There is no shortage of books on English pub life and pub culture. It is, after all, as essential a part of that nation’s self-image as the café is to Paris or the beerhall is to Bavaria. Popular works on the pub, however, have tended to take an overtly celebratory or sentimental approach, and this much is noted by Boak and Bailey at the beginning of their latest work on the subject. But 20th Century Pub: From Beer House to Booze Bunker is no tub-thumping demand for the pub to be recognised as the cornerstone of civilisation, nor a misty-eyed look back at an ornate past full of horse-brasses and handpumps. There’s a proper academic rigour to their treatment, while avoiding getting bogged down in detail.
The structure is broadly chronological, beginning at the creation of the modern pub in the 19th century from an amalgamation of the tavern, inn and beerhouse: each serving a different market need in their own ways. From the resulting Victorian pub, we follow developments through the social optimism of the early 20th century, the upheavals of two world wars and their aftermath, and into the pub diversification that we know today. The later chapters focus on specific archetypes of British pub: the theme pub and its most popular spin-off, the Irish pub; the gastropub; the superpub and the more recent developments of the community-run pub and the micropub. In each case we get illustrative examples, fastidiously researched and presented with original documentary sources, first-hand interviews and real-life visits. The authors clearly put in significant mileage when putting the book together and it really stands to them in the observations and photographs they provide.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is how many other corners of life and society it touches on. Urban planning and development is obviously a major factor in how pubs have evolved in Britain, likewise the class system, attitudes to women, and of course the temperance movement. All of them play bit parts in the drama, stepping in and out of the narrative as required.
Fans of the authors’ first book, Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer, will enjoy the similar style in this one: a big picture, sliced into easily-digestible chapters and fleshed out with colourful characters and anecdotes from behind the scenes. It’s narrower in scope, however, and speaking as a beer person more than a pub person, I found it somewhat less engaging. Your mileage may vary of course. Overall it’s an excellent look at recent British history through the lens of the pub, and certainly more substantial than any number of glossy coffee-table works.
- Reuben Gray
When you think of great beer cities in Ireland, you wouldn't normally include Limerick in that list but things have changed significantly in Limerick. We just had the Beoir AGM there last Saturday and were met with a very warm welcome. Craft beer aside, there are some fantastic pubs there and now with local Limerick beer available in many. While specialist craft beer pubs are short on the ground, the ones that are there are doing an admirable job.
Mother Macs and the recently opened Wickham Tap are flying the flag for not just Irish Craft Beer but especially local Limerick beer such as Treaty City. Both pubs do serve regular macro beer too but they are both biding their time until that's no longer necessary.
Treaty City Brewing themselves went above and beyond by providing us a wonderfully entertaining and informative brewery tour thanks to Stephen.
What makes Limerick so special? We really needed to be there to understand it but Limerick seems to lack a lot of the big chains that have blighted many Irish cities. Everywhere you look there's a local café or bakery. A local barber, local pub, local shop. The only big chain coffee shop we noticed was in the train station, although I believe there's one other somewhere in the city. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples of big, foreign chain retailers in the city but the area we were in was all about the local community. The biggest chain of anything we saw were a number of pubs called Flannery's which is only a chain in the sense that they are run by the same family. However they are run separately by different members of the family.
What does such a close community do to promote local craft beer and local pubs? They join forces and brew a community beer.
The night before the AGM, the beer was launched and Beoir members tried it on Saturday morning while visiting Mother Macs, before the AGM started. It was a very good beer too.
Here’s some of the press release surrounding the beer:
The beer is the result of a unique collaboration between the publicans of the Market Quarter and Treaty City Brewery.
Developing a beer from scratch is a long process that includes extensive research and numerous tasting sessions.
The result is the creation of ‘The Market Quarter Beer’, a light beer with a floral, citrus hop aroma.
“The Market Quarter beer is slightly floral and fruity with a medium malt flavour. It is an incredibly drinkable session beer low in bitterness and light in colour” explains Stephen Cunneen of Treaty City Brewery.
Not only is the beer unique, but the way it was developed is unique. It began with the Market Quarter publicans discussing the potential for a common beer, which would be exclusive to their pubs only. The publicans then met and discussed what could be done with Stephen Cunneen of Treaty City Brewery and a partnership was formed.
This is the first time this sort of approach has been undertaken anywhere in Ireland. It caters for traditional drinkers and craft beer enthusiasts alike.
