News, nuggets and longreads 26 October 2019: Westminster, Witbier, white men

Here’s everything in writing about beer and pubs that struck us as especially interesting in the past week from portraits of pubs to ponderings on the passing of time.

We always get a bit excited when big American publications write about English pubs. In this case, it’s the New Yorker, with a portrait of St Stephen’s Tavern in Westminster, London – the unofficial pub of parliament:

An old pub, St. Stephen’s Tavern, which describes itself as a “good old fashioned London boozer,” sits at the edge of Parliament Square (it was a favorite of Churchill’s). Inside, protesters escaping the crowds were sitting together with their signs, in groups of three or four, at tables full of pints and chips. It had started to rain, and the windows, through which you could see marchers pressed almost against the glass, were slightly foggy. On the TV, M.P.s were voting on an amendment put forward by Oliver Letwin, which would require Parliament to withhold approval of a Brexit deal until after legislation outlining its implementation had passed.

Wild hops, Richmond, London.

For Let’s Beer it for the Girls Rachel Auty gives an account of the making of a crowdsourced beer using hops grown in the back gardens of Harrogate:

Most of us have just harvested year two. Last year our combined contributions were chucked in a brew of Harrogate Brewing Co’s delicious Plum Porter – it’s naturally an absolute honour to drink such a great local beer knowing that particular brew contains hops that have grown in your garden. However, the haul from our collective efforts was fairly small and wasn’t enough to define a brew of its own nor present any kind of real flavour… This year was different.


Prompted by, er, us, Stan Hieronymus has written about the shifting identities of certain well-known beers:

Hoegaards Wit was one of 42 beers Michael Jackson awarded 5 stars in his first Pocket Guide to Beer in 1982. Jackson describes the brewing process as well as listing the ingredients. “A very distinctive top-fermenting culture is used, in open tanks, and the beer is warm-conditioned for a month before being given a dosage in the bottle,” he wrote. “When young, it is faintly sour and sometimes a little cloudy, but with maturity it becomes demi-sec and almost honeyish, and gains a shimmering, refractive quality called ‘double shine.’”… That’s not the way Hoegaarden White is brewed today.


In the wake of some bizarre developments in court in the Founder’s Brewing case, Ruvani has written about racism and the cultural dominance of white men:

To me, this is not a beer-specific problem. It relates to every industry which white men feel belongs to them – particularly creative industries. These industries are not seen as falling into the traditional domain of POCs and therefore we are not welcome there. We are not seen as taste-makers, culture-creators. We are seen as the drones, the cogs who do the menial labour, whether we’re cleaning the office or fixing the computer. Culture, be it beer culture, literature or most other cultural arenas, is demarcated as white male territory, and anything that women or POCs or, heaven-forfend, female POCs, create is automatically ‘niche’, with all the connotations and barriers that come with that word. If we infringe into this hallowed space then they see it as fair game to mock us, deride us, question our competency and of course, make fun of our appearance and our culture.

A half of mild ale.

At Shut Up About Barclay Perkins the brewing historian Ron Pattinson provides a snapshot from the slow death of mild, in the aftermath of World War II:

Before the war there had been many London Milds with gravities over 1040º. By the time the war ended, few were above 1030º. And while before the war, most breweries made multiple Milds, after it many only brewed one… Some Best Milds were reintroduced in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but these mostly had quite modest gravities, rarely passing the dizzying height of 1040º. Even Mainline, a renowned strong Mild before the war, struggled to reach 3% ABV in its aftermath.

Iceland (map)

David Nilsen has written an elegant evocation of the bars and beers of Reykjavik, Iceland, for Pellicle:

Reykjavik’s cafes and bars were islands of light and warmth in a city awash in its own atmospheric fury. The beer bars of Reykjavik—Skuli Craft Bar, Micro Bar, Mikkeller & Friends (now closed), and others—are cosy in a way that seems to intentionally compensate for the bleak pragmatism of the city’s exteriors. A warm, steamy window appears in the dark of a dripping side street. You open a door, and the idea of warmth enters you before the temperature itself does. The ceiling is low, as is the lighting, and the volume. The bars are different, each, but united in their ensconced insistence on hedonistic comfort. And then there’s the beer.

Illustration: Victoriana.

The always thought-provoking Jeff Allworth asks an interesting question: what happens when all those breweries that seemed new and exciting during the boom become ‘old school’ and ‘boring’ at the same moment?

