News, Nuggets and Longreads 08/03/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

This little lot ought to see you through breakfast, second breakfast and a few mugs of char.

→ The issue of the week has been, without doubt, the arrival of cans of American ‘craft beer’ in Wetherspoon pubs, with posts from Tandleman, Zak Avery, Richard Taylor, Justin Mason, Nathaniel Southwood and no doubt many others. But David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop cut through the fog of commentary rather effectively:

→ A trademark dispute blew up between regional giant Everards  and tiny Scottish start-up Elixir on Tuesday. Richard Taylor broke the story, outrage ensued, Everard’s backed down. Denzil Vallance at Great Heck Brewing provided an ‘inside the industry’ perspective. We just mumbled this at the back of the class (Facebook):

If Everard’s had a core beer called Elixir, it might make some kind of sense (though it would still be a PR fail), but all this over a one-off seasonal from two years ago? Really?… As always, when we’ve only heard one side of the story, it doesn’t pay to get too strident — for all we know, Everard’s may be gearing up to launch Elixir as a national brand… Nonetheless, it does seem that their PR/social media people are operating on autopilot, as, perhaps, are their lawyers, and they haven’t come out of this looking good so far.

→ Connor Murphy filed a late entry for #beerylongreads asking whether the explosion in the number of breweries in the UK has dragged down quality across the board. The comments from Rob Lovatt at Thornbridge are especially interesting: ‘Many of the smaller, new breweries in the UK will be bottling beer by hand. This will invariably result in massively high oxygen levels and the beer will literally fall apart in weeks.’

→ (Our summary of all the ‘go long’ posts from last weekend is here, by the way.)

→  On a similarly downbeat note, David Turner continues his exploration of what causes breweries to fail with another data driven blog post, this time using Ratebeer reviews to conclude that (perhaps unsurprisingly) breweries whose beer is less well-regarded are more likely to fail.

→ Kevan Wilding announced that, after 10 years work, he thinks that around 98% of pubs that exist or have existed in London are catalogued in detail on his epic Dead Pubs website. It’s a great resource and worth a browse.

→ Yeast-obsessed eggheads: you might be interested to know that the genome sequence of Saccharomyces carlsbergensis is now available online.  (Via David Quain of Heriot-Watt University.)

→ And, finally, this post from the Belfast Barman blog offers a sobering perspective on prospects for ‘mainstreaming’ multi-tap craft beer bar culture:

I am not giving up on my mini craft crusade… But until the taste buds of the province begin to catch up with our more experimental neighbours, I fear it’s a hard sell.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 02/03/2014

Just to keep you on your toes, here’s our regular Saturday morning news round-up delivered a day late.

Stella Artois advert, 1970s.→ We got sent samples of three canned beers from Brooklyn brewery Sixpoint which will be on sale in branches of Wetherspoons from March. Our favourite was ‘The Crisp’, a 5.4% lager, which had a kind of rough-edged charm, but we didn’t find any of them especially exciting. The packaging sure is purty, though, so they might do well at ‘point of sale’, and we’d certainly take them over pints of Doom Bar or Abbot Ale. 

→ This week’s Save to Pocket ‘long read’ (2000 words) is a debunking of the myth that people used to drink beer because it was safer than water: ‘A fourteenth century monk in Liège not only listed water (with wine) as one of the preferred drinks, but recommended it over ale and beer.’ (via Rob Beschizza at Boingboing.)

→ We’ve also filed for later reading this piece by Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell on gruit in beer, which sets out its stall with the most pedantic picture caption ever written: ‘…the heather isn’t in bloom… and she’d need more than could be gathered with a pair of scissors’.

→ Those who take an interest in the spread of the idea of ‘craft beer’ worldwide will enjoy this piece from Time Out Mumbai on the city’s beer scene. (Via @gatewaybrewery on Twitter.)

→ Similarly, Barry Masterson’s most recent series of posts cover beer festival Braukunst Live 2014 and offer a great snapshot of where the German beer scene is at right now: craft vs. crafty (‘Kunst oder Künstlich?’) is apparently an issue there, too.

→ Oh, what a time to be alive!

English Heritage’s Tumblr is currently spewing forth wonderful pictures of Victorian pubs. (If only they were in higher resolution.)

We went long yesterday, as did several others. A full round up of those #beerylongreads will follow later in the week when a few stragglers have filed their copy.

UPDATE: the ad at the top is a curiosity from the 1970s — we haven’t suddenly entered into partnership with AB InBev!

News, Nuggets and Longreads 22/02/2014

Saturday night’s alright for fighting, but Saturday morning is good for catching up on the beer news, innit?

This is a fascinating longish read (1300 wds) from Leigh Linley on Northern Monk Brew Co, in which Russell Bisset explains why NMBCO has abandoned ‘cuckoo’ brewing:

Unless you have sacks of cash, nerves of steel or just want to produce ‘accountants’ beer, don’t cuckoo brew in the UK… I don’t think the cuckoo brewing model is a viable long-term option here. It’s easy to look at the likes of Mikkeler and Evil Twin and think that it’s possible to produce bolder beer styles using a cuckoo brewing model. In reality they work with breweries like De Proef that are truly world-class and have third-party production as their bread and butter. But they also have 12 month waiting lists to work with.

