News, Nuggets & Longreads 18 August 2018: Bartram’s, Belgium, the Barley Mow

Here’s everything published on beer and pubs in the past week that grabbed our attention, from teetotal tendencies to the extraordinary nature of ordinary pubs.

First, some trade­mark thought­ful reflec­tion from Jeff Alworth at Beer­vana who asks ‘What If We Just Stopped Drink­ing?

[What] if we just keep drink­ing less and less until we’re con­sum­ing it like our old aun­tie, who only pulls out the sher­ry for spe­cial occa­sions? This won’t hap­pen imme­di­ate­ly, but the trend lines are pret­ty clear… A dirty lit­tle secret of the alco­hol indus­tri­al com­plex: it relies on very heavy drinkers, many of them alco­holics, for the bulk of sales. Among drinkers, the medi­an con­sump­tion is just a cou­ple drinks a week. That’s the median–some “drinkers” basi­cal­ly don’t drink at all. That means, of course, that someone’s doing a lot of drink­ing…

A Belgian Brown Cafe.

There’s a new links round-up in town: Bre­andán Kear­ney at Bel­gian Smaak has put togeth­er a rather won­der­ful rat­tle through all the Bel­gian beer and bar news from the last few months. How can you resist a 15 item list includ­ing such head­ers as CHINESE HOEGAARDEN and BEAVERTOWN GOES BELGIAN?

The mad collection at the Prince of Greenwich.
SOURCE: Desert­er

For Desert­er the pseu­do­ny­mous Dirty South gives an account of a day spent try­ing to enter­tain a sullen teenag­er in the cul­tur­al pubs of South Lon­don:

The Prince is run by Pietro La Rosa, a Sicil­ian who has not only brought Ital­ian hos­pi­tal­i­ty and splen­did Ital­ian food to SE10, but opened a pub full of curios that he and his wife Pao­la have col­lect­ed from their trav­els around the world. An enor­mous whale’s jaw bone hangs over var­i­ous objets d’arts, a rhi­noc­er­os’ head pro­trudes above an antique barber’s chair, sur­round­ed by art­work from afar.

It’s mad,’ con­clud­ed Theo.

The Bridge Inn, Clayton.
SOURCE: John Clarke.

Here’s some­thing we’d like to see more of: vet­er­an CAMRA mag­a­zine edi­tor  John Clarke dust­ed down a pub crawl from 30 years ago and retraced his steps to see how time had treat­ed the booz­ers of Clay­ton, Greater Man­ches­ter:

The Folke­stone was closed, burnt out and demol­ished. New hous­ing now occu­pies the site. The Greens Arms strug­gled on and then had a brief exis­tence as the Star Show­bar… The Grove also con­tin­ues to thrive as a Holts house and the war memo­r­i­al remains on the vault wall. No such luck with the Church.

The Barley Mow, London.
SOURCE: Pub Cul­ture Vul­ture.

Ben McCormick has been writ­ing about pubs on and off at his Pub Cul­ture Vul­ture blog for a few years now and a recent flur­ry of posts has cul­mi­nat­ed with what we think is a pro­found obser­va­tion:

[The Bar­ley Mow] must be the best Bak­er Street booz­er by a bil­lion miles… I was on the point of writ­ing there is noth­ing spe­cial about the place, but stopped abrupt­ly on the grounds that’s com­plete horse­shit. There ought to be many, many more exam­ples of pubs like this dot­ted around cen­tral Lon­don and fur­ther afield. But there aren’t.

Any pub, how­ev­er, ordi­nary, becomes extra­or­di­nary if it resists change – that makes sense to us.

A bit of news: Bartram’s, a brew­ery in Suf­folk, seems to have giv­en up brew­ing (the sto­ry is slight­ly con­fus­ing) which has giv­en the local news­pa­per an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on the health of the mar­ket:

Now Mr Bar­tram is cur­rent­ly no longer look­ing to export over­seas, and is not pro­duc­ing any beer. “There are about 42 brew­eries in Suf­folk – when I start­ed 18 years ago, there were just five,” he said. “There is a lot more com­pe­ti­tion. The mar­ket is sat­u­rat­ed, it’s ridicu­lous.”