This current crop of breweries has thrived on being new in a moment when the market rewards novelty. That is … not sustainable. A lot of yesterday’s commentary about Lompoc (including mine) revolved around how the brewery seems old-school, as if that’s an inherent trait. Of course it’s not, and once, Lompoc was seen as a young, exciting brewery… Or take Ninkasi Brewing, now a mere dozen years old. It once defined the cutting edge in Oregon. This isn’t an exaggeration—for a few years in the late aughts, it was the hottest brewery, the one exciting drinkers and causing competitors to respond. Yet twelve years is a lifetime in tastes, and now Eugene’s finest is now considered fatherly.

And finally, a plug for ourselves:

For more beer-related reading check out Alan McLeod’s roundup from Thursday.

News, nuggets and longreads 19 October 2019: Lancashire, language, local

Here’s everything that struck as noteworthy in beer and pubs in the past week, from foeders to the importance of L.

Martyn Cornell has been reflecting on the urge to nitpick over the language people use to talk about beer and brewing:

I had a small Twitter spat yesterday with Duration Brewing after they said they were installing a coolship and foeders at their brewery in Norfolk. A wave of grumpy old mannishness washed across me, and I tweeted that we don’t have coolships and foeders in Britain, we have coolers and vats. Why use a foreign word when we have English words that mean the same thing?

Wetherspoon pub sign, Penzance.

Benjamin Nunn at Ben Viveur is a fan of the Wetherspoon pub chain but not uncritical. In his latest post, he lists five things he likes and five he doesn’t:

3. Collectability. For those of us for whom brewery- and beer-ticking isn’t enough, there’s the challenge of trying to visit all the Spoons. It’s tremendous fun. Some have visited over 1000 and to them I doff my Wethercap. (If you’re even slightly interested in taking up this hobby, SpoonsTracker makes it easy!)

Casked in Rawtenstall.
SOURCE: Duncan Mackay/Pubmeister.

Is Rawtenstall in Lancashire “the Hackney of the north”? Duncan Mackay thinks it might be, unless it’s the other way round:

It’s one of several solid former mill towns that seem to be increasingly attractive to the Manchester diaspora. How else to explain two micropubs, a station bar, a brewery tap, a temperance bar and, wait for it, a nano pub, all doing a brisk trade on a dreich Sunday evening… Two of the above (Hop and Buffer Stops) have graced previous Good Beer Guides…. The new addition is Casked, described as a micropub but really a decent sized beer and gin bar that looks as if it occupies two former shops.

Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

For The Morning Advertiser Stuart Stone looks into why so many traditional British beers have updated their branding lately, and the importance of branding to consumers more generally:

Hobgoblin’s modern makeover is further vindicated by the fact that 41% of 18 to 25s and 39% of 26 to 35s agree that “I think modern beer brands understand me better as a consumer”, according to Streetbees – with only 14% of each age-group disagreeing with the statement. ­ Is falls to an average of 34% across all age groups and 27% among those aged over 46.

(Note the blooper, though: Georgina Young is head brewer at Bath Ales, a subsidiary of St Austell, not at St Austell proper.)

A nugget from Stan Hieronymus: what if all breweries localness was listed like ABV?

Fullsteam Brewery in North Carolina has made a small change in the signage it uses at beer festivals.

A line that previously read “AUTUMN LAGER festbier, 6% ABV, 99% local” now reads “AUTUMN LAGER festbier, 6% ABV, 99% L.”

Finally, from Twitter, via @teninchwheels:

Stan has retired from link wrangling but do check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up for more good reading.

News, nuggets and longreads 12 October 2019: silly stout, Somerset cider, sad stories

Here’s everything on the subject of beer, pubs and (this month only) cider, that caught our attention in the past few days, from lost friends to last beers.

Between us we’ve encountered Roger Wilkins of Wilkins Cider a few times over the decades. When Ray was young, his Dad used to buy cider from the farm every now and then. And until a year or so ago, Wilkins used to supply the Drapers Arms so the sight of Mr W himself steaming through a crowded pub, sweating and huffing, with a jar of pickled eggs under each arm wasn’t uncommon. Now, for PellicleNicci Peet has given him the full profile treatment:

I hear Roger before I see him, his laugh bellowing from inside his barn. It’s as big and as bold as his reputation. Locally, and to some internationally, he is known as the “cider king,” making proper, traditional farmhouse cider… Roger offers two ciders: dry and sweet. Both sit in big wooden barrels with taps ready for you to serve yourself and there’s no fixed price—you pay as you feel. If you’re after a medium simply mix the two. Then sip your cider in the barn or in the orchard, the way Somerset cider has been enjoyed for centuries. Even how he sells his cider is old school, as you have to ring him directly if you want to make an order.

