News, Nuggets & Longreads 20/09/2014

West Germany, München, Oktoberfest, Bier Tent, September 1978, by Barbara Ann Spengler, from Flickr under Creative Commons.
West Germany, München, Oktoberfest, Bier Tent, September 1978, by Barbara Ann Spengler, from Flickr under Creative Commons.

Here’s our usual Saturday morning round-up of links to accompany your steaming Weiβwurst and refreshing urn of breakfast wheat beer.

→ For All About Beer, Patrick Dawson exposes the strange world of enthusiasts willing and able to pay ‘soul crushing’ prices to drink super-rare vintage beers, and how they go about sharing these ‘ghost whales’ with each other:

For a beer to be deemed a ghost whale, it must not only come from a deeply respected producer, but also have a scarcity that limits remaining bottles to numbers you learned to count to in kindergarten. These extraordinary near-extinct beers, such as the original ’03 batch of Cantillon’s cloudberry masterpiece, Soleil de Minuit, or Lost Abbey’s for-friends-only Veritas 005, can fetch over $4,000 apiece among private collectors.

→ Rob Lovatt, head brewer at Thornbridge, explains why the Derbyshire brewers aren’t rushing to put their beer in cans.

→ Pete Brissenden has continued his blogging frenzy in the last week. Read the whole lot, but especially this post on ‘intrinsics and extrinsics’. (Pete works at Meantime Brewing and this post, we think, reflects the personal philosophy of its founder, British craft beer pioneer Alastair Hook.)

Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod opines on consistency as sameness — a new kind of blandness. Much as we like our beer clean-tasting and relatively reliable, we think he makes a good point about where ‘big craft’ is at.

→ Paul Bailey (no relation) has been writing a series of long blog posts about British family breweries and, more specifically, his personal relationship with them over the course of the last 40-odd years. This piece on recent Champion Beer of Britain winners Timothy Taylor is especially good.

→ A slight piece, but interesting because it exists: wine writer Will Lyons praises real ale and recommends three bottled bitters in The Wall Street Journal. (His choices are odd.)

→ We were strangely captivated by this series of articles by Janis Blower for the Shields Gazette recalling ‘the beer boats’ which transported beer by sea from Scotland to Tyneside between the 1920s and 1950s. ( 1 | 2 | 3 )

→ The Beer Nut has been in Bamberg where he captured this ironic image:

J. Wilson at Brewvana liked Brew Britannia:

This book really delivered. I saw familiar threads of information, but Boak and Bailey really fleshed out the details for someone like me, who possesses only an American’s cursory knowledge (despite paying attention like a fairly high-functioning beer nerd) of what was really happening on the ground in England all these years.

And we think Phil did too. He’s certainly urging people to buy it.


News, Nuggets & Longreads 13/09/2014

Pipe, hat and pint.

From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar, when the dawn begins to crack. It’s all part of our autumn almanac.

There’s been some interesting reading around the blogoshire and beyond in the last week. Here are our picks.

This is yet another fantastic post from Lars Marius Garshol, who’s been Alan Lomaxing his way through Norway’s farmhouse brewing culture:

He buys Finnish 6-row barley at a local store, and prefers that because of the higher starch content compared to Norwegian barley… During drying the sprouts and the hairlike roots are burned to a cinder, and these must be cleaned off afterwards to avoid giving the beer an unpleasant burnt flavour…. To remove these he uses a machine built by a local guy, who builds them out of chicken wire and the driveworks of old washing machines.

→ On a related note, and completing the circle of love (and thus defeating the Daleks or something?) here’s something Stan Hieronymus wrote at least partly in response to a post of ours:

I’ve been building a bit of a list of what might be called “indigenous beers.” You can help improve it and in return you might win a book… To win, add a beer to this list. Or provide meaningful details about one of the beers already here. Or add something to the “What the heck is indigenous?” conversation.

→ The team at Belgian Smaak hosted the last session on the topic of ‘My First Belgian’ and have put together a thoughtful round-up of all the entries here.

