Everything we wrote in September 2019: Belgium, scary pubs, The Vodi

With a ten-day holiday at the start, September got off to a slow start on the blogging front, and we only managed 12 posts in total.

Mind you, we did post on the Patre­on feed every day from Bel­gium, amount­ing to about 5,000 words in total. The first entry, writ­ten on arrival in Ostend, was on open access, too, if you fan­cy a taste.

When we got back to the UK, we dis­tilled all that lot into one long post cap­tur­ing our impres­sions of the coun­try, its cafes and its beer:

Two bar staff are danc­ing and mim­ing along to ‘Dolce Vita’ by Ryan Paris as they wash glass­es. A man with a shop­ping trol­ley, dressed head to toe in cus­tom embroi­dered den­im, lum­bers in and rais­es a hand at which, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, he is brought a small glass of water; he downs it, waves, and leaves. On the ter­race, two skin­ny boys in art­ful­ly tat­ty clothes eat a kilo of pis­ta­chios and sip at glass­es of Pils. A group of Eng­lish­men in real ale T‑shirts arrive: “Triples all round is it, lads? Aye, four triples, pal.”


Delight­ed to be back home, we head­ed straight to The Drap­ers Arms and pored over the lat­est edi­tion of Bris­tol CAM­RA’s mag­a­zine Pints West. We enjoyed it so much that we decid­ed to give it a shout out on the blog:

In gen­er­al, there’s an open­ness about it that shows CAMRA at its best. All brew­eries are cov­ered with enthu­si­asm and hon­esty, regard­less of their par­tic­u­lar cask-ale cre­den­tials. Licensed premis­es of all kinds get a look in and there are heart­en­ing tales of local activism to save appar­ent­ly doomed pubs.


John Braine’s 1959 nov­el The Vodi has some­thing in com­mon with many oth­er British books from this peri­od: it reeks of beer and pubs. We high­light­ed some of the most inter­est­ing bits, like this:

[He] didn’t like the Lord Rel­ton very much. It was a fake-Tudor road-house with a huge car park; even its name was rather phoney, an attempt to iden­ti­fy it with the vil­lage of Rel­ton to which, geo­graph­i­cal­ly at least, it belonged. But, unlike the Fru­men­ty, unlike even the Ten Dancers or the Blue Lion at Sil­bridge, the Lord Rel­ton belonged nowhere; it would have been just as much at home in any oth­er place in Eng­land.


A raven in deep shadow.

From nov­els, we moved on to films, specif­i­cal­ly the inven­tion of a par­tic­u­lar myth of the Eng­lish pub cre­at­ed in Hol­ly­wood in the 1930s and 40s:

Con­sid­er 1943’s Sher­lock Holmes Faces Death, one of the bet­ter entries in the run of Sher­lock Holmes films star­ring Basil Rath­bone and Nigel Bruce, which gives us The Rat & Raven… The film is set in Northum­bria, not that you’d know that from the cast of assort­ed Brits, Antipodeans, Irish­men and Amer­i­cans, all speak­ing stage cock­ney or Transat­lantic Eng­lish… The pub, which appears 35 min­utes in, is locat­ed in the coun­try town of Hurl­stone – instant­ly recog­nis­able to stu­dents of hor­ror film as the stand­ing ‘Euro­pean vil­lage’ set at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, built c.1920 and reused end­less­ly to stand in for every­where from the West­ern Front to Wales to the fic­tion­al ‘Vis­aria’ where Frankenstein’s mon­ster ram­paged in his lat­er post-Karloff career.


We approached the end of the month with a cou­ple of relat­ed items:

  1. It can real­ly dif­fi­cult to leave a pub when you’re hav­ing a good time
  2. …but some­times pubs make the choice for you and aren’t always polite about it.

Then, way back in the mists of, uh, this morn­ing, we flagged a sto­ry from 1966 about a piece of pop-Freudi­an analy­sis of British drinkers and their atti­tude to beer.


We also put togeth­er our usu­al round-ups of news, nuggets and lon­greads:


There was also a 1,000+ words newslet­ter (sign up!), a hand­ful of oth­er bits and pieces on Patre­on and lots of Tweets, like this:

Next month: cider, appar­ent­ly. More about that lat­er in the week.

The Best of Us in 2018

As the year winds to a close, it’s time to reflect on where we’ve been and the stops we made along the way.

In the real world, we’ve had a hec­tic year, with beer blog­ging as a ground­ing mech­a­nism – some­thing absorb­ing and chal­leng­ing that isn’t (quite) work.