Anoth­er Suf­folk brew­er, who declined to be named, claims over­crowd­ing in the mar­ket­place is true of the cask ale indus­try that Mr Bar­tram is part of, but not the key keg ale mar­ket.

Also unclear: the key mar­ket for keg ale, or the keykeg ale mar­ket? Any­way, inter­est­ing.

If you want more good read­ing check out Stan Hieronymus’s Mon­day round-up and Alan McLeod’s reg­u­lar Thurs­day link­fest.

News, Nuggets & Longreads for 4 June 2016

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Here are all the blog posts and articles from the past week that have captured our attention in one way or another, from ponderings on the pint to the state of Orval.

Whether you like to drink your beer by the pint or in small­er mea­sures is anoth­er of those fault lines between Them and Us in British beer. Chris Hall (who works for Lon­don brew­ery Brew by Num­bers) con­sid­ers whether the fact that the pint is the default UK beer serv­ing is dis­tort­ing the mar­ket:

Even in the most wide-rang­ing, small­er-serv­ing-focused craft beer bars in the coun­try, we remain inter­est­ed in fill­ing a pint-shaped hole, and if it remains an unchange­able line in our pro­gram­ming, our indus­try will remain defined by the beers that fit this space, and not by what we could, or per­haps should, be brew­ing.

The brewhouse at Orval.
SOURCE: Bel­gian Smaak.

2015 Beer Writer of the Year Bre­andán Kear­ney con­sid­ers the state and his­to­ry of the brew­ery at Orval in a lux­u­ri­ous­ly long post at Bel­gian Smaak, which also has lots of juicy detail for home brew­ers and the gen­er­al­ly inquis­i­tive:

The malt bill is an evolv­ing one, bar­ley vari­eties such as ‘Alek­si’ and ‘Pris­ma’ used pre­vi­ous­ly hav­ing been replaced for exam­ple with the ‘Sebas­t­ian’ vari­ety. ‘It is dif­fi­cult to speak about vari­eties of bar­ley malt because a lot of them dis­ap­pear for new ones,’ says Anne-Françoise [Pypaert]. ‘Brew­ers don’t have much con­trol on that because farm­ers val­ue vari­eties with a good yield. What I can say is that we use two pale malt vari­eties, one caramel malt and a lit­tle bit of black bar­ley.’

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads for 4 June 2016”

East Anglian Pubs, 1965

Batsford published a whole series of guides to pubs in the South and East of England in the 1960s. Vincent Jones wrote the guide to East Anglia and here are some nuggets that caught our eye.

Intro­duc­tion: ‘Hous­es owned by all sorts of brew­ers are here; but there is a pref­er­ence for those which belong to East Anglian brew­eries and sell East Anglian beer. This choice is pure­ly per­son­al.’ Buy­ing local, resist­ing monop­oly – the SPBW-CAMRA ten­den­cy?

Sor­rel Horse, Barham, Suf­folk: ‘Those who fear that the bread and cheese and pick­les pub has alto­geth­er dis­ap­peared may take courage for here one is and a very fine one too.’ We can’t recall the last time we found a pub like this though we remem­ber them from child­hood.

→ Queen’s Head, Bly­ford, Suf­folk: ‘Among the snacks he is not­ed for his Scotch eggs.’

Lord Nel­son, Burn­ham Thor­pe, Nor­folk: ‘They are main­ly drinkers of mild ale in this area: it is drawn from the cask.’ More evi­dence of the East Coun­try as mild ter­ri­to­ry; inter­est­ing to note cask, draught and ‘drawn from the wood’ are used inter­change­ably through­out. (More on the devel­op­ment of the lan­guage around cask/keg here.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “East Anglian Pubs, 1965”

Welcome to Adnamsland


We’d been want­i­ng to go to South­wold for almost a decade but, when we lived in Lon­don, could nev­er quite find the occa­sion – it was incon­ve­nient for a week­end jaunt, but too close for a full-on hol­i­day. There’s a per­verse log­ic in the fact that we final­ly made the trip to Suf­folk, England’s most east­er­ly coun­ty, only after com­ing to live with­in ten miles of Land’s End in the far west.

