Now, let’s be clear: our post was actually pretty tentative — might this, possibly that — and, though we named AB-InBev as a possible suitor in the quick Tweet we fired off before the post, we didn’t specify any names in the post proper because we didn’t have a clue.
Even if we’d guessed Heineken would have been low down the list given its fairly recent acquisition of another London brewery, Brixton.
So, yes, we’re feeling pleased that our logic was tested and seems to have held up but, no, we don’t feel like soothsayers or a pair of Mystic Megs. What we came up with was half educated guess, half luck.
In the PR around today’s news Beavertown has addressed a few important points head on, admitting to having swerved telling the truth because (as we acknowledged in our post) businesses don’t generally talk about deals while they’re being negotiated and, indeed, are usually legally prohibited from doing so:
It’s been an uncomfortable few weeks as speculative rumours have been flying about. The reality is that sometimes in business you can’t share everything and I’m a true believer in not talking about anything unless it is a done deal, and up until this very day there was no deal.
It’s at this point, though, that we’ll refer to an even older post of ours, from May last year: breweries could avoid a lot of the criticism and high emotion that hits on takeover day, and lingers for months and even years after, if they made a point of saying from much earlier on in the cycle something like, “We sometimes talk to potential investors and would never rule out selling a stake in the company, just so you know.”
People will probably understand if you have to keep the specifics of particular deals quiet, as long as the very idea that you might be talking to whichever global giant isn’t a nasty surprise.
Whatever the logistics behind the decision, however good the news for the company, regardless of whether the beer stays the same, there will always be people who feel stung when a company which was selling a set of values as much as pale ale decides that one of those values doesn’t matter any more.
There’s a wall of pictures in the Lamb that remembers the regulars that have passed away. Les points at a framed bikers jacket: “Jamie England, he was abandoned when he was a kid, his nan took him in and brought him up, along with me and my brothers and sisters because our dad worked days and our mum worked nights.”
At 38 minutes, get two drinks (studies** have shown that most people will attempt to avoid the half time rush at 40 minutes, by which time you’re already at the bar like a genius).
If you need a further drink before 90 minutes, or if there may be significant extra time because Gary Cahill has straight up murdered someone, the time to go is on 67 minutes when statistically a goal is unlikely to be scored.
Related: this seems like a good time to remind everyone of the existence of the craft beer and football map at Beer Frontiers which lists pubs with interesting beer that also have TVs. It’s also worth noting that some chains (BrewDog, Craft Beer Co) that don’t normally show football are making an exception for the World Cup.
After decades of worshipping at the altar of the hand pump, American drinkers now have their own counterpart that is just as fragile, finicky, and polarizing as cask-conditioned ale…. Getting one’s hands on the Holy Grail of contemporary beer can be almost as cumbersome and costly as jetting across the pond for a pint of Fuller’s London Pride. First, you’ll need some sort of online equivalent of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide to direct you to the right location. Once there, you may have to stand in line—sometimes for hours—then pay an exorbitant fee for a limited quantity of prized elixir. With the clock now ticking, you have less than two weeks to consume all the 16-ounce cans you can cram into your trunk or suitcase before your investment turns into drain-pour. Not since the heyday of English mild in the mid-20th century has the window of freshness been narrower or more tyrannical.
The Railway Inn sits on the elbow of Union Mills, the first right-handed bend before a swift S on a busy 30mph road just before the local Methodist church and the old post office. Usually steady with traffic moving to-and-from Peel, today nobody’s on it. We’re not even allowed to step on the pavement. The sun has strengthened to a midday sizzle in a stonewashed denim sky. Red and white crash barriers, hot to the touch, stand between us, Victorian stone walls and the road. A set of yellow crowd control bars have been shifted to block off a connecting minor junction, to state in full-colour that we are not to leave our temporary island, and that we should stay here, where it’s safe, where we can be out of the way, and where we’re in close proximity to good beer, clean toilets and burgers with fried onions. We tune in our radios to the local station as heat shimmers over the tarmac and we listen for the first chupa-chupa-chupa of the press helicopter, announcing the advance of today’s heroes.
The vision of Harlem Hops began for [Kim] Harris, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, nearly five years ago. Born and raised in Harlem, Harris appreciated her neighborhood, but good beer was hard to find. Her quests to drink beer she enjoyed included traveling to Brooklyn to get it.
