News, Nuggets & Longreads 05/07/2014

Pint of beer illustration.

There’s been plenty of substantial reading this week, on subjects ranging from children in pubs to the philosophy of reviewing.

→ Justin Mason is a parent and a beer geek and has given some serious thought to the etiquette of taking children into pubs. It’s interesting to see what probably comes naturally to most people broken down into actions.

“Are we living through the death of the review?” asked David Lloyd earlier this week. He isn’t referring specifically to beer but, blimey, it certainly applies: Is anyone, really, listening anymore? Or is it doing no more than fuelling our confirmation bias or excusing our bitterness?” (via @Christopher_R)

→ On a related note, Jeff Alworth argues that beer judging, competitions and awards ‘help Americans understand’ (first beer, and now cider); while Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod is troubled by the idea that ‘craft beer’ implies you don’t have the expertise and knowledge to enjoy it without professional help.

→ We’ve heard it said that the definition of a good brewer is one who knows what to do when things go wrong: Chris and Emma’s use of Yakult ‘probiotic’ yoghurt drink in the absence of  acidulated malt is a striking example.

→ The Beer Nut’s entry to the 89th beer blogging session tells the tale of Ireland’s first lager brewery — a sadly typical tale of grand launch followed, a few years later, by a FOR SALE ad in the back of the paper.

→ Stan Hieronymus reports on serious plans to revive a Polish Grodziskie brewery.

→ We’ve been spoilt for full-length UK brewer profiles this week. First, The Evening Brews’ piece on London’s Brew by Numbers (of cucumber and juniper saison fame) runs to 2000 words.

→ Then Connor Murphy gave us a glimpse behind the scenes at Manchester’s Marble where a new brewer has recently taken over. Mr Murphy’s questioning elicited some delightfully detailed answers about the technicalities:

Previously we were pitching at 25C and fermenting at up to 28C and it was resulting in really high esters, which can sometimes add to the beer but we wanted to tone it down…. We’ve started pitching at 18C and fermenting at 20C because we want all these hop flavours to shine through and we’re not going to get that with a warm fermentation.

→ More on beer from the BBC, who we assume have a ‘habit streak’ going: a report from Harar, Ethiopia, where there is a Heineken-run lager brewery.

→ We liked this photo (via @robsterowski) of a Hackney pub between the wars — that jaunty illuminated sign promises fun times!

News, Nuggets & Longreads 28/06/2014


To make up for skipping a week (our trip to London got a bit hectic…) here’s a BUMPER SUMMER FUN EDITION of our regular round-up of links and news.

→ Peter Swinburn, CEO of global brewing giant Molson Coors, gave a fascinating interview to Bloomberg. The headline is ‘Craft Breweries Massively Over-valued’, but we read it as an acknowledgement that ‘craft’ is more-or-less immune to corporate takeover: precisely those things consumers like about ‘craft’ are difficult to maintain at scale.

→ Michael Tonsmeire has shared a long extract about saisons from his new book American Sour Beers: An elementary recipe inspired by Saison Dupont, the archetype of the style, could be comprised of only water, Pilsner malt, and Saaz hops, but many American brewers opt for something more complicated.”

→ The Guardian reports on German brewers’ attempts to prevent ‘fracking’ which they fear will pollute the pure water upon which their beer depends.

→ Last year, we got excited when we noticed ten-sided pint glasses in the trailer for the BBC drama series Peaky Blinders. (Yes, excited. Tragic.) Now, it seems the show, which returns in September, has inspired a vaguely historical Midlands-style mild from Sadler’s.

→ Since they closed their big brewery in Blackburn, there’s been anxiety among fans of Thwaites that this might signal the end for the Lancastrian brewer. They’ve now announced that a new site has been acquired. Phew!

→ Modern Farmer magazine reports on a booming ‘craft beer’ scene in Paris driven by the ‘eat less, eat better’ trend. (Via First We Feast.)

This piece about the mark-up on wine in restaurants seems to us to have resonances with the debate around the cost of ‘craft beer bars’, especially this point about knowledgeable staff: A good sommelier will increase the guest’s pleasure… If you’re getting divorced, do you Google it and do it yourself or do you pay a solicitor £300 an hour?”

Evan Rail’s new ebook, Beer Trails: The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest, turns out to be the first in a series, with entries from Stan Hieronymus and Joe Stange to follow. Interesting.

Lynn Pearson has written a book about brewery architecture for English Heritage.

→ And, finally, here’s another review of Brew Britannia, from Richard ‘Edinburgh Beercast’ Taylor.

Actually, maybe that wasn’t as ‘bumper’ as we’d hoped — did we miss anything juicy?

News, Nuggets & Longreads 14/06/2014

Welcome to the Inn, 1952.

That question has reared it’s head again: “Is beer blogging dead?” Here’s our response in the form of a special all Blogoshire version of our Saturday morning round-up.

