News, nuggets and longreads 18 March 2023: the big combo

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from coolships to TikTok.

On Wednesday the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered the latest Budget (we seem to have one every couple of months these days) including something branded the ‘Brexit pubs guarantee’:

My penultimate cost of living measure concerns one of our other most treasured community institutions, the great British pub… In December, I extended the alcohol duty freeze until 1 August, after which duties will go up in line with inflation in the usual way… But today, I will do something that was not possible when we were in the EU and significantly increase the generosity of Draught Relief, so that from 1 August the duty on draught products in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets, a differential we will maintain as part of a new Brexit pubs guarantee… Madam Deputy Speaker, British ale may be warm, but the duty on a pint is frozen.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of The British Beer & Pub Association, says:

The cut to draught duty as part of the alcohol duty reform is positive and we hope that it will result in a boost for our pubs this summer… However, the fact is, our industry will be facing an overall tax hike not a reduction come August. Duty on non-draught beer will rise and the measures introduced today won’t rebalance the catastrophic impact soaring inflation and unfair energy contracts are having on both pubs and the breweries that supply them… As the 1st of April rapidly approaches, businesses are also nervously awaiting what’s next for their energy costs, and a lack of support in today’s announcement will have a direct impact on their ability to keep their lights on and doors open.

If you can slip through the paywall (sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t) there’s a good summary by Oliver Barnes at the Financial Times.

Text on an old brewery schematic: coppers, coolers.

Martha Holley-Paquette, co-founder of the Brewery of Saint Mars of the Desert in Sheffield, has written about the history and function of flat coolers AKA coolships AKA koelschips:

In the early days of industrial brewing, the post boil, pre-fermentation period must have been agonizingly long. Cooling down from the boil (100C) to fermentation temperatures in the teens likely required an overnight stand.  Not ideal when you’re dealing with a fragile liquid such as unfermented wort.  It’s the perfect place for all sorts of microscopic nasties to make their new home, fouling the flavor and longer-term stability of your beer… The needed innovation for quick cooling was to increase the surface area of the wort, creating a greater cooling surface. If the cooling vessel was also made of a material known for its heat transfer properties, all the better.  Therefore, eventually almost all coolers were built from copper, whose thermal conductivity is right at the top of the list.

The Hofbrauhaus beer hall, Munich.

At Daft Eejit Brewing historian of European brewing Andreas Krennmair has written about the ‘court brew houses’ of Bavaria:

Even if you’ve only ever dabbled a little bit in Bavarian beer, you will have stumbled upon the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, owned by the State of Bavaria, and with a beer hall in the heart of the city. But then you look further, and realise that there’s also a Hofbräuhaus Traunstein 75 minutes outside of Munich, and then there’s of course Weißes Bräuhaus… It all actually started with a bit of a brewing crisis. Starting from 3 September 1571, brewing in Munich was totally banned.

A sign from a bar: Notice to customers, please keep your distance.

Three years on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Jeff Alworth has taken a moment to reflect on the experience, and the changes it prompted:

[Here’s] a strange little development I didn’t see coming. The shutdowns didn’t entirely eliminate our desire to get out of the house. Vacation travel is exploding. We see some of the consequences in that trend spilling over into beer. Even when they’re not on a beach, people want to feel like they are. The only unalloyed positive trend in beer is imports, almost exclusively Mexican imports. AB InBev’s craft strategy has mostly been a wash except for one product, their Kona Big Wave, which is about to become a million-barrel beer… This phenomenon is happening in the UK, too. One of the hottest new beers is Madrí—which looks and tastes like a crisp Spanish lager filled with the sunshine of Valencia. But it was actually an invention of Molson Coors, brewed in Burton. People hunger for that sunshine, though, so having a glassful in a pub on a dreary day is like going on a tiny vacation. 


