News, Nuggets & Longreads 13 August 2016: Ireland, North Korea, Hants

Here’s all the best beer- and pub-related reading we’ve come across in the past week, from Dublin to Pyongyang.

The week before last brought news of the death of Oliv­er Hugh­es, founder of Ire­land’s Porter­house Group and a key fig­ure in Irish craft beer. There have been var­i­ous obit­u­ar­ies and trib­utes but this one from the Irish Inde­pen­dent offers a good sum­ma­ry of his life, career and influ­ence:

With Oliv­er Hugh­es’s flair for pub­lic­i­ty they began by serv­ing two beers called ‘Wis­er­bud­dy’ and ‘Prob­a­bly’ – which he said, prompt­ed threat­en­ing let­ters from a solic­i­tors’ firm on behalf of Dublin’s best-known brew­ery. Hugh­es nego­ti­at­ed a two-week truce and then prompt­ly began adver­tis­ing a nation­wide radio com­pe­ti­tion for names for beers “for­mer­ly known as ‘Wis­er­bud­dy’ and ‘Prob­a­bly’”, which attract­ed anoth­er sheaf of solic­i­tor’s let­ters.

The Japan Times reports that North Korea has just launched its first Ger­man-style beer fes­ti­val which we’re going to call GDPRKBF. Does any­one else find it odd that this super-secre­tive total­i­tar­i­an state keeps using beer as a sign that Things Are Fine Here, Hon­est? (The defunct British brew­ery men­tioned in the arti­cle, by the way, is Ush­er’s of Trow­bridge.)

Cartoon illustration: Richard Boston.

The Guardian, final­ly show­ing a bit of appre­ci­a­tion for the beer-relat­ed rich­es in their archives, has repro­duced Richard Boston’s first Boston on Beer col­umn from 1973 to mark its 43rd anniver­sary:

In the last week or so I have been talk­ing about beer to a com­plete­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive, soci­o­log­i­cal­ly pre­cise cross-sec­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty who, by an almost incred­i­ble stroke of luck, I hap­pened to bump into in var­i­ous pub­lic hous­es in Lon­don. The most wide­ly expressed com­plaint was about keg (top-pres­sure) beer, which was unfavourably com­pared with the Real Thing which is pumped up by hand from the cel­lar… But grum­bling about beer and pubs is a pop­u­lar and time-hon­oured British pas­time, and some com­plaints are bet­ter found­ed than oth­ers.

We were impressed by Hamp­shire brew­ery Vibrant For­est’s Cit­ra VPA at GBBF (dis­clo­sure: we had free­bie trade tick­ets but paid for our beer) and, as luck would have it, Glenn John­son has just writ­ten a short pro­file of the brew­ery based on a recent vis­it:

I want to shout out to all beer lovers about this brew­ery because their beers real­ly are first class. ‘We won’t tol­er­ate dull or bor­ing’ it says on their web­site.  How very true. If Vibrant For­est were based in Lon­don you would get beer writ­ers going all gooey eyed over them.  How­ev­er, if you want to try their beers you will now find them all along the south coast across to Brighton and they also make reg­u­lar trips to Bris­tol.

Detail from a vintage India Pale Ale beer label.

Paste Mag­a­zine con­duct­ed an epic taste-off of Amer­i­can IPAs which Jim Vorel has writ­ten up here:

[This] tast­ing end­ed up at an astound­ing, bewil­der­ing, quite frankly over­whelm­ing 247 entrants. For per­spec­tive, the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val tast­ed 336 Amer­i­can IPA entrants this year, mean­ing that we did only 89 few­er than the largest beer fes­ti­val in the coun­try… And where GABF awards medals only to the top 3 beers, we’ve ranked the entire top 50. To even make that top 50, it means that beer was in the top 20 per­cent of entrants. Lit­er­al­ly every ranked beer is among the elite. So let’s get to it.

Via Jon Urch (@ClassDrinking)

1987 ad for Wrexham Lager.
Ad from Wrex­ham Ace, August 1987. SOURCE: Wrex­ham His­to­ry.

Here’s some­thing worth a browse if you’re inter­est­ed in recent British brew­ing his­to­ry: Wrex­ham His­to­ry has begun digi­tis­ing var­i­ous doc­u­ments as PDFs includ­ing this issue of the Wrex­ham Brew­ery in-house news­pa­per Wrex­ham Ace from 1987. (Via @jamesbxwm.)

