News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 June 2018: Lager, Gas, Glass

Here’s everything around beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Belgium to Oregon via Moscow. (And with special thanks this week to our Patreon subscribers for suggestions.)

Some news: there is a shortage of CO2 (carbon dioxide) which is affecting not only the food industry but also pubs which rely on it to add sparkle to certain beers and soft drinks. It’s been brought about by a combination of factors, not least of which is the World Cup which causes a Europe-wide surge in demand for lager, especially in Moscow. But…

The [British Beer and Pub Association] has issued some guidance to its members reminding them that CO2 used in drinks, including for dispensing beer at the pumps, must be food grade gas…. “We’d be concerned this is not the time to go looking for a white van man who says they can supply you with CO2,” [Brigid Simmons] said.

(On the whole, people did not take well to the Campaign for Real Ale’s attempt to score a cheeky goal off the back of this by pointing out that cask ale produces its own CO2.)


Graffiti: lager, lager, lager.

Alec Latham has been reflecting on the recent resurgence of lager in the UK, updating on a similar post from last year:

The acid test is when the traditional ale oases that dominate Britain’s rural areas and smaller towns give way to this proper matured beer style – hopefully reflected in pubs where corporate Lager still holds a 70% hold…. Last year in that local catchment, I found evidence of just four breweries (not including a giant – Wells & Young’s). This year, the tally has shot up to thirteen. These counties are by no means brewing epicentres, so this augmentation could be applied nationally – probably with a margin in its favour.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 16 June 2018: Football, Motorbikes, Public Toilets

Here’s everything about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Russia to New York City.

This is a local story for us: for Bristol Cable Maff Tucker writes about The Banjo, as the council estate at Cadbury Heath in east Bristol is affectionately known, and the pub around which life there is centred:

There’s a wall of pictures in the Lamb that remembers the regulars that have passed away. Les points at a framed bikers jacket: “Jamie England, he was abandoned when he was a kid, his nan took him in and brought him up, along with me and my brothers and sisters because our dad worked days and our mum worked nights.”


Plastic footballs.

At Lady Sinks the Booze Kirst Walker offers advice for discerning beer drinkers on how to go about watching the World Cup, which is now underway:

30 minutes before kick-off – get two drinks

At 38 minutes, get two drinks (studies** have shown that most people will attempt to avoid the half time rush at 40 minutes, by which time you’re already at the bar like a genius).

If you need a further drink before 90 minutes, or if there may be significant extra time because Gary Cahill has straight up murdered someone, the time to go is on 67 minutes when statistically a goal is unlikely to be scored.

Related: this seems like a good time to remind everyone of the existence of the craft beer and football map at Beer Frontiers which lists pubs with interesting beer that also have TVs. It’s also worth noting that some chains (BrewDog, Craft Beer Co) that don’t normally show football are making an exception for the World Cup.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads for 9 June 2018: Etiquette, Esters, Ethics

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that we bookmarked in the past week, from matters of manners to jars of juice.

Well, most of the last week: we wrote this on Thursday and scheduled it to post so if anything big happened on Friday, sorry, it’s probably missing.

Let’s start with this piece for the Guardian by Tony Naylor on the new etiquette of the pub. We can’t say we agree with every word but it’s a fascinating snapshot of where things stand in 2018:

People making phone calls, texting and tweeting in the pub is to be expected and, unless they are giving it the full Dom Joly, of no issue. Volume is key. Showing your mate that hilarious video on YouTube? Mute it. Pacifying your kids with Paw Patrol episodes on the tablet? Get their headphones on. Spare us that tinny racket.

See also: R.M. Banks. on Modern Pubmanship.


Cash Money Pound Signs.

Dave ‘Hardknott’ Bailey has gone on record with some details of the anti-competitive measures he understands large suppliers to be taking to push the products of smaller brewers off the bars of UK pubs:

[A bar owner] contacted me a couple of months ago as they were negotiating with suppliers of their major brand lager. It seems that they were being offered a cash lump sum for a two year exclusivity deal. They were being offered £2k cash to kick our Intergalactic Space Hopper off the bar. Apparently it isn’t just one major beer producer that is doing this, it is most of the big multinational brands and is looking a little bit like a cartel and anti-competetive action…. £2k is roughly the annual value of this particular account. We cannot compete in this territory.


Illustration: 'Citrus burst'.

For the Takeout Kate Bernot analyses the brewing industry’s obsession with ‘juiciness’ and the interesting ways it is being achieved by American brewers in 2018:

California-based Ballast Point Brewing (owned by Constellation Brands)…. recently introduced a new variant of its popular Sculpin IPA called Aloha Sculpin. It’s not brewed with pineapple, as the name might imply, but with a yeast strain called Brux Trois that supplies its fruity notes and slightly more rounded texture…. “We played around with this weird new yeast strain that made all these beautiful, tropical flavors. We put it on tap and the beer was gone before we knew it,” says Ballast Point’s director of quality Lauren Zeidler. “We had this collective lightbulb go off that this yeast makes so many amazing tropical flavors and this could be a great pair for some of the best attributes of the base Sculpin.”