At Punch Danny Chau announces the return of the term ‘dank’ to describe a certain type of IPA, with quotes from the aforementioned Mr Alworth:

“Dank,” even at its peak as a complimentary term, never lost its connection to revulsion, that sense of unease and intrigue that simultaneously pushes you away and pulls you closer. The dankest IPAs conjure the aroma of cannabis, but also find a secondary connection to weed in their lingering bitterness, a jolt to the system that might as well be psychoactive. The hazy IPA—which leans heavily on dry-hopping to draw out the fruitiness of the new-generation hops, but balances those flavors through a soft texture—could be seen as a balm for the burnout of a palate-wrecked hops enthusiast. For your years of service walking through the pine forests covered in sap, here is your reward: a brew that looks and tastes like a mimosa.

A screengrab of a TikTok video with an older man staring at his phone in front of a tasting flight of beer. The caption reads "When you can't drink until your dad logs it on Untappd".

For VinePair Aaron Goldfarb highlights a cultural trend we’d never otherwise have noticed: TikTok videos about craft beer dads using Untappd. It’s a reminder, if nothing else, that the idea of the youthful craft beer hipster is not a stereotype that necessarily rings true in 2023:

To these teenage and young adult TikTokers, their Dads Untappd beer geekery is from another generation. Even for craft beer fans, we have to admit the days of it being the hip, new thing, enjoyed strictly by a young cognoscenti, are well over. Craft beer is as mainstream as can be, now sold at supermarkets and strip mall Applebee’s, at gas stations and professional sporting events. What was, just a decade ago, the signifier of a drinker who enjoyed the flavorful, the obscure, the anti-corporate, the artisan, the craft of quality beverages, is now seen as something else: a dorky pursuit of older guys with mortgages, respectable jobs, and comfortable New Balance sneakers.

Finally, from Twitter, some valuable advice…

…and from Mastodon:

A post from Brian Alberts "The Irish sure know how to make beer." ~ Schitz (famous Irish brewery), 1964 #beerhistory #stpatricksday #beer” The picture shows a man happily drinking beer with a shamrock on his lapel. Tagline reads "Ah! The Irish sure know how to make beer. After the parade, get together with a friendly glass of Schlitz."

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


News, nuggets and longreads 11 March 2023: Earthly delights

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from Belgian brewers to Budweiser.

First, some news, from the ‘you love to see it’ file. Developers who knocked down the historic Punch Bowl Inn in Lancashire have been fined and given a year to rebuild it, brick-by-brick, at an estimated cost of £1.5 million. As the Guardian reports…

District Judge Alex Boyd said the ruling would act as a deterrent to others considering illegal demolitions. “The purpose of these requirements is to protect the building for current and future generations to enjoy.”

Across the Thames to Wapping.

In the latest edition of his excellent newsletter David Jesudason writes about the perfect East End desi pub and his outrage about its omission from previous pub guides:

The Sam & Nam… has brown wooden floorboards, panelling and a long bar (with coat hooks) with a terrace that offers unforgettable views of the Thames from the north bank. It’s so close to the river that when a boat rushes past you can hear the waves lap against the sea wall. Near to the Overground (Wapping) it has a diverse clientele and when I visit there’s a mixture of Punjabi, Hindi and English being spoken… Unlike most desi pubs, it doesn’t serve food – it’s like an old East End pub – I even think there’s a criminal element here but for the normal punter there’s no chance of trouble. If anything it means there’s always drama and the regulars have stories to tell – sometimes the gossip is from Indian villages.

(There’s a twist and lots to think about.)


News, nuggets and longreads 4 March 2023: Daffodils

Here’s a round-up of all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve found interesting in the past week, from ‘plubs’ to Guinness purism.

Those with an eye on sustainability have long argued that the UK would benefit from bringing back bottle deposits, encouraging consumers to put containers into the recycle-reuse system. It seems to work well in Germany, among other places, where it’s not uncommon to see freelance litter pickers collecting bottles from the street. Scotland has attempted to lead the way but, so far, the scheme has attracted controversy, as reported by the BBC:

One of Scotland’s most recognisable drinks brands is among hundreds which have not signed up to a controversial new bottle recycling scheme… Dougal Sharp, the founder of Innis and Gunn, questioned the legality of the scheme and raised concerns about its costs to businesses and consumers… A total of 664 producers had signed up to the deposit return scheme by the Tuesday deadline… It was initially estimated that about 4,500 producers would need to register… However First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that number had now been revised to “below 2,000”.