→ Pete Brissenden, a young feller who has worked at both Meantime and Camden breweries, has revived  his blog in the last week. This piece on why pubs are like bananas is thought-provoking and funny“I didn’t include those in this post because I couldn’t work out how to liken them to a banana. Sorry.”

→ Suzy, who has previously worked for Wetherspoon, ponders whether the chain’s new enthusiasm for craft beer will tempt her into the pubs.

→ There’s been another trademark dispute with regard to which lots of people with no special insight or legal training have VERY STRONG OPINIONS! The key bits of information are blog posts by Camden of London and Redwell of Norwich.

The Good Beer Guide is out and reports that the number of breweries has increased yet again to 1,285. (Link is to PDF.) People who have been confidently forecasting a catastrophic end to the boom for several years must be getting antsy.

This post about ‘Beer Before BrewDog’at Ed’s Beer Site prompted some good discussion (as well as some of the usual axe-grinding).

→ Tom Unwin’s Dad is Trevor Unwin, quoted on p45 of Brew Britannia. We have one other issue of What’s Brewing, the short-lived CAMRA glossy magazine, and would love to get our hands on this beauty:

Rampant Egotism

→ We’re going to start with what, for us, is big news: every other Saturday, starting today, we’re going to have a square (it’s not a column…) in the Guardian Guide. It’s a good job we’ve been in training because it’s 150 words (edited to 114 this week) — not a great deal of space to make a point, let alone wax lyrical.

Knut Albert reviewed Brew Britannia and highlighted that it’s a book with some reading in it, not one full of pictures; and that it’s also just the right size to read on the bus. Thanks, Knut!


News, Nuggets & Longreads 06/09/2014

Breakfast in the Palace, Leeds, by Bob Peters, from Flickr under Creative Commons.
Breakfast in the Palace, Leeds, by Bob Peters, from Flickr under Creative Commons.

Here’s some stuff from around the blogoshire and beyond to read once you’ve finished stumbling through the empties in search of a scraper for your tongue.

→ Oliver Gray at Literature and Libation explores beer pricing in the US with reference to some inside information on margins and material costs:

When you slap down $7 for a pint, you’re not paying for the sum of the ingredients, no matter how exotic the hops or rich and decadent the malt profile. You’re paying for the expertise of the brewer, her time and energy, the collective work of a brewery’s staff to deliver a product that you probably couldn’t make yourself… You’re paying for knowledge, practice, patience; for brewing as a service, not beer as a food.

→ The internal workings of the Campaign for Real Ale are illuminated by Glenn Johnson who explains how pubs are selected for the Good Beer Guide (2015 edition out now) in his region.

Nathanial ‘Nate Dawg’ Southwood is angry about tasting notes:

You cannot write that a beer smells like damp field mushrooms covered in manure, tasting like spunk covered hedgerow and expect people to believe your conclusion that it was rather nice… I’m just finding it irritating, vomit inducing and just straight up bullshit. It’s not doing the industry any favours by writing such pretentious crap.

(We don’t agree with him, but plenty of others do, and it’s food for thought.)

We wrote an article for Craft Beer Rising magazine on the revival of extinct British brewery brands. It also contains pieces by Pete Brown, Melissa Cole, Des de Moor.

→ Jeff Alworth highlights something interesting: the newsworthy 99-pack is ‘craft beer’ engaging in classic ‘big beer’ shenanigans, ‘selling packaging, not beer’.

→ Expert home brewer Andy ‘Tabamatu’ Parker attempts to clone a beer he’s never tried and experiments with posh flavour extracts (apricot, in this case).

→ Guinness have released two new bottled porters — Dublin (3.8%) and West Indies (6%) which are now available in UK supermarkets. We’ve been sent samples and will write something more detailed when we’ve processed our thoughts, but audio reviewer the Ormskirk Baron has already reviewed them. (West Indies | Dublin.)

→ IPA historian and expert Mitch Steele offers some thoughts on the revival of Ballantine IPA by Pabst.

This interactive map of global alcohol consumption preferences is simple but effective. (Via Laughing Squid.)

