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”

Everything We Wrote in March 2018: Devon, Michael Jackson, the Good Beer Guide

That was a pretty productive month with more posts than in any other month for some time, perhaps because the snow and cold kept us indoors near the books and the computer.

We start­ed off gen­tly with a bit of Pub Life, observ­ing the dain­ty manoeu­vres that take place around a com­mu­nal pork pie which every­one wants to eat, but nobody wants to be seen to want to eat.

The top­ic of last mon­th’s edi­tion of The Ses­sion was ‘Home­town Glo­ries’ so we sep­a­rat­ed into our con­sti­tu­tion­al parts to think about Waltham­stow and Bridg­wa­ter respec­tive­ly. It does­n’t look as if the host has put togeth­er a round-up of the entries yet but when he does, it’ll be here. (No pres­sure, Gareth.)

We flagged a new favourite book, 1949’s A Scrap­book of Inns, pick­ing out some high­lights, and then came back for anoth­er go at one of them in this post about the mys­te­ri­ous lost style ‘Ash­bur­ton Pop’:

There is a par­tic­u­lar kind of beer brewed at Ash­bur­ton in Devon­shire, very full of fixed air, and there­fore known by the name of Ash­bur­ton pop, which is sup­posed to be as effi­ca­cious in con­sump­tions as even the air of Devon­shire itself…

Brew­Dog have been embroiled in some brouha­ha every oth­er day for the last month, it seems. We had some thoughts on the Pink IPA busi­ness, the reac­tion to which seemed like anoth­er win-win for the Scot­tish behe­moth.

In a big­gish post we looked back on what we learned about Devon’s beer scene while writ­ing our Devon Life col­umn for a year and a half:

If you think brown bit­ter is endan­gered, spend more time in Devon. Time after time we spoke to peo­ple who expressed mild frus­tra­tion at the con­ser­vatism of the coun­ty – at the aver­sion to things pale, bit­ter or aro­mat­ic – and of the need to dial things back and down if they want to sell any of it in local pubs. There are too many poten­tial­ly inter­est­ing beers that feel com­pro­mised, and too many brew­ers who know it.

This was one of our most pop­u­lar posts for the month, though 99.9 per cent of the traf­fic was from one par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal region.

Women in work clothes smiling.
Women pos­ing beside the bot­tling machine at Mitchells & But­lers bot­tling depot, Birm­ing­ham, c.1950.

For Inter­na­tion Wom­en’s Day we put togeth­er a gallery of images of women work­ing in brew­eries and pubs from our col­lec­tion of mid-20th-cen­tu­ry in-house mag­a­zines.

One thing we weren’t very good at last month was tast­ing new beers and writ­ing up the notes. We did get round to try­ing one of the beers sug­gest­ed for us by our Patre­on sub­scribers, though – De Molen Not For Sale Ale, about which we were rather enthu­si­as­tic.

While research­ing the IWD post (above) we came across sev­er­al arti­cles about malt­ing and decid­ed to put togeth­er a gallery of pic­tures from those, too.

Then came a cry of despair from the pub: what’s the point in brew­eries pro­duc­ing decent beer if it’s exact­ly the same as every­body else’s decent beer? What’s your thing?

Butting into some­body else’s mys­tery took us down an inter­est­ing line of research around Bris­tol’s min­ing his­to­ry and take-away-only beer­hous­es. There’s a fur­ther update from the orig­i­nal poster in the com­ments on Insta­gram: “The Rock Tav­ern / Rock House appears around 1899 and dis­ap­pears in the late 1960s. One of the entries is aster­isked to indi­cate it was off-sales.”

There’s a whole lot of pol­i­tics going on in and around SIBA, a lot of it rather hard to fol­low. We piped up to say that, actu­al­ly, we under­stand why small brew­ers might not want medi­um-large brew­ers in their club. (Note: Neil from SIBA popped up on Twit­ter to point out that St Austell aren’t so much “muscling in” (our phrase) as try­ing to get back in, hav­ing been bumped out when they grew too big.)

Watney's Red -- detail from beer mat.

Nick Wheat acquired and uploaded a rare Wat­ney’s train­ing film from the launch of the reviled Red keg bit­ter in 1971 and kind­ly allowed us to share it. Do give it a watch if you have a spare 10–15 min­utes, if only to mar­vel at the impen­e­tra­bly plum­my accents.

Last year CAMRA pub­lished our 2,500-word arti­cle on the ori­gins of the Good Beer Guide, using only the words of those who were there. Now, so every­one can read it, it’s avail­able here on the blog.

We weren’t expect­ing to like that beer, which we did­n’t expect to find in such good con­di­tion, or in that pub, which we did­n’t expect to find on that street, in that part of town. Sur­pris­es all round!

In 1983–84 Pit­field brewed a mild in sup­port of the women of Green­ham Com­mon – was it the first ‘cause’ beer? Check out the com­ments for some oth­er sug­ges­tions, and a telling off.

Illustration: Micheal Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

This was great fun to write, and a great exam­ple of where hav­ing two writ­ers helps rather than hin­ders: some­one asked us what Michael Jack­son would have made of NEIPA so we invent­ed two schol­ars and had them debate it using only his writ­ings for ammo.

For a long time Orval was a beer alone; now, it has com­pa­ny, as a new style is in the process of being born. We’re call­ing it DHBA for now. And here’s a foot­note via Twit­ter:

It was a long month which meant five rounds of News, Nuggets & Lon­greads, includ­ing one that was so full of good stuff we resort­ed to a list of bul­let points at the end to fit it all in:

3 March 2018 – Nor­way, Nitro­gen, Nanas

10 March 2018 – Lemon­drop, Brew­Dog, Hard­knott

17 March 2018 – Lon­don Drinkers & Bris­tol Dock­ers

24 March 2018 – Glit­ter, Ilford, AK

31 March 2018 – Moor­house­’s, Memel, Mel­low­ness

There was also an email newslet­ter (sign up!), lots of Tweets, pho­tos of pubs on Insta­gram, a bit of Face­book stuff, and a three-hour Red­dit AMA.

If you think all this lot is worth any­thing please con­sid­er sign­ing up to sup­port us via Patre­on (where there are also exclu­sive posts for $2+ sub­scribers) or maybe just buy us a pint via Ko-Fi.