A key point, though, is that the largest multinationals have signed up. As with tax administration that’s important because it covers off the largest part of the market with relatively few touchpoints.

A cask label for Robert Perry & Son Ltd of Rathdowney.

Liam K at Beer (History), Food, Travel has started a cool new project: ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’. He admits this was directly inspired by Eoghan Walsh’s similar series on Brussels from last year, which in turn was a riff on something the British Museum did years ago. It’s a good format, well worth borrowing, and Liam’s already given us several great entries. This is from the third in the series:

Unlike bottle labels, which are a relatively common find for the small number of Irish breweries that survived into the first few decades of the 20th century, cask labels seem to be much rarer. This is of course because they were produced – and needed – in smaller quantities, and because they ultimately ended up back in the brewery who issued them or they became detached from the casks during handling or cleaning, but they do become available at times and facsimiles litter the internet on various sites, perhaps from stock acquired from closed breweries. It is at this point even difficult to know which breweries used them and which used coloured rims to differentiate their various beers – like Guinness did – or used other methods. This relatively rare survivor measures 164mm (6 7⁄16″) in diameter and possibly dates from the late 1920s or the 1930s.


News, nuggets and longreads 25 February 2023: Humming liquor

From China to Corby, here’s a selection of the most interesting writing about beer and pubs weve encountered in the past seven days.

Say what you like about BrewDog, they’re certainly committed to giving us stories to put in the top slot in this round-up. Earlier this week they announced a partnership with Budweiser China to produce BrewDog branded beers for the Chinese market, as the Guardian reports:

BrewDog is focusing on international expansion after a difficult few years in the UK. The company, headquartered in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, lost its status as a ethically certified B Corp in December after complaints over its treatment of workers. BrewDog apologised to employees in 2021 after a group wrote an open letter accusing the company of creating a “culture of fear” within the business…. Watt said the company was focusing on international expansion in part because “the environment is very challenging in the UK”, in an interview with the Financial Times.

When we shared this story on social media many people replied with a variation on “So much for being punk!” Now, nobody has seriously made that claim for BrewDog in a long time, but this really does feel like they might be entering a new (final?) phase.

A brewery.

For Craft Beer & Brewing John M. Verive (a writer who is new to us) has dug into a perennially fascinating subject: the migration of brewing kit around the industry. In the UK, there’s a fascination with old Firkin brewpub setups, on which many UK microbreweries started out. Mr Verive writes about the movements of various hunks of stainless steel around US breweries in the past few decades:

It was a sweltering day in Bozeman, Montana, when the trucks showed up to the construction site for Bunkhouse Brewery’s new location. On board was a used brewing system that would be the center of the tasting room, and the gear had made a long overland journey from Destihl Brewery in Normal, Illinois… That was only the most recent stop for the 10-hectoliter brewhouse that had been built at Beraplan in Munich, Germany, almost 30 years earlier… The brewery had traveled halfway around the world and seen three decades of service. Retooled by resourceful brewers at each stop on its journey, the venerable gear has plenty of life left in it. Made largely from stainless steel, brewing vessels are durable by design. There are no junkyards filled with moldering brew kettles and disused conical fermentation vessels.

A smiling person leaning on a bartop in a traditional English pub.
Ali Ross at The Coach & Horses. SOURCE: Will Hawkes.

In the latest edition of his monthly newsletter London Beer City Will Hawkes provides an update on The Coach & Horses, a classic Soho pub whose reputation was long tied to that of its landlord:

Ali Ross, General Manager at the Coach and Horses, says the carpet – produced by Axminster, naturally – was laid after Fuller’s took on the pub in 2019. It’s much the same as the one that was there before, she adds, except less grubby. As a metaphor for this most famous and infamous of Soho pubs, that’s perfect, so let’s run with it… Before Fuller’s took it in-house, The Coach had two landlords in more than half a century. From 2006 until 2019, it was Alastair Choat; before then, it was Norman Balon – and if you’ve any interest in London pubs, you’ll know exactly who he is. “London’s Rudest Landlord” was his reputation, and he encouraged it. According to Jeffrey Bernard, journalist and not-very-bon-viveur, he had it printed on the pub’s promotional matchboxes.