Drawing: a pub bar.

Mark Johnson paints a picture of pub life with an emotional twist in a post about the accidental Thursday Club, dry roasted peanuts and a man called Colin:

Mostly we just meet at the bar. First by chance. Then increasingly “by chance.” Then it became Thursday club. Then Wednesday was added into the mix too. And of course we are always here Friday. And the odd quick pint on a Monday has been known to turn into five hours of putting the world to rights – or at least his beloved City’s back four… I’m not sure I’ve ever socialised with Colin outside of the pub… And he is too bloomin’ generous. Annoyingly so. I have to fight to even pay for a drink. I’m sure I’m about 20 pints behind now. I don’t think I’ve ever bought the bags of dry roasted.

Chelsie's last beer.
SOURCE: Chelsie Markel.

Chelsie Markel didn’t know she was drinking what might be her last beer when she checked it in on Untappd during the summer:

While I was drinking my very last full pour of beer while visiting Tree House Brewing Co. in July, I had no idea I had the disease. I had no idea that ‘Hurricane (with Peach)’ would be my last beer selfie that I ever took. That the beer I rated a 4.5 in Untappd and everything I had hoped for as a tasting experience would be the beginning of the finale… Even though a few years back a friend of mine had been diagnosed with Sjogrens and I thought “Wow! I have a lot of these medical conditions and symptoms thoughout my life. But stop being silly! Your doctors would have connected the dots and tested you if they thought this was a real concern. Stop self-diagnosing.”

Various books and magazine from the last 40+ years of CAMRA.

The Campaign for Real Ale keeps doing interesting things. The latest eyebrow-raising move is to tender for a not-the-usual-suspects writer to tackle an official 50th anniversary biography of the campaign group:

We would like this perspective to come from someone who is not perceived as having a close association with CAMRA. The brief is for a c.50,000 word authorised biography of CAMRA, to be researched and written in 2020, with the text due at the end of the year, ready for publication in March 2021 in time for the Campaign’s birthday celebrations. Exact outline, terms and fees to be negotiated.

Cult Czech brewery Kout na Šumavě is in trouble, it turns out:

Siren Caribbean Chocolate Cake (label).

Steve Body, AKA The Pour Fool, has put together a typically impassioned defence of ‘crazy’ beers:

We have to have this sort of “craziness” for craft beer – nothing says we have to like every dickhead idea or style that shambles onto the brewing scene – to continue to evolve and progress as the paradigm-changer it has become. There is NO other path. The surest way to murder innovation and creativity is to slap blinders on those doing the work. There is an old saying, “Out of experimentation comes synthesis.” Never heard that? Apparently, I just made it up. Google gives me no hits on that axiom. But it’s the truth: we try crazy shit, watch some or even most of it fail, and pluck the nuggets, the pearls, out of the chickenshit.

Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

We can’t resist these Humphrey Smith stories: the head of Samuel Smith’s brewery in Tadcaster has reached a new high this week by shutting down a newly opened pub because he heard a customer swearing. Here’s the story as reported by the Independent:

[Smith] was visiting the Fox and Goose in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, seven weeks after it opened… But when the 74-year-old heard another drinker dropping the F-word while telling his wife a joke, he decided to immediately close the place… [leaving] landlord Eric Lowery, who lives in a flat above the pub with wife Tracey, looking for both a new job and somewhere to live.

Finally, from Twitter:


News, nuggets and longreads 5 October 2019: sessionability, Spam, the seventies

Here’s all the beer- and pub-related reading we’ve found especially illuminating or enjoyable in the past week, from Monty Python to pensions.

When you’ve been at this game for a while, you start to see the same conversations cycle round. This week, it’s time to talk about what ‘sessionable’ means again. First, for VinePairLily Waite argues that it’s impossible to pin down

The most common use of ‘session” in beer contexts is as a qualifier. It means the beer in question contains low enough amounts of alcohol that several, or even many, can be consumed in one drinking ‘session.’ The term ‘sessionable’ is commonly used to suggest something is easily drinkable, light, refreshing, or any combination of the three… But even those airy definitions leave a lot open to interpretation. As all beer drinkers are different, with individual sizes, appetites, tolerances, and preferences, how can we say what ‘session” or ‘sessionable’ even means?