We were prompt­ed to act, first, by my fam­i­ly his­to­ry: hav­ing learned that many of my ances­tors in the 19th cen­tu­ry spent their lives in and around a hand­ful of towns and vil­lages in the coun­ty, I felt a pow­er­ful urge to retrace their steps.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Wel­come to Adnam­s­land”

Guest Post: Stono’s Favourite Suffolk Pubs

The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds, by David (Brokentaco) on Flickr, under Creative Commons.
The Nut­shell, Bury St Edmunds, by David (Bro­ken­ta­co) on Flickr, under Cre­ative Com­mons.

To help fill a gap in our collection of local pub guides, reader Clive Stonebridge (@stonojr) has given us a list of his favourite Suffolk drinking holes.

* * *

I like tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish ses­sion ales and Adnams’ Bit­ter. I’m a big fan of cof­fee stouts such as Dark Star Espres­so, and not-over­ly-hopped beers with ‘new world hops’, e.g. Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold.  I’m from Suf­folk and live local­ly, and have been a CAMRA mem­ber for 10 years. I’m also an occa­sion­al home-brew­er and frus­trat­ed blogger/writer.

1. The Fat Cat, Ipswich
An Ipswich insti­tu­tion for near­ly 20 years and three-time local CAMRA branch pub of the year, the Fat Cat was the town’s first new free­house pub. Pro­vid­ing a tra­di­tion­al home­ly pub set­ting that has no tele­vi­sion, fruit machines or music to dis­turb the hum of pub chat­ter, it is based about a 20 min walk from the town cen­tre.

It serves a wide selec­tion of con­tin­u­al­ly chang­ing cask ales (15+ on aver­age) from its well stocked tap room, often includ­ing beers from its Nor­wich-based sis­ter brew­ery, also called Fat Cat. There is also a good selec­tion of Euro­pean lagers, ‘real’ ciders, an assort­ment of Bel­gian beers in bot­tles, and a vari­ety of wines.

Food comes in the shape of lunchtime rolls, or the shot-put sized home made scotch eggs (absolute­ly worth try­ing). From Sun­day to Thurs­day, plates & cut­lery and cut­lery are also pro­cid­ed to patrons who want to bring food from local take­aways – a very pop­u­lar choice all year round in the evenings.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, the well-kept beer gar­den pro­vides addi­tion­al seat­ing space and occa­sion­al bank hol­i­day week­end bar­be­cues.

2. Dove Street Inn, Ipswich
A mul­ti-award-win­ning cask ale pub for ten years, the Dove was most recent­ly named Great British Pub Awards Cask Ale Pub of the Year 2013. It serves a wide range of ever-chang­ing cask ales includ­ing some from its own range brewed in the micro-brew­ery oppo­site, along with a selec­tion of draught for­eign beers, ‘real’ cider and wine.

There are reg­u­lar beer fes­ti­vals  fea­tur­ing 60+ beers in the beer tent, which is mod­elled on a Ger­man beer gar­den or cel­lar and pro­vides a pleas­ant out­door seat­ing area in sum­mer.

Land­la­dy Karen’s home cook­ing and occa­sion­al week­end bar­be­cues pro­vide great food, with veg­e­tar­i­an options, and weary vis­i­tors can even book into the adjoin­ing bed and break­fast which sits above the home­brew shop. The pub also runs its own loy­al­ty card scheme.

3. Lord Nel­son, South­wold
Adnams is syn­ony­mous with South­wold and Suf­folk, and the Lord Nel­son is where the locals go to drink. A three bar pub near the seafront, it serves the best pint of Adnams’ you’ll find any­where in the coun­ty, and also does the best fish and chips too, with the fish in Broad­side bat­ter. Dur­ing the win­ter, a roar­ing open fire keeps the worst of the North Sea coast’s wind and bleak­ness at bay while in the sum­mer, the hid­den beer gar­den expands the capac­i­ty of this very pop­u­lar pub.

