News, Nuggets and Longreads 16 February 2019: Beer Duty, BridgePort, Brussels

Here’s everything in writing about beer and pubs from the past week that struck as especially noteworthy, from colonialism to brewery closures.

For the Guardian Dutch jour­nal­ist Olivi­er van Beemen offers an arti­cle based on an extract from his book Heineken in Africa: a Multi­na­tion­al Unleashed. It offers a glimpse into the prac­tices of a Euro­pean brew­ing giant oper­at­ing in Africa, and how, despite the rhetoric of cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­i­ty, it can­not help but echo the behav­iours of the colo­nial era:

Fur­ther research [into pro­mo­tion girls] in DRC, the coun­try where the most abuse was report­ed, revealed that unwant­ed advances came not only from cus­tomers but also from Heineken staff. “The enor­mous uncer­tain­ty of keep­ing a job com­bined with the absence of employ­ee rights of legal sta­tus makes PW [pro­mo­tion women] vul­ner­a­ble for mis­use from sev­er­al stake­hold­ers,” the inter­nal report notes. Often, the women, who earned very lit­tle, had to sleep with man­agers if they want­ed to keep their job. But if they need­ed to see a gynae­col­o­gist or get an abor­tion, which was often ille­gal and dan­ger­ous, they had to sort every­thing them­selves, and pay for it. They also had to drink five to 10 large bot­tles of beer every work­ing day, in order to per­suade cus­tomers to con­sume more.


Sighing bar staff.

This week’s big viral sto­ry, for quite under­stand­able rea­sons, was this expres­sion of right­eous fury by Cana­di­an beer writer Robin LeBlanc in response to a bizarre sex­ist ram­ble in an Amer­i­can brew­ing mag­a­zine by its pub­lish­ers, Bill Met­zger, who has since resigned:

That’s right, folks. He man­aged to take a piece about cask ale and turn it into a whiny, self-indul­gent, sex­ist, heav­i­ly misog­y­nist, and creepy as hell work. In fact he did this so expert­ly that it actu­al­ly broke my brain and I need to break it down and go over most of the par­tic­u­lar­ly offen­sive quotes with you all because if I don’t I’m going to keep think­ing about it until I have a brain aneurysm.

Alright. Let’s start with the very first sen­tence of the arti­cle.

Like most men, I strug­gle with my my pri­mal self.”

Oh boy, strap in folks, because we know exact­ly where this is going.


De la Senne beers in Brussels.

For Brus­sels Beer City Eoghan Walsh pro­vides a run­down of the his­to­ry of cult Bel­gian brew­ery de la Senne, con­struct­ing his tale around five spe­cif­ic beers:

Before there was Brasserie de la Senne, there was Zin­nebir. Bernard Leboucq was home-brew­ing in the base­ment of a cen­tral Brus­sels squat in 2002, and he was invit­ed to brew Zin­nebir as the offi­cial beer for that year’s Zin­neke parade. Yvan De Baets, already pas­sion­ate about beer, was a social work­er work­ing along­side youth groups on the parade. A meet-cute was inevitable.

I saw this guy pulling a big trol­ley of beer,” says De Baets, “and I told the guys work­ing with me to take care of the kids, I have to meet him. He offered me a beer, a sec­ond, a third.” Two years lat­er De Baets joined Leboucq as unof­fi­cial brew­ing advi­sor in their first iter­a­tion of Brasserie de la Senne.


The Quest for the Perfect Pub

The Pub Cur­mud­geon has dis­sect­ed a large­ly for­got­ten book from 1989 in which broth­er Nick and Char­lie Hurt report on a three-month Quest for the Per­fect Pub:

The thir­ty years since the book was pub­lished have, not sur­pris­ing­ly, not been kind to the pubs list­ed. Some, for­tu­nate­ly, are still in exis­tence in lit­tle-changed form, such as the Yew Tree at Cauldon in Stafford­shire and the Traveller’s Rest at Alpra­ham in Cheshire. Oth­ers, such as the Stagg at Tit­ley in Here­ford­shire and the Durham Ox at Shrew­ley in War­wick­shire, have very much gone down the gas­tro route and can no longer be regard­ed as com­mu­ni­ty booz­ers, while many, such as the Horse & Jock­ey at Delph in the for­mer Sad­dle­worth dis­trict of York­shire and the White Lion at Pen-y-Myny­dd in Flintshire have long since closed. Indeed, I doubt whether either of those long sur­vived the pub­li­ca­tion of the book, and the Horse & Jock­ey has long been a roof­less, crum­bling ruin.


