthusiastic recommendations:

And for more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

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News, nuggets and longreads 29 May 2021: Sahti, Grodziskie, Polish porter

Here’s everything interesting about beer and pubs we spotted and bookmarked in the past week, from bottle shops to brewing in Finland.

Two weeks into reopening of pubs for indoor drinking, there’s been a lot of talk about staff shortages in hospitality. We first noticed this not through Beer Twitter but via LinkedIn, of all places, as individuals raised red flags about their own ability to recruit. It’s now been reported at various places from Beer Today to the BBC:

Latest figures from global recruitment firm Broadbean Technology found that in April, vacancies in UK hospitality soared 77% from the previous month. However, compared with April 2020, the number of applications slumped 82%… “The decline in application numbers is a concern and could hinder the growth of the hospitality sector in the immediate future,” said Broadbean’s managing director Alex Fourlis… He said that, as work dried up during the pandemic many people chose to leave the sector and firms now face a challenge enticing them back… But he added: “Perhaps more concerningly, though, this drop in applications follows the UK’s exit from the EU and potentially suggests that Brexit has had a long-lasting impact on hospitality.”


The shelves in a bottle shop

For Pellicle Neil Walker has picked up a thread from conversations that have taken place over the past few months – what’s it like to run an independent beer shop in England in 2021?

I’m not alone in tracing my journey in beer back to stepping through the small wooden doors of Beer Ritz… This was why the news in July 2020 that its shop in Headingley was closing came as a gut punch. Even a well-loved shop such as this is not immune to the difficulties of making a living selling beer in the UK, with sales increasingly moving online, and supermarkets undercutting prices at every opportunity… The void in pricing between supermarkets and bottle shops is forcing independents out of business, and long-term could even reduce the range of beers available to us drinkers.


Lager beer in the 19th century.

At Good Beer Hunting historian Brian Alberts tells the story of how lager ended up on trial in 19th century America:

“It may burst a man, but it will not make him drunk.” So said Solomon Keyser’s expert witness. The Petersburg, Virginia saloon owner stood trial in summer 1855 for keeping a disorderly beer hall, a fancy way of saying he’d sold Lager beer the wrong way and violated local liquor laws. But the public wasn’t really interested in what Keyser had or hadn’t done. The real defendant in his tria – and the actual mystery everyone wanted to solve—was Lager beer itself. Keyser’s defense was straightforward, if a little strange. He claimed that liquor laws didn’t really apply to him because those laws regulated intoxicating beverages, and that Lager beer – the only alcoholic beverage he sold – didn’t intoxicate.

This line – that you couldn’t really get drunk on lager – was one we came across when researching our own short book Gambrinus Waltz, about the rise of lager in 19th century London. It’s interesting to contrast that with the panic, a hundred years later, over lager louts.


Olavi.
SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol.

It was a treat to spot a new post from Lars Marius Garshol in the feed this week. In it, the author of Historical Brewing Techniques: the lost art of farmhouse brewing provides a glimpse into the world of Olavi Viheroja, a 70-year-old “known for being the most successful brewer in the history of the Finnish sahti championship”:

Once everything was in the fermentor, Olavi was ready to add the hops. He took a small saucepan full of hot water, adding one handful of hops to it. Tuula interjected that “I use two handfuls, since my hands are smaller.” Then Olavi used the lid as a filter and poured all the water out. So he was basically just scalding the hops in water to sanitize them. Then the hops were dropped into the fermentor, effectively dry-hopping his sahti. This handful of hops was the only spice of any kind added at any point… The fermentor had no lid, but was covered with a white blanket, which [his daughter] Tuula said was called kaljasaavinpeitto. Literally ‘beer cover’ or ‘beer blanket’. She chuckled and added that “if a woman’s shirt is really ugly you can say it looks like a kaljasaavinpeitto”. Sadly, throughout the rest of the trip I never had occasion to make use of the word.


Old map of Warsaw
SOURCE: Baedeker.

Gary Gillman continues to explore Eastern Europe, this week shining a light on an English-owned porter brewery in Warsaw:

[The] Hall brewery… endured for much of the 19th century. One advert claimed a founding year of 1821. This is credible as in 1822 a Polish journal of news and opinion, Rozmaitosci, mentioned the brewery… At various times, porter, double stout, double beer (which probably was stout), mild ale, March beer, and a malt extract are advertised. Perhaps the last was a no- or low-alcohol beer… No lager – as such – is mentioned, no pale ale. The ad from 1885 reads in part: “Porter double Stout, Gorzki. Piwo Angielskie, mild Ale, slodkie.” So, the porter is ‘bitter’, or gorzki, the English mild ale ‘sweet’, or slodkie. The address is given as 72 Nowolipie Street in Warsaw. During WW II Nowolipie was in the Nazi-dictated Jewish ghetto, as Nowolipie was mostly a Jewish district before the war. There seems no Jewish connection to the Halls themselves, however.

