News, nuggets and longreads 24 August 2019: Greene King, Kveik, Wellington Boots

Here’s everything on beer and pubs from the past seven days that struck us as especially noteworthy, from Suffolk to Thailand.

The big news of the week – or is it? – is the takeover of Eng­lish region­al brew­ing behe­moth Greene King. Roger Protz, who has been writ­ing about brew­ery takeovers for half a cen­tu­ry, offers com­men­tary here:

In every respect, this is a far more wor­ry­ing sale [then Fuller’s to Asahi]. Asahi will con­tin­ue to make beer at the Fuller’s site in Chiswick, West Lon­don. It’s a com­pa­ny with a long his­to­ry of brew­ing. CK Asset on the oth­er hand has no expe­ri­ence of brew­ing and its main – if not sole – rea­son for buy­ing Greene King will be the own­er­ship of a mas­sive tied estate of 2,700 pubs, restau­rants and hotels. The Hong Kong com­pa­ny, which is reg­is­tered in the Cay­man Islands, is owned by Li Ka-Shing, one of the world’s rich­est men. He has a war chest of HK$60 bil­lion to buy up prop­er­ties and com­pa­nies through­out the world.

This did­n’t make quite the splash the Fuller’s sale did for var­i­ous rea­sons: it was­n’t a brew­ery-to-brew­ery sale, for one thing, so is hard­er to parse; and Greene King is far less fond­ly regard­ed by beer geeks than Fuller’s.

We’re anx­ious about it not because we espe­cial­ly love Greene King but because it’s poten­tial­ly yet anoth­er sup­port­ing post knocked out from under British beer and pub cul­ture. See here for more thoughts on that.


Mystery yeast.

Lars Mar­ius Garshol has been try­ing to get to grips with a mys­tery: is the yeast strain White Labs sell as Kveik real­ly Kveik? If not, what is it?

If this yeast was not the ances­tral Muri farm yeast, what was it doing in Bjarne Muri’s apart­ment? It very clear­ly is not a wild yeast, but a mix of two domes­ti­cat­ed yeasts. It does­n’t seem very plau­si­ble that the air in Oslo is full of those. On the oth­er hand it does­n’t seem at all plau­si­ble that this was the ances­tral Muri yeast… Two things seem clear: this is a domes­ti­cat­ed fer­men­ta­tion yeast, and it’s prob­a­bly not the ances­tral Muri yeast. The lat­ter sim­ply because it does­n’t seem well suit­ed for that par­tic­u­lar brew­ing envi­ron­ment.


A tea room.
Lyons Cor­ner House, 1942. SOURCE: HM Government/Wikimedia Com­mons.

Not about pubs, but adja­cent: Thomas Hard­ing has writ­ten an account of the his­to­ry of his fam­i­ly’s busi­ness, J. Lyons & Co, which is reviewed in the Guardian by Kathryn Hugh­es. We became fas­ci­nat­ed by Lyons while research­ing 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, because of this kind of thing:

From the 1920s you could pop into a Lyons tea shop to be served by a “nip­py”, a light-foot­ed wait­ress got up like a par­lour­maid. If you were a work­ing girl of the newest and nicest vari­ety – a sec­re­tary, teacher or shop assis­tant – you could eat an express lunch on your own in a Lyons with­out risk­ing your respectabil­i­ty. If you were feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly smart, you could go up to “town” and stay in the art deco-ish Strand Palace or Regent’s Palace hotels, ver­nac­u­lar ver­sions of elite insti­tu­tions such as Claridge’s or The Savoy. In the evening you might ven­ture out to the “Troc”, or Tro­cadero, in your best togs, where you could enjoy a fan­cy din­ner and dance to a jazz band.


Wellies
SOURCE: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

Mark John­son has writ­ten an account of a week­end spent at Thorn­bridge Brew­ery’s Peak­ender fes­ti­val with a typ­i­cal dash of acid:

I just can’t under­stand any­body being dis­grun­tled about a lit­tle mud. We have worn our wellies on our last two vis­its to Peak­ender and not need­ed them. We wore them in 2019 because, guess what, it is still a fes­ti­val and this time we hap­pened to need them. Wad­ing through the show­ground site for two days was not an issue to us at all. Maybe it is because of where we live, I don’t know, but when I see peo­ple mut­ter­ing to them­selves about the state of the ground, whilst try­ing to make it to the toi­let wear­ing FLIP FLOPS… heav­en for­bid… I don’t know…


Buffy's Bitter.

