News, Nuggets and Longreads 12 January 2019: Bitterness, Brüpond, Burlesque

Here’s everything we thought bookmark-worthy in the past week, from beer with bite to Double Diamond.

First, a quick stop at the BBC, where the recent ONS report on pub clo­sures con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate sto­ries: we know some areas have suf­fered par­tic­u­lar­ly bad­ly, but where are pubs open­ing? Where have the num­bers risen? The High­lands of Scot­land, it turns out, is one such region:

Since 2008, almost a quar­ter of pubs in the UK have shut accord­ing to Office for Nation­al Sta­tis­tics (ONS) analy­sis… But the study shows that in the High­lands there are 14% more pubs than there were 10 years ago… Paul Water­son, of the Scot­tish Licensed Trade Asso­ci­a­tion, said a major fac­tor behind the growth was that the pubs had done well cater­ing for tourists.

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Pints and Halves: Statements and Pragmatism

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Everything we do sends signals – even something as apparently unimportant as the size of the glass out of which we choose to drink our beer.

I (Jes­si­ca) hit my teenage years dur­ing the era of the ladette when drink­ing beer, and espe­cial­ly drink­ing beer in pints, was a way for women to stake a claim on blokes’ ter­ri­to­ry. Big boots, no make-up, pints, swear­ing – don’t tell me what’s lady­like or how to behave! Up yours!

For as long as I’ve been inter­est­ed in beer one of the annoy­ing minor man­i­fes­ta­tions of sex­ism has been the ten­den­cy to assume I’ll want a half, or a fruit beer, or whichev­er of the two drinks we’ve ordered is (as decid­ed by a whole set of com­plex sub­con­scious cal­cu­la­tions) the ‘girly’ one.

I realised a few years ago, though, that most of the time I do want to drink halves. I’m not very big; don’t have a great gut capac­i­ty; and even at the peak of my pissed fit­ness could only han­dle so much beer by vol­ume before I made myself sick, which only seems to be get­ting worse as I slide into mid­dle age.

Some­times, though, I find myself order­ing a pint because I can’t face anoth­er crap­py, scratched tum­bler, full to the brim with no head. Some­times it’s because I’ve had a tough day and I know that I’d only be back at the bar after five min­utes oth­er­wise. And some­times it’s the teenag­er in DMs rear­ing her head, mak­ing a point.

* * *

I (Ray) used to drink halves more often because there were so many excit­ing beers to taste and it was the only way to get through them all; and, hon­est­ly, because I was being an awk­ward sod in response to male friends refus­ing – lit­er­al­ly refus­ing – to buy me halves because they thought it com­pro­mised my mas­culin­i­ty and, more impor­tant­ly to them, theirs.

As I’ve drift­ed out of five sta­tus and into a com­fort­able sev­en, I’ve come back to pints. I drink a pint in about the time it takes Jess to drink a half. I like the feel of a pint glass in my hand, and the rhythm it gives to drink­ing.

My hang­over lim­its are high­er, my gut more elas­tic: my four pints to Jess’s two over the course of a ses­sion leaves us in about the same place.

But per­haps I’ve also just revert­ed to my deep pro­gram­ming: in my fam­i­ly, a bloke order­ing a half is send­ing a sig­nal that he’s not plan­ning to stick about, or isn’t ful­ly com­mit­ted to the ses­sion.

I some­times order a half just to remind myself I can and I always think, “I should do this more often.”

* * *

Ulti­mate­ly, what we’d both like is this:

  1. To be able to order whichev­er beer we fan­cy in what­ev­er vol­ume we feel like at that par­tic­u­lar moment with­out assump­tions or com­ment, and with­out hav­ing to explain the rea­sons.
  2. For halves to be treat­ed with as much rev­er­ence by pubs and bars as the sacred pint – nice glass­ware makes such a dif­fer­ence.

We were prompt­ed to think about this by var­i­ous things but most impor­tant the recent report from Dea Latis on wom­en’s atti­tudes to beer. Do give it a read.

News, Nuggets & Longreads for 5 May 2018: Bernard, Budweiser, Broken Bones

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention over the past week in the world of beer and pubs, from #MeToo to George Washington.

First, via @niccipeet, a star­tling sto­ry from the Czech Repub­lic by Kasia Pilat for the New York Times:

A social media post­ing by a major Czech brew­ery that appeared to mock the #MeToo move­ment has prompt­ed strong reac­tions, draw­ing praise, crit­i­cism and some soul-search­ing on sex­ism in this for­mer com­mu­nist repub­lic.… The Face­book post by the Bernard Brew­ery in Humpolec, about an hour’s jour­ney from Prague, fea­tures the like­ness of a near­ly tooth­less old woman with the hash­tag #MeToo super­im­posed in white. “The world’s gone crazy,” reads the Czech-lan­guage text on the post, which is also embla­zoned with the brewery’s logo. “Brace your­selves.”

