News, Nuggets & Longreads 13 October 2018: Pine, Pubs, Pilsner

Here’s everything in beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past seven days, from nostalgia to grapefruit IPA.

First, some mild melan­choly: Becky at A Fledg­ling Blog­ger has been reflect­ing on the part being alone in the pub has played in the state of her psy­chol­o­gy over the years:

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 to con­fide in my long-suf­fer­ing flat mate who reg­u­lar­ly dragged me out of my pit of despair.

Casks in a pub yard.

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.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 6 October 2018: Cask, Cans, Classics

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…”

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Artyfacts from the Nyneties #6: Beers of ’94

Sainsbury's Biere de Garde.
SOURCE: JS Jour­nal Online (PDF).

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.

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News, Nuggets & Longreads 11 November 2017: Morrison’s, Magic Lanterns, Mental Health

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.

Pub interior.
The Wid­ow’s Son, Bow.

The always absorb­ing Spi­tal­fields Life has anoth­er huge gallery of archive pho­tographs of Lon­don pubs, this time sourced from a new­ly digi­tised col­lec­tion of glass slides once used to give ‘mag­ic lantern shows’ at the Bish­ops­gate Insti­tute.

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The Craft Beer Life on a Budget

Is craft beer in the UK (definition 2) hopelessly exclusive to those on a budget or are there ways in?

We got think­ing about this in response to two Tweets, the first from Mark Dex­ter…

…and the sec­ond from Tony Nay­lor who writes about food and drink for the Guardian and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions:

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.)

This is some­thing that nags at us some­what. A few years ago we sug­gest­ed that brew­eries might con­sid­er find­ing a way to offer an entry lev­el beer at a rea­son­able price by, for exam­ple, being prag­mat­ic about hops and shoot­ing for a low­er ABV.

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