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.
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.
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.
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.)
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…
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
… Huh, I foolishly thought these were very alike … I was wrong. Orval is much more fudge and barley sugar when compared to Bruxellensis with its rosewater and lychee flavours. A weird experience … not sure if I’m disappointed or just surprised.
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.