We’d be surprised if Martyn Cornell doesn’t cover this in his upcoming book on porter and stout which, as far as we can tell, is going to be a bit of a beast.


Piwo Grodziskie

Kevin Kain, meanwhile, has found a niche writing in loving detail about the vessels from which we drink our beer. His latest piece is on the distinctive but rarely seen Grodziskie glass:

In its heyday, some compared Grodziskie to Champagne, perhaps in an attempt to elevate its status. It did have a somewhat similar profile relating to color, clarity, and effervescence. Grodziskie was referred to as the “Champagne of Poland”, and the glasses that became associated with it in many ways resembled Champagne glasses of that era. They’re also quite similar to certain Pilsner glass styles. The similarity between these was so great that they were commonly listed next to each other in catalogs… Some historic examples include a groove feature at the bottom of the glass, which was common in glassware in the early 1900s. These are referred to in the German catalogs as “Rippen-Schliff” and “Pflaumecken”, which Google translates to “rib-cut” and “plum wedges” respectively.

Of course having seen Kevin’s pictures, we must now have one for our collection.


Finally, from Twitter, via Nick Goodwin, an interesting initiative to promote local pubs from Sevenoaks District Council:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

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News, nuggets and longreads 15 May 2021: drinking in, calling out

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from sexism to classism to taking back dodgy pints.

From Monday 17 May, drinkers across most of the UK can sit inside pubs if they don’t fancy braving beer gardens.

This is big news for establishments such as our old local, The Drapers Arms, which hasn’t been able to trade as nature intended since late last year. It also means some pubs which have been scraping by with outdoor drinkers can start to do some serious business.

This is the riskiest step in the unlocking process so far – sitting in poorly-ventilated spaces with other people is how this thing spreads – and of course there’s a potential spanner in the works in the form of a ‘variant of concern’.

What’s more, many working in hospitality haven’t been vaccinated and some feel understandably concerned.

But, still, it’s hard not to be excited at the prospect. We’ve got Monday off work. We’ll have to see how we feel.


A screengrab of @ratmagnet's Instagram stories.

If you have a Facebook/Instagram account, you can read a series of ‘stories’ (collections of images on rolling slides) of first-hand experiences of sexism in the beer industry collated by Brienne AKA @ratmagnet. It’s not the easiest format to digest but worth the effort because, although it starts with the kind of everyday irritations any woman working in or around beer has experienced, things soon get heavy. There are numerous accounts of sexual harassment and exploitative behaviour, often occurring at beer festivals, in which names are very much named. The breweries and brewers involved are as far as we can tell (we haven’t read every single slide) mostly American but there’s a point here that applies universally: in the 21st century, if you behave like this, people will find out.


Beer cans in a supermarket.

At Burum Collective Ruvani De Silva offers a forthright opinion on craft beer in supermarkets:

While some independent bottle shops have cited understandable concerns about how this may affect their market share, a more significant and concerning backlash has come from many craft beer drinkers who seem to feel that craft beer does not ‘belong’ in supermarkets and its supply should be restricted solely to independent specialist bottle shops… While no-one, least of all Cloudwater and their collaborators, are denying the importance of indies to the beer trade, this small but angry group of nay-sayers seem to feel that the sanctity of their hallowed turf has been threatened, and are acting up with a vitriolic degree of barely-concealed classism.

Now, as we said at the height of all this a few weeks ago, it does worry us that we’ve got to a point where saying “I’ve got concerns about the business practices of multinational giants such as Tesco and the effect on independent businesses” is somehow regarded as “punching down”. But, yes, it is important to keep those criticisms focused where they belong, rather than pointed at people who are just trying to get by in a world where pay has been stagnant for more than a decade.


