As a student in Newcastle when times were hard (which they often were) I would head to The Carriage alone and stare into a pint until I felt that I could face the world again. I can’t say I always felt better after sitting in the pub alone for hours,but it made me feel like I was able to go home and talk to my friends. After all alcohol is a depressant but it also loosens the lips and it meant that I felt able toconfide in mylong-sufferingflat mate who regularly dragged me out ofmy pit of despair.
Jessica Mason AKA the Drinks Maven has joined the wave of discussion around cask ale that always follows publication of the Cask Report with observations on opportunities missed during the craft beer hype of the past half-decade:
This might have been the pivotal point where cask appreciators repositioned ale. Effectively, reminding how it is naturally flavoursome, freshly created and diverse in its myriad of varieties. All of this would have been compelling; as would flagging up the trend for probiotics and natural ingredients… But the vernacular surrounding cask ale lacked something else: sheer excitement.
Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of beer in the past week, from cask anxiety to Berlin boozers.
The latest Cask Report was published (PDF, via Cask Marque) but for the first time in a few years we couldn’t summon the energy to read it, hence no mention in last Saturday’s round-up. But there has been plenty of commentary in the past week and a bit which we thought it might be worth rounding up:
Martyn Cornell – “Why is finding a properly kept pint of cask ale such an appalling lottery in Britain’s pubs”?
Ben Nunn – “[Are] we… heading for a world where real ale is, like vinyl, a niche product – not really for the mainstream, sold only in specialist outlets and usually restricted only to certain styles or genres?”
Pub Curmudgeon – “Maybe it is also time to question whether handpumps can be more of a hindrance than a help.”
Steph Shuttleworth (Twitter) – “[We] don’t currently have any reports that are nuanced or in-depth enough for the industry to rely on… Cask is a significant part of many craft breweries e.g. Marble, Magic Rock, Thornbridge, but we can’t draw lines as to who is in which market…”
Yesterday we stumbled upon a 2006 ‘top ten bottled British ales’ listicle by Pete Brown which we shared on Twitter, and which reminded us of something we found during research on Brew Britannia: a list of 101 bottled reviewed by Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jackson’s for an article in British tabloid the People in 1994.
It appeared in the Sunday edition for 21 August that year and offers an excellent snapshot of what was then readily available in British shops.
It’s from just the moment when Premium Bottled Ales were coming into existence in their almost-a-pint bottles and at around pub strength, shoving aside traditional half-pint brown and light ales.
There are some surprises but, generally, we think, it brings home how far things have come.
Jackson subscribed to the view that it was a waste of time to write bad reviews when you could focus on things you’d enjoyed but in this exercise was essentially forced to give a short note for each beer, some of which were uncharacteristically stinging. Carlsberg Special Brew, for example, he found “sweet and yucky” and Scorpion Dry prompted him to ask: “Where’s the sting? More like cabbage water.”
On the whole, though, he remained quite gentle, even finding diplomatic words to say about some fairly bland lagers such as Rolling Rock with its touch of “new-mown hay”.
The asterisked beers are those he particularly recommended — quite a high bar, evidently.
Here’s all the news, opinion and pondering on pubs and beer that’s seized our attention in the last week, from old London pubs to Mishing rice beer.
First up, from Richard Coldwell at Beer Leeds, what we think counts as a scoop: a branch of the Morrison’s supermarket near him has installed a cask ale line in its cafe. Supermarket cafes are one down the rung from Wetherspoon pubs in terms of hipness but are, at the same time, extremely popular, offering competitively priced, unpretentious meals. Adding draught beer to the mix is an interesting if unexpected move. “I wonder how long it will take before a supermarket café gets in the Good Beer Guide?” Richard asks.
Mark (former blogger, actor, doesn’t like 330ml bottles) went on to argue that those who suggested paying it was reasonable to ask more for a better product were essentially saying, ‘Screw poor people. Let them drink piss.’ (His words.)