Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 2 March 2024: Because of the Cats

Here’s our pick of the best reading about beer and pubs from the past week including old breweries, writer’s pubs, and at least one machine gun.

First, a couple of bits of news that grabbed our attention:

  1. The Crooked House, the pub that was burned down in suspicious circumstances, is to be rebuilt by order of South Staffordshire Council. Here’s the news story from the BBC and there’s detailed commentary by Laura Hadland on her website at the bottom of a long page we bet she now wishes she’d structured in reverse order.
  2. A slew of new flagship pubs and taprooms have opened or been announced which strikes us as interesting in the wider gloomy context around hospitality: the Craft Beer Co’s new vintage beer pub, a St Austell and Harbour partnership in Cornwall, and a big Siren place in Reading. All via the indispensable Beer Today.

An old sign advertising Stella Artois on the corner of a bar in Leuven.

At Beervana Jeff Alworth digs into a thorny question: how old really are these breweries that claim to be old? And from where do they get these fantastic founding dates?

According to its own history, Weihenstephan started life as a monastery, going back to the 8th century. A nearby farm produced hops, so the brewery believes the monks were making beer there, but they don’t mark their start date until 1040, when the abbot received a license to brew on the grounds. Over the next four centuries, the monastery burned down four times and was depopulated by three plagues, and hit by armies and at least one earthquake. Still, the monks rebuilt. While the history through this period is pretty sketchy, I don’t have any problem calling this legit continuity… However, here the historical record fragments for the next 400ish years and we skip to 1803, when the monastery was secularized. Did the monks continue to brew consistently that whole time?


A drawing of a man with a pint of beer and his hand raised to his head, looking troubled or pained.

There’s a rather soul-bearing piece by Adrian Tierney-Jones on Substack about loneliness and the pub:

There are certainly times when I have been lonely, a state of mind desperately endless it seemed, alone in a flat that once held someone else’s voice and still contained some of her items, the lack of promise petering out and the slowness of the tick-tock of the clock stifling — anxious times as I thought then, when I thought I wanted to sleep for a long time, even though not long afterwards I realised this feeling was an indulgence… Now though, if I feel I am lonely what am I really asking myself and how do I deal with it? Maybe it is a case that the loneliness I feel can be assisted, as well as resisted, by the imagination and the memories of friends, past lovers, family members and that small island of delicious and decadent solitude I experience when in a crowd, sitting in a pub that is slowly being filled with people for instance. They bring with them their lives, their voices and their happiness…


Illustration: a quiet corner in a quiet pub, with table and stools.

Katie Mather has been thinking about what might constitute a “writer’s pub”:

I’ve been trying to plan a short pubs-and-pushbikes break for myself over the summer where I can also get a little reading and scribbling done, and honestly, it’s become a fixation. No matter where I look I can never be sure what I want. Comfy seats? Not old enough. Rural and quaint? Too isolated. What am I looking for? Does the ideal writers’ pub actually exist? I’ve been zooming in and out of Google Maps all week trying to find a place that strikes the balances I require—most of which are incredibly hypocritical.


The Dirty Shame Saloon, a simple wooden building in wild west style, in the snow.
SOURCE: The Beer Chaser/Yaak Real Estate.

You know when you discover a website that’s apparently been around for years and you’re not sure how you missed it? The Beer Chaser is written by Don Williams, a retiree and compulsive ticker of bars and pubs across America. He has a particular interest in dive bars and one of his favourites is The Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana, which sounds very… American:

Joan Melcher’s two books on Montana Watering Holes [suggest] there are at least three and possibly four incredible stories strictly on how the Shame was originally named… One involves fighter Joe Lewis and a second relates the saga of seven dead cows – shot by a guy named Jimmy who left them on the road in front of the bar.  Don’t forget the other about a mother-in-law of one of the original owners who would sit in the corner of the bar and admonish him “What a ‘dirty shame’ it was that you bought this bar.” 

There are a few things in the post that made us say “Oh dear” and “Yikes”, including a weird reference to someone as “a female”. But as a portrait of a place, and a people, and a pub that is not our world it’s fascinating.


A view of the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle.