4. The Beer­house, Bury St Edmunds
While Adnams is syn­ony­mous with South­would, Bury St Edmunds is home to Suffolk’s oth­er major brew­er, Greene King, but The Beer­house is one of the few pubs in the town where you’ll be unlike­ly ever to find their beer. Eight hand pumps pro­vide a var­ied selec­tion of cask ales along­side four ciders. Among the beer selec­tion are often beers from the pub’s own brew­ery, the Brew­shed. There are sim­ple pub snacks and the pub has a nice out­door seat­ing arrange­ment which soft­ens what is essen­tial­ly a for­mer car park, and where spring and win­ter beer fes­ti­vals are held.

5. Butt & Oys­ter, Pin Mill
Fea­tured in fre­quent vis­i­tor Arthur Ransome’s book We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, the Butt & Oys­ter is a Grade II list­ed build­ing and fea­tures in CAMRA’s nation­al inven­to­ry of his­toric pub inte­ri­ors, retain­ing many of its orig­i­nal fea­tures from the 17th to 19th cen­turies.

The pub is sit­u­at­ed on the edge of the west­ern shore of the Orwell and, at high water, the riv­er laps round the base of the build­ing, and it is said yachts­men could once be served aboard their boats by lean­ing in through the pub win­dows. These days, the win­dows mere­ly pro­vide pic­turesque, panoram­ic views across the Orwell Estu­ary, which attract many artists and vis­i­tors.

Pri­mar­i­ly sup­plied by Adnams, beer is sold from four casks on show behind the bar, and the menu, as befits its loca­tion, is built large­ly around the local seafood. It gets incred­i­bly busy and pop­u­lar in the sum­mer months so book­ing a table is essen­tial.

6. The Tri­an­gle Tav­ern, Low­est­oft
Billed as the most east­er­ly real ale pub in the whole of the UK, and sit­u­at­ed on Tri­an­gle Mar­ket near the town cen­tre, the Tav­ern is the spir­i­tu­al home to the Green Jack Brew­ing Co. It offers a min­i­mum of six Green Jack ales every day with as many as four fur­ther guest ales and two real ciders at any one time across two bars, front and back.

The front bar has a more relaxed tra­di­tion­al look and feel with an open fire, and is where occa­sion­al live music is played on Fri­day nights. The back bar is more mod­ern with games machines, pool table, and juke­box, and is where the world-renowned annu­al pro­fes­sion­al world thumb wrestling cham­pi­onship is host­ed. Beer fes­ti­vals are held through­out the year.

7. The Cher­ry Tree, Wood­bridge
The build­ing dates from the 17th cen­tu­ry, though the tree itself no longer remains. With its tra­di­tion­al oak beams and slop­ing ceil­ings, the pub has a char­ac­ter that’s hard to fake in a town with plen­ty of his­to­ry to shout about. The pub offers a selec­tion of eight well-kept cask ales, the major­i­ty from Adnams, though sev­er­al guest ales are usu­al­ly on offer. Tra­di­tion­al food made with local­ly-sourced ingre­di­ents and a warm, fam­i­ly-friend­ly atmos­phere makes this a pop­u­lar local des­ti­na­tion, with reg­u­lar quiz nights and an annu­al beer fes­ti­val. Accom­mo­da­tion is also pro­vid­ed in a con­vert­ed out­door barn.

8. The Nut­shell, Bury St Edmunds
List­ed by Guin­ness World Records as the small­est pub in Britain, it is Nut­shell by name and nature. Though it might sound a tight fit,  this one bar pub, at 15ft x 7ft, has enough room to seat ten peo­ple and half as many again stand­ing quite com­fort­ably, though the record is claimed to be 102. The ceil­ing is cov­ered in cur­ren­cy from around the world high­light­ing its sta­tus as a tourist attrac­tion. Among many oth­er nov­el­ties is a mum­mi­fied cat found by builders car­ry­ing out ren­o­va­tions. This being a Greene King pub, the two cask ale hand pumps serve only their beer, usu­al­ly IPA and Abbott Ale, but it is kept well, mak­ing this one of the best places to sam­ple it in its home coun­ty.