[It] was a bit of a surprise to see Piels Lager behind the bar and on shelves throughout the New York metro area earlier this spring. Adding a pleasant layer to that surprise was that the beer actually tastes great. Long a staple of Brooklyn’s brewing heritage, going back to its founding by brothers Gottfried, Michael, and Wilhelm Piel in the 1880s, Piels grew into a regional powerhouse and by the 1950s, thanks to animated television and memorable radio ads, was a brand many called “their beer.” … [Pabst] shed the brand in 2015, and it was purchased by Shannon Degnan and his family… Degnan’s grandfather, Thomas P. Hawkes, was the last president of Piel Bros., so the current revival is personal.
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.
We were recently in a pub serving a range of beers we know well enough to realise that they’re never supposed to be hazy.
But, of course, the beer we ordered was served with a light haze, Moor-style, which we gently questioned.
“Oh, it’s been like that all day. It probably didn’t quite settle out right before we tapped the cask.”
It was said pleasantly enough, but dismissively — a variation on “Nobody else has complained” crossed with a watered down “It’s meant to be like that”.
Because we did know the beer, and wanted something particular from it — crispness, hop perfume — we pushed back: would it be OK, we wondered, to taste the beer, and if it had a noticeably different character than usual, or wasn’t at least as good despite the difference, have it replaced?
The manager was consulted and everyone agreed (after a bit more time and effort than one drink deserved) that this was a good idea.
Sure enough, it tasted fine — not sour or nasty — but noticeably muted, and rather dull, so we rejected it.
We — knowledgeable consumers, relatively speaking, and confident about speaking up — were able to navigate this situation to reach a satisfactory conclusion, but we can imagine others coming away thinking ill of that beer and brewery, and probably unimpressed with the pub.
But why would the manager make the choice to keep serving a beer they know isn’t right? Incompetence? Indifference? Our suspicion is that it was an unintended consequence of the corporate setup within which the pub operates prioritising the need to minimise wastage over quality.
Others, though, might argue that this is further evidence that increased acceptance of haze in certain beers is causing confusion and justifying shoddiness more generally. If that’s the case then complaining when possible (quietly, politely), making it more trouble than it is worth, might be part of the solution.
The ‘Real Ale Twats’ strip first appeared in the adult comic Viz in 2001 and has a cult following among beer enthusiasts, because they recognise in it either themselves, or The Enemy.
We’re long-time Viz subscribers and spent a bit of time researching the RATs, as they are abbreviated, when we were writing Brew Britannia. A couple of people had suggested to us that the RATs might be the source of the popular stereotype of the bearded CAMRA member, assuming incorrectly (as did we) that it had first appeared as far back as the 1980s. That proved to be a dead end for the book but gave us a fresh appreciation for the strip, especially on those occasions when it felt as if the author was eavesdropping on beer social media.
Then, when we happened to connect via Twitter with its creator, Viz veteran Davey Jones, earlier this year, we took the opportunity to ask him some questions about how the strip came to be, and the source of its often painfully accurate observations.
The following Q&A was conducted by back-and-forth of emails with some light editing for clarity and flow.
* * *
What prompted the idea of the Real Ale Twats? Was there some specific incident or person you had in mind?
I’ve always been a fan of the band Half Man Half Biscuit and they had done a song called ‘CAMRA Man’ which made me want to draw a strip along those lines. It’s got lyrics like “Weekend vintage car show, Dr Who aficionado” and so on.
C.A.M.R.A. MAN - Half Man Half Biscuit - YouTube
Also I’ve spent quite a lot of time in pubs and the characters are sort of composites of types that I encountered. There was a bloke who used to come into my local in Newcastle who had a big beard and a beret and always seemed to be carrying several shoulder bags. He may not even have been a real ale enthusiast – I don’t think I ever heard him speak – but he had the right look, so I drew him. Probably very unfairly.
How did the editorial team react to the idea when you pitched it?