Tasting notes

Boring bastards love to sneer at beer tasting notes, overlooking the fact that (a) they’re useful in various ways and (b) fun to write. Anthony Gladman has some tips on how to do it better and makes the case for why you might want to:

[What] if there is no audience other than your future self? In that case, you need to concentrate on what matters most to you. And you can use all the shorthand you want, as long as you’re confident of remembering what it means next week, next month, in five years… But again I think it’s worth spending a little time trying to set down a few words that also capture how you felt about the beer. What did it remind you of? Where would you want to drink this beer? Who would you want to drink it with? If you write better tasting notes, you’ll find that it’s easier to remember that particular beer when you read them again in the future.


Cask ale

For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Katie Mather provides a guide to appreciating cask ale in the pub, from tasting it to taking it back:

Take your cask drinking to another level by taking in what you can smell and taste. Good pints will have you thinking about all sorts of things: freshly cut citrus fruit, or deep malty chocolate ovaltine. Bright summer days, or rich whisky evenings… What I’m saying is, please do not reduce your beer drinking experience to a fault-detecting exercise. There are so many delicate flavours at play between malt, hop, water and yeast before you even add fruit or other adjuncts like chocolate or coffee there to be enjoyed. An obsessive search for technical faults can mean that brewers’ leaps of inspiration can be forgotten.


Eric Krings and his friends.
SOURCE: Ashley Joanna/Belgian Smaak.

From Ashley Joanna for Belgian Smaak comes another snapshot portrait of a ‘human of Belgian beer’ – this time, Eric Krings, a 32-year-old, who is renovating the family home at Atzerath:

For the two years it took to renovate the house, Eric kept crates of beer stacked high along the inside of the house, and lined the refrigerator there with as many of his friend’s favourite beers as he could. Regulars included the Tripel and Strong Pale Ale from Brauerei Nova Villa, a tiny local brewery 12 kilometres away in Neundorf which recently installed four new 7HL fermentation tanks; Bavik Super Pils from Brouwerij De Brabandere; Cristal—the pilsner of the Belgian province of Limburg—from Brouwerij Alken-Maes; and the Belgian Ales, Duvel and La Chouffe from the Duvel Moortgat group of breweries. Days were filled with work and sweat; nights with beer and laughter.


Finally, from Twitter, the ghost of a space-age pub in Sheffield:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

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News

News, nuggets and longreads 8 May 2021: AB-InBev Carlsberg Marston’s

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from need states to Sourvisiae.

First, a bit of news: Carlos Brito, head of AB-InBev, is stepping down after 17 years in charge. Seen by some as beer’s biggest baddie, and by others as something of a genius, he’s not the kind of bloke who gets profiled at Good Beer Hunting or Pellicle. Fortunately, Sky’s Ian King is on the case, offering a fascinating career overview and a glimpse into the principles guiding AB-InBev’s operations:

Throughout his career, Mr Brito has adhered to [the mantra of] relentless cost-cutting, restructuring and zero-based budgeting, where executives begin each financial year – or in some cases each quarter – with a blank sheet of paper on which they are obliged to spell out and justify any spending they wish to carry out… It has made him and 3G’s backers – who have parleyed their original $250m stake in Brahma into a shareholding in AB-InBev worth $31bn at its peak – spectacularly wealthy… But it has also left them open to criticism, as seen ahead of the SABMiller deal, that they are little more than cost-cutters… Some investors have worried whether a management team obsessed with cost-cutting is equipped to focus on organic growth – which, now AB-InBev has run out of acquisition targets, is going to be of increased importance.

Is the acquisition spree over, then? That’s an interesting thought.


Carlsberg Marston's logo

While we’re in the world of big beer, this interview with Paul Davies, head of the newly-formed Carlsberg Marston, by Daniel Woolfson for The Grocer, is scattered with intriguing nuggets:

As at-home booze consumption surged, its brands punched above their weight on the supermarket shelves. In particular, posh Spanish lager San Miguel, which grew retail value by 68.2% to £273.2m to become the fifth best selling brand in the supermarkets… Another Covid success story is the formerly flagging premium bottled ales category, which has been revitalised in the off-trade… Davies stresses CMBC will not be following in the footsteps of its rivals Budweiser Brewing Group and Molson Coors, both of which are expanding into other categories such as hard seltzer, spirits and RTDs… Instead, Davies says he is more interested in expanding the beer category. For him, there are still “so many need states that haven’t yet been brought to the UK’s shelves, so many different styles and opportunities”.

‘Need states’? That’s business and marketing jargon, that, and it’s interesting to know that’s where beer CEOs heads are at.


