News, Nuggets & Longreads 3 September 2016: Blokes and Books

This week, we’ve mostly been enjoying profiles of blokes who brew, blokes talking about themselves, and obituaries of blokes who have died, along with a bit of navel-gazing about beer writing.

For Good Beer Hunting Kyle Kastranec (@Beer_Notes) profiles a reluctant businessman who doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy the success is his brewery is experiencing:

At some point during my time with Henry Nguyen, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m not a person that was meant to own a business.”

He’s right. He’s also anxious, neurotic, and indecisive. He’s attention-averse. He’s not even all that interested in making money.


Painted Mahr's sign on a wall in Bamberg.

Another brewer profile, this time by Will Hawkes (@Will_Hawkes) for All About Beer, highlights a tension between trend and tradition in German brewing which is finding an outlet in the person of Stephan Michel of Mahr’s in Bamberg:

“I am Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!” he admits, laughing. “I have the traditional thing and then I have the rock and roll thing on the other side.” Mahr’s Bräu, which is imported into the U.S. by Shelton Brothers, is very traditional: the brewery focuses on two beers, the dark amber Ungespundet… and pale Hell (although others are brewed)… But then there are the snappily-designed t-shirts and rockabilly concerts at the brewery, the 250-mL bottles… and the suggestion that he might soon start canning his beers.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 3 September 2016: Blokes and Books”

Magical Mystery Pour Side Mission: Thomas Hardy

You never saw The Beatles live? Seriously? But they’re a hugely important band!

That’s a bit how it feels to have been into beer for all these years without ever getting to know Thomas Hardy’s Ale. It was listed in the Bible of our early enthusiasm, Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide, and the elder statesfolk of beer writing all seem to have cellars full of the stuff and have tasted multiple vintages, multiple times, all the way back to 1968.

Our one encounter with it — or, rather, Bailey’s — is from a year or two before we started blogging. His dad brought some home from work at Christmas, discounted out-of-date stock (ho ho!) being a warehouseman’s perk. Innocently, they drank it fresh and, being more used to straightforward 4% session bitters, found it insanely strong and sweet and weird tasting. Most of the bottle went down the sink.

Continue reading “Magical Mystery Pour Side Mission: Thomas Hardy”

Limited Edition Beer Madness, 1968

In 1968, the Observer‘s wine critic Cyril Ray wrote about an exciting new limited edition beer, Eldridge Pope’s Thomas Hardy Ale.

The headline was A POUND A PINT, with an exclamation mark implied:

[Its] high strength caused loss from excessive frothing during fermentation, and this, together with the extra duty and long maturing in oak, is why it costs £1 a pint. I have bought some myself to put away — it will pay for keeping — and there may still be some left, in pints, half-pints or nips, at pubs and off-licences in the Hardy country…. Supplies, though, are limited, and I do not suppose that this remarkable beer will be brewed again — not yet awhile, anyway.

Along with the Coronation beers we wrote about here, this has to be one of the earliest examples of this phenomenon, and that’s certainly one of the earliest instances we’ve come across of a wince-inducingly high price (about £16 in today’s money) being justified by reference to the costs of manufacturing, the difficulties of a limited run, and so on.

It would be interesting to know whether the board at Eldridge Pope ever considered absorbing the costs and selling at a more reasonable price given that this was essentially a one-off marketing exercise.

In the same article, Mr Ray also made a recommendation for ‘amateurs of strong beer’ with less cash to splash: Tennant’s Gold Label, which he says is ‘lighter in colour and crisper in style’ but

one must not be deceived: the under-taste is rich and full, and the six-ounce nip packs the punch of two and a half whiskies.

The article appeared in the 14 July edition of the Observer if you want to read the whole thing, though it is only short.

Main image adapted from ‘Thomas Hardy’s Ale’ by Bernt Rostad from Flickr under Creative Commons.

Pub Gentrification in Jude the Obscure,

“[The inn] had been entirely renovated and refitted in modern style since Jude’s residence here… Tinker Taylor drank off his glass and departed, saying it was too stylish a place now for him to feel at home in unless he was drunker than he had money to be just then… The bar had been gutted and newly arranged throughout, mahogany fixtures having taken the place of the old painted ones, while at the back of the standing-space there were stuffed sofa-benches. The room was divided into compartments in the approved manner, between which were screens of ground glass in mahogany framing, to prevent topers in one compartment being put to the blush by the recognitions of those in the next. On the inside of the counter two barmaids leant over the white-handled beer-engines, and the row of little silvered taps inside, dripping into a pewter trough… At the back of the barmaids rose bevel-edged mirrors, with glass shelves running along their front, on which stood precious liquids that Jude did not know the name of, in bottles of topaz, sapphire, ruby and amethyst.”

From the Project Gutenberg edition of Jude the Obscure, 1894.