A black and white photo of small boats laying a pipeline in the English Channel.
Operation Pluto, 1944, via Wikipedia.

At Beer et seq. Gary Gillman has taken an excursion into the post war English pubs with notes on The Pluto in Corby, Northamptonshire, and its unfortunately typical story:

One might think the name had a Space Age inspiration… But the heavens had nothing to do with it. If anything, the reverse was true: the name came from the briny depths of the sea – the English Channel, specifically… How could that be? Pluto was an acronym for Pipe Line Under The Ocean, as Lost Pubs tells us. Alright, but why the Midlands, why not for a pub by the Channel, or another English seaside, at least?

A pub window with frosted glass.

The Pub Curmudgeon has gone off-brand observing that, actually, from where he’s sitting, things don’t look too bad for pubs, at least in terms of footfall:

I’m well aware that my pattern of pubgoing is hardly representative, but in the year so far I’ve visited a wide cross-section of pubs and seen levels of trade ranging from being the sole customer through nicely ticking over to standing room only. It seems no different from how it was pre-Covid. The one pub where I was the only customer was one that I’m confident would have been busy at other times. Unsurprisingly, two of the busiest ones were branches of Wetherspoon’s.

We’ve said before, and will say again: if pubs have a problem at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be a lack of willingness on the part of drinkers.

A painted sign on a pub wall: real ale and real food.

Related: the BBC has a story about a practical step some pubs are taking to manage costs and profits – closing their kitchens and taking food off the menu:

Family favourites like fish and chips, steaks and roast dinners were once hailed as money-makers for pubs… But industry data suggests drinks-only pubs, which are owned by a chain, had stronger sales than gastropubs for every month of 2022…

(It’s illustrated with a photo of veteran pub blogger Jeff Bell, AKA Stonch, now landlord of The Ypres Castle Inn in Rye, mistakenly named throughout as ‘Jeff Buckley’ when we read the article.)

Finally, from Twitter, something to provoke thoughts…

…while on Mastodon, beer got a moment in the sun…

A post from FediFollows

#Beer Picks of the Day

➡️ @boakandbailey - All about beers and pubs, based in England

➡️ @beerladiespod  - Beer Ladies podcast about craft beers, history etc

➡️ @brewsite - Beer blog founded in 2004, based in Oregon USA 

➡️ @thomas - Brewer & founder of the server

➡️ @brewedculture - Beer historian, writer, communicator

➡️ @robfrominternet - Brewer & host of online beer show

➡️ @fourpriests - Small indie brewery in Cheshire, England

➡️ @agoodbeerblog - Blog by Canadian beer writer

News, nuggets and longreads 11 February 2023: Share of throat

Another week, another collection of articles and blog posts about beer and pubs, including notes on marketing, forestry and ‘the third place’.

There’s been a lot of chat about Guinness since an announcement last week of its remarkable performance in the UK beer market. For Marketing Week Mark Ritson digs into the mechanics of its success, and longevity:

Even in the darkest days, the Guinness team kept their focus on “winning the first pint” when pubs reopened. The nature of long-term brand building is such that you cannot just turn it off and then back on again at a moment’s notice when demand restarts. The brands that kept their brand burning during the darkness of Covid were the ones that grew the most when the market eventually returned.

(Some of the beer history might make you twitch, though.)

BrewDog bar sign.

We’re including this next piece mostly because it’s just fascinating to us to what extent BrewDog is under attack from every angle. That forest that’s such an important part of their green credentials? People who take an interest in forests don’t seem terribly impressed:

The income statement for the Lost Forest in 2021 shows very little activity and appears to support the claims made in the Guardian article last March… that BrewDog was not investing what it had claimed at Kinrara… The money raised by investors to buy Kinrara is shown by the accounts as owing to BrewDog… It is difficult to understand WHY the overall debt of the company would be increasing, even if only slightly, if BrewDog was making a real investment in running the property.  But the net effect of the debt is that the Lost Forest has negative equity, i.e. is effectively bankrupt.

