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‘.

bottled beer breweries buying beer

News, Nuggets and Long Reads 01/02/2014

Marston's revisionist keg range.

It’s Saturday! But wait — before you rush off to bomb around the town centre on your BMX and buy Pick’n’Mix at Woolworths, here are a few things we’ve spotted during the week.

→ The picture above shows Marston’s new range of keg beers branded and sold under the ‘Revisionist‘ label. Though some will inevitably groan at a big player with a poor reputation among beer geeks ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, we can’t deny that we’re intrigued.

→ Meanwhile, we also hear that the same brewery is putting some beers that have been packaged, to their detriment, in clear glass, back into amber (brown) bottles. They are also planning to do more bottle-conditioning. Good news, we think.

American brewery North Coast is to begin distribution in the UK via Left Coast. We’ve never tried their beer so have no idea if this is good news, but Old Rasputin is in The Sacred Book, so we’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

A nugget of trivia from Brewdog

Long reads

→ This week’s tips for saving to Pocket: a piece from Punch on ‘the art of drinking alone’ by Brad Thomas Parsons (via @allesioleone) and another excellent piece from Good Beer Hunting with some timely commentary on contract brewing.

→ BBC News Online seems to be running a story about beer once a week at the moment. Last week, it was women in beer; this week, some pondering on the Rheinheitsgebot. Next week: what does ‘craft beer’ really mean?

Around the Blogoshire

Stephen Beaumont has named the well established Allagash his American brewery of the year. He makes the case well and we have added their beers to our hit list.

→ David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop has this week’s most inspiring home brew recipe. Well, not a recipe — just a germ of an idea, but a good one: the dankest beer ever. (Would 1001 Inspiring Ideas for Home Brewers be a good book?)

Blogging and writing News

News, Nuggets & Longreads 25/01/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

It’s Saturday, no school today, so what you gonna do?

Why, read some of the following interesting items we’ve spotted around the Blogoshire and beyond, of course.

But first…

→ Some consumer intelligence: we haven’t come across any ourselves, but the word on the street is that some Tesco supermarkets are selling the incredible Courage Russian Imperial Stout for £1 a bottle. If you see it at this price, BUY IT ALL.

News and nuggets

A new blog by David Turner looks set to be an interesting read: in a series of data-driven posts, he intends to set out ‘how the modern brewing industry operates, if it makes profit and its future’, i.e. is the boom going to end soon and, if so, how?

→ It has already prompted this bit of plain talking from Denzil Vallance of Great Heck Brewing:

I can’t imagine too many conversations went like this: Q. “Why do you think your brewery failed?” A. “Because i am a useless tosser.” It’s in most people’s nature to blame outside factors for their own failures so hey ho.

→ On a related note, Derek Dellinger, author of the blog Bear Flavored, draws this distinction between two types of brewery fuelling the US ‘craft beer’ boom:

[It] seems discouragingly easy to spot which breweries are driven by the love of investment (by people who see it as a smart, fun venture in a hot market), and those which are driven by the love of beer (by people who are willing to take on a huge amount of risk for something they believe in).

A ‘longish read’

→ We’re not quite sure what to make of Good Beer Hunting, a very slick, magazine-style website by Michael Kiser, ‘writer, photographer and industry strategist’, but this article about Hill Farmstead Brewery is an engrossing character study, and accompanied by gorgeous photography.

And a couple of online magazines

The latest edition of the London Drinker is out (PDF link), one of the most readable and professional CAMRA regional publications around.

The first issue of Craft Beer Rising magazine (flippy-flappy skeumorphic interface) contains articles by Melissa Cole, Mark Dredge, Will Hawkes and Ben McFarland.

Blogging and writing

News, Nuggets and Longreads 18/01/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

Before we sit down to watch Going Live! it’s time to round-up links to beer-related writings that have caught our interest this week.

→ Continuing the discussion on sexism in the world of beer, Yvan Seth (a ‘progressive’ active CAMRA member) suggested some ways in which the Campaign might be more active in making women feel welcome. As always, there’s a risk of imposing too many rules, but his ideas seem very practical to us. Are there really any blokes who would come away from a beer festival saying, ‘Well, it was OK, but I’d have enjoyed it more if there’d been a few more pump-clips with tits on’?