Paul Bai­ley (no rela­tion) has some inter­est­ing notes on the demise of Buffy’s Brew­ery (one we’d nev­er heard of) and the prob­lem with ‘badge brew­ing’:

The clo­sure was blamed on there being too many brew­eries in Nor­folk, and with over 40 of them all com­pet­ing for a slice of a dimin­ish­ing mar­ket, some­thing had to give. Like many indus­try observers, I was more than a lit­tle sur­prised to learn that Buffy’s had gone to the wall, but Roger Abra­hams, who found­ed the brew­ery, along with Julia Savory, claimed that the micro-brew­ing sec­tor was close to sat­u­ra­tion point, and that com­pe­ti­tion between brew­ers “had become very aggres­sive.”


We don’t know any­thing what­so­ev­er about brew­ing in Thai­land but it turns out to be a com­plex busi­ness, accord­ing to this arti­cle from the Bangkok Post:

No one but the ultra rich are allowed to brew beer for sale in Thai­land. The law is as unjust and out­ra­geous as that. And no law­mak­er has suf­fered the bit­ter taste of inequal­i­ty in the brew­ing indus­try quite like Future For­ward Par­ty MP Taopiphop Limjit­trako­rn, who in Jan­u­ary 2017 was arrest­ed for brew­ing and sell­ing his own craft beer… On Wednes­day, Mr Taopiphop, 30, took Deputy Finance Min­is­ter San­ti Prompat to task over his min­istry’s reg­u­la­tion that stops brew­ing start-ups from exploit­ing the grow­ing thirst for new flavours.


Final­ly, much to the amuse­ment of British com­men­ta­tors, Amer­i­can pop super­star Tay­lor Swift has been writ­ing about Lon­don, includ­ing a pass­ing men­tion for pubs:

 

There are more links from Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day most weeks and from Alan McLeod on Thurs­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 17 August 2019: Harvey’s, Guinness, Star Wars

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that struck us as bookmarkworthy in the past week, from Star Wars to Sussex Best.

First, a bit of inter­est­ing news that we missed ear­li­er in the month: Tow­er Ham­lets Coun­cil has added 37 his­toric pubs to its local preser­va­tion list, giv­ing them pro­tec­tion against devel­op­ment and demo­li­tion. Local list­ing is a way of safe­guard­ing build­ings that aren’t for­mal­ly list­ed by His­toric Eng­land but are of impor­tance with­in indi­vid­ual regions or com­mu­ni­ties. They’re par­tic­u­lar­ly handy for pubs which aren’t often espe­cial­ly notable in terms of their archi­tec­ture, espe­cial­ly after mul­ti­ple com­pre­hen­sive refurbs, but which are cul­tur­al­ly and social­ly impor­tant.


Anoth­er bit of news, from The Brew­ers Jour­nal, via @longm8: Bow­ness Bay Brew­ing has acquired two oth­er local brew­eries. This is some­thing we’ve been expect­ing to see more of for a while, as part of the Great Cycle. If you hear of local exam­ples, do let us know.


Plastic footballs.

Kirsty Walk­er wants to cut down on her booze con­sump­tion a lit­tle which is why she’s come up with the goal count chal­lenge 2019:

Sim­ply put, on a match day in the 2019–20 sea­son, I will only be drink­ing one alco­holic drink for every goal my team scores… I go out on Sun­day, Tues­day, and Fri­day nights, and Man­ches­ter United’s first match of the sea­son is on Sun­day. Of we score no goals, I shall not drink. If we score three goals, I’ll have my usu­al three pints. If we score eight goals against Chelsea, in the first game of the season…well I’m off work on Mon­day so let fate decide.


Non alcoholic beer: 0,0

Relat­ed: for Drinks Retail­ing News, vet­er­an com­men­ta­tor Phil Mel­lows has been look­ing into the (non) drink­ing habits of young peo­ple:

Remem­ber Binge Britain? Only a few short years ago we were real­ly wor­ried about young peo­ple drink­ing too much, falling over and show­ing their pants. And now, sud­den­ly, we’re wor­ry­ing they’re not drink­ing enough. What are they up to? Judg­ing by the top-line sta­tis­tics, the move away from alco­hol among the young has been dra­mat­ic, dri­ving the decline in UK con­sump­tion over the past 15 years. A study of 10,000 16 to 24-year-olds last year found that 29% of them didn’t drink at all, up from 18% in just 10 years. Bur­row beneath the sur­face, though, and a more com­plex pic­ture begins to emerge.


Oga's Cantina
SOURCE: Dis­ney­land web­site.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a new attrac­tion at Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia which offers an immer­sive expe­ri­ence in the world of George Lucas’s space opera film series. Lisa Grimm, a ded­i­cat­ed Star Wars fan, has been and answers the ques­tion we all want answered: what’s the pub like?