Abstract illustration of pubs.

Roger Protz has writ­ten an inter­est­ing piece about the spe­cif­ic issues faced by those run­ning hous­es owned by giant pub com­pa­nies:

My agree­ment meant I could buy wines, spir­its and min­er­als free of tie but I was tied for beer and cider. The main Ei beer list had Dark Star Hop­head. Jack had sold three 18 gal­lon casks a week of Hop­head but Ei said I couldn’t have it as it was out­side SIBA’s deliv­ery area – SIBA has a 25-mile radius for beer orders.”

Courage Best is a pop­u­lar beer among reg­u­lars. Har­ry found he would have to pay £30 a bar­rel more than Jack had paid – and Jack had sold 100 bar­rels a year.


Carling Black Label beer mat.

At Ed’s Beer Site Ed pro­vides some fas­ci­nat­ing details of how Car­ling lager is actu­al­ly brewed:

Very high mal­tose syrup is used in the ket­tle to give 20% of the grist. For those not famil­iar with high grav­i­ty brew­ing very high mal­tose syrup is impor­tant because it reduces the amount of esters pro­duced dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion, some­thing which high grav­i­ty brew­ing rais­es.


Jim at Beers Man­ches­ter is angry about the weasel­ly ways of the UK’s larg­er brew­eries which are lob­by­ing for changes to Pro­gres­sive Beer Duty from behind the facades of var­i­ous organ­i­sa­tions, such as the Inde­pen­dent Fam­i­ly Brew­ers of Britain:

Let’s look at the IFBB in more detail.

Richard Fuller. Sec­re­tary of The Inde­pen­dent Fam­i­ly Brew­ers of Britain.

Hang on. Fuller. As in that brew­ery that is no longer “Inde­pen­dent”? Hmmm.


A notable brew­ery clo­sure: Bridge­Port Brew­ing of Port­land, Ore­gon – one of the first of the mod­ern IPA brew­ers, launch­ing its flag­ship hop­py pale beer in 1996 – is shut­ting up shop after 35 years. Jeff All­worth offers con­text and com­men­tary here.


And final­ly, from Twit­ter:

For more links see Stan Hieronymus’s blog on Mon­days and Alan McLeod’s on Thurs­days.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 9 February 2019: London, Chuvashia, Viborg

Here’s everything that struck us as especially interesting in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from the origins of craft beer to best practice in bars.

A cou­ple of years ago we put togeth­er a short his­to­ry of beer weeks with input from Will Hawkes, then involved in organ­is­ing Lon­don Beer Week. Now, Will has writ­ten his own piece reveal­ing just how much stress and work was involved, and for how lit­tle reward:

It had all been a ter­ri­ble error. I should have known that I was doing some­thing very stu­pid before I start­ed; I’d asked around to see if any­one else in the Lon­don beer demi-monde was inter­est­ed in help­ing, and got a series of respons­es along the lines of “Good idea! No, sor­ry, I’m too busy,” gen­er­al­ly from peo­ple with enough time to be dis­cussing the idea with me in a pub in mid-after­noon… Not only that, but I was nev­er real­ly sure why I was doing it: it just sort of kept on hap­pen­ing, for four long years.


For The Take­out Kate Bernot writes about the expe­ri­ence of drink­ing out as a woman, and how much she appre­ci­ates con­crete steps tak­en by bars to make women feel safe:

The Rhi­no bar in Mis­soula, where I live, has post­ed fly­ers indi­cat­ing its bar­tenders have under­gone “bystander inter­ven­tion” train­ing. The bar has also host­ed police-led class­es on the top­ic. “What our train­ing specif­i­cal­ly talked about was inter­ven­ing in things like sex­u­al assault,” Mis­soula Police Depar­ment detec­tive Jamie Mer­i­field told KGVO years ago. “When you see some­one in trou­ble, the train­ing helps you to inter­vene, and not just turn a blind eye. Most peo­ple would want to help, they just don’t know how.” In a sim­i­lar vein, oth­er estab­lish­ments around the coun­try have intro­duced “angel shots,” drinks that peo­ple can order as a sig­nal to bar­tenders that they’re in trou­ble.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 9 Feb­ru­ary 2019: Lon­don, Chu­vashia, Viborg”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 2 February 2019: Conmen, Archaeobotanists, Maltsters

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from gig venues to American home-brewing.

