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.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads for 2 June 2018: Flanders, Erith, Easterly Road”

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”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 19 May 2018: Boozers, Brussels, Benin

It’s Saturday morning and time for us to round up links to all the writing about beer and pubs we’ve found stimulating, entertaining or engaging in the past week, from Huddersfield to West Africa.

But first, it’s pub geek Christmas: Historic England has listed five notable post-war pubs, this being the first fruit of a research project by Dr Emily Cole we first got excited about back in 2015. It was lovely to see not-beer-Twitter get all excited about this story yesterday and we suspect some of these pubs will find themselves a bit busier than usual today. We’re planning a trip to The Centurion for next month.

A moose head at The Grove

At Beer Compurgation Mark Johnson reflects on his support for Huddersfield Town, his connection with his father, and how all this become entangled with his affection for one particular pub:

For many fans, football is about the matchday rituals and experience as much as it about the 3pm Saturday kick-off. For my father and I the routine became embedded – the Grove at 1pm. It stopped requiring organisation with others coming from elsewhere. The texts about attendance weren’t necessary. We were in the Grove at 1pm.

You don’t have to be interested in football to enjoy this post which is really about the precariousness of important relationships, whether they are with people or places. (Suggested song pairing: ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles.)

Adnams sign on brewery wall, Southwold.

It’s worth reading a pair of articles by veteran beer writer Roger Protz for his tracking of one particularly important question: how committed are the established family brewers to cask ale? St Austell (and its subsidiary Bath Ales) seems very much so; Adnams? Maybe not quite so much:

When I sat down with chairman Jonathan Adnams in the opulent splendour of the Swan Hotel fronting the brewery I checked I heard him correctly when he said early in our conversation: “By 2019 keg production will overtake cask.”

Surely not Adnams falling to keg? What has caused this astonishing turn round?

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 19 May 2018: Boozers, Brussels, Benin”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 12 May 2018: Bass, Bavaria, Bambini

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the past week, from the masculinity of beer to the fascination of Bass.

Dea Latis, an industry group dedicated to promoting beer to women, and challenging the idea that beer is a male preserve. It commissioned a study from YouGov into women’s attitudes to beer which is summarised here, with a link to the full report:

Beer Sommelier and Dea Latis director Annabel Smith said: “We know that the beer category has seen massive progress in the last decade – you only need to look at the wide variety of styles and flavours which weren’t available widely in the UK ten years ago. Yet it appears the female consumer either hasn’t come on the same journey, or the beer industry just isn’t addressing their female audience adequately. Overtly masculine advertising and promotion of beer has been largely absent from media channels for a number of years but there is a lot of history to unravel. Women still perceive beer branding is targeted at men.”

We’ve already linked to this once this week but why not a second time? It’s a substantial bit of work, after all.

There’s some interesting commentary on this, too, from Kirst Walker, who says: “If we want more women in the beer club, we have to sweep up the crap from the floors and admit that flowers are nice and it pays not to smell of horse piss. How’s that for a manifesto?”

Bass Pale Ale mirror, Plymouth.

Ian Thurman, AKA @thewickingman, was born and brought up in Burton-upon-Trent and has a lingering affection for Bass. He has written a long reflection on this famous beer’s rise and fall accompanied by a crowd-sourced directory of pubs where it is always available:

It’s difficult for me to be unemotional about Draught Bass. It was part of growing up in Burton. But what are the facts.

The EU AB InBev careers’ website accurately describes the relative importance of their brands to the company.

“The UK has a strong portfolio of AB InBev brands. This includes, global brands, Stella Artois and Budweiser, international brands, Beck’s, Leffe and Hoegaarden, as well as local brands, including Boddingtons and Bass.”

We’re fascinated by the re-emergence of the Cult of Bass as a symbol of a certain conservative attitude to pubs and beer. You might regard this article as its manifesto.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 12 May 2018: Bass, Bavaria, Bambini”