James Lennon, Chairperson of the Market Quarter described the launch of the Market Quarter Beer; “We’re delighted with the launch of our Market Quarter Beer. It’s something that has brought us all together as a group. People are looking for a different drink experience, we can see that in the expansion of the craft beer and gin market. Customers want something more authentic. Therefore, we have developed this beer and want our customers to experience a new brew that’s interestingly delightful, and most importantly 100% Limerick made. We have loved creating it so we hope that you will love tasting it!”
The pubs where the beer is available are as follows.
- Smyths Icon
- The Red Hen
- Mother Macs
- The Old Quarter
- Phil Flannery’s
- Nancy Blakes
- Charlie Chaplin’s
- Angel Lane
- The Library
- The Office
The European Beer Consumers Union, of which Beoir is a constituent member, has written to the CEO of the world's largest brewer, AB InBev, expressing concerns over the company's business practices. The letter from EBCU chairman Henri Reuchlin to ABI's Carlos Brito (full text here) notes that the multinational brewer now controls 30% of the world's beer market and appears to be further intensifying pressure on its competitors. ABI now has worldwide business interests in hop growing, as well as packaging, distribution and retailing. It is obvious how this level of involvement in the entire supply chain can have a knock-on effect on the consumer as other brewers are given less preferential treatment or locked out of the supply chain altogether.
EBCU has noted in particular the creation of ABI's "disruptor company" ZX Ventures which, as well as buying up previously independent breweries in Europe and abroad, has interests in the media, bars and home brewing. ZX made headlines recently when its investment in RateBeer came to light, and it is particularly concerning that this revelation was more or less accidental: ZX is under no obligation to reveal where its business interests lie. EBCU executive member and beer writer Tim Webb has written more on the ZX situation here.
Though ABI does not operate directly in Ireland, employing C&C Gleeson as its agent, Beoir fully agrees with EBCU's position that the company's activities are a matter of grave concern, for both smaller beer producers and the consumers who drink their products. At the very least, the management of AB InBev need to be made aware that their activities are being watched. EBCU will continue to report on the consolidation activities of all multinational brewers to help keep consumers informed via its news page at EBCU.org.
- Reuben Gray
The third Beoir: Champion Beer of Ireland Competition took place at the Killarney Beer Festival on Saturday May 27th. The judging of 142 beers started at 10am with most of the rounds finished by 5pm. Then the international judges got together with all of the eight best of category winners to decide the top three. Those international judges were: Melissa Cole, Des de Moor and Tim Webb from the UK along with André Brunnsberg from Finland, Jan Lochota from Poland and Carl Kins from Belgium.
Here are the full results.
Beoir Champion Beers of 2017
1. 200 Fathoms - Galway Bay
2. Róc Modern Pills - White Hag
3. Black Boar bourbon barrel aged - White Hag
Honourable Mention: The Púca - hibiscus and ginger sour
1. Goats Butt - Hillstown
2. Friar Weisse - Franciscan Well
3. Arrow Weisse - Elbow Lane
1. Two Hundred Fathoms - Galway Bay
2. Hook Baltic - Arthurstown
3. Porterhouse Oyster Stout - Porterhouse
Honourable Mention: Joe - Coffee Porter - O Brother
1. Hook Amber - Arthurstown
2. The Fixer - O Brother
3. Achill Dillsc Red - Achill Brewing
1. Smart Ass Saison - Boghopper
2. Swingletree Saison - Kinnegar
3. Boyne Brewhouse Saison & Spailpín Saison - Killarney Brewing
1. The Púca Hibiscus and Ginger - White Hag
2. Wayfarer Sour IPA - 8 Degrees
3. Castaway Passionfruit Sour - Yellow Belly
1. Róc Modern Pils - White Hag
2. Achill Lagered Ale - Achill Brewing
3. Vienna Lager - Boyne Brewhouse
Honourable Mention: Elbow Lane
1. Black Boar - Bourbon Barrel - White Hag
2. NEIPA - Wild Bat
3. Coconut Porter - Independent
1. Little Fawn - White Hag
2. The Chancer - O Brother
3. Citra Pale Ale - YellowBelly
Honourable Mention: Althea - Galway Bay
Honourable Mention: Boyne Brewhouse IPA - Boyne Brewhouse
The results are also posted on the competition page at the moment.