The Best Beer Writing of 2018, Sez Us

Beer magazines are in trouble and the Session is dead but, still, most weekends for the past year we’ve found between five and fifteen interesting things worth linking to.

From per­son­al reflec­tions to his­tor­i­cal analy­sis, from por­traits of pubs to pro­files of peo­ple, the depth, breadth and qual­i­ty of beer writ­ing only seems to increase.

The fol­low­ing list is our per­son­al selec­tion of the very best, with a bias towards ‘prop­er’ blogs over paid out­lets, and also towards voic­es we think deserve a sig­nal boost.

We’ve omit­ted some great stuff that rather lost its pow­er when it ceased to be top­i­cal, and there are some blogs which are best approached as bod­ies of work rather than through indi­vid­ual posts, so this is by no means every­thing we liked in the past year.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Best Beer Writ­ing of 2018, Sez Us”

British Beer

The Great British Beer Hunt –
Jester, Ernest, Oli­cana and Godi­va
On a rail replace­ment bus.

Beer and queu­ing –
A British thing in a British sta­di­um,
A beer at the British Muse­um.

There was lots of good beer here before –
Malty British beer, liv­ing fos­sils,
Stan­dard British quaffing beer.

Icon­ic sym­bol of all that is great,
What is tru­ly great,
About British beer –
A bot­tle of mild on the shelf.

British beer is not like its past.
British beer is best,
British beer is too strong –
This is where British beer is and will go,
Or you’ll upset the Queen.

This poem, and we use the word in the loos­est sense, was put togeth­er from phras­es found by search­ing the Tweets of peo­ple we fol­low for the phrase “British Beer”, and is our small con­tri­bu­tion towards mark­ing Beer Day Britain.

Tell Us About Your Local Beer Mixes

The cover BEER magazine #40

Our feature on traditional beer mixes – dog’s nose, lightplater, brown-split, and so on – is in the latest edition of CAMRA’s BEER magazine.

We know we didn’t cap­ture every sin­gle region­al spe­cial­i­ty or all of the many local names for the mix­es we did list, and we were pre­pared for the steady trick­le of “But what about…?” mes­sages that have been com­ing our way on Twit­ter.

The thing is, this is the kind of stuff that peo­ple often know but don’t often write down – a gen­er­al prob­lem with study­ing the his­to­ry of beer and pubs – and we’d love to get more of these on record.

So, with that in mind, here’s your chance to tell the world about  the beer mix­es you know, and/or the names by which they go in your neck of the woods. Just com­ment below, spec­i­fy­ing:

  • What the mix is called.
  • How it’s made.
  • And the spe­cif­ic pub, neigh­bour­hood, town or region to which it belongs.

No vari­ant is too minor, and dupli­cates are fine – use­ful, even.

It would be inter­est­ing to know, for exam­ple, whether sim­ply ‘mixed’, which has come up a few times, always refers to mild and bit­ter. We guess it’s syn­ony­mous with half-and-half, and changes depend­ing on which two beers (one light, one dark) that are most com­mon­ly mixed in any giv­en region.

Everything We Wrote in March 2018: Devon, Michael Jackson, the Good Beer Guide

That was a pretty productive month with more posts than in any other month for some time, perhaps because the snow and cold kept us indoors near the books and the computer.

We start­ed off gen­tly with a bit of Pub Life, observ­ing the dain­ty manoeu­vres that take place around a com­mu­nal pork pie which every­one wants to eat, but nobody wants to be seen to want to eat.

The top­ic of last month’s edi­tion of The Ses­sion was ‘Home­town Glo­ries’ so we sep­a­rat­ed into our con­sti­tu­tion­al parts to think about Waltham­stow and Bridg­wa­ter respec­tive­ly. It doesn’t look as if the host has put togeth­er a round-up of the entries yet but when he does, it’ll be here. (No pres­sure, Gareth.)

