Beer history pubs

Post-War Estate Pubs 1951-1954

As promised, we’re scanning and sharing pictures from the various magazines and books we’ve picked up over the years. This particular set tells a bit of a story.

During and after World War II, until 1954, there were strict building regulations — you couldn’t just build a pub when there was a desperate need for houses, schools, shops and so on. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any pubs built at all. Rather, each case had to be debated with local authorities and central government ministries to prove there was a real need.

What you’ll notice about these pubs built immediately post-war is that they look very like those being built a decade earlier during the hey-day of the Improved Public House. (One reason why guessing the date of a pub isn’t always as easy as it should be.) That’s partly because ‘bigger but better’ remained the prevailing philosophy of pub design (Basil Oliver’s book was mostly written pre-war but only published afterwards) but also in some cases because plans had been drawn up and then put on ice.

The Balloon Hotel, Wollaton, Nottinghamshire
1930s style pub with straight lines.

The Balloon Hotel was designed by W.B. Starr of local firm Hall & Clifford and built in 1951 for Tennant Brothers of Sheffield. It looks, to us, very 1930s, not least in terms of its scale. We haven’t been able to find much specific information other than that its name was eventually changed to The Wollaton Arms and it is now gone.


News, Nuggets & Longreads 26 November 2016

Because we’re both on our travels this is a scheduled post with urgent updates, if any, made on fiddly touchscreens.

First, some gorgeous pictures from Invisible Works whose author, Nick Stone, acquired a big sack of found photographs of Norwich and has been sharing them in a series of posts. We, of course, had our attention grabbed by a collection of images of pubs, like this one:

Duke's Palace Inn, Norwich.

(Via @teninchwheels.)

Wooden beer casks.

Gary Gillman has been pondering a lost taste in beer — that of ‘pitch’:

Germans in particular coated the interior of casks with hot pitch, the resin extracted from the sap of pine and other fir trees. George Ehret, the prominent New York brewer who in 1891 wrote a history of American brewing, described two purposes for the pitching. The first was to ensure proper cleaning of the cask before reuse. The second was to avoid the “taste of the wood”. The cleaning reference is compressed. He meant, as other writers made clear, that beer was more likely to sour from micro-organisms in the wood unless the barrier of pitch minimized this risk.

The logical conclusion of this thought? The revival of pitched lager!

Old photos: the kidnapper and Mr Hamm, the victim.

For the Growler magazine Ben Reeves tells the story of the kidnapping of a brewery boss in St Paul, Minnesota, in 1933:

Once in a safe house in Bensenville, Illinois, Hamm was placed in a sparsely furnished room with boarded windows and forced to sign four separate ransom notes demanding $100,000. Within days, Hamm would be returned safely home without a scratch on his head, and the men responsible for his kidnapping—better known as the Barker-Karpis gang—would be padding their wallets. It seemed like the perfect crime; little did the Barker-Karpis gang know that they had just detonated a societal bomb that would end their outlaw careers and completely reshape Minnesota’s legal system.

The basis for season 4 of Fargo, with a Miller’s Crossing feel, perhaps?

Hat, pipe and pint glass.

On his 39th birthday Alec Latham returns to a preoccupation of his: does he belong with the craft beer young guns, or among the growling veterans in the real ale pub?

With mature pub-goers, I understand everything they say but might miss historic cultural references. With pub-goers of my age, I get the vibe but haven’t got a clue what anybody’s job title means. With some younger drinkers, I might understand the words individually but not when they’re strung together.

The Fellowship Inn, Bellingham: pool table and dereliction.

‘Dirty South’, one of the authors of the Deserter blog, toured all parts of South London with only one pub:

The epitome of a one horse town, Bellingham has very little to offer the visitor other than its run-down, but Grade II-listed pub, The Fellowship… Only one of its bars is open and in between serving the sparse customers, the barmaid returns to the comfort of the gas fire on our side of the bar. The pub has received a lottery grant though to restore it to its former glory – and it’s no exaggeration to talk of ‘glory’.

Beer and Twitter

And, finally, something a bit new: a link to a Twitter ‘thread’. If you’ve been following politics on Twitter for the last year, you’ll have seen a lot of these — blog posts, in effect, split up into 10, 20, 30 or more (usually) numbered Tweets. It’s a weird way to digest what amounts to an article but, as the author of this one says, ‘Where the eyeballs are, innit?’ This is where it starts — click the date to go through to Twitter and read the whole thing:

beer festivals Generalisations about beer culture london

A Brief History of Beer Weeks

It’s Sheffield Beer Week this week (14-22 March) which got us thinking about beer weeks in general — where did they come from, what are they for, and where are they going?

In the UK arguably the original beer week is Norwich City of Ale, which first took place in May 2011. It involves mini-festivals in pubs across the city featuring breweries from the region, and special events designed to create a buzz such as tasters of beer being given out in the street. It was the brain-child of lecturer Dawn Leeder and publican Phil Cutter, AKA ‘Murderers Phil’. As Dawn Leeder recalls there was no particular inspiration except perhaps, obliquely, Munich’s Oktoberfest. Its launch was covered by an enthusiastic Roger Protz in this article for Beer Pages which concludes with a call to action:

It’s an initiative that could and should be taken up other towns and cities in Britain with a good range of pubs, craft breweries and a public transport network. Nottingham and Sheffield, with their tram systems, spring to mind.

Red Routemaster bus with Norwich City of Ale livery.
Norwich City of Ale promotional bus, 2013. SOURCE: Norwich City of Ale website.

Glasgow’s beer week first ran in 2011. It was inspired equally by US beer weeks and by the Glasgow Beer and Pub Project organised by Eric Steen in 2010, a six-week arts and culture event which culminated with a home-brewing event in a pop-up pub. Glasgow Beer Week co-organiser Robbie Pickering recalls some of the difficulties faced by amateur volunteers:

We had our disasters, like the time we managed to schedule a meet-the-brewer in a pub where a live band was playing on the same night. I am very lucky that brewer still speaks to me. I am still proud of some of the events we put on even if hardly anyone came to them. We did the first beer and cheese tasting in Glasgow and the first UK screening of the US Michael Jackson documentary, and got Ron Pattinson over to speak about British lager together with people from the Scottish Brewing Archive Association. And I have a lifetime’s supply of beautiful letterpress beer mats with a spelling error.

It ran for three years the last being in 2013:

I think GBW collapsed in the end because of lack of interest. After the first year most of the other people involved had moved away and I was left running around on my own… I announced the dates for 2014 before deciding not to go ahead with it. Nobody ever asked what had happened to it which kind of suggests it was the right decision.

From our distant vantage point it also seemed to bring to a head tensions in Glasgow’s beer community with expressions of ill-feeling still being expressed via social media three years later.

Robbie Pickering sees some positives in it, however: the kinds of events that the Beer Week was built around now occur organically and frequently in Glasgow negating the need for a special event.

In 2012, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) ran a London City of Beer celebration piggybacking on the surge in visitors to the capital during the Olympic Games. But it was two months long, not a week, and didn’t turn into an annual event.

The next British city to get a beer week proper was Bristol. It launched in October 2013 when, having bubbled under as a beer destination for a few years beforehand, the city was just on the cusp of a boom in specialist bars and breweries. The initial idea came from Lee Williams who was born in Bristol but lived in the US for ten years where he ran a blog, Hoptopia, and wrote a guidebook called Beer Lover’s Colorado. When he returned to Bristol to work in the beer industry he brought with him experience of several US beer weeks and suggested the idea of running something similar to a friend and fellow beer blogger, Stephen Powell.

Bristol Beer Week featured more mini-festivals, talks, tastings and special one-off beers brewed in collaboration with beer writers who duly plugged the event.

Beer history News

Non-Craft Sub-Brand

In a weird inversion of the usual arrangement, a self-consciously-‘craft’ brewery has just launched a retro ‘real ale’ sub-brand. Well, sort of.

If you’ve read Christopher Hutt’s 1973 book The Death of the English Pub then you’ll know the story of Bullard’s of Norwich: along with the city’s other brewery, Steward & Patteson, it was taken over by Watney’s in 1963, and both breweries’ own bitters were replaced by a generic Norwich Bitter. Then, in 1968, Bullard’s brewery was closed down.

Nearly 50 years on, Redwell (perhaps best known for its dispute with Camden over the trademark ‘Hells’) has acquired the rights to the Bullard’s brand and revived it for a line of cask ales designed, in part, to appeal to those who have fond and lingering memories of the old brewery.

Redwell isn’t brewing on the old Bullard’s site, or using the original branding and, unlike other revived brands (Joule’s, Phipps, Truman’s) there has been no attempt made to recreate historic recipes, or even to ‘take inspiration’ from them. Bullard’s old yeast strain hasn’t been brought out of retirement, either, so, there’s really not much of the original brewery here beyond the name.

And here’s why we said ‘sort of’ in our introduction: the packaging still uses the C-word — ‘Craft Beers Brewed in Norwich’ — and the first products on offer are East Coast Pale Ale, ‘brewed with new world hops’, and a ‘hop bomb of an IPA’.

This isn’t, therefore, the perfect irony we’ve been waiting for — a trendy craft brewery aping the look of, say, Shepherd Neame, in order to market cask mild and best bitter on the sly — but it’s still, we think, an interesting development.

For more details, and some spiky local reactions, check out this substantial piece on the launch in the Eastern Daily Press.