A pub table.

Katie Mather has been thinking about the difficulty of taking up space in the pub and the obligations it brings:

If I stay for the afternoon with my notebook with just one pint, because my budget for that day was a fiver on random spends, I’ve started to feel something I never used to experience: guilt. It’s self-imposed—nobody at the pub is willing me to buy more. But I know, as a patron and a bar owner, that it costs so much more to keep a pub open right now… When we have no public spaces to utilise, when our homes aren’t the ideal space for us in that moment, we turn to what we have. And what we have is MacDonald’s. Pret A Manger, Wetherspoons… Yes, Wetherspoons. I’m a former employee and I fucking hate that guy. But I can’t deny that Wetherspoons offer something most pubs do not—anonymity. A strange USP, when pubs in their best incarnations are places of warm, personal hospitality.  But it’s this detachment from life, this formation of a pub-as-liminal-space that makes a Wetherspoons pub so welcoming to many.

A 1960s mural with pearly kings and queens and a policeman in a helmet.
Not one of David’s photos.

At A London Inheritance David Sweetland shares his father’s photographs of London, taking new ones for comparison. This week he went to Peckham in South London to look at pubs in particular:

The Kentish Drovers is an old pub, but not the one in the above photo. The current location of the Kentish Drovers was originally a bank, and the pub is now a Wetherspoon’s. It was originally on the opposite side of Peckham High Street, in an area which unfortunately was covered by a very large advertising hoarding so I have no idea if any of the original pub building remains… The earliest reference I found to the Kentish Drovers was from the Morning Chronicle on the 4th of November, 1805, when the leasehold of a cottage was being offered for sale at an auction at “Mr. Mills’s, the Kentish Drovers, Peckham.”

The Apple Tree pub, a grand, imposing building.
SOURCE: Dermot Kennedy.

More photography: Dermot Kennedy’s excellent Pub Gallery blog has a substantial piece on Harry Redfern’s pubs for the Carlisle State Management scheme with plenty of shots taken on location, and a good summary of the history:

The Apple Tree, completed in 1927, was Redfern’s first new pub for the scheme and the first where he was able to fully implement his ideas for the ‘model pub’. It’s a large five bay building with a terracotta ground floor and red brick upper floors with gabled towers at each side. The pub was different in having bars on both the ground floor and first floor, and the layout was uncompromisingly class based. Downstairs were three main bars, the 2nd Class Mens, 2nd Class Mixed and 2nd Class Women’s. There was also a ‘Weekend Bar’ which as the name suggests was opened to accommodate the extra customers expected at the end of the week. Upstairs had the 1st Class Mens and 1st Class Mixed, plus a large kitchen and wash-up area for the food offer that was a key concept of the model pub. Also revolutionary were the indoor toilets on both floors.

Pilsner Coke logo.

Al Reece (Velky Al) at Fuggled has been digging in the German-language archive of the Austrian National Library again, this time looking into the spread of Pilsner in the 19th century:

According to one Doctor Wilhelm Windisch, writing in Wochenschrift für Brauerei, Pilsner and Dortmunder are both “light beers” but of “very different types”, and Dr Windisch poses the question “which is the nobler of the two”? Windisch then goes on to sing the praises of the Dortmunder, saying… that Dortmunder is “always clean”. The German here is “es stets blank”, “blank” can translate into English as “bare”, “shiny”, or “pure”, though a Czech possibility is the word “čistý”, which in English can translate as “clean”. Given the context of later in the quote about a yeasty flavour, I think Dr Windisch is talking about the classic clean flavour that we associate with lagers in general.

Finally, from Twitter, an interesting question that prompted many interesting responses…

…and from Mastodon:

A post from "Remember that time in 2018 when Magic Rock Brewing's double IPA, Neo Human Cannonball, was possibly the best beer in the UK?"

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