In response, Martyn Cornell, who Waite cites in her article, says, no, actually – it’s not difficult at all:

I saw a tweet yesterday from someone talking about “a sessionable 5.5 per cent smoked oatmeal stout”, and the world swam and dissolved before me as I plunged screaming and twisting into a hellish, tormented pit of dark despair… Let me make this as clear as I can. This is an egregious and unforgivable total failure to understand what the expression ‘sessionable’ means, is meant to mean, and was coined for. A 5.5 per cent alcohol beer is not, and cannot be, ‘sessionable’. A smoked oatmeal stout, while I am sure it can be lovely, is not and cannot be ‘sessionable’. Nobody ever spent all evening drinking four or five, or six, pints of smoked oatmeal stout.

Stella Artois
SOURCE: Brussels Beer City.

One of our favourite blog posts of last year was Eoghan Walsh’s literary pub crawl around Brussels. Now he’s back with Part Two:

Nobody exemplified the writer living unhappily in Brussels better than Frenchman and serial flâneur Charles Baudelaire… Leaving behind Victor Hugo and the Chaloupe D’Or café on Brussels’ Grand Place, my walk follows the well-worn tourist path out of the square and into the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. These glass-ceiling shopping arcades were a first in Europe when they were built in 1847 and immediately they became a meeting place not only for the city’s bourgeoisie but also for its writers and artists. It was here that the Lumière brothers showed off their cinématographe for the first time outside of Paris, in March 1896. Victor Hugo’s mistress, Juliette Drouet – Juju – has an apartment above what is now the francophone Tropismes bookshop. French poet Paul Verlaine once purchased a revolver here with his mother. And, living a couple of streets away while escaping debts and debtors back in Paris, Charles Baudelaire was a frequent visitor.

Bass logo.

Roger Protz has written a portrait of a London pub famous for its Bass, as it has been since 1921:

The Express Tavern on Kew Bridge Road is that rarity – a London pub that regularly serves Draught Bass. The Bass red triangle trademark adorns the exterior and the famous triangle also declares itself on a pump clip on the bar… Two regulars seated at the bar nodded in salutation when I asked for a pint. “You’ve come to the right place for Bass,” they said. “That’s what we’re drinking.”


Dave at Brewing in a Bedsitter offers a brief reinvention of a famous moment from Monty Python’s Flying Circus:

Waitress: Evening!

Man: Well, what’ve you got?

Waitress: Well, there’s IPA with mosaic and simcoe; IPA with mosaic and centennial; IPA with mosaic and citra; IPA with mosaic, simcoe and citra; IPA with mosaic, simcoe, centennial and citra; IPA with citra, simcoe, centennial and citra; IPA with citra, mosaic, citra, citra, simcoe and citra, IPA with citra, vic secret, citra, citra, mosaic, citra, centennial and citra;

Hipsters (starting to chant): Citra citra citra citra…

Homebrew beer mat.

John Harry has been interning at the National  Museum of American History and as part of an initiative to record US brewing history has researched and written about the birth of the modern home-brewing movement:

After graduating from college in 1972, [Charlie] Papazian moved to Boulder, Colorado, to try to figure out his life plans. Some people there discovered that he knew how to brew beer and asked him to teach a class on homebrewing at the local community free school. The classes were incredibly popular and attracted many curious local residents… As word spread through newspaper articles, administrators grew concerned that the classes might be attracting the wrong type of attention. “After about the third year…those classes became notorious,” Papazian recounted. “One time at registration for the class, the administration contacted me, and said, ‘You know… there’s a guy, who’s registering for this class. He may be from the ATF.’” The ATF is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—the law enforcement agency in charge of regulating activities such as homebrewing. As Papazian started the class, a man walked in wearing a dark pair of slacks, a white shirt, and a skinny black tie. Papazian suspected he was the ATF agent right away.

The Cask Report.

The latest edition of Cask Marque’s Cask Report is out, edited by Matt Eley and with contributions from people like Pete Brown and Adrian Tierney-Jones. We haven’t had chance to digest yet but the key message is that cask ale could be about to have a moment if it can reinvent itself as a specialist, premium product:

The whole industry has to work together to improve the consistency and quality of cask. This will enable it to be positioned in a more premium manner on the bar, reignite wider interest and ultimately bring cask back to growth. It might not quite be cask’s moment yet, but it feels like it’s coming and pubs should be fully prepared by embracing it now.

The cast of We Anchor in Hope.
SOURCE: The Bunker Theatre.