And, final­ly, the respons­es to the lat­est brew­ery takeover news, of Tex­as­’s Revolver Brew­ing by Miller Coors, have been jad­ed to say the least:

A Lightplater while waiting for a train

Young's Light Ale

With our train due in an hour,we wan­dered out of the sta­tion in a small inland Cor­nish town in search of a pub. The first we came across was busy and smart enough; on enter­ing, a cheery-look­ing land­la­dy greet­ed us and engaged in a lit­tle light ban­ter. She then served us two pints and a half of the warmest, dullest bit­ter we’ve had in a while.

This seemed a per­fect time for a lit­tle exper­i­ment. “Is that Young’s Light Ale in the fridge?” we asked, spot­ting the label from sev­er­al metres away. It was, so we bought some, and used it to (a) reduce the tem­per­a­ture of our pints from luke­warm to cool; (b) put some fizz in them; and © lift the bit­ter­ness. They weren’t great pints there­after, but were at least pleas­ant enough to fin­ish.

All of this remind­ed us of (sor­ry) yet anoth­er pas­sage from Richard Boston’s Beer and Skit­tles (1976) in which he lists var­i­ous ‘tra­di­tion­al’ beer mix­es:

  • Light­plater – bit­ter and light ale.
  • Moth­er-in-law – old and bit­ter. (Oh dear. Bernard Man­ning much?)
  • Granny – old and mild.
  • Boil­er­mak­er – brown and mild.
  • Black­smith –stout and bar­ley wine.
  • Half-and-half – bit­ter and stout, or bit­ter and mild.

If you’re com­pelled to mix beers in an emer­gency as we were, or just fan­cy a change, these all sound like they might cre­ate some­thing drink­able.

Bai­ley’s dad, of course, nev­er com­plains about bad beer. If it can’t be ren­dered pass­able with the addi­tion of a bot­tle of Man­n’s Brown Ale, then it’s time to move on.

Before beer blogging, there was Boston on Beer

Detail from a poor-quality scan of Richard Boston portrait in the Guardian.

Richard Boston’s first week­ly Boston on Beer col­umn appeared in The Guardian on 11 August 1973. In an arti­cle mark­ing its first anniver­sary (6 July 1974) he said a few things that might chime with beer blog­gers.

This col­umn has been going for near­ly a year, and where­as when I start­ed I thought I had enough mate­r­i­al for about three weeks, hav­ing now writ­ten some 50,000 words I have enough to keep me going indef­i­nite­ly.

He  also describes tot­ter­ing stacks of ‘notes and rough drafts for arti­cles on sub­jects rang­ing from canal-side pubs to beer glass­es (why they have han­dles and dim­ples in the south and are clear and straight-sided in the north), as well as the results of the search for the best Gents’ and ‘amaz­ing rev­e­la­tions about the awful­ness of Amer­i­can beer’.

Every week, he came up with some­thing to say, even if the occa­sion­al col­umn seemed rather con­trived under the pres­sure of a dead­line.

Thir­ty years lat­er (Guardian, 23 March 1989) he recalled the colum­n’s suc­cess: ‘I had nev­er heard of Cam­ra… but just men­tion­ing them in the Guardian and giv­ing their address caused a surge in their mem­ber­ship so great that they had to take on extra staff in order to cope.’ This seems to be true: when his col­umn went to print, CAMRA had c.2700 mem­bers; by Sep­tem­ber, it was approach­ing c.5000, by our reck­on­ing.

In the same piece, he recalls why the col­umn end­ed in 1975: ‘I became bored of the sound of my own voice going on about beer and pubs.’ Hmm. We know that feel­ing.

We’re ashamed to say we’d nev­er read Richard Boston until Des de Moor told us about Beer and Skit­tles (1976), a book adapt­ed from the Guardian columns. You can get a copy fair­ly cheap­ly through Ama­zon, or read the orig­i­nal columns in the online archive of The Guardian if your local library pro­vides access.

See also: Orwell’s Beer Blog and this strange nine­teenth cen­tu­ry exer­cise in pro­to-blog­ging.