In the UK Bernard beers have fair­ly gener­ic brand­ing – almost bland – and it’s hard to con­nect this kind of adver­tis­ing, and the fol­low-up com­ments from the brew­ery, with the stuff you see on sale at the Sheffield Tap and else­where. Anoth­er reminder (along with the reac­tion to this) that oth­er places and cul­tures can often be in dif­fer­ent places to yours on these issues.

Broken wrist X-Ray.

We’ve been miss­ing Kirst Walk­er’s posts but it turns out there was a good rea­son: she broke her wrist per­form­ing on stage, as she explains in this typ­i­cal­ly enter­tain­ing piece on how booze and painkillers mix, or, rather, how they don’t:

I was wor­ried about some plans I might have to can­cel so I asked the sur­geon how soon I could go about my nor­mal life after the oper­a­tion.… He assured me I could still go to Lon­don to see Hamil­ton and looked affront­ed that I doubt­ed his skills in repair­ing me. My next trip ‘out’ after the oper­a­tion was three days lat­er when I went to see Niall Horan in con­cert. There I stood at the back tak­ing full advan­tage of my invalid sta­tus to get my cousin to run to the bar for me. I had one pint of John Smiths in a plas­tic cup and lat­er felt like my dreams were run­ning out of my ears. That’s when I reduced the dose of codeine.

Oh, that turn of phrase! Won­der­ful.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 April 2018: Tap Rooms, Masculinity, The Luppit

Here’s all the writing and news about beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from Chicago to Rochdale. But we’ll start with some bits of news.

Detail from an advert for Skol, 1960.

For Punch Gray Chap­man takes a deep look into atti­tudes around gen­der in rela­tion to beer, inspired by Helana Dar­win’s research that we men­tioned in one of these round-ups a few weeks ago. The arti­cle is called ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About “Bitch Beer”’:

Beer is inex­tri­ca­bly tan­gled up in gen­der, and no one under­stands this bet­ter than the women who choose to drink it. Much of its his­to­ry is root­ed in a blue-col­lar, can­vas cov­er­alls-tinged vision of mas­culin­i­ty that’s still evi­dent in almost every aspect of its sup­ply chain; label art com­mon­ly recalls Axe Body Spray at best, car­toon porn at worst. Less aggres­sive but more ubiq­ui­tous is the prac­ti­cal­ly algo­rith­mic aes­thet­ic of craft beer bars, with their ware­house-indus­tri­al inte­ri­ors and a Ron Swan­son-esque pen­chant for rough-hewn wood and leather, evok­ing a nos­tal­gia for a time and place where Real Men and their work-cal­loused hands made things.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 17 March 2018: London Drinkers & Bristol Dockers

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week in the world of beer and pubs, from beer festivals to Friday skiving.

From Roger Protz comes a reflec­tion on the Lon­don Drinker beer fes­ti­val which has been organ­ised by north Lon­don Cam­paign for Real Ale activists annu­al­ly since 1985, but which this year is sad­ly wind­ing up:

It’s not because the fes­ti­val lacks suc­cess. On the con­trary, it’s one of CAMRA’s longest run­ning and most suc­cess­ful events. But the Cam­den Cen­tre is due to be knocked down and rede­vel­oped and find­ing – and afford­ing – a replace­ment venue is dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble.…

As inter­est­ing as the news itself, though, is Roger’s account of pio­neer­ing the very con­cept of tast­ing notes in the 1980s, and being jeered at for dar­ing to sug­gest that there might be choco­late notes in a dark beer.

Illustration: fanzine style picture of a pint and a packet of crisps.

Phil at Oh Good Ale seems to have found an inter­est­ing voice late­ly – a sort of stream of con­scious­ness that coa­lesces into com­men­tary if you let it. This week he wrote with some panache about the pass­ing cul­ture of Fri­day lunchtime pints:

1983, Chester

I knew we were on when I saw Tom going back for a pud­ding. Most days, we’d clock out at lunchtime, go to the can­teen for some­thing to eat – a hot meal served with plates and cut­lery, none of your rub­bish – and then it’d be down the Ces­tri­an for a pint or two, or three.… On this par­tic­u­lar Fri­day Tom went back to get some apple crum­ble and cus­tard, which he ate with great rel­ish and with­out any appear­ance of watch­ing the time, hearti­ly rec­om­mend­ing it to the rest of us; a cou­ple of peo­ple actu­al­ly fol­lowed his lead. Then he looked at his watch with some osten­ta­tion and led the way out of the can­teen.… It wasn’t a 15-minute week­day ses­sion or a stan­dard 45-minute Fri­day ses­sion; that Fri­day, we were on.

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