Telescope in Cornwall.

We should have written this piece about beer in Cornwall, but we didn’t. Somehow, when we lived there, we never quite got it together, or couldn’t see the overall picture clearly enough, and so held back. For Good Beer Hunting Jonny Garrett, however, has spoke to a wide range of interesting people and given a rather sharp reading. We particularly like the fact that he spoke to the founders of a brewery that failed because of the realities of brewing in the far west:

“A common saying down here is that Cornwall is ‘five years behind London,’ and unfortunately, that’s the case in the beer world,” [Rob] Lowe says. “Traditional cask beer dominates the Cornish pub scene, and seasonality can be a killer. Many small breweries can’t produce anywhere near enough to meet demand in summer, but then spend months barely brewing when the tourists leave. It makes cashflow a nightmare.”

Cornwall has 44 breweries, but 9 have closed in the last decade. That’s not exactly an impressive success rate—clearly, competition for the hearts and mouths of the local cask-drinking population is fierce.


A canal boat and beers.

From Lydia and Lorna at Liquortrips comes a late contribution to #BeeryLongreads2018 in the form of a report on the Worcester Ale Trail:

The Ale Trail – which is the result of a partnership between The Cardinal’s Hat and the Worcester Food Festival – sends you around eight pubs with the view of ordering a pint of real ale in each. Punters have until June 17 to complete the challenge…. The recommended order of completion is you begin your adventure at The King’s Head in Sidbury, heading next to The Cardinal’s Hat on Friar Street before then stopping off at The King Charles on New Street. Then you go on to The Firefly in Lowesmoor, the Imperial Tavern on St Nicholas Street, The Paul Pry in The Butts, Tonic Bar on Foregate Street and finally finishing at The Oil Basin in Copenhagen Street.


And we’ll finish with some sad news:

News, Nuggets & Longreads for 2 June 2018: Flanders, Erith, Easterly Road

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from D&D to WWI.

First, a great story by Liam Barnes that just missed the cut off for last week’s round-up, about the part pubs and bars are playing in the resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons:

On first glance this branch of BrewDog in Nottingham might seem like your typical hipster hangout, but one thing gives it a slightly different air: numerous hand-drawn maps, some character sheets, and voluminous bags of 20-sided dice…. It’s the bar’s monthly tabletop gaming night – and regulars love it…. “I think the escapism is the best bit,” says 27-year-old gamer Hannah Yeates. “For a few hours you can become a completely different person living a completely different life, making decisions you’d never make and forgetting what’s happening in the real world…. It’s liberating.”


German troops sharing beer during World War I.

For All About Beer Christopher Barnes has written a long, detailed, heavily illustrated account of how World War I affected French and Belgian breweries:

The monks of Westmalle and Achel were forced to flee to The Netherlands. The Belgians, in their defense of Antwerp, destroyed a tower at Westmalle to prevent it being used as an observation post by the approaching Germans. Achel was occupied by the Belgians and shelled by the Germans until they were able to solidify their hold on Belgium. To keep citizens from going back and forth over the border with The Netherlands, the Germans erected an electrified fence along the border. Since Achel straddles the border of The Netherlands and Belgium, the fence bisected the abbey’s lands. When the call went out from the German War Department, the monks of Achel were able to sadly watch as their brewery was dismantled. No beer was brewed at Achel until 2001.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 May 2018: Hill Farmstead, Fried Eggs, Fullers

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from interviews to historical ponderings, via a pub crawl in Stafford.

A bit of news to begin: Robinson’s of Stockport has decided to change the branding of its successful golden ale Dizzy Blonde after publicly resisting the idea earlier this year:

Dizzy Blonde has been the focal point of the sexism debate in the beer industry. Despite the fact that Dizzy Blonde is a much-loved brand by many, we don’t have our heads in the sand. It is time to acknowledge that the presentation is not universally accepted by a society that strives for, and celebrates, equality.


A brain.

In an interview for the Morning Advertiser by James Beeson influential American brewer Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead has spoken about mental health and attitudes to alcohol in the world of craft beer:

“I was doing 12 to 14-hour days and because I live 15ft away from the brewery, there was very little decompression. I would typically drink too much in order to artificially decompress, and then I wouldn’t sleep well. Then when I woke up I would still be tired, so then I would drink as much caffeine as I could, which would then accelerate an overall sense of anxiety. It was a vicious circle.”

(Footnote: Mr Hill has since complained about this story, apparently surprised that Mr Beeson identified the most interesting parts of a broader conversation and shaped it into a narrative. Which is, of course, what proper journalists do.)

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 May 2018: Hill Farmstead, Fried Eggs, Fullers”