Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from authenticity to Austria’s part in the birth of lager.
First, some takeover news from the US: Ballast Point has been sold again, sort of, as has Anderson Valley. It feels as if there’s often a flurry of buying and selling of breweries just before Christmas as people seek to seal deals before the end of the calendar year. The twist this time? It isn’t multi-nationals doing the buying. Here’s Jeff Alworthon Ballast Point:
Now that we’ve had 48 hours to digest the news that Kings and Convicts, a tiny, two-year-old brewery, has indeed purchased Ballast Point, new questions have emerged. Initially everyone was trying to learn who Kings and Convicts (K&C) were. Was the deal legit? And, because Ballast Point was purchased for a billion dollars just four years ago, the question everyone wanted answered—what was the (fire?) sale price?
For Good Beer HuntingLily Waite has profiled Marble, the pioneering Manchester microbrewery that began its life behind one of Britain’s best pubs:
“I came here for a drink, got involved in a lock-in, and came away with a job,” Marble’s founder, owner, and director Jan Rogers tells me over a pint. “That was it!”… Often found with her trusty vape in hand, Rogers is a woman with a firecracker wit and just as much energy—her calm is someone else’s boisterous; her excited is your or my whirlwind. She’s razor-sharp of both mind and expletive-laden tongue. In an industry dominated by men, she may not exemplify a “typical” brewery owner but, frankly, I can’t imagine her giving a flying fuck—and it’s not like that’s slowed her down.
Standing in the drizzle of an unseasonably chilly Saturday, the fans of Altrincham FC aren’t fazed. They’ve got their scarves and their pride, but they’ve also got the best bar in any league. Well, according to Paul Rooney who runs it, anyway. He’s a lifelong Manchester United fan, but ten years ago he stopped making the pilgrimage to Old Trafford and started watching the Robins at Moss Lane instead… “It just got too expensive,” he says, opening our conversation with complete honesty. “To be honest, it’s not a great experience there anymore. I’m in my mid-thirties and so I might not have been old enough to drink back then, but I remember when you could stand and watch the game and have a beer. The atmosphere in the higher leagues is vanilla now. I’m not prepared to pay for it.”
We tend to leave wine be – we just don’t know enough about it and don’t have time to learn – but this piece by Rachel Monroe on ‘natural wine’ for the New Yorker is crammed with parallels to, and sideways insight into, the world of beer:
In place of Parker’s muscular Bordeaux, the wines of the moment were often described as glou glou, French for “chuggable”: light reds frequently made via carbonic maceration, a fermentation technique that results in fresh, fruity wines. (It’s also quick; the wines are often ready to sell a few months after the grapes are harvested.) They sometimes tasted self-consciously unconventional. Millennials with appetites for difficult beverages—sour beers, bitter spirits, kombucha, apple-cider vinegar—appreciated wines that were cloudy and effervescent, with a noticeably fermented funk. Wine bars celebrated previously obscure styles and regions: pét-nat, skin-contact, Georgian, Slovenian.
Faversham is just south of the coast, between Maidstone and Canterbury in East Kent, the near-about birthplace of the East Kent Golding—a hop prized around the world for its aromas of lavender, thyme, and honey. It doesn’t matter if you’re the oldest brewery in the world or the youngest, the respect for this 230-year-old hop variety is often unmatched… You needn’t double-check the programme to know what they’re celebrating at the festival—hops are everywhere. The town is drenched in them. If they’re not working as a bittering or aroma agent in people’s pints, then they’re draped over shop fronts, or crawling through fences.
Real acceptance into the inner sanctum of the regular pub crowd takes time and patience. Here’s a quick guide:
1. Find a pub where most people sit around the bar.
2. Pick a barstool on the edge of where you perceive the regulars sit.
3. Take a newspaper – you don’t want to seem like you need them to entertain you. Do not take a book. Repeat. Do not take a book. This scares people and will set you back hours in your mission.
Here’s a blog post of a type for which we have a real soft spot: a detailed, footnoted history of a specific pub, namely The Four Horseshoes in Reading, AKA The Long Barn. Writing for The Whitley PumpEvelyn Williams explains its origins, its place in a famous local libel case, its rebuilding, reinvention and eventual demolition:
On the front page of the Tory supporting Berkshire Chronicle on 24 September 1825 was a letter from James Leach of the Four Horseshoes addressed to ‘Brother Landlords’. He described how the renewal of his licence for the public house had been refused by magistrates at the annual licensing sessions… Leach wrote that around midsummer he had been given notice to quit by Mr Stephens and when he attended the magistrates sessions he was surprised to be told that his licence would not be renewed but was not given any reason. In particular he focused on the treatment he received from one of the magistrates, John Berkeley Monck one of the Whig MPs for Reading.
For a few months, it looked like Simon Young’s minuscule stake in Britain’s craft beer boom was building into a tidy little nest egg. The Suffolk-based copywriter spent years trickling investment – £1,500 – into south London brewery Hop Stuff, and his 0.3 percent share in its nascent success was worth a reported £60,000… Then, like a Friday lunchtime sesh degenerating in queasy slow motion to 4AM gutter oblivion, it all went wrong. The writing was quite literally on the wall – in the form of a forfeiture notice from Hop Stuff landlord for unpaid rent.
Caru cu Bere (the beer wagon) has a sterling reputation for local beer and cuisine, located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building in the old Lipscani area of the city. An inn has existed on that site for over 130 years, and the beer was originally transported in on wagons, so the story goes. Based on the recommendations we’d received, our expectations were high and we’d even remembered to book a table (!), so it was disappointing to find that the food was a little flavourless, the house beer was pretty average and the service was bordering on rude – the classic complacency traits of an established institution which doesn’t need to work for its business. The building is, indeed, rather beautiful, but that’s pretty much all I’d bother visiting for.
For, oddly, Gear Patrol, Ben Keene, who commissioned us to write for Beer Advocate a few times, has taken an interesting approach to the listicle, asking a group of American brewers which beers they think don’t get enough attention. Here’s an interesting tip, for example:
“While regular Birra Moretti is a relatively bland industrialized lager, the La Rossa is a wonderful German-style doppelbock made in Italy. Clear, malty, and bitter enough to balance the sweetness. It arrives in the United States in very good condition and not as oxidized and old tasting as most of the doppelbocks from Germany and it is relatively easy to find.” — Ashleigh Carter, Bierstadt Lagerhaus
There are lots of things to enjoy in Martyn Cornell’s account of being whisked away to Blackburn, Lancashire, to drink a stout brewed with Bovril but our very favourite bit is Phil Dixon’s account of his Dad’s home-brewing regime:
“It was mashed in a bath, and then the wort was transferred into one of those top-loading washing machines to be boiled with hops, and then it was pumped out and fermented. So we couldn’t have a bath for a week and we couldn’t wash our clothes.”
Finally, here’s a Tweet that will make at least some of our readers wince:
When guys turn 30 they have to pick a subclass: – podcaster/streamer – beer guy – guy who bikes to work – golfer