News pubs

News, Nuggets & Longreads, 1 July 2017: Smoking, Civil War, Global Chic

Here’s all the beer- and pub-related writing we’ve most enjoyed in the past week, and all the news that’s struck us as important.

First, a small thing that might not be: two chains of upmarket London pubs have effectively merged with the takeover by Draft House of Grand Union. So what? Well, from where we’re sitting, this looks like another step towards Draft House becoming a national chain. It’s a strong brand, ‘well craft’ without being too obnoxious about it, and we can well imagine a branch in every town and city.

A counter from the BA website: 883 breweries have adopted the seal.

Meanwhile, in the US, shot have been fired: the Brewers’ Association, which represents craft breweries as defined here, has announced a new badge to help consumers identify beer from independent breweries. This is intended to counter AB-InBev’s strategy of acquiring smaller local brewers which the BA apparently believes is leaving consumers confused. In retaliation, AB’s High End division, which ties together the craft breweries it has acquired over the past few years, has released a video saying, essentially, ‘The logo looks bad and doesn’t mean anything and we should be banding together to fight wine and spirits anyway and and and…’

For commentary on this we endorse the always thoughtful Jeff Allworth at Beervana: post 1 | post 2.

A no smoking sign on a pub door.

It’s been ten years since the ban on smoking in pubs and other enclosed workplaces came into force and the BBC’s Nick Triggle has attempted an objective assessment of the impact:

With all these factors happening at the same time, BBPA spokesman Neil Williams says it is ‘pretty impossible’ to unpick exactly what the individual impact of the ban has been.

And of course, many pubs have thrived since the smoking ban, changing to focus more on high-quality food and trying to attract families – including those with young children – who would previously have avoided smoky atmospheres.

‘Pubs have had to adapt. We’ve seen those that can invest in food and they’ve made a very good job of it.

‘But some pubs – the traditional street-corner boozer – simply haven’t had the space to do that. They are the ones that have suffered.’

We’ve attempted to address this in our forthcoming book, 20th Century Pub, and reached much the same conclusion: it probably has been bad news for a certain type of booze-led working class pub.

Inside In de Wildeman, Amsterdam.

Reporting from the Carnival Brettanomyces in Amsterdam Martyn Cornell gives us, as you might expect, a bit more than a blow-by-blow wot he dun on his holidays post, taking the opportunity to highlight the historic role of Brettanomyces in brewing, among other points:

[One problem is that] the events themselves cost upwards of €11 each to get into, with the three beer-and-food dinners €60 a plate. That quickly makes a probably already expensive trip to Hamster Jam even more wallet-bending. But hey, you’re getting to try beers that will sometimes be once-in-a-lifetime experiences… Certainly, for me, the punch in the overdraft was utterly worth it: I’ve not enjoyed a beery gathering so much for a long time, lots of great conversations with eager, enthusiastic, experienced, knowledgeable, people…

Illustration: Monocle magazine.
SOURCE: New Republic

Here’s something a bit tangential, but thought-provoking, from New RepublicKyle Chayka‘s reflections on globalist luxury chic as embodied by Monocle magazine. It doesn’t mention beer once, and we’ve never read Monocle, but, gosh, some of it rings great big bells:

It’s as easy to be charmed by Monocle as it is to hate it. Who doesn’t like a good Japanese leather origami bag? But if nationalists have a point in decrying the ‘global citizenship’ that Monocle epitomizes, it lies in the magazine’s subtle approach to cultural homogenization. [Editor Tyler] Brûlé’s stylistic vision has reproduced itself to the point of banality: Whether due to his own efforts or to the changing tide of taste, Danish furniture, clean cafés, shared offices, and artisanal food and clothing can now be found everywhere, attracting a floating tribe of international consumers the way flowers attract bees. The magazine’s worst offense may be that it is boring.

(via Aaron Gilbreath/Longreads.)

If you want some pure blogging to read, as opposed to longreads and news, we’ll take this opportunity to remind you to catch up with Martin Taylor‘s ongoing Good Beer Guide pub crawl. As we’ve said before, there’s rarely any one post that warrants a fanfare, but as an ongoing project themes emerge and incidents accumulate until something like an argument begins to form. This week, we were particularly struck by a Wetherspoon’s moment:

The Thumper tasted a bid odd to me. I said so to the Spoons barmaid, who, unbelievably;

1. Seemed interested in my £1.99 pint

2. Tasted it herself  ‘Just tastes fruity, like it should do’

3. Popped down the cellar to check whether it was the bottom of the barrel (it wasn’t)

And, finally, those who enjoy being appalled at the antics of those wacky craft brewers will enjoy this intel from Joe Stange:

pubs Somerset

Pubs and class

Inspired by an interesting post at Tandleman Towers (which was itself kicked off by this one over at Garrard’s gaff) I just rang my Mum and Dad and asked them: “Why don’t working class people go to the pub so much these days?”

Now, I should explain that, although I am now terribly middle class (I nearly bought a cheese dome in Peter Jones the other day) my folks are and always have been working class.

I live in London; they live in a small industrial town in Somerset. So, we have very different experiences of and feelings about going to the pub these days.

Here’s my perspective: I don’t bat an eyelid at paying £3.40 for a pint. I’m very blase about pub closures (“The ones that are shutting are probably horrible anyway, so who cares?”). I’m spoiled for choice, with loads of great pubs within an hour of my house on London’s excellent public transport system.

And here are the reasons my folks gave for their gradual abandonment of pubs in the last few years:

1. It costs too much — a pint should cost less than £2, surely?

2. The traditional pubs in town are cold, unfriendly and have a poor range of beer. Sometimes, says Dad, “it’s like walking into a hostile Wild West saloon”.

3. The newer pubs are almost like nightclubs, with DJs, dancefloors and offers on alcopops. To note: young working class people are going to those in some numbers, because they can get drugs and pull there, unlike at the distinctly unerotic Rose and Crown or Bunch of Grapes.

3. The nice pubs in the area are out of town, in the surrounding villages. Drink driving’s now taboo and there’s no public transport to speak of. Cabs are too expensive.

4. Working class homes are nicer now than they were in the 60s and 70s; it’s easier to get quality beer and spirits these days; and it’s relatively cheaper than it used to be. So, staying at home isn’t necessarily a compromise — it’s quite nice!

5. As it happens, they are going to the pub for the first time in a while tonight, and the draw is free live music from a local blues band. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother.

Interestingly, they didn’t think the smoking ban was an issue, although my Dad smokes and my Mum used to, and actually thought it had improved some of the local pubs.

Food for thought. I need to digest it.