Though it’s felt at time as if we’ve been less pro­duc­tive than in pre­vi­ous years, look­ing back over our ‘month that was’ round-ups, we realise just how much we wrote this year, and how much of it is bloody decent.

What fol­lows are some of our per­son­al high­lights. If you’ve appre­ci­at­ed our work dur­ing the year, do con­sid­er sign­ing-up for Patre­on (extra exclu­sive stuff) or just buy­ing us a pint via Ko-Fi.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Best of Us in 2018”

Our Favourite Beer Tweets of 2018

We’ve done this for the past few years, partly to remind ourselves of things that tickled us, enlightened us, or made us think, but also perhaps to help you find new people to follow.

Of course Twit­ter makes this very dif­fi­cult: advanced search tools that used to make it easy to review our own past retweets seem to be bro­ken, or lim­it­ed, and scrolling back through your own time­line is painful­ly slow.

For­tu­nate­ly, between that and our week­ly news and nuggets round-ups, we did man­age to dig up the fol­low­ing.

1. Pub signs

Tru­ly a work of art.

2. Pub interiors

Mar­tin Tweets hun­dreds of pic­tures like this from his pub crawls – do give him a fol­low.

3. Morse – he’s a mystery to us

Pan­do­ra Tweet­ed a whole series of pho­tos of John Thaw hold­ing pints of beer and, hon­est­ly, we want some­one to turn this into a cal­en­dar.

4. Acoustic money

This amused us at the time; with all the recent talk of cash­less pubs, it has gained new rel­e­vance.

5. Duran Duran

Pete should be both ashamed and proud of him­self.

6. Elastic capacity

Nick has a knack of cut­ting through to this kind of essen­tial truth.

7. April Fool

Some­thing some­thing craft beer some­thing some­thing.

8. Pub food

Or for three Rich­mond sausages on Smash with Bis­to.

9. Garnish

Like some­thing from Vic & Bob’s ‘The Club’.

10. Memory failure

It us”, as the kids were say­ing about four years ago.

11. Simples

Well, he’s not wrong.

12. Thinking up time

Not every­body agreed with the sen­ti­ment expressed here.

13. On the up

There’s hope for them yet.

14. Stereotypes

Ay up.

15. Am I bothered?

Sharp after­taste, slight­ly sour, 2 stars.

16. The Old House at Home

This account is Evan Rail’s ther­a­peu­tic side project. Give it a fol­low.

17. There’s a man down the pub swears he’s Elvis

Paul’s web­site is a fan­tas­tic resource – check it out.

18. Fierce

.…mount­ed her wheel…”

19. A chance of meatballs

Sign of the times.

20. And one of our own

There’s one more round-up to come this year – our ‘best of us’ post where we flag the favourite bits of our own writ­ing. That should land… tomor­row, maybe? Or Sun­day.

Our Golden Pints for 2018

This is always an interesting exercise for us but all the more so as we’ve got better at keeping records throughout the year.

Those records, in the form of just-about-week­ly Patre­on posts on which beers we’ve enjoyed most each week­end and spread­sheets from #Every­Pu­bIn­Bris­tol, help to avoid the recen­cy effect and push us to be hon­est.

So, after a good bit of back-and-forth over Lem­sips on Wednes­day night, here’s our list of the best beers and pubs of the year.

The best English pub of 2018

It’s been a year of pub lists for us (1 | 2 | 3 | 4) and we’ve vis­it­ed some great places that were new to us, as well as loop­ing back to old favourites.

But let’s be hon­est, there’s only one win­ner: our local, The Drap­ers Arms, on Glouces­ter Road in Bris­tol.

The Drapers Arms -- a collage.
A selec­tion of our ‘Drap­ers‘ pho­tos from Twit­ter.

It’s a microp­ub and has fun­ny hours. It tends to be either a bit qui­et (Mon­day evening, Sat­ur­day after­noon) or crammed (the entire rest of the time). Occa­sion­al­ly, we wish there was a reg­u­lar, reli­able beer on the list.

But the stats speak for them­selves: at the time of writ­ing, we’re just shy of our hun­dredth vis­it since mov­ing to Bris­tol. (Not includ­ing the times one of us has been in with­out the oth­er.)

Now, that’s part­ly down to prox­im­i­ty – it real­ly is the clos­est pub to our house – but we’ve chal­lenged our­selves on this: is our num­ber three pub, the Bar­ley Mow near Tem­ple Meads, bet­ter than the Drap­ers? No, it isn’t.

Best Pub: the Drapers Arms.
Best non-Bristol pub

The Roy­al Oak at Bor­ough, Lon­don, is the best pub in Lon­don, for now, and that’s not opin­ion, it’s sci­en­tif­ic fact. Sus­sex Best! Those salt beef sand­wich­es!