Yes, it was crowd­ed, even with the required reser­va­tions, but the atmos­phere in Oga’s Can­ti­na is pure Star Wars, which, for me, is pure bliss, with the added bonus chuck­le that those who wring their hands over KIDS IN BREWPUBS will find them stand­ing at the bar here; they may not serve droids, but there are great non-alco­holic options for younger set, or, equal­ly, those not look­ing to get bombed at 10 am, if that hap­pens to be your appoint­ed time.


Fuggles hops at Harvey's.
SOURCE: Pel­li­cle.

For Pel­li­cleMatt Cur­tis has writ­ten a great exam­ple of one of our favourite types of arti­cle: an in-depth look at a sin­gle notable beer. In this case, it’s Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best – a beer that’s quirki­er than its name and appear­ance might sug­gest, as Matt explains:

[Harvey’s Best] rep­re­sents the quin­tes­sence of the beau­ty of tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish beers,” Yvan de Baets, co-founder of laud­ed Bel­gian brew­ery Brasserie de la Senne tells me in a recent email. “It imparts a per­fect bal­ance between malt and del­i­cate hops, a sub­tle fruiti­ness, a great body and a fan­tas­tic, unique yeast char­ac­ter, due to the mag­ic of open fer­men­ta­tion and the fact that they haven’t prop­a­gat­ed [yeast] in decades.”

(We’d like some­one to pub­lish an anthol­o­gy of essays like this – twelve beers that shook the world, or what­ev­er.)


Guinness Extra Cold

And, in fact, from Bring on the Beer, here’s the basis of anoth­er pos­si­ble entry – a love let­ter to Guin­ness:

But for me, despite Anheuser Busch’s mar­ket­ing, there is only one true king of beers. One that I will always rank high­er than even the finest, bestest, most tasti­est beer of the lot. And I am well aware that by rever­ing this drink, I am putting myself at odds with a lot of the val­ues I claim to espouse; yet at the same time plac­ing this drink on a pedestal is entire­ly in sync with my belief that qual­i­ty, sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty rules.


Final­ly, this Tweet was bounced our way by @IanGReeve who, quite under­stand­ably, wants to know more…

That’s it for this week. If you want more read­ing, check out Stan Hierony­mus’s Mon­day links round-up, and Alan McLeod’s from Thurs­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 10 August 2019: sexism, shandy, Smithwick’s

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in beer and pubs in the past week, from the Great British Beer Festival to comedians in pubs getting bladdered.

Undoubt­ed­ly the biggest sto­ry of the week, mak­ing it into mul­ti­ple news­pa­pers and even on to break­fast TV, was the fact that this year’s Great British Beer Fes­ti­val was deci­sive­ly, con­vinc­ing­ly wel­com­ing to women. Here’s how Rebec­ca Smithers report­ed it for the Guardian:

Drinks that have fall­en vic­tim to crude stereo­typ­ing – such as Slack Alice, a cider described as “a lit­tle tart” and pump clips fea­tur­ing scant­i­ly-clad bux­om women – have been banned from this week’s event at London’s Olympia which is set to attract tens of thou­sands of vis­i­tors… The blan­ket ban goes a step fur­ther than a new code of con­duct launched by the cam­paign group last year… All 1,000-plus beers, ciders and per­ries avail­able at the fes­ti­val have been checked to ensure they adhere to Camra’s char­ter and strict code of con­duct, which sets out its com­mit­ment to inclu­siv­i­ty and diver­si­ty.

This seems to chime with the expe­ri­ence of women who were actu­al­ly at the fes­ti­val, such as beer indus­try vet­er­an Rowan Molyneux (who also hap­pens to be in the pho­to at the top of the Guardian article).She had this to say on her blog:

From the start, there was a gen­er­al feel­ing that this year was going to be dif­fer­ent. The news that beers in keykeg would be present seems to have piqued people’s inter­est, for one thing. It sig­nalled that CAMRA was tak­ing a step into the mod­ern world, and that mood car­ried through­out the rest of the fes­ti­val. Take this year’s char­i­ty of choice, for exam­ple. I nev­er thought I would see Great British Beer Fes­ti­val atten­dees being able to donate to Stonewall and wear­ing stick­ers that state “Some peo­ple are trans. Get over it!”

Melis­sa Cole also seems to have been won over:

This all sounds pret­ty good to us, goes far beyond the tokenism and half-heart­ed ges­tures of the past, and sets up CAMRA well for the future.