Screenshot of interactive map of global alcohol preferences.
Screenshot of interactive map.

→ You’ve got a month left to watch the episode of Alex Polizzi’s The Fixer in which she attempts to turn round a struggling UK microbrewery.

→ We’ve seen many variations on this image on Twitter in the last day or two so that big neon sign probably was a good way for Leeds International Beer Festival (which runs until tomorrow) to spend their marketing budget:


News, Nuggets & Longreads 23/08/2014

Pint of beer illustration.

We found time to put together a (small) Saturday round-up after all! Yer tis.

→ Saved to Pocket: Evan Rail on how a renowned computer hacker is bringing Berliner Weisse back to the city of its birth. (From what we’ve read so far, this looks like a superb questioning, probing piece of writing.)

→ Home brewers with a love of detail: Derek Dellinger’s home brewing experiments continue with tweaks to yeast selection and water treatment.

Stephen Beaumont lays down the law on the use of ‘Belgian’ and ‘Belgian-style’ as descriptors, and Stan Hieronymus gently questions his underlying assumption.

→ The Beer Nut’s series of posts on Bristol (1 | 2 | 3) have made for good reading in the last week. We agree with several of the points he makes, especially this one:

Moving from BrewDog to Zero Degrees was like stepping back in time. Even though the chain only dates from 2000 and the Bristol branch is four years younger again, it feels like a period piece from a time before bare wood and distressed lettering, when iconoclastic British beer meant cavernous halls, bare concrete and steel gantries.

UPDATE: we’ve removed the bit about the atmosphere at the Great British Beer Festival and might try to revisit later in the week.

Blogging and writing News

News, Nuggets & Longreads 16/08/2014

"The Wall Worker" by John Thomson, c.1877.

Cock-a-doodle-doo! Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning-aaaah! Nothing to do but read these links, eat some bacon.

→ The picture at the top of this post comes from Street Life in London, a collection of photographs from 1877-78, with accompanying essays, which is available online through the the London School of Economics digital library. There are a couple of other pictures of pubs in the set.

→ Notoriously aromatic and bitter, Ballantine was arguably the single most influential beer in the aromatic IPA-mania of the last 30-odd years, and now it’s back. This is one American beer we will be making serious efforts to get our hands on.

→ In the week when the Campaign for Real Ale launches a drive to change the law to make it hard to convert pubs into shops or homes, Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell argues vehemently that they’re on the wrong track:

Pubs are not sacred. The rights of pubgoers do not trump the rights of property owners. The disappearance of any pub is not the same as, eg, the disappearance of a Saxon church… If a pub is making less money for its owner than it would under another use, the owner must have the right to maximise their income.

→ On a somewhat related note, prolific epistolarian, committed Marxist, and beer-loving celebrity beard-sporter Keith Flett writes about ‘The Moral Economy of the Great British Beer Festival‘:

The concept of the moral economy, developed by the late historian EP Thompson in 1971, is to posit a customary and traditional way of looking at things in relation to a market economy. The moral economy does not aim to replace a market economy but to temper with a framework of laws and obligations… I think there is an interesting case for understanding the Great British Beer Festival as an annual gathering of those who take a moral economic view of the beer world.

→ Saved to Pocket this week: a piece from the Washington City Paper about cult beers, customer entitlement, and the competitive urge which is making beer less sociable. (Via Stan Hieronymus.)

→ We like this picture because (a) hops and (b) London E17:

And, finally, there are a couple of beer stories that went sufficiently mainstream ‘viral’ that we’d surprised if anyone missed them, but, just in case…

The Daily Beast wrote a profile of Kent ‘Battle’ Martin, the civil servant who approves US beer labelsHe rejected an “Adnams Broadside” beer, which touted itself as a “heart-warming ale,” because this supposedly involved a medical claim.’.

Tony Naylor wrote a substantial piece on the current UK ‘craft beer’ boom for the the Guardian. (If you must read the ranting comments, note the unjustified confidence with which many people issue downright rude ‘corrections’.)