→ Jeff at Beervana has been pondering (not for the first time) the meaning of ‘beer styles’: I drank a bottle of Crux’s Better Off Red, a “barrel-aged Flanders-style red ale.”  What exactly was Larry Sidor thinking when he used those terms?  What should I be thinking when I read them?”

→ Adrian Tierney-Jones isn’t a blogger, but he does write a blog, and he’s been expansive and feisty of late. His piece on how fed up he is of ‘beervangelism’ and the ‘sacred duty’ of the beer writer is a great read.

→ Lars Marius Garshol has a profile of an accountant who became a brewer after a stroke left him out of work and depressed: He travelled around the US for a while, fairly aimlessly by the sound of it, until he hit upon an abandoned brewery in Montana. This, he decided, was what he was going to do.”

→ It’s not something we’d be comfortable doing, but Tandleman recently took a thermometer to some London pubs and came up with numbers to support his feeling that cask ale in the capital is generally too warm: one pint came in at 17.2°c!

→ Connor Murphy’s survey of UK supermarket beer continued with a trip to ASDA, where he managed to find decent beers across a range of styles for a tenner.

→ Paul Bailey (no relation) has been posting a series of longish pieces on the family breweries of Britain, based largely on his personal experience as a drinker from the 1970s to the present. This one on Ruddles is a good place to start.

Beers Manchester has been undertaking a survey of the city’s historic pubs. Part one appeared some time ago, but parts two and three are new.

Some final thoughts: there are more blogs than ever and we think the standard of writing and research has improved across the board since we started in 2007.

As with breweries, though, the more there are, the harder it is to make an impression, and thus harder to get a conversation going.

Let’s put it bluntly: there is no demand for another blog reviewing readily available beers!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it if you enjoy it, but don’t expect anyone else to whoop with excitement.

If we were starting a new blog tomorrow, we would want to make sure it either (a) had a distinct and dazzling prose style or (b) covered something no-one was writing about. Preferably both.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 07/06/2014

Detail from Watney's Brown Ale advertisement c.1960.

Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three. Come with us and you’ll be… in a world of beery information!

The Queen’s speech on Wednesday included the announcement of Government plans for a new statutory code and independent adjudicator for pubs, with the primary intention of improving the fortunes of hard-pressed pub company tenants. CAMRA is jubilant; publican campaigners feel its a half-hearted compromise; opponents of state interference in business think it’s  step too far; and we’re holding our breath to see what the impact of even these timid steps might be, with the Beer Orders in mind.

Keen BrewDog watchers have been predicting a rebrand for some time and it seems it’s finally arrived. Is it just superficial, or does this also signal a cultural reboot for a company which has too often seemed downright brattish?

→ Saved to Pocket this week: Martyn Cornell’s lengthy examination of how the RAF supplied troops in Europe with beer during World War II. (We’ve seen that picture of the Spitfire with the beer barrels under its wings a millions times, but this goes into a lot more detail.)

→ After our post about Mackeson, The Beer Nut shared reviews of the same beer and its Trinidad-brewed XXX cousin from his vast archive.

→ There’s yet more decent coverage of beer on the BBC news website with this piece on craft beer in India by Simon Atkinson.

→ This photograph of Kate ‘Maid Marian’ Lonergan hit us hard in the childhood nostalgia glands:

→ And, finally, those of you who like to handle the goods before buying might be interested to know that Brew Britannia is apparently available in actual bricks and mortar branches of Waterstones.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 31/05/2014

Pint of beer illustration.

We’ve seen things… you people wouldn’t believe… Sambucas on fire off the Old Street roundabout… We watched EPOS systems glitter in the dark near the Arndale Centre. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like *koff* tears… In… Rain. Time… to round-up…

→ Saved to Pocket this week, an interview with Martin Hayes, founder of the Craft Beer Company chain of pubs and bars. On ‘craft beer’: “I kind of hate the term now.”

→ We’ve also saved this 1200-word piece from the New York Times on White Labs and the farming of speciality brewing yeasts. (Yeast in the NYT! And not bloody beard or underpants yeast, either — proper yeast!)

→ There’s yet more coverage of beer on the BBC news website with this profile of Croydon’s The Cronx brewery. It’s a weirdly uncritical, rather pointless piece that seems to have escaped from the Morning Advertiser but, hey, it’s beer on the Beeb.

→ Thornbridge and Waitrose have launched a national home brewing challenge: submit three bottles of your home brew to Thornbridge by 31 July for a chance to have it brewed professionally.

→ A follow-up to our Boddington’s Bitter post, how about this shot of a very modern pub, from c.1978? (Note the two young men trying to work out if their beer is ‘straw-coloured’ or just light brown.)

There’s a bit of a brouhaha brewing at Shepherd Neame, which offers an interesting glimpse into the tensions behind the running of a British family brewery.

→ And, finally, if you’re out and about in Cornwall today, the St Ives beer festival is on until this evening.