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.

Everything We Wrote in February 2018: Joy, Dark Star, Charabancs

Illustration: February Collage.

This has been another month where we felt as if we hadn’t written much but then on looking back found ourselves thinking, oh, was that this month? It amounts to 20 posts in all, some administrative or routine, but plenty ‘proper’.

We started with a heartfelt self-indulgence: beer should be joyful. (Tim Thomas, editor of the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine Ullage, has picked this one for our column in the next issue.)


For Session #132 we reflected on why we bothered lugging the unused home-brewing kit all the way from Cornwall to Bristol last year. Jon’s round-up of all the contributions — a healthy crop — is here.

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Everything We Wrote in January 2018

January 2018.

We managed a slightly slim 17 posts last month what with the lingering effects of the Christmas break and a cheeky holiday towards the end. Still, there were a few good ‘uns you might have missed in the January fog.

We kicked the month off, as usual, with a contribution to the Session. January’s edition was a bit weird because there was no host until the last minute when co-founder Jay Brooks stepped in to ask ‘Three Questions’. His round-up of all the responses is here.


We went to Cardiff which prompted Keith Flett to ask us a question: “Why Drink Brains?” We answered.


A relic from the pre-CAMRA era of beer appreciation arrived in our actual snail-mail postbox: a pub crawl schedule from Cup Final day, 1967.


Some pubs are famous for doing one beer really well — Bass, Landlord, usually one of the classics. People suggested examples in the comments and a good discussion was had all round. (This one got lots of attention, as the throwaways often do.)

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Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints for 2017

Ah, the Golden Pints — a grim obligation undertaken out of habit rather than joy, a mere ‘circle jerk’, a relic of a past era of beer blogging…

Nah, we like ’em. We enjoy the chance to reflect, and to think about what we’ve actually been drinking and which beers have really stuck with us down the months.

We also enjoy reading other people’s. They’re often biased, full of odd choices, and demonstrate unabashed local boosterism… Which is what makes them great. When there are enough of them trends emerge and the same names to crop up again and again. And you know that beers and breweries from one part of the country grudgingly mentioned in Golden Pints from another must really be something.

We’ve decided this year that an important test of Golden Pint status is repeatability — in a landscape of infinite variety and choice, did a particular beer warrant a second pint? Did a particular pub demand a second visit despite the temptation to explore new territory?

With all that in mind, here’s what we came up with, omitting any category to which we didn’t feel we could give a decent answer.

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The Best of Us in 2017

The idea behind this round-up of the best of our own writing from 2017 is, as much as anything, to remind ourselves of what we’ve pulled off.

We forgot we’d written some of this stuff at all, while other bits we had in mind were were from last year, or maybe the year before.

It’s been a hectic time what with moving from Penzance to Bristol and the publication of a second book but, despite all that, we kept up a fairly steady flow of posts — about 240 in all. Of course that includes plenty of throwaways, weekly links round-ups, and our Month That Was summaries. Still, we reckon it amount to about 160,000 words of original writing — enough for another two books.

This is probably a good point to say that if you appreciate our output and want to encourage us to keep doing it, ad-free, and mostly outside any kind of paywall, please do consider subscribing to our Patreon. It’s dead easy, and for as little as $2 per month you can help pay for all this, and also get some bonus stuff there. (We’ve unlocked a few posts over the course of the year so you can see for yourself.) That people have signed up has been a major source of encouragement but, you know, there’s always room for a bit more.

Now, down to business. We’ve decided to limit ourselves to ten that we especially like but have also included by way of a footnote a second list of the stuff that actually got all the traffic, which is not always the stuff that’s most fun or interesting to write. First up, its…

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2017’s Best Words on Beer and Pubs, Sez Us

These are the posts and articles from 2017 that have stuck with us throughout the year.

They cover everything from pubs to the business of beer and what links them, if anything, is that they all make a point, or tell us something we didn’t know.

A baby in the pub.

1. Children in Pubs

By The Bearded Housewife (@Cuichulain)

TBH, AKA Rob G, is a pub-loving home-brewer with two young daughters. In this epic post from January he applied much thought to the question of children in pubs:

Overall, the debate never seems to go anywhere because most people worth listening to state their position as something adjacent to “I don’t have any problem with children in pubs, if they’re well-behaved”. This position is so unarguably reasonable that it’s never really questioned, and everyone leaves with their own vastly divergent, and unchallenged, mental picture of what ‘well-behaved’ actually constitutes. I shall address this in greater depth further down, but first I’d like to pick out and exclude certain arguments that don’t have merit.


Cuneiform tablet.

2. Babylonian Cuneiform

By Alan McLeod (@agoodbeerblog)

Back in February Alan at A Good Beer Blog did what all beer nerds do when a new online archive becomes available: he searched it for the word BEER. What he found was a time tunnel connecting us, now, with them, then:

How is it that I can read a Mesopotamian clay tablet and pretty much immediately understand what is going on? If it was about religion, governance or astronomy I wouldn’t have a clue. But beer and brewing are not strange. They are, in a very meaningful way, constant. You can see that if we go back to column 2 where you see words for 1:1 beer, 2:1 beer, 3:1 beer and even triple beer. The ratio is the relationship of grain input to beer output. If you scroll down to page 238 of the 2005 Spar and Lambert text you see there are footnotes and in the footnotes an explanation of Mesopotamian methodology.

