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.

News, nuggets and longreads 20 July 2019: Friars, Fyne Ales, Fellowship

Here’s all the writing on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from brewery founders to Blackfriars.

First, we don’t know when you’ll need them, or if you’ll need them, but here are two use­ful local guides to book­mark or oth­er­wise file away for ref­er­ence:


The bar at The Old Post Office.

A bit of pub own­er­ship news: Stonegate has bought Ei Group (for­mer­ly Enter­prise Inns). This adds 4,000 pubs to the Stonegate estate mak­ing it the largest in the UK. Nev­er heard of Stonegate? Not many peo­ple have. It oper­ates through sub-brands and tends to keep its name off fas­cias and in-pub col­lat­er­al.


Certified craft.

For Fer­ment, the pro­mo­tion­al mag­a­zine of beer retail­er Beer52, Matt Cur­tis has been reflect­ing on the tricks multi­na­tion­al brew­ing com­pa­nies use in attempt­ing to con­vince con­sumers that their beer brands are Well Craft:

Com­pare [1990s lager ads] to recent adver­tis­ing by Maltsmiths—a pseu­do-craft sub brand invent­ed by the mar­ket­ing mas­ter­minds at Dutch multi­na­tion­al, Heineken—and you’ll see some­thing quite dif­fer­ent. In its adver­tis­ing there is no nod to the prove­nance of its ingre­di­ents or the brew­ery in Scot­land where it is made. Instead we see a young, female brew­er, cart­wheel­ing over hose pipes and around fer­men­ta­tion ves­sels seem­ing­ly in cel­e­bra­tion of the beer’s very exis­tence. Hon­est­ly, if health and safe­ty got wind of this there’d be hell to pay.


The Fellowship.
The Fel­low­ship in 2016.

For Desert­er Tris­tan Park­er has writ­ten about the his­to­ry and present incar­na­tion of The Fel­low­ship at Belling­ham, south Lon­don – a pub we stud­ied for 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub and vis­it­ed dur­ing its final days as a half-derelict, qui­et, down-at-heel booz­er. These days, though…

Locals seemed under­stand­ably pleased to have a buzzy new pub, as what felt like most of Belling­ham appeared to be inside. This was a good sign: The Fel­low­ship was rede­vel­oped to serve the com­mu­ni­ty and on day one that’s exact­ly what it was doing. Let’s hope that con­tin­ues… Inside, it’s a vast space that still retains some of the look of the old venue, plus a bit of kooky art and kitsch wall­pa­per here and there. Reminders of the pub’s past also adorn the walls, includ­ing box­ing gloves and pho­tos of ‘Our ’Enry’ bat­tling Ali.


The Blackfriar pub.

Mean­while, Jane Pey­ton has been hang­ing out at The Black­fri­ar, a famous Vic­to­ri­an-Edwar­dian pub just beyond the bound­ary of the City of Lon­don, and express­es great enthu­si­asm for its over-the-top 1905 dec­o­ra­tive scheme:

It’s show-time! That phrase sings in my head each time I vis­it London’s Black­fri­ar pub. If Walt Dis­ney had been a pub design­er this is what he would have devised. Every sur­face of this spec­tac­u­lar Arts & Crafts/Art Nou­veau hostel­ry is dec­o­rat­ed and then dec­o­rat­ed again. More is more is more. If min­i­mal­ism is your style then either wear sun­glass­es in this pub or go to the post-indus­tri­al con­crete bunker booz­er near­by.


Jonny and Tuggy Delap.
SOURCE: Fyne Ales.

It’s not often we feel moved to link to any brew­ery’s offi­cial blog but we’d like to see more posts like Fyne Ales bio­graph­i­cal trib­ute to its founder, Jon­ny Delap, who died in 2009:

Born in Kenya and raised by his great uncle (his father threw him out when he was six years old), Jon­ny first came to the UK when he was 13 to com­plete his school­ing, before return­ing to Kenya to work on his uncle’s farm. His goal was to gain enough expe­ri­ence to qual­i­fy for fur­ther study at Devon’s Seale-Hayne agri­cul­tur­al col­lege, but there were a cou­ple of bumps in his road back to the UK. First­ly, his father tried to have him kid­napped because he thought Jon­ny was wast­ing his time with farm­ing and should join the Kenyan army. For­tu­nate­ly it was thwart­ed when Jon­ny bought the would-be kid­nap­pers a pint and con­vinced them it would be a bad idea. Sec­ond­ly, the col­lege wouldn’t admit him based on his time work­ing in Kenya, demand­ing instead that his prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence be under­tak­en in the UK.


Final­ly, here’s a fan­tas­tic pho­to of a late leg­endary Bris­tol pub land­lord.

And that’s it. For more links and read­ing check out Alan McLeod on Thurs­day and Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 13 July 2019: Molson, Heineken, RateBeer

Here’s everything that struck us as interesting or noteworthy in beer and pubs in the past week, from Burton to beer vats.