Kentucky’s Craft Beer Con Man’ is a hell of a head­line and the sto­ry, by Michael Moeller for Ken­tucky Sports Radio, more than lives up to it:

This is the sto­ry of a craft beer con man who trav­eled across the Unit­ed States and abroad – a man who knew how to exploit the shared weak­ness of most small busi­ness­es – talk a big enough game and a back­ground check won’t be required. Talk an even big­ger game and even fool busi­ness part­ners and investors.

(Via @beerbabe.)


Gig posters on a pub in Manchester.

Katie Tay­lor has been lis­ten­ing to BBC Radio 6 and noticed par­al­lels between con­cerns about the loss of inde­pen­dent music venues and fret­ting over the fate of pubs:

Recent­ly, the sta­tion has been run­ning a cam­paign to redis­cov­er and cham­pi­on local inde­pen­dent music venues, and the more inter­views with pas­sion­ate but skint pro­mot­ers and own­ers they broad­cast, the stronger I’ve noticed the over­lap between their strug­gles and the strug­gles of our favourite pubs, tap­rooms and brew­eries. There’s an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion there, for sure – the same rev­o­lu­tion­ary atti­tude towards resist­ing devel­op­ers and buy­outs smoul­ders under a heavy smog of frus­tra­tion, the same anger and resigned futil­i­ty wafts through their brava­do into their every­day con­ver­sa­tions.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 2 Feb­ru­ary 2019: Con­men, Archaeob­otanists, Malt­sters”

News, Nuggets and Longreads 19 January 2019: Bottleshares, Boddies, Brand Loyalty

Here’s everything on beer and pubs we felt the urge to bookmark in the past seven days, from coolships to kask kontroversy.

Joe Stange is now writ­ing for Craft Beer & Brew­ing and has announced his arrival with an excel­lent piece on Fran­co­nia which suc­ceeds in find­ing some new angles on this much-writ­ten-about beer region:

Here is anoth­er thing you can see upstairs, in the attic: a wide, riv­et­ed cop­per cool­ship… Or rather: You can see it, until the boil­ing-hot wort hits the pan—littered with a sur­pris­ing amount of hops pel­lets for a burst of aroma—and opaque steam rapid­ly fills the attic. After that, it’s dif­fi­cult to see any­thing in there for a while. This cool­ship is the kind of thing you might expect to see in a lam­bic brew­ery, or in an ambi­tious Amer­i­can wild-beer brew­ery, or in a muse­um. Its orig­i­nal pur­pose, how­ev­er, has noth­ing to do with sour beers. It is sim­ply an old-fash­ioned way to cool wort. Andreas Gän­staller uses it every time he brews lager… “The wort streams out real­ly clear,” he says. “The beer is much more clear because all the bad stuff goes away in the steam.”


Illustration: beer bottles.

If you’ve ever fan­cied organ­is­ing a bot­tle share, or won­dered exact­ly what a bot­tle share is, then you’ll find this primer by Rach Smith at Look at Brew use­ful. In in, she explains how the bot­tle share she runs in Brighton works, and offers tips on set­ting up your own:

Think about the order in which you’ll be pour­ing. If there are pale/low abv beers for exam­ple, start with them and leave the big, bold Impe­r­i­al stouts for last so you don’t com­plete­ly destroy your taste buds ear­ly on… [And] don’t judge. It’s not about who can bring the rarest beers, it’s about social­is­ing, learn­ing a lit­tle bit along the way and hav­ing a damn good time.


Icon: NUGGET.

An inter­est­ing point from Ed – could the rea­son cask beer num­bers are down be because we lost a few big brands that made up the bulk of the num­bers, such as Boddington’s?