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Everything We Wrote in September 2017: Listicles, GBBF, Post-War Pubs

September 2017: Pelican style photo illustration of a pub.

The last month was one of our busiest for some time with house moving issues and book business settling down to manageable levels.

In fact, we posted 23 times here and 11 times on our (mostly) subscriber-only Patreon feed, along with a ton of bits and pieces on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Proper pub with an accent on cider. #pubs

A post shared by Boak & Bailey (@boakandbailey) on

Two of our posts here were among the most read and commented on for a while, too, so we’ll give those a bit of special attention first.

The Great British Beer Festival

Having ruminated for a month we finally expressed some ideas about ways to improve GBBF. Our pre-emptive whining about how hard it is to discuss CAMRA and GBBF without people getting narky seems to have worked and a generally civil, stimulating conversation ensued. There was also quite a bit of chat on Twitter, across various Facebook groups and pages, on the Hopinions (Beer O’Clock Show) podcast, and behind the closed doors of the CAMRA discussion forum.

Illustration: SEVEN.
Seven Ages of Beer Geek

We think this attempt to break down the trajectory of a typical beer geek’s obsession was a bit more than just a listicle but there’s no denying the ‘click appeal’ of a post in the format ‘X types of Y’: it got something like three times as much traffic as anything else we wrote in September or, indeed, for months. It also prompted some substantial responses from other bloggers.

Jeff Alworth didn’t agree with our conclusions (‘The stages are conceptually familiar, but not emotionally so’) but, actually, we think he misunderstood our point, i.e. that if you go deeper than stage one, two or three, this is where it might lead, rather than that everyone will always end up at seven, or that they will always pass through every stop on the way. But his own reflections on the subject are as thoughtful as ever and worth a read.

Ed thought we’d missed something: that loving something often means hating something else, and ‘the most hated enemy can well be someone that to outsiders seems politically close’.

Uffe Karlström (new to us) effectively translated the post into (we think) Swedish adding some commentary of his own along the way, which we discovered via a pingback and were able to read via Google Translate — ain’t 2017 amazing? ‘Since spring 2005 I have terrorized brewers, salesmen, owners, distributors, etc. with questions, questions and more questions’, he says.

J. Wilson was moved out of blogging semi-retirement to write about how he has grown to appreciate ordinary bars and mainstream beer: ‘These days I’m a seven… There were no fives in sight.’

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The Month That Was: December 2016 — Dinner Parties, Wheat Beer, Penzance Pubs

Guise dancers in a Penzance pub at Christmas.

Despite a flipping great big gap where Christmas fell we still managed a decent number of posts in December, covering all sorts of topics from wheat beer to Penzance pubs.

Sir Sydney Nevil's autobiography (page spread).

Our first duty was responding to the Session topic set by Stan Hieronymus: who, living or dead, would we like to invite to a beer dinner party? Stan’s round-up is here and we were rather honoured to be nominated as guests in Mark Lindner’s contribution.


After a trip to a wintry St Austell we wondered what if anything it means when a pub starts selling tinned lager, reaching a somewhat optimistic conclusion. (We have since worried that we got the wrong end of the stick or might have dobbed the pub into the pub company, which wasn’t our intention.)

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The Best Beer Reading of 2016, Sez Us

This is a purely subjective list of the most illuminating, amusing or interesting beer- and pub-related blog posts and articles from the last 12 months, all of which we shared in our weekly news round-ups.

Before we get to the links, though, here’s a bit of state-of-the-nation reflection.

First, it’s hard for us to agree that beer writing is dead, past its best, or otherwise in trouble. (As per Alan McLeod, here.) Seriously, if you think 2008 was a golden age for beer blogging, go and read some beer blog posts from 2008 (not ours, please, we beg you) and clear your head. (Alan is right, though — there was more chat back then.)

Today, there are lots of beer blogs, many of them turning out pieces that, with barely an edit, could happily appear in print alongside the work of professional journalists.

Bloggers are challenging themselves, seeking out first hand information, interviewing brewers, raiding libraries and archives, and taking some lovely photographs as they go about it.

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Top Beer Tweets of 2016

These are the Tweets that made us laugh or think in the last 12 months.

Some are from people who write mostly about beer, others are from outside The Bubble, but they all prompted us to either click the Retweet button or include them in our weekly links round-ups.

For more of this kind of thing follow us @boakandbailey and if you see anything below that tickles you, give it a Like or an RT. If these people are anything like us, it’ll cheer them right up.

1. Craig Garvie brought us this horror which made us wonder why they don’t just roll the bottle round in some hair and toenail clippings and be done.

2. We’re surprised we haven’t seen more of this kind of thing to be honest. It’s hard to stop looking at.

3. This from Bryan Roth made us feel faintly guilty. In a good way.

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