Kilkenny

Liam at Beer­Food­Trav­el has put togeth­er a com­pre­hen­sive set of notes on pre-20th cen­tu­ry brew­ing in Kilken­ny, Ire­land. A dogged and detail-focused schol­ar, we always enjoy read­ing the fruits of his research, espe­cial­ly when he’s bat­tling to bring down bull­shit brew­ery back­sto­ries:

The ear­ly brew­ing his­to­ry of Ire­land is often quite murky, and try­ing to pin­point the exact posi­tion of brew­eries and the brew­ers that oper­at­ed in any give loca­tion is quite a tricky job until we get to the era of com­mer­cial direc­to­ries, bet­ter record keep­ing, accu­rate maps and archived con­tent of news­pa­pers. Even after that point the his­to­ry and devel­op­ment of brew­eries is dif­fi­cult to track, espe­cial­ly beyond The Pale. Kilken­ny’s brew­ing his­to­ry is sim­i­lar in one way but some­what dif­fer­ent in anoth­er, as much of that his­to­ry is dif­fi­cult to clear­ly see due to being mud­died by decades of mar­ket­ing spiel which has been repeat­ed and reprint­ed over the years.


Beautiful beer glass.

Jeff Alworth chal­lenges an often-repeat­ed asser­tion in a piece enti­tled ‘Are Pil­sners real­ly the hard­est beers to make?

The dif­fi­cul­ty of a pil­sner is its sim­plic­i­ty, but the dif­fi­cul­ty of a good IPA is its com­plex­i­ty. Brew­ers must har­mo­nize much stronger fla­vors, and this presents its own chal­lenge. Fig­ur­ing out how the hops will har­mo­nize, when there are dozens of hop vari­eties avail­able that can be used in thou­sands of com­bi­na­tions, and jil­lions (tech­ni­cal term) of com­bi­na­tions when you con­sid­er all the oppor­tu­ni­ties dur­ing the brew­ing process to add these thou­sands of com­bi­na­tions of hop vari­eties… The idea that oth­er beers are “eas­i­er” to make is refut­ed by all the mediocre exam­ples out there. How many crap IPAs have you had? Is the bat­ting aver­age for excel­lent IPAs any bet­ter than excel­lent pil­sners? Not in my expe­ri­ence.


'Ginger Beer Makers and Mush Fakers', 1877.

Mark Dredge has both a new web­site and a new book on the way, on the his­to­ry and cul­ture of lager. As a side inves­ti­ga­tion, he’s been look­ing into the his­to­ry of shandy, or shandy­gaff, with ref­er­ence to pri­ma­ry archive sources:

[The] first men­tion for lager and lemon­ade that I’ve found… [is] from 1870. It comes from the Span­ish city of Seville [and was report­ed in] York­shire Post and Leeds Intel­li­gencer. It’s inter­est­ing to me that there was a lager brew­er in Seville in 1870 – that’s ear­ly for lager’s spread into Spain. I also like that it was served with a ladle. I’d like a shandy ladle.


Louis Barfe

If you want some­thing to lis­ten to as opposed to read, there’s this by his­to­ri­an of light enter­tain­ment Louis Barfe for BBC Radio 4 on the con­nec­tions between drink­ing and com­e­dy.


Final­ly, the usu­al mis­chief from Thorn­bridge’s in-house provo­ca­teur:


For more links and good read­ing check out Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­days and Alan McLeod on Thurs­days.

News, nuggets and longreads 3 August 2019: Apollo, Bass, curation

These are all the stories about beer and pubs we enjoyed most, or learned the most from, in the past week, from Wetherspoons to museums.

From Jeff Alworth, an epic – a two-parter pon­der­ing the ques­tion of why we like cer­tain beers and dis­like oth­ers:

Let’s try a thought exper­i­ment. Select one of your favorite beers and think about why you like it. If I ask you to tell me the rea­sons, my guess is that you will talk about the type of beer it is and which fla­vors you like. Since you’re read­ing this blog, you might talk about ingre­di­ent or even process (Cit­ra hops! Decoc­tion mash­ing!). If I asked a casu­al drinker, some­one who drinks Mich­e­lob Ultra, say, I’d hear dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but prob­a­bly some­thing along the lines Eliz­a­beth War­ren offered: it’s “the club soda of beers.” No mat­ter one’s lev­el of knowl­edge, our opin­ions about beer appear to come from the liq­uid itself.

Part one | Part two


The carpet at the Imperial, Exeter.

Tan­dle­man has been observ­ing what he calls the “slight­ly tense calm” of ear­ly morn­ing in a Wether­spoon pub:

By 8.50 there is a pal­pa­ble sense of expec­ta­tion in the air. Eyes flick towards the bar. A few more arrive. Min­utes tick away and sud­den­ly there are peo­ple com­ing back to their tables with pints of beer and lager. One ded­i­cat­ed soul has two, which he arranges care­ful­ly in front of him, rims almost touch­ing. Over­all pints are even­ly split between lager and John Smith’s Smooth.