Sierra Nevade Brewing Co neon sign.

With #Flag­shipFeb­ru­ary in mind (see last week’s round-up) Kate Bernot has writ­ten about con­sumer promis­cu­ity for The Take­out:

I say this whole idea of promis­cu­ity and no brand loy­al­ty is gross­ly mis­de­fined,” says Lester Jones, chief econ­o­mist for the Nation­al Beer Whole­salers Asso­ci­a­tion. “It was pret­ty easy 25–30 years ago to find a brand that you liked and trust­ed and had rela­tions to. I don’t think peo­ple have changed, I think it’s just tak­ing longer to sift through the mul­ti­tude of choic­es.… Instead of accept­ing the fact that their job is a lot hard­er, it’s easy for brew­ers to turn and say ‘The con­sumer is fick­le. He doesn’t know what he wants.’ No, the con­sumer knows what he wants and the con­sumer is tast­ing to find what he wants, but giv­en so many choic­es, it just takes longer,” Jones says.


Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

All this is well and good but what peo­ple real­ly want to know is this: where’s the beef at? Well, Jes­si­ca Mason wrote this piece argu­ing that the embrace of cask beer by the likes of Cloud­wa­ter sig­nals a resur­gence in the health of its image

[Cloudwater’s Paul] Jones [says] that a lot of tra­di­tion­al brew­eries up and down the coun­try are ‘com­plete pros and leg­ends’ with­in cask beer, even if they’re not turn­ing their hands to more mod­ern beer styles. ‘I think some­thing of a hybrid offer­ing from us real­ly ought to diver­si­fy what cask beer is and what it could be in the future.’

Wild Card’s head Brew­er Jae­ga Wise, who recent­ly won the title of Brew­er of the Year, will be relaunch­ing its cask-beer offer­ing next year. How­ev­er, she stress­es that it will be on the brewery’s terms, remind­ing how mod­ern brew­ers are reit­er­at­ing cask’s rel­e­vance, but are not will­ing to bow to out­dat­ed stereo­types.

…which prompt­ed this come­back from Tan­dle­man:

So we need mod­ern craft brew­ers to show us the way and revive cask? These are the same peo­ple that give you cask beer that looks like chick­en soup and under­mine the work done by brew­ers for many years to ensure clean, clear, bright beer with dis­tinct flavours.We’d more or less lost the “It’s meant to be like that” non­sense until craft got its hands on cask. Now it is back with a vengeance, as over­turn­ing the ortho­doxy has giv­en bar staff the right to say it once more, even if the beer looks like a mix­ture of lumpy fruit juices and smells like Henderson’s Rel­ish.

More point/counterpoint than beef, real­ly, but it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how the fault lines (cul­tur­al, gen­er­a­tional) con­tin­ue to reveal them­selves in new forms.


And final­ly, there’s this reminder of how many oppor­tu­ni­ties for dis­as­ter are built into the cask ale sup­ply chain:

As ever, for more links, check­out Stan on Mon­days (usu­al­ly includ­ing lots of stuff beyond beer, but still about beer) and Alan on Thurs­day (gen­er­al­ly thread­ing links togeth­er to make some sort of point).

News, Nuggets and Longreads 12 January 2019: Bitterness, Brüpond, Burlesque

Here’s everything we thought bookmark-worthy in the past week, from beer with bite to Double Diamond.

First, a quick stop at the BBC, where the recent ONS report on pub clo­sures con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate sto­ries: we know some areas have suf­fered par­tic­u­lar­ly bad­ly, but where are pubs open­ing? Where have the num­bers risen? The High­lands of Scot­land, it turns out, is one such region:

Since 2008, almost a quar­ter of pubs in the UK have shut accord­ing to Office for Nation­al Sta­tis­tics (ONS) analy­sis… But the study shows that in the High­lands there are 14% more pubs than there were 10 years ago… Paul Water­son, of the Scot­tish Licensed Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, said a major fac­tor behind the growth was that the pubs had done well cater­ing for tourists.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 12 Jan­u­ary 2019: Bit­ter­ness, Brüpond, Bur­lesque”