We Anchor in Hope, a play set in a pub – a fully-functional pub reconstructed in a theatre – sounds interesting:

The two have thought a lot about the pub that the Bunker is becoming: a quiz every Tuesday, karaoke on Thursdays and a disco on the weekend. The space will be open an hour before the show for people to get a drink, with Sonnex himself pulling pints alongside his general manager, Lee. In the world of the play, the pints in the Anchor pub will be pulled by Pearl, the play’s only woman. “In the current climate, and rightfully so, you should be looking at the ratio of men to women and making sure there are really good opportunities for female actors,” Jordan tells me. But in order to stay true to the pubs she spent time in, which were “overwhelmingly male spaces”, We Anchor in Hope has “one female character and four male characters – which is something we both thought about and talked about”.

Finally, here’s a nugget from Twitter:

For more links and news, check out Stan Hieronymus on Mondays and Alan McLeod on Thursdays.

News, nuggets and longreads 28 September 2019: language, complexity, taprooms

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from The Good Beer Guide to the language we use.

First, here’s a substantial piece by Jonny Garrett for Good Beer Hunting which attempts to unpick the language used in the conversation around beer:

Character limits and fast-scrolling mean we’re getting more creative, but we’re also reducing the words we use to mean the same thing. On an Instagram post or Untappd check-in, why list guava, mango, and pineapple when a simple “juicy” cuts to the chase?

You might quibble with some of his conclusions – the origins of the terms ‘craft beer’ and ‘craft brewery’ are hotly debated, for example – but there’s plenty of food for thought.

Instagram likes.

For CañaBeth Demmon gets stuck into a complex question: if sexist imagery on beer packaging is a problem, what about when social media influencers in beer gain leverage by presenting themselves as sexy? Is it empowerment, or perpetuation?

I tend to be less than thrilled when men decide to police women’s bodies. But as a woman covering the craft beer scene, I also struggle with the residual impact that hypersexual content from beer influencers has on how the world may view me in the same space. With more and more conversations covering the troublesome history that beer has with women while acknowledging the potential damage this new genre of social media interaction can have on all women, I’ve come to realise one important truth: it’s complicated.

Continue reading “News, nuggets and longreads 28 September 2019: language, complexity, taprooms”

News, nuggets and longreads 21 September 2019: Catalonia, cask, cans

Here’s a week’s worth of reading about beer and pubs, from Catalan hops to cask ale.

For Birraire, Joan Villar-i-Martí has written at length about Jordi Sánchez of Lupulina, a hop-growing business in Catalonia, Spain, that specialises in serving the growing craft beer movement:

At a time when there were around 15 factories with brewing license in Catalonia… Jordi decides to combine his growing passion with his experience and training in biology, developing in 2013 a pilot plantation with 150 hop plants of 10 different varieties… His vision: to accompany the craft beer movement by supplying raw material, with the will to regularly provide producers with good value locally grown hops… “The thing that makes a craft brewery different is its attitude, but also its raw materials”.

Casks in a pub yard.

Jeff Alworth continues his tour of the UK with a visit to Manchester where he offers an outsider’s perspective on the health and future of cask ale, and a throwaway judgement on sparklers:

[A] pint of cask bitter is… one of the world’s best drinking beers… But man, has it got a branding problem. This perception was heightened by spending most of my time in Manchester and London, two modern cities with large populations of young drinkers. Americans revere the English pub because it drips with romance and nostalgia. The wood panelling, the old pictures on the walls, the fire in the corner, the low lighting, the nooks, crannies, and snugs. But cask’s problem is that it is so tightly fused with the environment in which it is served.

The Marble taproom.
SOURCE: The Ale in Kaleigh

On a related note, Manchester-based writer Kaleigh Watterson has visited Marble’s new taproom in Salford:

I thought the space was exactly what a brewery taproom should be; you can see inside the brewery but it feels comfortable and separate, somewhere you could settle in for a few hours… It was obviously a big decision for such brewery so associated with the city of Manchester to move over the border into Salford, but with the uncertainty around the future of railway arches, the size constraints of their old site and the great space they’ve built shows it was the right one for them.

The Fleece Inn
SOURCE: Beer Compurgation

Mark Johnson has a new project (it’s always good to have a project) focusing on the football clubs and pubs:

My first trip was on Saturday 31st August to Seel Park to catch Mossley AFC taking on Kendal Town in the Northern Premier League Division One… Growing up in neighbouring Stalybridge, Mossley was always considered the debauched and ostracised cousin. The people had their reputation and so did the pubs. We were painted the picture of a rundown, smog filled town that hadn’t changed since pre-Peterloo days… As you mature you realise that such reputations in any town are fictitious localism; that the residents there view your area with similar disdain and fantasy.

