News, Nuggets and Longreads 15/03/2014

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

This week, we have spied with our little eyes…

→ It’s been one of those weeks when every­one seemed to be writ­ing about writ­ing. First, Beer­graphs drew togeth­er some of the lessons from a recent sym­po­sium, includ­ing this exhor­ta­tion from Stan Hierony­mus to look beyond the frankly imma­ture world of beer writ­ing for inspi­ra­tion: “Read last year’s best sci­ence writ­ing. Then read last year’s best food writ­ing.”

→ Then Jacob McK­ean of Mod­ern Times Beer put the boot in:

[Acces­si­bil­i­ty] and [a] casu­al vibe leads count­less unin­formed observers to believe that they can author­i­ta­tive­ly com­ment on craft beer.… In an indus­try with an almost total absence of real jour­nal­ism, the cheer­lead­ing is vir­tu­al­ly indis­tin­guish­able from the “report­ing.”

→ In the UK, food blog­gers and writ­ers have been hav­ing a row over ethics prompt­ed by the leak­ing by a chef of an email from one blog­ger who seemed to be sug­gest­ing that he would write a pos­i­tive blog post in exchange for a free meal. Food/wine/beer writer Fiona Beck­ett defends ‘free­bies’ here, argu­ing that it is per­fect­ly pos­si­ble to write an hon­est review of a free meal. (As long as you don’t mind the sup­ply of free meals dry­ing up, that is.)

→ Final­ly, a bit of bad news for those of you who find this kind of writ­ing about blog­ging about writ­ing tedious and navel-gaz­ing: the top­ic for the next beer blog­ging ses­sion (Fri­day 4 April) is ‘Beer Jour­nal­ism’.

→ On more whole­some top­ics, David ‘Broad­ford Brew­er’ Bish­op turned in a late #beery­lon­greads entry about the state of UK home brew­ing based on cor­re­spon­dence with some key fig­ures on ‘the scene’. The bit that leapt out to us was this provoca­tive state­ment from James ‘Kem­pi­cus’ Kemp, late of Fuller’s, Thorn­bridge and Bux­ton brew­eries:

Already I see a short sup­ply of qual­i­ty com­mer­cial brew­ers in the UK, who’s going to fill that need? I think it’s time for the home­brew­er to step up, the same way that the home­brew­er in the US stepped up… I recent­ly had a con­ver­sa­tion with a beer retail­er who said “you’ll get bet­ter brewed and pack­aged beers at the nation­al home­brew comp than you will from the major­i­ty of com­mer­cial UK brew­eries”.

→ Out­side the beer bub­ble, there was a piece in the Guardian on the rise in pop­u­lar­i­ty of ‘craft beer’, while the Lon­don­ist attempt­ed a his­to­ry les­son through the medi­um of beer.

→ We’d love to have a look at these love­ly brew­ing logs at Truman’s some time. (And note the copy of Young’s Real Draught Beer and Where to Find It in the back­ground.)

We weren’t exact­ly blown away by Fuller’s Impe­r­i­al Stout, but Mar­tyn Cor­nell has urged every­one to give it anoth­er go now it’s had chance to age a lit­tle. So, last night, we did, and found it much improved, but still, for some rea­son, lack­ing what­ev­er it is that makes us say WOO-WAH-WOW-WEE!

→ On Face­book, we asked: ‘What are the essen­tial beer expe­ri­ences?’ Why no have a look at what the hive mind thought, and add your own sug­ges­tions?

Brew Bri­tan­nia book news: we’ve added some dates for pub­lic appear­ances we’ll be mak­ing in Man­ches­ter, Sheffield and Birm­ing­ham, with a few to be added as details are con­firmed, but do get in touch if you’d like us to speak/read/loiter about your event or venue. We also now have a prop­er, def­i­nite­ly fin­ished, final cov­er design and blurb.

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.