News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 July 2018: Marsan, Saison, Vaseline

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from equality initiatives to the specifics of European beer styles.

We’ll start with a flur­ry of acci­den­tal­ly inter­con­nect­ed items about pubs and how wel­com­ing they might or might not seem to dif­fer­ent peo­ple and groups.

British polit­i­cal Twit­ter spent a good chunk of the week talk­ing about pubs after actor Eddie Marsan said that he did­n’t like them, asso­ci­at­ing them, based on his own child­hood expe­ri­ences in the East End of Lon­don, with domes­tic vio­lence and macho pos­tur­ing.

Mean­while, two relat­ed schemes have launched with the inten­tion of mak­ing pubs more invit­ing to a wider range of peo­ple. First, with Melis­sa Cole at the helm, there’s the Every­one Wel­come Ini­tia­tive:

The aim of this ini­tia­tive is to pro­vide beer venues and events with a strong state­ment that every­one who walks through the door is wel­come regard­less, of their gen­der, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, race, health, reli­gion, age or dis­abil­i­ty… Whilst these forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion are cov­ered under the Equal­i­ty Act 2010, none of us can say that they don’t hap­pen and what this ini­tia­tive is designed to do is give peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty to nail their colours to the mast about the kind of venue or event they are run­ning – to shout proud­ly that hate isn’t to be tol­er­at­ed and igno­rance is not an excuse.

The Equal­i­ty in Pubs accred­i­ta­tion scheme, led by Jes­si­ca Mason, launched a few days lat­er:

Pub­li­cans who would like to let vis­i­tors know that their pub has a zero tol­er­ance pol­i­cy on abuse in any of its forms can now sign up to TEPA and, from 2019, gain a win­dow stick­er and a plot on a map on TEPA web­site to let peo­ple know that their pub doesn’t sup­port homo­pho­bia, sex­ism or racism in any of its guis­es from nei­ther its staff or it’s drinkers. Join­ing TEPA means the pub­li­can has a civic duty to act should they recog­nise abuse in their venue.

We’ll fin­ish with a link to some­thing we wrote last year which appeared this week at All About Beer after a long delay, thus seem­ing acci­den­tal­ly top­i­cal:

[If you] find your­self in a pub where you oughtn’t be, it will usu­al­ly be made clear to you, as long as you are rea­son­ably flu­ent in the lan­guage of pas­sive-aggres­sion. It might, for exam­ple, take a long time to get served, if the per­son behind the bar acknowl­edges you at all. You might get asked point blank if you are a police offi­cer, which hap­pens to us not infrequently—something about our flat feet, per­haps. Or the reg­u­lars might start a loud, point­ed con­ver­sa­tion about strangers, or for­eign­ers, or peo­ple wear­ing what­ev­er colour hat you hap­pen to be wear­ing. We once walked into a pub only to be greet­ed by five men in soc­cer shirts, one of whom sim­ply point­ed and said: “No, no—turn round and walk out. Now.” We did so.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 7 July 2018: Marsan, Sai­son, Vase­line”

Vienna Beer at Zero Degrees

Graffiti outside Zero Degrees.

As part of our mission to visit every pub in Bristol* we popped into Zero Degrees on Saturday where, to our surprise, we encountered a beer of the year contender: a Vienna lager of astonishing perfection.

Some­thing like fif­teen years ago (wow) we used to swoon over Mean­time’s Gold­en Beer, which was a kind of doppio mal­to affair, dark­er and heav­ier than a stan­dard Pil­sner but not sick­ly or sweet. It dis­ap­peared from Mean­time’s ros­ter more than a decade ago; thank­ful­ly, the Vien­na Lager (5.3% ABV) at the Bris­tol branch of the Zero Degrees brew­pub is a dead ringer.

It’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing that Zero Degrees, a sim­i­lar­ly lager-focused brew­ery found­ed at around the same time as Mean­time in the same part of the world and tar­get­ing the same mar­ket, should some­times pro­duce beers that resem­ble Mean­time’s. We haven’t dug into it but sus­pect some of the same staff have rotat­ed in and out of those two brew­eries, too, over the years.

But, the Vien­na… It was indeed gold­en – not quite amber, but def­i­nite­ly deep­er than yel­low – and bal­anced mag­i­cal­ly on the knife-sharp edge between all-about-hops and all-about-malt. It was adver­tised as dry-hopped but that did­n’t trans­late into brash­ness. This is the kind of beer that stopped us shrug­ging about lager all those years ago – the kind of beer that makes us say, ‘Wow!’ with­out hav­ing any par­tic­u­lar promi­nent fea­ture to point at. (Fur­ther read­ing.) The wow fac­tor is in the per­fec­tion of its struc­ture, the pre­ci­sion with which each part does its job, the tam­ing of weed and seed into per­fume and bis­cuit when they can so eas­i­ly end up all grass and mud. In the past we’ve had beers at Zero Degrees that lack life but this sparkled and glowed, and had a decent head, with­out being fizzy or like a bub­ble-bath.