Hop poles in Tettnang

We’ve seen discussions of the concept of terroir in beer before but Jacopo Mazzeo’s piece for Good Beer Hunting goes deep into the subject. It’s not a word we use, probably for this reason:

Just as Pinot Noir grapes do in a Grand Cru Burgundy… regionally specific ingredients are supposed to allow these beers to express their own terroir, perceived by the drinker as a unique sensory experience. Unlike wine, however, a beer’s ingredients are rarely traceable to a single geographical entity. Beerburg’s mesquite-based beer or PGIs such as Kölsch and Kaimiškas Jovarų Alus represent but a fraction of the world’s beer. As such, the interpretation of the term ‘terroir’ as an expression of a unique geographical entity can’t be as representative as it is for wine.


Social media 'like'

For Burum Collective Helen Anne Smith picks up the ongoing debate over ‘influencers’ in the world of beer. This distinction is important, we think, and one which the media in general seems unable to grasp:

The argument I see a lot against influencers, is usually against those who actively contact breweries and producers trying to get free products in exchange for posts, or those who have travelled around the world in the middle of the pandemic claiming “work purposes”. These gripes are understandable, and I don’t think these behaviours are okay, but neither do I believe that all influencers behave this way. I am a bartender. Some bartenders are creepy, rude, condescending and abusive. Some bartenders steal, or drink on shift… What I am saying is, there are professions in the drinks industry that are upheld by people who can cause others serious harm, which to me, makes the overall aggressive response towards the role of the influencer and the ongoing debate as to their worth within the industry extremely confusing. 

For additional context, this thread from Robin LeBlanc is also persuasive and interesting:

For our part, we’re too old to get influence culture ourselves but, equally, we don’t think blogs, articles and books are the only legitimate media for talking about beer; or that you should only be allowed to talk about beer once you’ve been ‘studying’ it long enough that you never, ever make even the tiniest mistake about, say, the history of IPA. Enthusiasm and energy are good, too.


Yeast

At Beervana Jeff Alworth provides a thoughtful review of the latest trends in yeast that helped us catch up with some developments we’d missed, such as genetically-modified self-souring yeast:

Ales limned with acid represent one of the biggest growth categories in beer, whether we’re talking about lemonade-like summer sours or fruit-saturated smoothie ales. Beginning in the middle-teens, breweries started making these by kettle-souring their wort… The Canadian yeast company Lallemand wondered if there was an even faster, easier way to sour a beer… In 2019 they released the answer to this question, Sourvisiae, a regular Saccharomyces strain that had been genetically modified to produce lactic acid. Conventional yeast already produces acid, as Owen explained above, so getting it to produce more required only a small genetic tweak. Recent advances in gene ‘scissors’ like CRISPR made this a snap.


Hops

Liam at BeerFoodTravel is a bit fed up with seeing a certain myth repeated over and again: ‘Historically, hops were not grown in Ireland…’ Determined to put this to bed once and for all he’s commenced a three-part exploration of hop growing in Ireland:

1632 – A quote in an article in The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Volume 17 first published in 1830 and quoting an earlier source says that hops, along with other crops, were introduced to Ireland in 1632 “and grew very well.” Not exactly a verifiable source but it is certainly very conceivable that hops would have made there way here by this time, if not before.

1689 – The Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin from this year and published in 1895 states that ‘Flemish hops by retail not to exceed eighteen pence per pound. And English and Irish hops not to exceed two shillings and three pence per pound.’ This price fixing exercise mentions the term Irish hops as distinct from Flemish or English ones, so is this an indicator of a reasonable crop being grown here?


Bass

Normality is in sight – Martin Taylor has had his first pint of post-reopening draught Bass. He doesn’t have much to say about it – “Honestly, this was a Top 10 pint.” – but you might enjoy the pictures.


Can of beer in a park
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

After a brief pause prompted by a new job which almost looked as if it might make blogging impossible Eoghan Walsh is back with a snapshot of a moment, drinking canned beer in a park in a the park:

It doesn’t look like a brewery from the outside… The door’s been jammed open a little, and through the gap slips out the unmistakable tang of pulverised grains steeping in scalding water. The neighbourhood knows this smell well. Back when these streets echoed to the braying of passing donkeys the sweet smell of mashed barley blanketed the quartier, seeping into the redbrick and plaster of tenement row houses along the neighbourhood’s disorderly grid. But it’s been sixty years or more since a Schaarbeek brewmaster picked up a mash paddle.


Finally, from Twitter one of those very literal ‘sign of the times’ moments we love so much:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.