The Apollo Inn
SOURCE: Man­ches­ter Estate Pubs

Stephen Mar­land has turned his nos­tal­gic eye on anoth­er lost Man­ches­ter pub – the top­i­cal­ly named Apol­lo Inn in Cheetham Hill. Con­struc­tion, con­ver­sion, con­fla­gra­tion, col­lapse… The tale is famil­iar.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 3 August 2019: Apol­lo, Bass, cura­tion”

News, nuggets and longreads for 27 July 2019: Majorca, Manchester, meniscus

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from London brewers in Dublin to Irish pubs in Majorca.

First, some news – recent­ly released sta­tis­tics on pub clo­sures seem to sug­gest that the rate at which they’re dis­ap­pear­ing has slowed:

There were 42,450 pubs at the begin­ning of 2018 but 914 few­er by the end of the year, a rate of 76 net clo­sures a month. But 235 van­ished dur­ing the first half of this year, or near­ly 40 a month, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics… The com­mer­cial real estate con­sul­tan­cy Altus Group, which com­piled the data, said gov­ern­ment mea­sures designed to staunch the flow of pub clo­sures appeared to be hav­ing some effect.


The Brown Cow pub.
SOURCE: Man­ches­ter’s Estate Pubs

It’s always excit­ing to see that there’s been a new post by Stephen Mar­land at Man­ches­ter’s Estate Pubs and this week we got two:

There’s the usu­al poignan­cy and the usu­al mix of pho­tog­ra­phy, near poet­ry and his­to­ry, now with added spice from notes by the late Alan Win­field.


Beer foam

At The Pur­suit of Abbey­ness Mar­tin Stew­ard has been reflect­ing on the mag­i­cal prop­er­ties of beer foam:

There is some­thing in cask-ale cul­ture that has long looked with dis­taste upon an abun­dance of bub­bles. In this world, quite at odds with that of the bot­tle-con­di­tion­ing Bel­gians, fizz is for­eign. The bar­tender who can pump a pint of Bit­ter to the menis­cus-strain­ing lip of a ses­sion glass achieves the appro­ba­tion of the pen­ny-pinch­ing pub-goer… These old geezers were the ur-Ice­men… Do I com­mit an injus­tice against them? Is this an aes­thet­ic choice, rather than one of econ­o­my? Or per­haps an ide­o­log­i­cal one—a man­i­festo state­ment on the seri­ous­ness of cask ale?


Alcudia
SOURCE: Lady Sinks the Booze

Kirsty is back! An account of crawl­ing around Irish and Eng­lish pubs in Spain might not imme­di­ate­ly seem as if it’s going to be essen­tial read­ing but her writ­ing could make notes on a trip to Tesco enter­tain­ing:

Like every­one has a favourite ring on the cook­er, every­one has a favourite cor­ner of the bar, and mine is front right for both. I think I had a John Smiths, I can’t remem­ber, but it cer­tain­ly wouldn’t be any­thing either craft or Span­ish. I was on hol­i­day from more than work, I declared myself on hol­i­day from beer geek­ery… When we returned to O’Malley’s the fol­low­ing day, our host actu­al­ly greet­ed us. “How’s life Richi?” asked Dar­ren with a cheery demeanor. Richi shrugged. “You want the real answer or the bull­shit cus­tomer answer?” We asked for the real answer. “I hate my life, I hate my job, I wish I was on hol­i­day like you, now what do you want?”


Partizan menu at Guinness
SOURCE: The Beer Nut

We had­n’t heard about the col­lab­o­ra­tion between Eng­lish craft brew­ery Par­ti­zan and Guin­ness until the Beer Nut post­ed a typ­i­cal­ly sharp review of the beers:

It was odd see­ing some inter­net oppro­bri­um being met­ed out to Lon­don brew­er Par­ti­zan when they announced they had cre­at­ed a col­lab­o­ra­tion series of beers with the Guin­ness Open Gate Brew­ery. Craft die-hards tak­ing a pop at the macros and any­one too close to them is not unusu­al, but I did­n’t see any­one hav­ing a go at anoth­er Lon­don­er, 40FT, when it did some­thing sim­i­lar. Par­ti­zan seems to be held to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard… Three col­lab­o­ra­tion brews were cre­at­ed, two at Open Gate and one at Par­ti­zan. The theme of the series was Ital­ian-style aper­i­tifs.

Final­ly, here’s a use­ful sign­post:

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