Stephen Liddell has been putting together some historic pub crawls which has led him to investigate the story of Newcastle pub landlord William Campbell, “the heaviest man in the world”:

Born in Glasgow in 1856, Campbell was one of seven children in a family who were all of average proportions, but his parents will have realised they had a whopper on their hands when he’d reached four stone at the age of nine months… Inspired by a freak show that visited Glasgow, Campbell decided to exhibit his vast body for money. He billed himself as ‘The Biggest Man In Britain’, ‘Her Majesty’s Largest Subject’ or ‘The Heaviest Man In The World’, depending on how the fancy took him… The Duke of Wellington public house on High Bridge in Newcastle was owned by the brewers Bartleman & Crighton and had been raided by the police for illegal gambling, coming within a whisker of losing its licence. The brewery decided to change the tone of their business by hiring a celebrity to run the pub, and celebrities didn’t come any bigger than William Campbell.


A selection of crisps and nuts on a pub bar.

As you’ll know if you’ve been following us for a while ‘pub grub’, pub snacks, and the rise of the gastropub are favourite subjects of ours. Ron Pattinson is currently mining 1970s editions of The Brewers’ Guardian for nuggets and has shared a few posts on related subjects this week, including a survey about pub food from 1970:

“Apart from the obvious things, like bad hygiene, I think what I dislike most is that one can never really tell how long the food has been standing in the warming cabinet. It’s easy enough to spot a curled up sandwich or a piece of mouldy cheese but if you fancy shepherd’s pie or sausages I am put off by the thought that they may have been re-heated from the morning session. Perhaps I am too nervous.”

This also reminded us of a joke in the 1940 Ealing comedy Saloon Bar, in which a pub landlord asks a barmaid since when the sandwiches have been on sale. “Last month,” she replies, “but they’ve been under glass you know.” He drops one on the floor, picks it up, blows off the dust and puts it back. “Well, see that they go tonight.”


Finally, from social media…

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

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 24 February 2024: Pretty Flower

Here’s our pick of the week’s writing about beer and pubs, with breakfast pints, social awkwardness, alder wood, and more.

First, some sad news from our old stamping ground of Penzance: The Star Inn at Crowlas is closing, getting a tidy up, and going on the market along with the attached brewery. If you followed us during our time in PZ you probably got sick of hearing us go on about Potion 9, the brewery’s flagship beer. When Pete Elvin, the genius behind the brewery died at Christmas, we did wonder what might happen next. And perhaps this was in the back of our minds when we wrote about learning to embrace change in our newsletter last weekend.


A pub clock.
Not a Dublin pub.

For Totally Dublin Michael Lanigan has written about the 6 pubs in Dublin that are allowed to open early in the morning, thanks to old licences. Accompanied by evocative photos by by Malcolm McGettigan it’s packed with small incidents, characters, and salty dialogue:

Inside the Wind Jammer, the deep babel of a few dozen male voices chattering boomed through the barroom, and the bright white lights emanating from its chandeliers sent a jolt through each punter stepping in to escape the drowsy city… “I can tell you a lie about the milkman,” said a man in his early fifties, wearing a black pork pie hat and perched on a stool at the rounded marble counter, a large bottle of Bulmers before him… “This place is a nice friendly shop,” the man in the pork pie hat said. “I’ve seen taxi drivers drop off Americans in here, off a flight. They’d be awake all night and are looking to get a beer. So, I’ve been in here, fucking nine in the morning with a singsong, drinking with cunts from New York.”

(We’re grateful to The Beer Nut for sending us the link to this story, which we’d have otherwise missed.)


Stools at the bar in a pub.

At Pints of Cask Make You Strong Ross Cummins has written just the kind of over-analysis of the pub experience that we enjoy. Working out where to sit, or where not to sit, is something that happens mostly subconsciously, so it’s interesting to see the thought process laid out in agonising detail:

Could we sit at the bar? Not really, one person maybe but not two with winter coats, and a camera bag et al. We did want to sit in the lovely cosy bar area, and there was a small table available. We hesitated though. Instead of one of us immediately sitting in the empty space, in the beautifully traditional British way, we took in the pub, stunning as it is, and got cocky. Just as our pints were being placed on the bar a definite regular walked in, taking off his coat in the process. We assumed he would take the available seats.