Back then I was part of the editorial team – there were five of us at the time, I think. I’ve since gone back to being a freelancer, working on my own. But in 2001 we were sat around in someone’s back garden, trying to come up with ideas, and I mentioned wanting to do this strip about real ale drinkers. As we were chatting about it, Simon Donald, who did the Sid the Sexist strip, started talking in this stupid ‘stout yeoman of the bar’ voice – “Hither barlord, a foaming tankard of your finest” and all that, and that seemed to fit.
The first strip involved the three characters going to a pub called The Murderer’s Arms by mistake, and ends with the main character getting a pint glass shoved in his face. Which is something that happens quite often in Viz cartoons.
How does a strip typically come together? How do you go about finding the seed for a story?
I just try to think of a pub-related theme that I haven’t done yet – vaping, or pub grub, or whatever. I enjoy doing ones that are vaguely autobiographical, or at least are exaggerations of thoughts that I’ve had myself. For instance, I’ve caught myself inwardly grumbling about all the people who only go to the pub over Christmas, crowding the place out and not knowing the correct rules of behaviour at the bar. So I got a couple of strips out of that, with the Twats pontificating about “amateur drinkers” and so on. It can be quite satisfying to make fun of yourself, especially if you’re the only one who knows that you’re making fun of yourself.
That’s interesting. It makes it seem a bit less ‘mean’, for want of a better word.
Yes, I do regard myself as being a bit of a Twat. It takes one to know one, to some extent.
But what about real ale – have you ever been a CAMRA member yourself?
I never got round to joining CAMRA. I don’t know why. I love pubs. When I was younger I spent a lot of time sitting in pubs on my own, and there’s nothing quite like it. You just sit there drifting from thought to thought, and tuning in and out of conversations going on around you, as the drink settles in. As I’ve got older I do less solitary drinking, but sometimes think I should go back to it a bit more, because you get to observe all these weird social dynamics and power games going on around the bar. All the boasting and one-upmanship. When you’re having a sociable drink with friends, you tend to miss all that, probably because you’re doing all those things yourself.
I drink real ale and like it, but I’m not knowledgeable about it. If it’s about 4 to 4.5 percent, and got ‘summer’ or ‘blonde’ or ‘golden’ in the name, I’ll probably give it a go. But by the time I get home, I’ll have forgotten what I was drinking. Having said that, my favourite beer is Wye Valley Brewery’s Butty Bach. I’m from Hereford, where Wye Valley Brewery is based, and whenever I go back to visit family I’ll have a few pints of that. Part of the reason they’re my favourite is that they sent me a free box of their HPA when I mentioned them in a RATs strip. I also like Wylam Brewery who are based in the North East, and who once sent a couple of crates of their assorted beers to the Viz office.
One of our local pubs in Bristol, a fairly down-to-earth place that doesn’t tend to have real ale on offer, has one of your RAT strips pinned on the wall, and that’s something we’ve seen a few times up and down the country. It feels a bit like a warning to us, or perhaps just an expression of frustration on the part of publicans. How do you feel about that kind of thing?
Yeah, I’ve occasionally seen them pinned up in pubs. I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign that they hate real ale enthusiasts. I’ve never worked behind a bar, but I imagine it’s a job that often involves putting up with bores. Not all pub bores are real ale bores of course, by any means. But the main RAT character with the beard is definitely a bore, and I quite often have him holding forth to the bar staff, because they’re a captive audience. And as you say it must get quite frustrating to be subjected to someone’s pompous opinions for hours. But in general the strips are intended as a fairly affectionate piss-take, so I hope they’re pinned up in the same spirit.
What has been the feedback from readers over the years?
Readers will sometimes send in pictures of lookalikes who they’ve spotted in the pub. Some of them are, er, quite remarkable.
And CAMRA members? Have you ever received any complaints?
I don’t think CAMRA has ever complained, as far as I know. The Real Ale Twats are doubtless CAMRA members but they’re not really supposed to be representative. They’re stereotypes of a certain kind of pub-goer, really.
On a related note, what do you make of the number of real life real ale drinkers who identify themselves as Real Ale Twats?
It’s quite odd. I recently became aware of a Real Ale Twats group on Facebook, which has thousands of members. Which felt strange. I don’t suppose they’re all familiar with the Viz cartoon, but if they’re happy to laugh at themselves that’s probably a good thing. I think.
In recent years it’s felt as if the strip has fallen into sync with ideas around ‘mansplaining’ and the latent sexism of a certain type of know-all bloke. How consciously have you set out to make that kind of point?