First, some news: fol­low­ing up on its appar­ent col­lapse in Feb­ru­ary, we now hear via 853 that Lon­don brew­ery Hop Stuff has been acquired by Mol­son Coors:

The company’s investors – many of whom were local to Wool­wich – will receive noth­ing from the sale, which came a month after the company’s Twit­ter account announced: “Near­ly there with some­thing great for Hop Stuff!” One of the founders of the com­pa­ny, James Yeo­mans, set up a new com­pa­ny, JY Advi­so­ry Ltd, in March, while Hop Stuff was in tur­moil, accord­ing to Com­pa­nies House records. His wife, Emma Yeo­mans, who found­ed the com­pa­ny with him, resigned from Hop Stuff in April.


Here’s anoth­er nugget: after years of chat, we final­ly know what’s going on with brew­ing at the old Young’s Brew­ery site in Wandsworth – there’s going to be a new pub with attached brew­ery and Sam­brook’s (which has always been some­thing of an homage to Young’s) will also be mov­ing there from Bat­tersea.


And then there’s this, fol­low­ing on from last week’s lit­tle flur­ry of acqui­si­tions by the Beer Hawk:

 

(We also refer you to this post of ours from 2016.)


Heineken sign

For Good Beer Hunt­ing Jon­ny Gar­rett attempts to unpick the pol­i­tics around tied pubs with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to Heineken. We were espe­cial­ly struck by this point on which, we have to admit, we had not put togeth­er two and two:

Slow­ing down pro­ceed­ings and start­ing nego­ti­a­tions well beyond “rea­son­able” terms aren’t the only ways that large pub com­pa­nies are try­ing to restrict the num­ber of pub­li­cans going free of tie. In Heineken’s case, the acqui­si­tions of Beaver­town Brew­ery and Brix­ton Brew­ery were in part to offer beer with “craft” cre­den­tials to their 2,000-strong Star Pubs & Bars’ estate, intend­ing to remove one motive for pub­li­cans to look else­where. This in turn has shut out oth­er large brew­eries and dis­trib­u­tors who had hoped to sign large con­tracts with Star and Punch pubs.

(For years, peo­ple have been say­ing we need more cov­er­age of the busi­ness side of pubs and brew­ing; it feels as if we’re get­ting there, to the point that there’s a sense of com­pe­ti­tion to break sto­ries fastest, have the sharpest take, dig up the best source. Good news, that.)


Molson Coors brewery in Burton upon Trent.

It’s some­times fun to read a piece about beer by some­one who isn’t into beer, like this reflec­tion on “Burton(-)(up)on(-)Trent” by rail­way tick­er Scott Willi­son:

Beer is awful. At least, it is at first. Beer is this orange mess you have to force your­self to like because every­one else is drink­ing it. That first pint you get as a teenag­er, that won­drous moment when you get to drink what every­one else drinks… and then you taste it and it’s bit­ter and flat and gross… Of course, you have to train your­self. You have to force your­self to have more and even­tu­al­ly you get used to it. After a while you sort of like it. Then you real­ly like it. Then you end up an alco­holic like me.


Beer maturing in vats.
Vats at George’s of Bris­tol as pic­tured in the Illus­trat­ed Lon­don News in 1909.

A fas­ci­nat­ing nugget from Mar­tyn Cor­nell: we’ve all heard about the Lon­don porter flood of 1814, a sta­ple of did-you-know pieces for some years now, but Man­ches­ter had a go in 1831. He writes:

[The] vat that burst at Meux’s brew­ery, off Tot­ten­ham Court Road, con­tain­ing near­ly six times as much porter as the one that col­lapsed at Mottram’s brew­ery in Sal­ford in 1831, but eight peo­ple, all women and chil­dren, died in the Lon­don flood, while the only real vic­tim of the one in Sal­ford was a pig that must have had a seri­ous hang­over the next day.


Playing the piano in a London pub.

Excit­ing news: The Ulti­mate Lon­don Pub Crawl is back! Their first post since Novem­ber 2017 is an account of an expe­di­tion to Col­liers Wood in south west Lon­don:

After our cathar­tic reunion, we quick­ly returned to our wry, lacon­ic selves and moved on to The Roy­al Stan­dard… The pub was of the car­pet­ed, live sports, local booz­er vari­ety. Men sat drink­ing, singly and in pairs. I ven­tured to the gents and a solo drinker fol­lowed me. He joined me at the uri­nals, gave me a cheeky wink and said, “it go in one end and out the t’other, dun’t it!” This remark­able insight, deliv­ered in a jaun­ty iambic hexa­m­e­ter, gave me pause for thought. Yes, I thought to myself, my God, yes — the fel­low is right! He then asked me if I was a local, the flat­ter­er. I admit­ted that, no, I lived near Kingston. He then pro­ceed­ed to reel off an accu­rate list of all the river­side pubs south of Kingston Bridge. What a man.


And, final­ly, we don’t exact­ly why, but we love this image: