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Blogging and writing

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.

Categories
Beer history Blogging and writing

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.

Categories
Blogging and writing

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.

Categories
Belgium opinion pubs

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.

Categories
Blogging and writing

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…)