We flagged a new favourite book, 1949’s A Scrap­book of Inns, pick­ing out some high­lights, and then came back for anoth­er go at one of them in this post about the mys­te­ri­ous lost style ‘Ash­bur­ton Pop’:

There is a par­tic­u­lar kind of beer brewed at Ash­bur­ton in Devon­shire, very full of fixed air, and there­fore known by the name of Ash­bur­ton pop, which is sup­posed to be as effi­ca­cious in con­sump­tions as even the air of Devon­shire itself…

Brew­Dog have been embroiled in some brouha­ha every oth­er day for the last month, it seems. We had some thoughts on the Pink IPA busi­ness, the reac­tion to which seemed like anoth­er win-win for the Scot­tish behe­moth.

In a big­gish post we looked back on what we learned about Devon’s beer scene while writ­ing our Devon Life col­umn for a year and a half:

If you think brown bit­ter is endan­gered, spend more time in Devon. Time after time we spoke to peo­ple who expressed mild frus­tra­tion at the con­ser­vatism of the coun­ty – at the aver­sion to things pale, bit­ter or aro­mat­ic – and of the need to dial things back and down if they want to sell any of it in local pubs. There are too many poten­tial­ly inter­est­ing beers that feel com­pro­mised, and too many brew­ers who know it.

This was one of our most pop­u­lar posts for the month, though 99.9 per cent of the traf­fic was from one par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal region.

Women in work clothes smiling.
Women pos­ing beside the bot­tling machine at Mitchells & But­lers bot­tling depot, Birm­ing­ham, c.1950.

For Inter­na­tion Women’s Day we put togeth­er a gallery of images of women work­ing in brew­eries and pubs from our col­lec­tion of mid-20th-cen­tu­ry in-house mag­a­zines.

One thing we weren’t very good at last month was tast­ing new beers and writ­ing up the notes. We did get round to try­ing one of the beers sug­gest­ed for us by our Patre­on sub­scribers, though – De Molen Not For Sale Ale, about which we were rather enthu­si­as­tic.

While research­ing the IWD post (above) we came across sev­er­al arti­cles about malt­ing and decid­ed to put togeth­er a gallery of pic­tures from those, too.

Then came a cry of despair from the pub: what’s the point in brew­eries pro­duc­ing decent beer if it’s exact­ly the same as every­body else’s decent beer? What’s your thing?

Butting into some­body else’s mys­tery took us down an inter­est­ing line of research around Bristol’s min­ing his­to­ry and take-away-only beer­hous­es. There’s a fur­ther update from the orig­i­nal poster in the com­ments on Insta­gram: “The Rock Tav­ern / Rock House appears around 1899 and dis­ap­pears in the late 1960s. One of the entries is aster­isked to indi­cate it was off-sales.”

There’s a whole lot of pol­i­tics going on in and around SIBA, a lot of it rather hard to fol­low. We piped up to say that, actu­al­ly, we under­stand why small brew­ers might not want medi­um-large brew­ers in their club. (Note: Neil from SIBA popped up on Twit­ter to point out that St Austell aren’t so much “muscling in” (our phrase) as try­ing to get back in, hav­ing been bumped out when they grew too big.)

Watney's Red -- detail from beer mat.

Nick Wheat acquired and uploaded a rare Watney’s train­ing film from the launch of the reviled Red keg bit­ter in 1971 and kind­ly allowed us to share it. Do give it a watch if you have a spare 10–15 min­utes, if only to mar­vel at the impen­e­tra­bly plum­my accents.

Last year CAMRA pub­lished our 2,500-word arti­cle on the ori­gins of the Good Beer Guide, using only the words of those who were there. Now, so every­one can read it, it’s avail­able here on the blog.

We weren’t expect­ing to like that beer, which we didn’t expect to find in such good con­di­tion, or in that pub, which we didn’t expect to find on that street, in that part of town. Sur­pris­es all round!

