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Every week we round up the best writing about beer and pubs. This time we’ve spotted berm, Oirishness, and a Boddies clone in New York.
First, some news about ‘fresh ale’. This term arose last year when Otter used it to describe a tweak to keg dispense which would, they said, help the beer feel more like cask ale. At the time Tandleman was dismissive: “We have been here before, and they have failed before.” More recently Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Co (CMBC) has announced a product under the same name which they say “marries an exquisite flavour and body similar to cask ale, but with a shelf-life of up to 14 days”. Now, CAMRA has come out swinging, calling it a “handpump hijack”:
For generations, a handpump on the bar has been a sign of quality. Where cask is well kept, consumers can be sure of a spotless cellar, well-trained bar staff and a commitment to offering the best of UK brewing… Now, Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company – one of the world’s largest brewery conglomerates – has resorted to misleading consumers by hijacking the handpump to serve its “Fresh Ale” product. CMBC says this is “preserving the beloved hand pull ritual that delivers the traditional theatre of serve that ale is famed for”… CAMRA believes consumers deserve better than CMBC play acting at serving cask – a product they claim to champion while closing breweries and removing cask lines from bars.
There’s lots of interest here but what struck us was that CAMRA has been fighting this particular battle since it’s earliest days. The very first issue of its newspaper What’s Brewing, published in June 1972, led with a story about a London pub passing off keg Bass as beer “from the wood”, and in those early years “fake handpumps” were a recurring theme.
In its response to the present CAMRA campaign CMBCO says it will be clearly signposting Fresh Ale at the point of sale “with a pumpclip attachment, which states ‘Brewery Conditioned for Freshness’ and includes a QR code leading consumers to a microsite, to learn more”.
That still feels pretty weaselly to us.

At her Under the Jenfluence newsletter Jen Blair shares notes on her experience of recruitment and performance management in the US brewing industry, and reflects in particular on how a culture of secrecy around salary excludes people:
Luckily, most of us are happy that we’re not expected to not care about salary anymore and pretend that money doesn’t matter when it comes to being employed. The overwhelming majority of people have to trade their bodies as capital to survive in the world… And guess what? Listing pay ranges makes you a more equitable employer because you’re reducing potential discrimination and inequality… An attainable, tangible, and relatively painless way to encourage pay transparency in the beer industry is for organizations like the Brewers Association, Pink Boots Society, ASBC, MBAA, Brewbound, and any other company that has a job board to require that job postings contain salary information as well as disclosure of other compensation and benefits.
Jen is onto something here. Switching from secrecy to transparency around pay requires is painful, and costs money, as equalising previously unequal salaries generally means increasing the lower ones. Only when not being transparent makes it harder to do business, because of external pressure, will some organisations overcome their inertia.

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SOURCE: Lars Marius Garshol.Lars Marius Garshol does most of his writing away from his blog these days (we subscribe to his newsletter) but dropped in this week with an overview of ‘Berm’ brewing yeast from Upper Telemark in Norway:
I was doing a talk about kveik in Oslo, when one of the audience members afterwards said that in his home village people also had their own yeast, but they called it “berm”. This, he said, was in Atrå, a small place in upper Telemark… Telemark is in Eastern Norway, and at that point most people associated farmhouse yeast with kveik, which comes from Western Norway. We had, however, also collected “gong”, which we presumed was farmhouse yeast from Eastern Norway. That was from Ål in Hallingdal, about 75 kilometers north of Atrå… 75 kilometers may sound like it’s close, but in this terrain it’s really not. The fastest route is over two mountain crossings on tiny side roads, making it very slow. If you want to follow the major roads from Atrå to Ål you’re going to have to make a giant detour and the trip will suddenly be 300 kilometers.

SOURCE: Kevin Kain.At Casket Beer Kevin Kain reports on The Ambleside Pub in Mount Kisco, New York, where cask ale is on the menu:
Drew Hodgson has done everything he can to ensure this space is like the traditional pubs of his native England. In addition to the cask ale, the attention to detail covers everything from the interior design of the space down to the Scampi Fries (look ‘em up) you can snack on at the bar… A few years back, Drew and his wife, Leigh, opened The Hamlet, a British goods store just down the street from The Ambleside. Due to this, he knows he already has a sizable customer base, particularly British expats, craving British goods and an authentic British experience in their home away from home… The primary beverage that will be pulled from the handpumps is their very own Ambleside Best Bitter, a 4.3-percent ABV ale brewed for them by Old Glenham Brewery. The inspiration for the beer goes back to Drew’s youth…

SOURCE: The Beer Nut.It’s always interesting when The Beer Nut visits England and reports on our strange ways through fresh eyes. This week he gave an account of drinking in chains in and around Bournemouth including a surprisingly positive notes on a beer that, frankly, we’ve ignored:
And then the biggest surprise of the weekend came at the Molson Coors-dominated bar at Southampton Airport. The best on offer was Sharp’s Atlantic. I’ve never really got on well with Sharp’s, even at the height of their pre-takeover pomp. I fully expected this keg pale ale to be a watery metallic mess. Instead, it has some very well laid-out zesty mandarin notes with an almost New England level of sweet juice. That’s balanced by a dry middle which makes it an excellent thirst-quencher, even if it’s a little overclocked at 5% ABV. They have bottles of this in my local supermarket which I’ve never touched. I must find out if it’s the same beer inside, because the draught version is a real charmer.
It’s bloody everywhere in Bristol so we shouldn’t have any trouble checking this for ourselves.

SOURCE: Lisa Grimm.The latest addition to Lisa Grimm’s Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs is about O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen but starts with a useful portrait of a particular bad Dublin pub:
I recently had the unpleasant experience of stopping in a pub I’d never tried, and which shall remain nameless here, that was so aggressively diddley-eye that I had to flee after a single quick pint – the Clancy Brothers on a loop, too loud; a complete lack of non-Guinness options, the various tin signs and old farm equipment on the wall just that little bit too much like an Oirish Pub of the sort you find anywhere in the world, and that doesn’t need to exist in the middle of Dublin. When I asked the bartender if there were any local craft options, she claimed not to know what that meant. Now, that in itself isn’t a dealbreaker, there are some excellent Guinness-only pubs that are well worth a visit – The Gravediggers and The Hut immediately come to mind – but add in the twee décor, the music (and I love good trad… just not the same four or five particular bits that get played endlessly to tourists) and the Americans wearing Peaky Blinders hats, and it was a big nope.
Oh, those Peaky Blinders hats… We predict they’ll be the next thing added to pub dress codes after (a) tops must be worn and (b) no football colours.

Finally, from Instagram, there’s this grimly atmospheric image from former beer blogger and beer photographer Gareth ‘Ten Inch Wheels’ Dobson:
For more good reading check out Stan Hieronymus’s round-up from Monday and Alan McLeod’s from Thursday.
News, nuggets and longreads 6 April 2024 | Ride the Pink Horse originally posted at Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog