News, Nuggets & Longreads 5 January 2019: Gratitude and Onions

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past few weeks (given that we took Christmas off) from St Albans to air raid shelters.

At The Pur­suit of Abbey­ness Mar­tin Stew­ard asks an excel­lent ques­tion: why do peo­ple vis­it brew­ery tap­rooms?

On the face of it, this is an odd thing to do. Brew­eries with­out tap­rooms may give you a taste of their beer, but they are hard­ly places to kick back and put the world to rights over a good ses­sion. They can be inter­est­ing for beer lovers, but, if we’re hon­est, set­ting aside the few with spe­cial archi­tec­tur­al, his­tor­i­cal or brew­ing points of inter­est, one is much the same as anoth­er.

But per­haps there is some­thing deep­er going on:

When we knock on the door of a pokey lit­tle brew­ery at the ragged end of a rain­swept indus­tri­al estate, are we real­ly respond­ing to a soul-deep thirst to express our grat­i­tude, in per­son, to the brew­ers of our much-loved beer?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 5 Jan­u­ary 2019: Grat­i­tude and Onions”

Look For Dates, Find Stories

Advert for the Barley Mow pub, St Albans, 1983.

In try­ing to pin down some more dates for our list of key points in the devel­op­ment of Britain’s alter­na­tive beer cul­ture, we’ve found some fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries and sub­jects for fur­ther explo­ration.

First, thanks to some very help­ful input from com­menters on the orig­i­nal post, Twit­ter­ers and the Pub Cur­mud­geon, we start­ed look­ing into the Bar­ley Mow in St Albans as an ear­ly, if not the first, ‘real ale pub’. That’s not a pub that has some real ale on offer, but a pub which spe­cialias­es in, and sells itself on the strength of, hav­ing lots of real ale. We now know, thanks to CAMRA Hertfordshire’s com­plete online archive of newslet­ters dat­ing back to 1976, the full sto­ry of the Bar­ley Mow and its var­i­ous land­lords and land­ladies (link to PDF).

Anoth­er name in the frame as an ear­ly ‘beer exhi­bi­tion’ was the Hole in the Wall in Water­loo. This blog post gives us some per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tions and a quote from the 1975 Good Beer Guide, but if any­one can point us to a CAMRA newslet­ter or any oth­er source with dates and details, we’d be grate­ful.

One of the com­menters on the orig­i­nal post men­tioned the Litch­bor­ough Brew­ery found­ed in Northamp­ton­shire by Bill Urquhart in 1974. Mr Urquhart’s sto­ry, from what we’ve been able to find so far, is fas­ci­nat­ing and famil­iar: he worked for a big region­al brew­er which was tak­en over and closed but he wasn’t ready to hang up his wellies and so found­ed his own small brew­ery. He lat­er act­ed as a con­sul­tant to oth­er small brew­eries which fol­lowed in his wake. But, pio­neer­ing as he was, he cer­tain­ly wasn’t a young, dan­ger­ous mav­er­ick on a mis­sion to shake things up: the beer he brewed was a clone of the brown bit­ter he’d pre­vi­ous­ly brewed at Phipps.

(The cur­rent out­fit pro­duc­ing beers under the Phipps name, by the way, appears to be ded­i­cat­ed to brew­ing his­toric recipes. Any­one tried them?)

Final­ly, we were aston­ished to dis­cov­er that the first com­plete­ly new brew­ery to open in Britain in fifty years was West­bury Ales in Som­er­set, in 1973. (Sel­by, in 1972, was a re-open­ing.) A pil­grim­age may be in order next time we go to vis­it Bailey’s folks.