In 1983–84 Pit­field brewed a mild in sup­port of the women of Green­ham Com­mon – was it the first ‘cause’ beer? Check out the com­ments for some oth­er sug­ges­tions, and a telling off.

Illustration: Micheal Jackson peers from behind his glasses.

This was great fun to write, and a great exam­ple of where hav­ing two writ­ers helps rather than hin­ders: some­one asked us what Michael Jack­son would have made of NEIPA so we invent­ed two schol­ars and had them debate it using only his writ­ings for ammo.

For a long time Orval was a beer alone; now, it has com­pa­ny, as a new style is in the process of being born. We’re call­ing it DHBA for now. And here’s a foot­note via Twit­ter:

It was a long month which meant five rounds of News, Nuggets & Lon­greads, includ­ing one that was so full of good stuff we resort­ed to a list of bul­let points at the end to fit it all in:

3 March 2018 – Nor­way, Nitro­gen, Nanas

10 March 2018 – Lemon­drop, Brew­Dog, Hard­knott

17 March 2018 – Lon­don Drinkers & Bris­tol Dock­ers

24 March 2018 – Glit­ter, Ilford, AK

31 March 2018 – Moorhouse’s, Memel, Mel­low­ness

There was also an email newslet­ter (sign up!), lots of Tweets, pho­tos of pubs on Insta­gram, a bit of Face­book stuff, and a three-hour Red­dit AMA.

If you think all this lot is worth any­thing please con­sid­er sign­ing up to sup­port us via Patre­on (where there are also exclu­sive posts for $2+ sub­scribers) or maybe just buy us a pint via Ko-Fi.

The Curse

I’ve been noticing worse hangovers for the last few years and put it down to ageing – I’m looking down the barrel end of 40. Whereas in my twenties I could happily go on a vodka crawl in Krakow and be up for work the next day, whistling and merry, these days, my limit is somewhere between one pint and three.

What struck me as odd, though, is that though Ray’s tol­er­ance is also drop­ping (bet­ter that way than the oth­er…) it’s con­sis­tent: he can drink about five pints in a ses­sion with­out hav­ing to write off the next day. Where­as on some occa­sions, a sin­gle pint is enough to induce an entire day of nau­sea in me.

So I start­ed to do a bit of track­ing on this, and began to notice a pos­si­ble cor­re­la­tion: I appear to have much worse hang­overs when I’m on or approach­ing my peri­od.

My first thought was that I was actu­al­ly less tol­er­ant to alco­hol dur­ing my peri­od and this is very much the folk wis­dom you’ll hear on the sub­ject: dur­ing men­stru­a­tion, the think­ing goes, our blood is (a) thin­ner and (b) there’s less of it. How­ev­er, from read­ing around a bit more, there isn’t clear med­ical evi­dence on this point (it would have a pret­ty neg­li­gi­ble impact on blood/alcohol ratio, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you keep up oth­er flu­ids). How­ev­er, inter­est­ing­ly, there is a poten­tial link between oestro­gen lev­els and pain per­cep­tion, so it could be that the hang­over symp­toms sim­ply feel a lot worse (as if that is any con­so­la­tion). There is also a sug­ges­tion that you might drink more, or more quick­ly, while pre-men­stru­al (slough of despond and all that) – although I can rule out the for­mer as I have been quite care­ful about record­ing amounts drunk, it is pos­si­ble I might be bosh­ing it at a dif­fer­ent rate.

As some­one who likes sys­tems, process­es and clear rules, it’s frus­trat­ing to me that there’s no con­sis­ten­cy to it – some months are bet­ter than oth­ers. So I’ve start­ed to record things in a lot more detail (e.g. look­ing at food intake, speed of alco­hol absorp­tion etc) and I’d be real­ly inter­est­ed to know if oth­ers have observed any trends or dis­cov­ered any mit­i­ga­tion, oth­er than stick­ing to fruit tea for half the month.