The garden at Wiper & True with tower blocks at Lawrence Hill in the background.

Anthony Gladman’s piece about Wiper & True for Pellicle grabbed our attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s one of our local breweries, and the new taproom described in the article is one of our nearest licenced establishments. (Though still not very near.) Secondly, it centres on a beer-cider hybrid – a concept that seemed significant to us back in 2014 when our book Brew Britannia came out. Then, it was Wild Beer Co’s Ninkasi. Now, it’s Orchard Ale:

Technically speaking, Orchard Ale is a graf: a beer-cider hybrid that sees both wort and apple juice blended and fermented together. (The name ‘graf’ actually comes from a fictional beverage invented by author Stephen King in The Dark Tower series of novels.) Wild yeasts do their work with as little intervention as possible from the brewers. The finished drink sits somewhere between a cider and a lambic. It has the crispness of a Somerset cider but with a softening background sweetness from the malt which saves it from being too dry… It’s like drinking the brewery’s deepest roots. The apples come from an orchard Michael planted in 2010 with his wife, Francesca—he made cider long before he ever brewed beer.


Schlenkerla Cap

Here’s a post at Blog-Ums-Bier by Ralf in German (thanks, Google Translate and ChatGPT!) that provides tasting notes and background on the growing range of beers from Schlenkerla in Bamberg:

Recently, I found myself curious about [Schlenkerla’s cherry-wood smoked beer] Weichsel, and pondered the different types of wood that could be used to smoke beers. Then, out of nowhere, Schlenkerla releases their own twist: a dark beer with malt smoked over alder wood. So, what’s the verdict on the Alder? That sounds as if I want to taste the wood itself. And honestly, when it comes to Schlenkerla, that’s not far off. Their standard beer, Märzen, is famous (or infamous) for its distinct ham-like flavour. This brings us to the topic of wood: just as ham is smoked with carefully chosen wood – often juniper for raw ham, and beech for the more delicate sausage varieties – Schlenkerla Märzen also incorporates beech smoke. So, the aroma of beech smoke is something you’re likely familiar with… Alder, on the other hand, is something we don’t really know about.


The spire of Big Ben with the Millennium Wheel in the background.

Having both worked in Westminster when we were younger we were interested to read Kate Whannel’s piece for the BBC about about the history and fate of division bells in pubs around Parliament. We both recall a time when we were in the St Stephen’s Tavern and the division bell rang, prompting David Blunkett to rush past and out of the pub with his guide dog. Anyway, it turns out they’re endangered, and no longer ringing as once they did:

The bell in the Marquis of Granby, once a favourite spot for Conservatives, portentously stopped ringing just before the pandemic shut pubs across the country – and hasn’t started back up since… Pub manager at the Marquis of Granby Jo does want to get it back up and running. “I like having it, it is unique to this area, unique to Westminster, but trying to get it fixed is a nightmare.”


Finally, here’s an interesting looking book by Dr Christina Wade that we’ve ordered and look forward to reading:

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

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 17 February 2024: Running Wild

Every Saturday we round-up the best writing about beer from the past 7 days. This week we’ve got pessimism, optimism, and pure Belgianness.

First, there’s been a flurry of news about brewery closures and changes:


The pumps at the Royal Oak Borough including one for porter

Will Hawkes has shared the January edition of his London Beer City newsletter online. It’s a great read from beginning to end with the provocative title ‘Is this a golden age for London pubs?’

Given the current economic pressures, it’s worse now than ever. But pubs closing is not a phenomenon just of the last 20 years; they’ve been shutting since the Victorian era, as Mark Girouard pointed out in his superb 1975 book Victorian Pubs. “London is full of dead pubs,” he wrote back then; “In Oxford Street between St Giles Circus and Marble Arch there were 19 pubs in 1890; today there is only one.” (That pub, then the Tottenham and now The Flying Horse, is still there, btw: it’s worth a visit for its classic 1890s interior)… You cannot discuss the decline of pubs without acknowledging the huge changes in society that have taken place, and the new and varied options open to ordinary people that didn’t exist in 1890 or even 1980 (the pre-cheeky Nando’s era, if you like). So much of the hand-wringing over pubs is really disgruntlement at how society has changed – which is all very well, depending on your perspective, but it doesn’t get us very far.

