News, Nuggets & Longreads 2 December 2017: Brixton, Walkabout, TransPennine Trains

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week from sexist beer branding to chronic Oztalgia.

First, that brewery takeover news. Well, we say ‘takeover’ but in fact Heineken has actually acquired a non-controlling (49 per cent) stake in south London’s Brixton Brewery. With this, Camden Town and London Fields in mind, it begins to seem that the key to luring in investment from Big Beer is a good neighbourhood-specific brand name. We can certainly imagine Brixton Craft Lager competing for bar-space with Camden Hells in the near future. The general reaction seems to be neutral, shading positive — ‘good for them’ — but this slam from Yes! Ale reflects the counterview: “You may as well be pissin’ straight into the fermenter, Moneybags.”

Meanwhile, Spanish firm Mahou San Miguel has acquired a 30 per cent stake in Avery, a brewery in Colorado, while AB-InBev has acquired Australian upstarts Pirate Life lock, stock and (ahem) barrel. December is a busy time for this kind of activity every year now, it seems, perhaps for as obvious a reason as everyone scrambling to wrap up negotiations before the Christmas lull.

One final bit of reading on this: Richard Taylor of BrewDog writing at the BeerCast suggests that the Pirate Life story might signal how this will play out in future takeovers, with Big Beer winning over reluctant craft brewers with the offer of a separate smaller brewery to play around on making sour beers or whatever. “Hey guys, it’s fine”, he imagines the Big Beer negotiators saying. “We’ll build a new brewery for your core stuff and push it to market. You can keep the old kit and go wild on it. Brew what you like! Go for IT! HIGH FIVE. NOW. HIGH FIVE US LIKE A DUDE. RADICAL!’”

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 28 October 2017: Beer Mixing, Blenderies, Strong Stout

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pub writing in the past week, from World’s Fairs to Beer Miles.

First, there’s been a bubbling discussion about sexism in beer for the last month or two, prompted by a series of individual incidents and issues, which Kate Wiles has summarised in this widely-shared article:

Sexist beer labels may not be as prevalent as they used to be – but not a week goes by without an example cropping up on social media. The most recent example of “Deepthroat” beer clearly indicates fellatio on the label. Another, Irishtown Brewing, boasts the tagline “Dublin blonde goes down easy”. These examples are both demeaning and degrading to women. Furthermore, they reinforce the stereotype that beer is a “man’s drink” and that women have no right to it.

Her call is for stronger sanctions against offenders from within the industry itself: “Beers that are demeaning to women should not win awards, receive accreditation or be able to use industry logos.” We’re going to have to ponder that a bit but instinctively think it feels quite reasonable — not government censorship, about which people are understandably squeamish, but a setting out of standards amongst peers.

The New York World's Fair

Gary Gillman continues to mine the archives for interesting titbits. In the last week he has highlighted two especially juicy items:

  1. An 1850 catalogue from an English brewer which contains a detailed run down of the beer styles of the day — an astonishingly clear, helpful guide to what people were actually drinking then, and how those types related to each other.
  2. Details of the faux-English pub at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City — a topic that we’ve been meaning to get round to ourselves at some point, fascinated as we are by the UK beer industry’s push to export the pub concept worldwide in the 1960s and 70s.

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That Sexist CAMRA Leaflet

Earlier this week, Rowan Molyneux flagged the existence of a Campaign for Real Ale leaflet designed to help recruit young members but which uses women merely as decoration.

We can’t say we were outraged by it, but we were certainly dismayed. CAMRA, like it or not, is these days an organisation of similar status to the National Trust or the RSPB, and we can’t imagine either of them doing anything so crass.

The main problem is that it confirms what many people suspect: that, despite making some of the right noises, behind the scenes, CAMRA isn’t fully committed to the idea of making the Campaign more welcoming to women, or at least hasn’t given it much more thought than you might expect from Alan Partridge or David Brent.

If you can’t see why the image on the leaflet is problematic, try to imagine them ever using an image of a bloke in an equivalent costume, in a similar pose.

We’ve turned off comments on this post to encourage people to have their say over at Rowan’s, where an interesting discussion is ongoing, and where there are updates on the withdrawal of the leaflet.

Seventies sexism, pearls of wisdom

The Alps.
The Alps.

When the drays roll out of Paine’s Brewery into the market square of St Neots, Cambridgeshire, with 612 gallons of Silver Jubilee Ale on board, a young lady will smack her lips in the knowledge of a job well done… She is Fiona McNish — an unlikely name for an unlikely lady in an unlikely profession… She is one of the elite in the brewing industry. She tastes beer.

This Daily Express article from 21 February 1977 hinged on the idea that it was hilarious that a woman — a 23-year-old woman at that — should know anything whatsoever about beer. But the important thing — what all 1970s readers wanted to know — was whether she was sexy. Good news!

Fiona, long brown hair, topographical as the Alps, a very feminine lady, has worked her way deep into male territory.

Good grief. When they stopped laughing at her and eyeing her up, and actually let her speak, Ms McNish came out with a nugget of wisdom which holds up pretty well today:

There is nothing mysterious about beer… It either tastes good or bad. You don’t need to be a genius to tell which. Just thoughtful and honest.

Sexism in beer: it used to be a lot worse

We wholeheartedly agree with Melissa Cole’s call for an end to sexist imagery in beer branding, but nonetheless take heart from how far we’ve come in the last forty years. Consider this, for example, from a full-page ad from Whitbread in the Daily Express in 1968.

How to choose you beer and chat-up our barmaids

We realise we’re addressing a limited audience.

Only the young, the the abstemious and the foreign tourist, at a guess.

For certainly our regulars need no help in getting familiar with our beers. Or our barmaids.

Though, on the face of it, the choice is just a little bewildering. On average, where you see the Whitbread sign, you can choose from twenty different beers.

Served by Britain’s most gorgeous barmaids. (We have annual beauty contests to keep the standard up.)

So now, with our little bit of chat about our beers, we’re also giving a few tips on how to chat-up our birds.

We’d hate to think some tourists come all the way to Britain and miss the most attractive scenery.

Whitbread for Choice