Map of Lee High Road
SOURCE: Running Past

At Running Past this week (via @untilnextyear) a portrait of a lost London pub – The Sultan on Lee High Road, demolished 20 years ago:

Sometime during 1993, I had been into Lewisham with my toddler son in a buggy and was confronted by a low-speed car chase – the pursued car had come out of Clarendon Rise, had mounted the pavement in a vain attempt to evade the traffic backing up at the junction of Belmont Hill and Lewis Grove. The narrow pavement was busy so the driver slowly inched towards the Clock Tower… I took evasive action and pushed the buggy into the Sultan’s lounge… The Sultan wasn’t the most inviting pub lounge I’ve ever been in – dark and a fug of smoke so thick that the bar was a little indeterminate in outline. Outside the excitement swiftly abated; the police pursuers had quickly arrested the driver who had come to a halt when a lamppost blocked his path.

Felinfoel cans
SOURCE: Chiswick Auctions

The owner of Felinfoel Brewery in Wales has just paid £2,250 for two sealed cans of beer from the 1930s, for somewhat understandable reasons:

The cans of Felinfoel pale ale, which were brewed before the Second World War, are thought to have become the most expensive ever – each can cost the equivalent to 270 pints… The yellow cans were bought by Philip Lewis (corr), the managing director of the Welsh brewery where the ale was first canned in 1936… Miraculously, one of the cans is still full of beer, while the ancient brew is slowly evaporating out of the other’s slightly damaged seal.

What we really like is the blurb, in what look like Gill Sans: “Canned beer is better because the goodness is sealed in and the flavour preserved. It is also protected from the harmful effect of light. Unbreakable. Lighter to carry. Takes up less space. No deposits; no returns. More hygienic – used only once.”

Finally, from Twitter, a new turn of phrase that we suspect is already featuring as a key ‘buyer persona’ in marketing plans up and down the country…

For more links and news, check out Stan’s round-up from Monday and Alan’s from Thursday.

News, nuggets and longreads 14 September 2019: racism and railway arches

Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Norway to Manchester.

First, a couple of updates on stories from the past few weeks.

1. Lars Marius Garshol was curious about the origin of a particular packaged yeast thought to derive from a Norwegian farmhouse strain; he now has an answer.

2. Last week, Wetherspoon reduced the price of one of its cask ales in an odd Brexit propaganda moment; in the aftermath, SIBA ticked Tim Martin off and he responded, as summarised at Beer Today.

3. Tandleman continues his survey of Samuel Smith pubs, this time with a cameo from Humphrey Smith himself.

Illustration: "Odd One Out".

When Chalonda White (@afrobeerchick) received a racist email saying that black people “do not belong in this industry” she shared it on Twitter. An outpouring of support and protest developed around the hashtag #IAmCraftBeer. For ViceBeth Demmon summarises the story, and what it means:

This incident is an acute reminder of the racism and discrimination still deeply embedded in the craft beer industry. The Brewers Association, the United States’ leading non-profit group dedicated to promoting craft beer, recently released the study “Brewery Diversity Benchmarking: A Foundation for Change,” which outlines racial and gender demographics of those employed in the beer industry… The numbers confirm what most already know: Craft beer is overwhelmingly white and male. Based on their data, 88.4 percent of brewery owners are white, with only 1 percent of brewery owners identifying as Black.

Sign from the Eaton Cottage.
SOURCE: BBC/The Eaton Cottage

The new CAMRA Good Beer Guide is out and this story from the BBC highlights how important inclusion/exclusion can be to publicans, and how emotional the response can be:

A landlord has criticised his customers after his pub failed to make it into the Good Beer Guide… Philip Birchall put up a notice in the Eaton Cottage in Norwich offering a “huge sarcastic thank you” to members of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra)… As a result of the pub not featuring in the guide Mr Birchall said he had decided to gradually reduce the number of real ale pumps… “People like drinking here and removing the pub from the guide is tantamount to a demotion.”

La Tans
SOURCE: Brussels Beer City/Eoghan Walsh.