→ There has been a notable increase in the amount of beer coverage in the mainstream media. The BBC News website continues its streak with this piece on defunct breweries by Francesca Williams; the Guardian had this short piece by Fiona Beckett on big brewers ‘doing craft’; and the BBC’s Food & Drink mentioned beer (albeit superficially) for the second week in a row. Even the New York Times decided to get in on the act with a piece about the pub preservation movement.

→ By the Horns brewery of Tooting made the papers, too, after representatives of actor Robert Lindsay asked them to remove his image from packaging for their Wolfie Smith beer. Why on earth would any brewery think it OK to use someone’s image to promote a product without their permission? It might have worked if it was, say, George Osborne, and there was a parody/satire defence, but not in this case. We were moved by this to write a Facebook post: ‘Some things we wouldn’t do if we ran a brewery‘.

→ This week’s inspiring home brewing post is from Al ‘Hopsinjoor’: brewing as therapeutic activity, recipe based on what was in the cupboard, lessons learned about measuring efficiency. Nice.

→ Felix vom Endt, who works as a professional beervangelist at the Berlin Beer Academy, Tweeted from a tasting of vintage Berliner Weiss beers. Simple folk that we are, we mostly liked the labels, but also thought the findings were interesting:

→ We haven’t read this interview from September last year with Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewing Company, but it’s been saved to Pocket.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 15/02/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

Saturdays kids play one arm bandits. They never win, but that’s not the point, is it? Dip in silver paper when their pints go flat. How about that!? Far out!

Ahem. So, yes, it’s Saturday, and time for us to highlight a few bits and pieces from around the blogoshire and beyond.

→ An update on a story from a couple of weekends back: Marston’s new range of self-consciously ‘craft’ keg beers, we thought, would be a perfect opportunity for pub chain Wetherspoon’s to dabble in these murky waters. Now, from A Swift One, comes news that they’re doing exactly that.

→ We love this longish read (1300 words) at Jeff Evans’ Inside Beer about the development of St Austell’s hugely popular Tribute ale, in which head brewer Roger Ryman dishes the dirt:

[Sharp’s Doom Bar] was probably a better beer than the offerings at that time from St Austell – three beers, all parti-gyled off one brew… Of the three – Boson’s Bitter (3%), Tinner’s Ale (3.7%) and Hick’s Special Draught (5%) – only Hick’s, known locally as HSD, had any depth of flavour or character. The rest were thin, sharp, over attenuated, under hopped and generally uninteresting.

→ Frank Baillie, author of The Beer Drinker’s Companion, has died at the age of 92. Graham Lees, one of the founder members of the Campaign for Real Ale, recalls his life and influence in this obituary at the CAMRA website.

→ The most inspiring home brewing post of the week has to be Derek Dellinger’s update on progress with his India Pale Aged Ale — the opposite of instant gratification, where each round of experimentation takes months.

→ Around these parts, you might have missed that we added a new permanent page to the top menu: a list of blog posts and articles to which we often find ourselves referring. (There’s other interesting stuff lurking up there too — have a nose about.)

→ Did anybody notice that the weather has been rough? Here’s a pub in Newlyn, about 25 minutes walk from where we live, pictured yesterday evening:

→ And finally, blogging about blogging about blogging: Chris Hall has suggested that, alongside next year’s Golden Pints, there ought to be a Golden Posts to recognise the efforts of beer bloggers in more detail. We’re still pondering whether we think this is a good idea. On the one hand, we’re  sensitive to the fact that bloggers are already derided for ‘circle jerking’ and mutual appreciation; on the other, a bit of mutual encouragement is surely a good thing? At any rate, we’ll be taking Chris’s advice and bookmarking greats posts we see throughout the year.

News, Nuggets and Longreads, 8/2/2014

Detail from 'Beer in Britain', 1960.

It’s Saturday, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, when piled up passions are exploded, and the effect of a week’s monotonous graft is swilled out of your system in a burst of goodwill. But before you go out to pour beer into the elastic capacity of your guts, here are some bits of news.

→ Thornbridge’s offer of free delivery on their web store in January turned out to be not only a nice treat for consumers, but also an extremely effective punter-driven advertising campaign: our Twitter feed in the last few days has been full of shots of newly delivered boxes and proudly arranged bottles, along with excited proclamations of the wonderfulness of Halcyon and Jaipur. It’s certainly why we’ve been focusing more than usual on the Derbyshire brewery.

→ This year sees the 40th anniversary of the launch of the late Bill Urquhart’s Litchborough Brewery, one of several breweries with a good claim to be the first ‘microbrewery’. We were excited to hear that the revived Phipps’ NBC has plans to mark the moment by brewing on of Mr Urquhart’s beers to an original recipe, and with the direct involvement of Frank Kenna who worked with him in the 1970s.

→ Those looking for something beer-related to hang on the wall might be interested in the 1960 Times book Beer in Britain (Abebooks | Amazon). Compiled from an April 1958 special supplement of the newspaper, the book is fascinating in its own right, but also includes a A3+ size fold-out map of breweries then in operation. (Detail above.) Our copy cost a bit less than £20.

→ One of our favourite blogs, Pubs of Manchester, has come across a fresh supply of photographs from the 1970s and is sharing them on Twitter. Here’s one beauty, but do check out the rest:

→ Our suggestion for a long read to save to Pocket this week is a 1967 essay by H.A. Monckton, a director at Flower’s brewery of Stratford-upon-Avon and beer historian, entitled ‘English Ale and Beer in Shakespeare’s Time‘.