It was never a conscious attempt to make a point, I don’t think. The characters just lend themselves to those attitudes. The types of people the RATs are based on are ones I’d see in the pub, a bit socially inept, coming out every night and making ham-fisted attempts at flirting with the barmaid. I’d imagine that a lot of women who do bar work can feel their hearts sink when they see a particular regular coming in through the door – someone who is going to spend the whole night on a barstool regaling them with witty banter, and spraying crisp crumbs in their face. And blokes going on and on about their divorces – “Best thing that ever happened to me!” repeated over and over throughout the evening. I think the RATs are scared of women but try to cover that up with bravado, which is fuelled by booze. A bit like Sid the Sexist in that respect, come to think of it.
Do you still think, in 2018, that real ale drinkers are a target worth satirising? Is there any chance of the RATs morphing into the Craft Beer Twats at any point, for example?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if the beardy, pot-bellied stereotype is a bit outdated. Maybe it is. Viz has always dealt with quite broadly-drawn stereotypes, but the characters somehow develop lives and personalities of their own. To some extent it becomes more about the characters than about satire. So as long as you keep thinking of situations to put them in, you keep drawing the strips. Actually there was a strip a few years ago which had the RATs looking down their noses at craft beer-drinking hipsters. I think it ended with the RATs starting up a ‘Campaign for Real Real Ale Campaigners’ or something.
Of all the RAT strips you’ve produced over the years are there any you think stand up particularly well?
I think my personal favourite was one where the RATs set off to their local, talking about the wide range of fascinating characters you meet in the pub, and then there’s a big picture of the pub interior and all the customers look, and talk, just like the Twats. The reason I like that one is that I spent quite a long time on the drawing and was quite pleased with how it turned out. Which doesn’t always happen.
Have you ever thought about a Real Ale Twats book? We suspect all of us beer bores would buy it.
Yeah, I’d like the idea of doing a collected book, but all the copyright belongs to Viz and the publishers, so it would be up to them, really. (I retired from the editorial six years ago, and went back to being freelance). I’m not sure there’d be enough material to justify a book just yet. But cheers for the vote of confidence.
* * *
You can read ‘The Real Ale Twats’ in Viz on an irregular basis, in the Christmas annuals, and there is a sample on the official website. Images in this post were supplied by Davey Jones.
Smokers’ corner on the pub terrace, by the back door to the toilets.
She is smoking, sipping from a pint of lager, and looking at her phone. He approaches, nods, places his own pint of lager on another wobbly old table, and lights a cigarette.
She stares intently, clears her throat, and says: “Not being rude… What’s that on your T-shirt?”
He sits upright and stretches the fabric away from his gut to display the graphic.
“She’s yours, is she? Aw, she’s lovely.”
“Yeah. Love of my life I always say. Expecting kittens, as it goes.”
The woman freezes with her beer half way to her mouth and pantomimes astonishment.
“Really? REALLY? You won’t believe this but I’ve literally been looking to get a new cat. I’ve always had cats, ever since I was a little girl, but I couldn’t have one in my last place. Now I just want loads.”
“Well, Princess is white with black patches and the one we think is the father–” He rolls his eyes. “–is black with white. So the kittens’ll be one way or the other.”
“How much, then? If I wanted two, say?”
“Hang on, hold on…” He pulls out his phone, fiddles with the screen, and then holds it for her to see. “Add me on FB and we’ll sort it out later, alright?”
They both go back to smoking, in silence, and staring at their phones, those two cat people, basking in the sun.
Here’s everything on the subject of beer and pubs that we bookmarked in the past week, from matters of manners to jars of juice.
Well, most of the last week: we wrote this on Thursday and scheduled it to post so if anything big happened on Friday, sorry, it’s probably missing.
Let’s start with this piece for the Guardian by Tony Nayloron the new etiquette of the pub. We can’t say we agree with every word but it’s a fascinating snapshot of where things stand in 2018:
People making phone calls, texting and tweeting in the pub is to be expected and, unless they are giving it the full Dom Joly, of no issue. Volume is key. Showing your mate that hilarious video on YouTube? Mute it. Pacifying your kids with Paw Patrol episodes on the tablet? Get their headphones on. Spare us that tinny racket.