The best Belgian bar

We find our­selves going back to Brasserie De L’U­nion in Saint-Gilles, Brus­sels, so that’s our win­ner. It’s earthy, a bit grot­ty, utter­ly bewil­der­ing, and there’s usu­al­ly some­one behav­ing down­right weird­ly. The beer is cheap, the ser­vice cheeky, and a diplo­mat’s girl­friend forced us to accept a gift of exot­ic fruit. And maybe the most impor­tant thing – we found it for our­selves.

The best German beer garden

We had such a nice time pre­tend­ing to be reg­u­lars at the Michaeli­garten in Munich in the autumn and can’t stop dream­ing about going there again.

The best beer of 2018

Cer­tain beers came up repeat­ed­ly in our Beers of the Week­end posts on Patre­on, some of which sur­prised us when we looked back:

  • Young’s Ordi­nary
  • Young’s Dou­ble Choco­late Stout
  • Lost & Ground­ed Keller Pils
  • Five Points Pils
  • Bath Ales Sulis
  • Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry Pale Blue Dot
  • Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best
  • Dark Star Hop­head
  • Thorn­bridge Jaipur
  • De la Senne Taras Boul­ba
  • Tiny Rebel Stay Puft and Impe­r­i­al Puft
  • Titan­ic Plum Porter
  • Zero Degrees Bohemi­an
  • Zero Degrees Dark Lager

And there were also some one-offs that we remem­bered, and remem­bered fond­ly, even months down the line: Siren Kiset­su, a sai­son with yuzu fruit and tea, for exam­ple, or Elgo­od’s Cool­ship Man­go Sour.

But there’s one beer that we both agreed has become a favourite – that we find our­selves excit­ed to encounter, and stick­ing on when we find it in a pub – and that’s Ched­dar Ales Bit­ter Bul­ly. It’s clean, con­sis­tent, prop­er­ly bit­ter, and a very digestible 3.8%. It also almost in that north­ern style for which we’ve got such a soft spot.

Best Beer: Bitter Bully.
Best foreign beer

Based on vol­ume con­sumed, and time spent dream­ing about, it’s got to be De la Senne Taras Boul­ba.

Best Tripel

Look, we’ve been over this: it’s West­malle, but, boy, are we lov­ing Karmeli­et right now.

Best blend

Tuch­er Weizen with Oakham Green Dev­il – Hopfen­weisse!

Best blog/writer

With a year’s worth of news, nuggets and lon­greads posts to look over, this is anoth­er we don’t need to leave to guess­work because cer­tain blogs (or writ­ers) got linked to time and again:

But there’s one blog we reck­on stands above the rest for its fre­quen­cy and depth, and for the mea­sured insight it offers into a beer cul­ture not our own, and that’s Jeff Alworth’s Beer­vana.

Best blog: Beervana.Best beer Twitterer

It’s @thebeernut. Again.

Best beer publication

Orig­i­nal Grav­i­ty because it’s dif­fer­ent, both in terms of edi­to­r­i­al approach (cre­ative, impres­sion­is­tic, the­mat­ic) and dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­el (free, in pubs). Good job, ATJ! (Dis­clo­sure: we’ve been paid to write a cou­ple of bits for OG.)

* * *

And that’s us done. We’ll also try to find time for our usu­al Best Read­ing and Best Tweets round-ups in the next week or so.

Everything We Wrote in June 2018: RATs, Beavers, Kittens

June was hot and hectic, and yet somehow we managed 20 posts here and 13 over on the Patreon feed.

There was also the usu­al bar­rage of Tweets, bits and pieces on Insta­gram and Face­book, and 1000+ words of exclu­sive stuff in the newslet­ter. (We don’t nor­mal­ly make those pub­licly view­able but this one is, if you want to see the kind of thing we write about.)


The month began, as they so often do, with a con­tri­bu­tion to the Ses­sion, this time on the sub­ject of farm­house brew­ing. The fun thing about the Ses­sion is how often we think we have noth­ing to say but start typ­ing any­way and… Oh, there’s a thing.

You can read a round-up of all the entries at Brew­ing in a Bed­sit­ter.


The first of this mon­th’s Pub Life posts records a con­ver­sa­tion between bar staff on impor­tant philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions: are zebras black with white stripes, or white with black? (Do check out the hilar­i­ous­ly (know­ing­ly) lit­er­al com­ments on this post…)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Every­thing We Wrote in June 2018: RATs, Beavers, Kit­tens”