→ This week’s inspiring home brew recipe is from Ron Pattinson and Kristen England’s series of ‘Let’s Brew Wednesday’ posts: Tetley’s Mild, 1945. It’s interesting to see flaked barley among the ingredients — a hangover from wartime restrictions, Ron reckons. We’re definitely going to make this at some point.

Saved to Pocket this week: Rebecca Lemon’s lengthy essay on drunkenness in Shakespeare, and boozing in Elizabethan theatres, from the Lapham Quarterly:

But more than snacking, this audience joins Falstaff in drinking heavily, ordering up their ale and wine straight through the performance and the intermission… As Thomas Platter, a Swiss visitor to London, noted in his diary in 1599, “During the performance food and drink are carried round the audience, so that for what one cares to pay one may also have refreshment.” The distractions were many, not only from drunk patrons themselves: ale produced a hissing noise when tapped, and those opening it were shouted down by audience members annoyed by the sound.

For the second time in a year, Hollywood actor Shia LaBoeouf has been involved in a fracas at the Hobgoblin pub in New Cross, South London. What next — Channing Tatum in a dust-up at a former Firkin in Lewisham? (This story brought to our attention by Bailey’s former flatmate, with whom he used to drink at the Hobgoblin c.2001, while living nearby.)

→ Nick Wheat of Dronfield CAMRA kindly emailed to tip us off to the imminent release on DVD of an obscure proto-Ealing Comedy, Cheer Boys Cheer:

Two young lovers are caught on either side of a dispute over the territorial ambitions of the monolithic Ironside brewery against an ‘olde-worlde’, traditional family-run concern, Greenleaf.

Blogging and writing

News, Nuggets and Longreads 11/01/2014

Bloke drinking beer.

It’s Saturday morning and time to highlight a few interesting items we’ve spotted around the Blogoshire, and beyond.

→ Emma at Crema’s Beer Odyssey took a deep breath and explained why it is a bad idea for bloggers (and especially brewers who blog) to glibly wade into the issue of gender. The now-deleted posts by Dave Bailey which triggered this brouhaha were more David Brent-style clumsiness than mean-spirited, but they did leave us banging our heads on the table.

→ Alan at a Good Beer Blog has posted some ‘new beer resolutions’, including ‘explore crafty’ — that is, self-consciously ‘craft’ beer made by big brewers. That, in turn, elicited some interesting statements of intent from readers: drink more lager, more Belgian beer, more session bitters. Is it John Wesley Harding, White Album, Beggars Banquet back-to-acoustic-basics time?

Jeff Alworth at Beervana attempted to ask two distinct questions about Goose Island: (a) are their beers any good; and (b) have they ‘dumbed down’ since the takeover by AB InBev in 2011? His conclusion seems to be that, for his part, he’d like them a little more if they were ‘dumber’, but that beer geeks are letting prejudice interfere with the facts if they think GI has been neutered.


→ Last Saturday, we Tweeted a link to Fiz, a new game for iOS and Android tablets and phones which challenges you to manage a brewery. Some people, it turned out, were already addicted. Others have spent the last week, with us, boring everyone else sick by cursing the name of evil nemesis Gary Blau. We wrote a review but decided against posting it (we’re not games writers, it turns out), but you can read what Steve at Beers I’ve Known thought.

→ Inspiring home brew recipe of the week: Andy Parker’s Beetroot Sorachi Ace Saison, which sounds like more of a Satanic Majesty’s Request of a beer than a Beggar’s Banquet. If you’re going to brew crazy beer, make it really crazy, right?

→ We learned from Tasting Nitch that Science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson likes ‘craft beer’ but is angry that a lot of it is ‘over-hopped’.

→ A ‘long read’: Hot Rum Cow have a piece on Belgian Lambic beer, and Frank Boon in particular, by Liz Longden. We’ve only skimmed it, but it’s this week’s pick for saving to Pocket.

→ And on the subject of ‘long reads’, we’re writing one for 1 March. JOIN US!