[A bar owner] contacted me a couple of months ago as they were negotiating with suppliers of their major brand lager. It seems that they were being offered a cash lump sum for a two year exclusivity deal. They were being offered £2k cash to kick our Intergalactic Space Hopper off the bar. Apparently it isn’t just one major beer producer that is doing this, it is most of the big multinational brands and is looking a little bit like a cartel and anti-competetive action…. £2k is roughly the annual value of this particular account. We cannot compete in this territory.
California-based Ballast Point Brewing (owned by Constellation Brands)…. recently introduced a new variant of its popular Sculpin IPA called Aloha Sculpin. It’s not brewed with pineapple, as the name might imply, but with a yeast strain called Brux Trois that supplies its fruity notes and slightly more rounded texture…. “We played around with this weird new yeast strain that made all these beautiful, tropical flavors. We put it on tap and the beer was gone before we knew it,” says Ballast Point’s director of quality Lauren Zeidler. “We had this collective lightbulb go off that this yeast makes so many amazing tropical flavors and this could be a great pair for some of the best attributes of the base Sculpin.”
We should have written this piece about beer in Cornwall, but we didn’t. Somehow, when we lived there, we never quite got it together, or couldn’t see the overall picture clearly enough, and so held back. For Good Beer Hunting JonnyGarrett, however, has spoke to a wide range of interesting people and given a rather sharp reading. We particularly like the fact that he spoke to the founders of a brewery that failed because of the realities of brewing in the far west:
“A common saying down here is that Cornwall is ‘five years behind London,’ and unfortunately, that’s the case in the beer world,” [Rob] Lowe says. “Traditional cask beer dominates the Cornish pub scene, and seasonality can be a killer. Many small breweries can’t produce anywhere near enough to meet demand in summer, but then spend months barely brewing when the tourists leave. It makes cashflow a nightmare.”
Cornwall has 44 breweries, but 9 have closed in the last decade. That’s not exactly an impressive success rate—clearly, competition for the hearts and mouths of the local cask-drinking population is fierce.
The Ale Trail – which is the result of a partnership between The Cardinal’s Hat and the Worcester Food Festival – sends you around eight pubs with the view of ordering a pint of real ale in each. Punters have until June 17 to complete the challenge…. The recommended order of completion is you begin your adventure at The King’s Head in Sidbury, heading next to The Cardinal’s Hat on Friar Street before then stopping off at The King Charles on New Street. Then you go on to The Firefly in Lowesmoor, the Imperial Tavern on St Nicholas Street, The Paul Pry in The Butts, Tonic Bar on Foregate Street and finally finishing at The Oil Basin in Copenhagen Street.
Bristol has a huge number of pubs and bars and an ever-growing number of breweries. If you’re in town for a few days or hours, where should you go to drink?
We’ve been asked a few times for advice on this and so decided that, rather than keep typing up the advice in emails and DMs, we’d risk public humiliation, and the fury of local beer geeks and publicans, by giving it a sort-of permanent home here.
We haven’t been to every pub in Bristol — in fact we’re 152 down with, we think, about another 250 to go — but we’ve visited most of those in the city centre, and most several times.
In general, Bristol pubs are pretty easy to find, and fairly easy to read — chain pubs look like chain pubs, craft bars look like craft bars, and so on — so you won’t go too far wrong following your instincts. There are lots of hidden gems so do explore.
And if you want to keep things loose there are some decent crawls: St Michael’s Hill, Gloucester Road and King Street all have runs of varied and interesting pubs close together, one after the other.
Before we get down to business we must once again thank Patreon supporters like Jonathan Tucker, Peter Allen and Andrew Brunton who justified us spending a bit too much time putting this together. If you find this post useful please do consider signing up or at least buying us a pint via Ko-Fi.
We’re very fond of the The Drapers Arms, 447 Gloucester Road, Horfield, BS7 8TZ, and find it hard to be objective but here are some facts and figures: it is a former CAMRA local pub of the year; serves at least five local ales direct from the cask; is open from 5pm to 9:30pm Sun-Thu, 4:30-9:30 Fri, and 12-9:30 Sat; and is a bus ride from the city centre, or about an hour’s walk.