An Okto­ber­fest beer also on offer was less suc­cess­ful (dense and dark, but sticky with sug­ar) and a sour cher­ry beer was almost bril­liant except that the sour­ness had a faint sug­ges­tion of hang­over sweat about it.

Over­all, despite our ongo­ing prob­lem with the chilly piz­za restau­rant vibe, we resolved to vis­it Zero Degrees again soon, and more often in gen­er­al. Any­where that is con­sis­tent­ly brew­ing these Con­ti­nen­tal sub-styles, with only taste­ful ‘twists’, deserves a bit of love.

We’re expect­ing this to take sev­er­al years. We’re mak­ing the rules up as we go along, defin­ing ‘pub’ as some­where pri­mar­i­ly defined by the avail­abil­i­ty of beer, and ‘Bris­tol’ as – gulp – the ONS def­i­n­i­tion. Vis­its made to pubs before we moved here in July don’t count; we both have to be present for a vis­it to reg­is­ter; but only one of us has to con­sume an alco­holic drink. We’re up to (checks) 72 so far.

Our New Ebook: Gambrinus Waltz

We’ve written a short book about lager beer in Victorian and Edwardian London which is now available to buy on the Amazon Kindle store.

Miss Vesta Tilley.It has 13,500 words includ­ing foot­notes which would equate to about 60 pages if it was a paper book – one-fifth of the length of Brew Bri­tan­nia, and eight or so times longer than one of our ‘long read’ blog posts.

At £2.06 from the UK store$3.27 in the US, and €2.68 in the Euro­zone*, it’s a total bar­gain – that’s less than the price of a half of Guin­ness by our reck­on­ing.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Our New Ebook: Gam­bri­nus Waltz”

Vienna Beer Today

Piccadilly Johnnies, 1904.

Our ebook, Gambrinus Waltz, is available from the Amazon Kindle store.

As the 1860s turned into the 1870s, absolutely the trendiest thing to drink in London was Vienna beer, aka Vienna lager – the pricey imported ‘craft beer’ of its day.

It seems to us that it was not so much a ‘style’ as the prod­uct of a sin­gle brew­ery – Dreher, of Klein-Schwechat, Vien­na – with a few imi­ta­tors try­ing to mus­cle in on the mar­ket it had cre­at­ed.

It appealed to Pic­cadil­ly John­ny – the hip­ster of his day –because:

  • It was served cold.
  • It had high­er lev­els of car­bon­a­tion.
  • It was paler than Munich Dunkel. (Though not as pale as Pil­sner.)
  • He believed it was­n’t ‘intox­i­cat­ing’. (We think this was psy­cho­log­i­cal.)
  • Ger­man’ stuff was fash­ion­able, while Eng­lish stuff was con­sid­ered inher­ent­ly naff.

Now, almost 150 years lat­er, though there aren’t many descen­dants of Dreher’s Vien­na beer, they are at least rel­a­tive­ly easy to find, and not just in the West End of Lon­don.

Even near us, in deep­est Corn­wall, there are sev­er­al pubs sell­ing kegged Brook­lyn Lager (5.2%), while bot­tles can be found in your local Wether­spoon, and most super­mar­kets. It’s one of the first self-declared ‘craft beers’ many peo­ple drink – it cer­tain­ly was for us. Is it a con­vinc­ing Vien­na beer? With­out going back to 1870, we can’t be sure, but we can’t believe its flow­ery hop aro­ma is remote­ly authen­tic. It is Dreher’s beer, via the 19th cen­tu­ry New York beer hall, via the ‘real ale rev­o­lu­tion’, via US ‘craft beer’.

Anoth­er wide­ly avail­able exam­ple is Negra Mod­e­lo (5.4%) from Mex­i­co. In pro­duc­tion since the 1920s, it is a lin­ger­ing reminder of the coun­try’s his­toric con­nec­tions with Aus­tria. It’s been a while since we drank one but our rec­ol­lec­tion is of a lager already lack­ing bit­ter­ness into which some­one had then stirred a tea­spoon of refined brown sug­ar. The brew­ery them­selves some­times call it a ‘Munich Dunkel’ – it is cer­tain­ly dark­er than amber.

Final­ly, there’s Thorn­bridge’s Kill Your Dar­lings (5%), a case of which we have been work­ing on for a cou­ple of months. Smooth and clean almost to the point of bland­ness, it cer­tain­ly tastes authen­ti­cal­ly Con­ti­nen­tal, and makes a change from pale lager while offer­ing a sim­i­lar kind of straight­for­ward refresh­ment. It, too, is per­haps rather too Munich-dark to be quite authen­tic. Still, we’d like to drink a pint or two of this at the Craft Beer Co in Covent Gar­den, which isn’t far from the Strand – epi­cen­tre of the orig­i­nal Vien­na beer craze.

On bal­ance, the least authen­tic of the three, Brook­lyn Lager, with its dis­tinct­ly Eng­lish dry-hop­ping regime, is prob­a­bly the tasti­est.

One of the projects we’re work­ing on now is about lager in Lon­don in the 19th cen­tu­ry – prob­a­bly for a short e‑book. In the mean­time, we whole­heart­ed­ly rec­om­mend Ron Pat­tin­son’s book Lager.