His diary of a weekly visit to a posh pub in Dulwich is fascinating, too, and something all of us habitual pub goers could try. Perhaps we’ll keep a Swan With Two Necks diary for a month or two.


The moody interior of The Britons Protection with tiles, low light and red paintwork.

At Jim’s Substack Jim Cullen has written about a small crawl around some classic Manchester pubs with old friends from work, and the nature of old friendships:

The last few months – on a personal level – have been a bit bleak – so, when I spoke to one of my work heroes (my colleague Phil) about getting my old Boss (Mick) out, I was delighted that he took the reins and organised it… so we found ourselves, on pay day, on Liverpool Road, just off Deansgate in Manchester…. Phil noticed me walking in and I was quickly furnished with a pint of Knack (Mild) by Thornbridge. Lightly roasty, creamy and smooth with ever such a light chocolatey note, it was a beautiful reminder that it doesn’t take a old family brewer to brew heritage styles. I love Mild.


A smiling man with a bald head and big smile holding a flipping massive rabbit.
Senne Eylenbosch with a massive rabbit, of course. SOURCE: Belgian Smaak/Cliff Lucas.

At Belgian Smaak Breandán Kearney profiles Senne Eylenbosch and his lambic blendery, Het Boerenerf, which has a romantic back story:

At the 2011 Kasteelfeest—when Eylenbosch was 15 years-old—his parents were busy scooping ice-cream and making pancakes, so Eylenbosch sneaked off to the tent next door, where Sidy Hannsens of Geuzestekerij Hannsens pulled him aside and gave him a glass of Hannsens Oude Kriek. She even gave him a five euro note to buy a Kriek from another producer so he could understand how “a real one” tasted against other versions. It was a small gesture that made a big impression on a young Eylenbosch… Growing up in the Zenne valley, Lambic was always on Eylenbosch’s periphery. The building right next door to where he lived, now a block of apartments, was once a Lambic brewery dating back to the 1860s and owned for a period by his own bloodline. “It was a big scar in the family,” he says of the family’s decision to stop Lambic production in the 1960s. “It wasn’t commonly talked about. It’s still not.”


An old illustration of hops against a bright green background.

It’s fascinating to see the big problems of European history reflected in the smaller local story of controversy around the Upper Austrian hop market in the 19th century. As Andreas Krennmair writes, the price and provenance of hops was a hot issue, and tangled up with antisemitism:

An 1869 article claimed that hop growers were only paid 60 fl. for their hops, while at the same time, Upper Austrian hops were traded in Saaz for 90 to 100 fl. This is blamed specifically on Jewish hop traders, who the anonymous author accuses of arranging with each other, thus controlling the prices. The same author suggests that hop growers should form an association to centrally control the sales of Upper Austrian hops, thus having more leverage to dictate prices… This article was immediately contradicted by an expert.. The editors added a note to the letter, claiming that the author, although only anonymously signed as “an expert”, was a Jewish hop trader… About a month later, another article was published in a different newspaper, denouncing the initial reports as wrong, not only correcting the wrong price information, but also scalding the use of defamatory, antisemitic language.


A fluted pilsner glass with the word 'Time' on one side and 'Smithwicks' on the other.
SOURCE: Liam K/IrishBeerHistory.

We haven’t seen a flared ‘pilsner glass’ in the wild for years – but we might if we go to Ireland, reports Liam K at IrishBeerHistory, in the latest post in his ‘100 Years of Irish Brewing in 50 Objects’ series:

It is an elegant form, if a little top-heavy in appearance when full, although in truth this is balanced by having a thick and heavy base, plus it’s incredibly tactile and extremely practical to drink from, with the width of the mouth of the glass perfectly proportioned for either sipping or gulping its contents. This example from the Smithwick’s brewery in Kilkenny for their forgotten and (ironically) timeline purged Time beer brand has all of those elements, plus a wonderful, thick gold band around its rim that heightens its graceful beauty… Time ales were launched by Smithwick’s in 1960 with the aim of revitalising an ageing brand for more modern times and to celebrate their (so-called) 250th anniversary… The launch meant a complete rebrand for most of the Smithwick’s beers with a new logo, beer labels, coasters and other ephemera, plus of course glassware. Branding on glasses was a relatively new idea here, and Time was probably one of the first beers in Ireland to have its own range of branded glassware.