The Barley Mow, 39 Barton Rd, St Philips, BS2 0LF — definitely a pub, but modern; large range of sensibly chosen keg beers; several cask beers, often including Moor and Bristol Beer Factory; a short walk from the central station at Temple Meads.
Small Bar, 31 King Street, city centre, BS1 4DZ — the best of the city’s full-on craft beer bars being relatively cosy and avoiding most of the clichés. The beer range is big but not over-facing and includes some accessible options, too. If you’re after our North Bar or Hand Bar, this is it.
The King’s Head, 60 Victoria Street, city centre, BS1 6DE — an old school pub with a quirky historic interior and a small range of classic cask ales such as Harvey’s Sussex Best.
We’re working on some sort of separate guide just covering these — the kind of place with only one, two or three hand-pumps, one of which is permanently dedicated to Bass, Courage Best, Butcombe, or something along those lines; which is, or feels, antique brown; and which, if you’re lucky might have ham rolls in clingfilm or a pork pie to eat.
The Merchants Arms, 5 Merchants Road, Hotwells, BS8 4PZ — a small, basic 19th century beerhouse with partitions, pork pies and soft light through etched windows.
The Orchard, 12 Hanover Place, Spike Island, BS1 6XT — a genuine backstreet pub hidden away behind the SS Great Britain. It specialises in cider (hence the name) but also has decent beer and a vast range of good value bar snacks.
Colston Arms, 24 St Michael’s Hill, Kingsdown, BS2 8DX — a multi-room pub, one bare, one fancy, with a great pint of Butcombe and a varied crowd heavily seasoned with medical types.
Highbury Vaults, 164 St Michael’s Hill, Kingsdown, BS2 8DE — a characterful, truly broken-in Young’s pub with invariably excellent Ordinary, alongside other beers. Wonderfully cosy in winter.
The Bank, 8 John St, city centre, BS1 2HR — on an alleyway next to a churchyard along the line of the old city wall this small pub has the feel of a local boozer despite its central location.
For Beer and Other Things
The Cornubia, 142 Temple St, city centre, BS1 6EN — this famous pub is hidden behind a lot of 20th century buildings away from the immediate centre. It is festooned with flags, filled with oddments, and has a long line-up of cask ales including some rarely seen in Bristol.
Hillgrove Porter Stores, 53 Hillgrove Street North, Kingsdown, BS2 8LT — a Dawkins house and one of our favourite pubs with an atmosphere of Bohemian decay, plenty of beers to choose from across all formats, and (slightly out of leftfield) very superior Japanese nibbles from Kansai Kitchen.
The Volunteer, 9 New Street, Old Market, BS2 9DX — a pub you’re unlikely to stumble upon tucked behind blocks of flats, with an atmosphere somewhere between hip and hippyish, and a small but varied range of draught beers.
The Hare, 51 North Street, Bedminster, BS3 1EN — three interesting cask ales, a few British and international beers on keg, and plenty of bottled beers including classics from Belgium. Reminds us, somehow, of being in Sheffield.
Snuffy Jacks, 800 Fishponds Road, Fishponds, BS16 3TE — another of Bristol’s four micropubs, looking out onto a busy artery road. It has a bank of guest ales, tending towards the pale’n’hoppy on our visits, and a good atmosphere when busy. Hours limited: 5pm-10pm Mon-Fri, 12-11 Sat, 12-4.30 Sun.
Grain Barge, Mardyke Wharf, Hotwells, BS8 4RU — a pub on a boat with views over the water and across to the SS Great Britain. A long-time favourite of ours with a range of Bristol Beer Factory beers on cask and keg, and in bottles, plus guests. Lots of eating goes on but isn’t compulsory.
Strawberry Thief, 26 Broad St, city centre, BS1 2HG — a somewhat convincing attempt to recreate a Belgian cafe in Bristol helped no end by the view out over the Art Nouveau Everard Printworks. Mostly imported beer so can be pricey but there are bargains to be had, and more mainstream local ales and lagers if Tripel isn’t your thing. (Notes.)
The Commercial Rooms, 43-45 Corn St, city centre, BS1 1HT — flagship Bristol Wetherspoon pub in a gorgeous historic building. The cask range seems more varied than many others in the chain, the keg range is considerably more adventurous than usual, and our impression is that this pub gets the best of the region’s staff, too.