This piece on the relationship between beer and food in Brussels by local expert Eoghan Walsh should have made the round-up last week but we missed it:

It’s a sticky Friday night in inner city Brussels, and the footpath on Rue de Lombard is jammed. It’s the eve of the BXLBeerfest beer festival and visiting beer tourists have decamped to Nüetnigenough, loitering in front of the restaurant’s sinewy art nouveau entrance. The restaurant doesn’t do reservations, and those hoping to get a spot have gathered into hungry clumps around the door, beer and menu in hand, sweating and waiting… This has been the rhythm at Nüetnigenough… since Olivier Desmet opened it a little over a decade ago. The restaurant has been a base for him to proselytise for beer as a legitimate accompaniment to a good meal. In the Brussels of 2019 this may seem an unnecessary struggle, but for much of the restaurant’s short life it was an exception, not the rule.

Mother Kelly's
SOURCE: Beervana/Jeff Alworth.

American beer writer Jeff Alworth is in the UK. If you enjoy, as we do, seeing Britain through the eyes of an outsider, check out this post on breweries and bars in railway arches – something we take quite for granted but which, now he mentions it, is odd:

Brewing, accordingly, is a space-intensive business that requires substantial capital investment. For underfunded start-ups, this can be daunting. A solution chosen by about a fifth of London’s breweries is the railway arch… Train lines crisscross the city, many of them elevated on old Victorian viaducts. They’re as wide as a city street, raised 15-25 feet above the ground, and supported by a repeating line of arches. As space became tighter and tighter in London (an old problem in a city once the capital of a global empire), people began to make use of provisional spaces. Decades ago, some clever entrepreneur identified those viaduct arches as a huge source of real estate and began leasing them.

Finally, from Twitter, pushing back the date of the earliest German theme pub in the UK that we’re aware of…

For more reading and links check out Stan Hieronymus on Monday and Alan McLeod on Thursday.

News, nuggets and longreads 8 September 2019: Stevenage, Sheffield, Sam Smith

Better late than never, here’s everything that grabbed us in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from the Faroes to Wetherspoon.

One of our favourite sub-genres in beer writing is the nostalgic pub crawl and Martyn Cornell has delivered a classic of the form, revisiting his youthful haunts in the new town of Stevenage in Hertfordshire:

When I started going into pubs regularly, about 1968/69, the drinkers at the Chequers were mostly Old Towners whose ancestors had lived in North Hertfordshire for, probably, 500 years or more, and who spoke in a noticeably different accent from the tens of thousands of New Towners, like my parents, who had moved to North Hertfordshire in the early and mid 1950s from North London suburbs such as Willesden and Burnt Oak, 30 miles to the south.

Craft beer in Sheffield
SOURCE: Kirsty Walker.

Kirsty Walker at Lady Sinks the Booze ended up on an organised pub crawl in Sheffield and used the opportunity to make some typically sharp observations of the local pubs and bars:

Kommune… is your typical HWP or Hipster Warehouse Project. The following are signs you may have entered one: you try to pay with cash for something and you get a look as if you’ve tried to barter a live chicken; chips cost five pounds; periodically a loud person starts shouting that the puppet show/comedy improv/ritual killing will start in five minutes; every third person is either a dog, a child, or has a beard.

The Sportsman, a strange-looking modern pub.
SOURCE: Gerald Reece/Brownhills Bob.

Via @pezholio on Twitter, here’s a collection of vintage photos and notes on the pubs of Brownhills in the West Midlands from ‘Brownhills Bob’, with images supplied by Gerald Reece.

The Faroe Islands.

For Pellicle, veteran writer and industry commentator Phil Mellows reports from the Faroe Islands where craft beer (definition 2) is making inroads:

The rock in Søren Antoft’s hand is pitted with tiny holes like a black sponge. Once, it was the bubbling volcanic lava that solidified halfway between Shetland and Iceland to form the Faroe Islands. Now, it’s going to be reheated to 800 degrees centigrade before being plunged into the mash for a spicy, mineral-edged ale called Rinkusteinur.

An image from the Gazette.

Exciting news for beer historians: the excellent British Newspaper Archive has added editions of Holmes’ Brewing Trade Gazette for the years 1878 to 1886:

During the Victorian era, temperance was one of the biggest moral, social and religious debates of the day… This debate, played out in the pages of the Gazette, is a fascinating one, with Victorian morality coming into direct conflict with Victorian enterprise. The debate was to only escalate with the coming of the twentieth century, and was to reach a head across the Atlantic with the introduction of prohibition in the United States. You can find out more about this debate by searching for the word ‘temperance’ in the pages of Holmes’ Brewing Trade Gazette.

Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

Tandleman reports from the front line of Humphrey Smith’s war on his own pub customers, visiting one of his locals, The Pleasant in Royton:

Then horror on horrors. A mobile phone rang in the bar and in hushed tones, after exchanging endearments with his/someone else’s wife/girlfriend or whatever, the callee, said words to the effect of “I have to go. I’m in The Pleasant and mobiles aren’t allowed.” Seems Humph has put the fear of God into his customers on that one. Less so on the effing and jeffing I’d suggest, but all of it was in the context of fitting bathrooms, exchanges about how the day had gone and so on, so to my mind at least, harmless enough. One lad called through to me saying that he didn’t care (“couldn’t give a fuck”) about Humph’s rules. Sooner or later he’d shut the pub anyway, like he had the Yew Tree, he observed.

We’re all sick of (addicted to) Brexit news, of course, but this Wetherspoon story is so odd we have to mention it: the pub chain has cut the price of Ruddles by 20p a pint this week, apparently as proof of the freedom a no-deal Brexit would bring. Except… there hasn’t been a no-deal Brexit, not yet. Rumours on social media suggest this stunt was planned to land during a general election, currently in limbo, which might make some sense.

And, finally, from Twitter…

As ever, for more selected beer reading, check out Stan on Monday and Alan on Thursday.

News, nuggets and longreads 31 August 2019: London, Lambeth, Lancashire

Here’s everything that struck us as noteworthy in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from judging beer to assessing malt.

First, a bit of news: Founders Brewing Co has finally sold off the majority of itself to Mahou, having initially surrendered a 30% stake in 2013. This comes in the context of accusations of endemic racism at the Michigan brewery which have tarnished its image in the past year or so.

And another: according to figures released by London City Hall, the number of pubs in the city has stabilised at just over 3,500. In 13 boroughs, the number of pubs actually increased and the number of small pubs across the city went up, bucking a trend towards larger pubs that’s been evident since 2003. There’s also a map showing the number of pubs for each borough – a fascinating at-a-glimpse readout with traffic light colours that we suspect would look similar for most cities in the UK these days.

Old engraving of Lambeth Palace.
Lambeth Palace in 1647. SOURCE:

At A Good Beer Blog Alan McLeod continues his investigations into old British beer categories asking this time why Lambeth Ale was called Lambeth Ale:

Let me illustrate my conundrum. If you look up at the image above, which I am informed is a 1670 illustration of the sights at Lambeth, you will note two things: a big church complex and a lot of grass. Here is a similar version dated 1685. I have further illustrated the concept here for clarity. Lambeth Palace is and was the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England. It sits in what is known as – and what was at the time in question – Lambeth Marsh. Grass.

Tractors at Rivington.
SOURCE: Katie Mather/Pellicle.

Katie Mather reports for Pellicle from “Manchester’s Lake District” where Rivington Brewing Co is operating from a farm, producing American-style IPAs and sour beer:

“We do suffer from a massive sense of imposter syndrome,” Ben says as we stand around the tiny lean-to, clutching mugs of digestive biscuit-coloured tea. “When other breweries give us good feedback we think… But we’re making it in here. Are we good enough?”

A perfect pint of Bass in Plymouth.

For Derbyshire Live Colston Crawford has written about the resurgence of Bass, not only as a cult brand but as a beer really worth drinking:

Nothing the various owners of the brand have done to try to ignore it has, it would seem, diminished its popularity in this part of the world and people keep on telling me that Bass right now is as good as it’s been for many a year… There are a number of pubs serving multiple brews around the city who will not remove Bass from the pumps, as there would be an outcry if they did… This suggests that the owners of the brand – currently the conglomerate AB-InBev – have missed a trick while concerning themselves with flogging us Budweiser.

There’s even a poll: does Bass taste better than it has done for years?

Judge with beer.

Chris Elston at Elston’s Beer Blog has been reflecting on what it means to judge beer in our everyday lives, in the wake of his experience at the World Beer Awards:

How can you judge a beer when you haven’t even tried it? We all do it though, every time we go into the bottle shop or supermarket, we do it. We’re not just choosing the beers we’d like to drink, we’re judging those we’re not sure about or the ones we feel we don’t want. These are the beers that lose out, or rather, we lose out because we’ve judged that they are not worth purchasing. Which again is wrong.

If you want more reading and commentary, Stan Hieronymus posts a round-up every Monday, while Alan McLeod has the Thursday beat covered.

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.

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.