Finally, from Instagram, it’s Nat Ainscough again, who has been posting pub photos from Glasgow.

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

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 10 February 2024: Station Eleven

Every Saturday morning we round up our favourite reading about beer and pubs from the previous week. This time, we’ve got country houses, faux-snugs, and little bowls of malt, among other delights.

First, some news. SIBA has published updated stats on UK brewery numbers and reports a slight drop from 1828 active brewers in January 2023, to 1815 in 2024. Interestingly, the data they’ve collected also allows them to be more specific about which regions are being hit hardest. This time, it’s the North West of England, and the North more generally. This is always worth remembering when we have conversations about boom and bust in the brewing industry: it’s rarely evenly distributed.


A Victorian painting of farm labourers during harvest with English countryside behind.
‘Harvest‘ by John Frederick Herring, 1857, via Wikimedia Commons.

Martyn Cornell has been looking at English country house brewing – a commercial activity in a different sense, as a byproduct of the real business of farming. His focus is Samuel Unwin Heathcote of Shephalbury Manor in Hertfordshire:

The six quarters of malt at a time that Heathcote bought in 1861 would have been enough to make perhaps 24 barrels of beer, which would have been supplied to the servants and farm workers at Shephalbury Manor, as well as the family (I’m ignoring the malt dust Heathcote was buying because I have no idea what difference that might have made to yields …) Over the year that works out at 96 barrels, or just under 76 pints a day. If that sounds a great quantity of beer, the average number of male farm workers per farm in Hertfordshire in 1851 was 13. Let’s guess that Heathcote was, as a substantial landowner, employing twice the average, that gives him 26 workers. That’s three pints per day per man, which sounds perfectly reasonable for the time.


Ale casks piled in a pub yard.

Whenever someone suggests raising the price of cask ale as a way to save it Tandleman is on hand to argue: “No.” This time, his post is in response to an opinion piece by Georgina Young, head brewer at St. Austell. He writes:

You have to get the quality right, and really there is a fat chance of that given that there is a wide and diverse range of outlets for cask beer, from the specialist supplier to the lone dusty handpump sporting a Doom Bar pumpclip. You have token cask beers, indifferent cellar keeping, differences between brewery outlets and those of pub companies and more. In the diverse pub market we have, you can’t simply wish premiumisation upon it, bump up the price, and hope people will cough up… Already in some specialist outlets that premium does apply, and it applies for the simple reason of trust. People will pay more for the certainty, especially if quality is poor elsewhere.  The other point that should not be forgotten, is that cask beer is a live product. Usually in premium situations, you price an object higher, but sell less at a greater margin. But pesky old cask doesn’t lend itself to this arrangement. It goes off if you keep it hanging around.

One thing that struck us, though, is the suggestion that “the existing consumer base for cask conditioned beer often values its affordability and accessibility”. Our suspicion is that the existing customer base for cask ale has shifted, or has already substantially shifted, to those who can afford to waste a fiver on the odd duff pint.


BrewDog bar sign.

Glynn Davis at Beer Insider has some sharp insight into what’s going on with the global superclass of craft brewers as represented by Mikkeller (which just sold a 20% stake to Carlsberg) and BrewDog:

The strategy since BrewDog received a £213m investment from private equity firm TSG (in exchange for a 23% stake) in 2017 has been all about top-line growth, and the business has failed to make a profit since that date. As part of the deal, TSG received an 18% compounding coupon that has so far earned it a total of more than £600m, which BrewDog now owes. This payment will be made when the brewery is either bought in a trade sale or undertakes an initial public offering… The fact BrewDog is now talking about profits represents a change in the narrative that could be the precursor to TSG initiating a course of action that, seven years into its investment, will enable it to take out some money out for its investors… The craft brewing revolution has long since passed its honeymoon period… But it could be the poster child of the sector, BrewDog, that potentially takes things on to the divorce stage for the industry and craft beer drinkers.

The Mikkeller news did surprise us because we’d totally missed it. Perhaps that’s because, frankly, we’ve never particularly cared about Mikkeller (disappointing beers brewed under contract) but maybe also because we’re not using Twitter. Was it the hot topic for a day or two over there, as it would have been in, say, 2016?


A green-painted pub with lettering in gold: "J. McNeill, select bar, music shop, ales, beers, wines, established 1834".
SOURCE: Lisa Grimm/Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs.

We quite fancy the look of J. McNeill’s as presented by Lisa Grimm at Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs. It’s interesting that Ireland is so dominated by a single brand, Guinness, that a pub with a different stout, Beamish, seems positively rebellious:

As is the case for countless Dublin pubs – indeed, for countless pubs across Ireland – J. McNeill’s Pub purports to be quite a different business, at least partially; in this instance, a music shop… Indeed, J. McNeill’s did begin life as a musical instrument shop, back in 1834, albeit a few doors further down Capel Street, though the music business moved out of Dublin a good 20 years ago, and J McNeill’s has been ‘just a pub’ ever since… But it retains a strong musical tradition, from the instruments in the window to the nightly-ish trad sessions in the main bar, and the wealth of photographs of well-known musicians throughout the pub. While the entrance and front bar are rather small, the pubs winds its way back in slightly eccentric fashion, with a series of not-quite-snugs (you may decide for yourself whether our seating area pictured here, with your own fair author deep under the stairs, counts as a snug) to a cozy back room with another fireplace…


The sign on the Brasserie de la Senne brewery

You might take Eoghan Walsh’s evocative list of his favourite food and drink in Brussels as a to-do list for your next visit to Belgium. But it’s more like a poem than a city guide, and perhaps a more accurate reflection of the culture for that:

Fried plantains and Guinness at Le Vieux Mila

A little bowl of malted barley to chew on at Moeder Lambic

The window nook at Le Coq with a cold €2 Stella

A meringuey half litre of Zenne Pils down the back of the Brasserie de la Senne taproom

A zingy bottle of Zinnebir on the terrace at Bar Eliza (RIP), on a Friday after the school run 

Pre-match weeknight beers upstairs at BBP Port Sud after they’ve finished brewing 

Cask-poured Stouterik from a tankard at Gist

A quiet Orval in the hotel bar of the Esperance


Finally, from Instagram, Nat Ainscough has been photographing pubs again…

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

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 3 February 2024: Poker Face

Every Saturday we compile the best reading about beer and pubs from the past week. This time we’ve got porter, pubs, and personal taste.

First, some news: Steve Dunkley is organising a Historic Brewing Conference to take place in Manchester on 5 and 6 August 2024. Speakers announced so far include Gary Gillman, Lars Marius Garshol, Laura Hadland and Pete Brown. There are also plans for a bar selling recreations of historic beers. Two-day tickets will cost £70. Follow Steve or HistoricBrewCon on your favourite social media platform to find out when they’re available.


The exterior of a large pub at night. The sign reads 'Fishponds Tap'.
The Fishponds Tap in Bristol, which is listed in the book Desi Pubs.

This week’s meatiest read is an academic paper called ‘A pub for England: Race and class in the time of the nation’ by Amit Singh, Sivamohan Valluvan, and James Kneale, originally published in the European Journal of Cultural Studies.

It was brought to our attention by David Jesudason, to whose book Desi Pubs it seems to be a response. Its 11,000 words of Academic-ese (“concomitant”, “searching conceptualisation”, and so on) are not easy to digest. But the effort is worth it.

The main argument, as we read it, is that most writing about pubs ignores the question of race altogether, shoring up the idea that pubs ‘belong’ to white working class culture. But the Desi pub points the way to a different, more inclusive, more complex idea of what pubs can be:

The UK Government’s apparent neglect of the pub has largely been represented in terms of heavy-handed and uncaring state intervention into private businesses, in the form of high and increasing levels of duty on alcoholic drinks, particularly beer; the 2007 smoking ban; and the pandemic lockdowns of 2020–2021. These characterisations of this threat evoke a particular kind of pub, one relying on income from drink rather than food, on smokers, and on the ‘regular’ patron deprived by lockdown of a ‘second home’. And as we have surveyed in the previous section, almost all such interventions, whether right or left, remain insufficiently critical of the ethnonationalist assumptions integral to these ideas of loss, or have even enthusiastically embraced them.


Handmade wooden labels for Ideal Day beer.
SOURCE: Pellicle/Lily Waite.

Last year we went to Vessel in Plymouth where proprietor Sam Congdon talked enthusiastically about Ideal Day, a farmhouse brewery just over the border in Cornwall. We made half a plan to visit, but couldn’t make it. We also made a note to find out more and maybe write something at some point. Now, for Pellicle, Lily Waite has saved us the trouble, with an in-depth profile of brewery founders Nia Rylance and James Rylance, late of Beavertown, Redchurch and Harbour:

Ideal Day is one of a number of businesses that make up Crocadon Farm, perched on Cornwall’s southeastern border with Devon, just north of the town of Saltash at the mouth of the Tamar Valley. A self-styled “agrotourism retreat,” Crocadon is a farm-restaurant founded by chef and farmer Dan Cox… What James is doing is, to some degree, antithetical to how he brewed toward the end of many, if not all, of his previous brewing roles. None of Ideal Day’s beers are particularly to or of a style—very deliberately so. They are, until the imminent launch of Field Beer in bottles, only available in keg, sent out individually, with a hand-finished and stamped keg badge cut down from whatever nearby tree recently fell. They taste of James and Nia’s intent, of railing very, very gently against homogeneity and mass-production. 


Mild taste-off: multiple milds in plastic beakers.

At Tempest in a Tankard Franz Hofer has been looking inward in an attempt to understand his own taste in beer. It’s an attempt to get closer to being objective by being transparent about his prejudices and preferences:

It’s a sunny autumn afternoon and I’ve just arrived in the Oberpfalz, home of Zoigl. I immediately become part of a tableau with Zoigl in the picture, but one that’s also much more than just about the beer. The frame around the tableau encompasses the lively squares and ornate churches, the cobblestone streets that cradle those wonderful Zoigl taverns, the meadows and rolling hills, the colour of the leaves against the sky, the fragrance of the forest as I wander from town to town in search of my next Zoigl… Does all of this cultural stuff make the beer taste “better”? It’s a question I’ve grappled with for years. But the question misses the mark. Instead, it’s more a question of remaining attentive to how these cultural frameworks – from the Wirtshaus and the beer garden to the communal brewhouse and the coolship – have shaped both the beer of a given region and my own taste in beer. Context does matter. And it’s what mitigates against our tendency to reduce beer to a mere object to be evaluated, rated, and scored.


The carpet at the Imperial, Exeter.

For Time Out Fred Garratt-Stanley has been investigating what it means for communities when the Wetherspoon closes. It’s interesting to read as on-the-ground reporting, with quotes from Wetherspoon customers, and as an analysis of the market, highlighting the rise of the Craft Union chain in particular:

It’s true that Craft Union — an affordable pub company that has expanded significantly in recent years — appears to be benefiting from the demise of Spoons. Across the UK, the chain’s emphasis on cheap drinks, community events and a homely atmosphere for regulars has allowed them to scoop up a fair chunk of Wetherspoons’ lost trade… Despite the important role the chain plays as a meeting point for communities – particularly working-class communities – many Spoons pubs struggle to foster lasting emotional attachments with punters. The formulaic, transactional nature of the chain means that when Wetherspoons shut, it may be a blow, but locals will soon start searching for alternatives.


One of our favourite types of blog post – a staple in the early days of beer blogging – is an earnest review of a can from a corner shop. The Beer Nut, with his tendency to try any beer he encounters and judge it fairly, has sniffed out a decent Baltic porter that we’ll be looking for in our local Eastern European supermarkets:

Volfas Engelman Baltic Porter, then, is 6% ABV and the can tells us it’s in “limited supply”. Also that it’s 25 IBU, which strikes me as a little low, even if the scale is largely meaningless. Nevertheless, it pours a handsome dark brown with a modest and mangeable off-white head. The aroma gives gentle caramel and the promise of some herbal liquorice hops. Everything is in order there, then. A lager-clean texture follows, and there’s a surprise in the flavour…


Finally, from Instagram, a pub in the urban landscape on a sunny day… ah, remember sunshine?

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