BrewDog, 58 Baldwin St, city centre, BS1 1QW — it’s a BrewDog bar, with all that entails, but the beer range is wide, the service efficient, and the view positively Parisian.
Zero Degrees, 53 Colston St, city centre, BS1 5BA — the interior might be rather sterile but the beer is simply very good these days, especially the takes on classic Continental styles. The view from the roof terrace is pretty spectacular, too.
These are pubs that, though they’re not particular favourites of ours, are generally rated and which we often see recommended to visitors.
The Bag of Nails, 141 St George’s Rd, Hotwells, BS1 5UW — intensely characterful, furiously local, with lots of cats.
The Three Tuns, 78 St George’s Rd, Hotwells, BS1 5UR — built a cult reputation in recent years as the primary outlet for Arbor Ales.
Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf, 6-8 Gaol Ferry Steps, BS1 6WE — city tap for the experimental Somerset brewery. Clean and modern, often busy to the point of queues out the door, with lots of dining going on.
The Royal Navy Volunteer, 17-18 King Street, city centre, BS1 4EF — a famous Bristol pub that went all in on craft beer about five years ago and now has a big list of cask and keg ales on the wall.
The Beer Emporium, 15 King St, city centre, BS1 4EF — interesting location in vaulted cellars, and a fairly wide selection.
Tap Rooms — there are several with Moor’s (Days Rd, St Philips, BS2 0QS) being perhaps the most notable.
The eponymous Tinker of Turvey claims in 1630 to have “drunke double-lanted ale, and single-lanted”. Thirty years later the anonymous Renaissance drama, The Marriage Broker, includes a lament that: “My hostess takings will be very small,/ Although her lanted ale be nere so strong.” John Wright’s burlesque Mock-Thyestes in 1674 has a character “dead drunk with double lanted ale” and by 1691 the practice is so common that it wins a place in John Ray’s North Country Words: “To leint ale: To put urine into it to make it strong.”
But not everyone approved. The brewers’ bible, The London and Country Brewer, complained in 1743 of the “nasty, horrid and detestable piece of cunning and knavery… of putting chamberly, or human urine, into their pale or amber twopenny malt drink.”
Your frequent drinking country Ale with lant in’t,
Have you no hobnayls in your boots, driven in
To save the precious leather from the stones
That pave the streets of London.
But is any of that convincing evidence for this actually happening in practice? The references are mostly in comedy and it strikes us that it’s probably a folk legend highlighting the backward habits of bumpkins, and/or the foul cunning of brewers and publicans. (See also: KFCs mutant chickens.)
Before we’d really be willing to believe that anyone was putting wee in beer we’d want to see something like a brewers’ manual advising on how to go about it, and perhaps explaining why on earth you would bother; or an official document recording instances of it occurring in the real world.
Two barmen in matching polo shirts, one small, one tall, stand behind the bar with arms folded engaged in debate with a regular sat at the bar.
The tall barman leads: “No, you’re not getting what I’m saying: I’m asking, does a staircase go up or come down? Which way does it go?”
“Up,” says the baffled regular. “If it didn’t go up, you wouldn’t need it to come down. That it comes down is a side effect of it having gone up in the first place.”
“No, it’s both. It goes up and comes down. It doesn’t matter that it was built specifically to go up. Once you’ve got an up, the staircase has to go down as well. So it goes both ways.”
The small barman frowns, laughs quietly, and shakes his head.
“What are you on about? What are you actually on about?”
“Alright, scratch that, here’s another one: is a zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes? Eh? Think about it.”
The regular says, confidently: “White with black stripes.”
“Yeah, but how do you know for sure?”
The small barman claps in delight.
“He’s got you there, mate!”
“Alright, what about this one: we’re all agreed stairs go up and down–”
Regular: “No, but carry on.”
“– but what about escalators? Does an escalator go up, or come down?”
“You’ve hoisted yourself by your own petard here,” says the regular. “It depends which way it’s going, doesn’t it? I mean, you literally get one to go up, and another to come down.”
“Ah, see, no, you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why: because it has to come down on the underside or it can’t go up. It’s a loop. So escalators always go up and down, just like staircases. Makes you think, doesn’t it?”