Long Reads

  1. The History of Beer - Part 1 - by Pete Brown

    The History of Beer - Part 1: Origins

    Read the first in a remarkable series by author Pete Brown about the history of beer

    There’s a lovely story about the origin of beer that’s repeated in many books and magazines, including my own first book.

    Brewing is such a complex and wonderful thing, it argues, that it was probably first discovered by accident. Somewhere in the Middle East, some farmer gathered grain in one of the earliest clay pots and left it outside. Soon after, it rained and the grain got wet, and softened. Natural airborne yeasts swooped in, and fermented the warm mush into beer. The hapless farmer tasted the result, and realised they had somehow invented one of the cornerstones of civilization.

    The problem, as with so many great stories, is that it’s almost certainly wrong.

    There’s a big difference between grain and fruit when it comes to natural fermentation. Fruit is generally

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  2. Essay: Relax and have a beer

    Essay: Relax and have a beer

    For eons, beer, like food, has been at the centre of the table connecting people. Friendships solidified over a common pint. Is this not enough? Our beer sommelier, Maggie Cubbler, shares her concerns about how beer is starting to take itself way too seriously.

    The band slipped seamlessly from one song to the next. As soon as the opening chords of the new song became recognisable as “Sweet Caroline”, I let out a full-throated holler and, while jumping up on the beer-soaked bench in a leap that belied my 37 years, looked for someone who shared my excitement. Fortunately I was surrounded by an entire tent-full of people who, for one song in time, were all Neil Diamond fans. Stomping on the bench—“baaa baaaa buuuuuuhhhh”—I spilled a bit of this year’s Oktoberfestbier down the front of my dirndl’s green apron. Unaffected, I took a big sip. “So good! So good! So

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  3. Is the seasonality of beer a myth?

    Is the seasonality of beer a myth?

    It’s light lagers and ales in summer and dark, warming beers in winter, right? But do we really change how we drink when winter comes? Beer Writer of the Year Adrian Tierney-Jones muses

    Never mind winter, autumn has come. The mellow and fruitful season, a time of early morning mists coming off the river, the smell of a bonfire in the air, ash on an old man’s sleeve and all that jazz. Then if we think about what kind of beer we’d like in our glass at this time of the year, we’ll be conjuring up a beer that is fuller in the body and more muscular in its appeal than those that sustained us through the summer; our desire will also be beers whose general mood is contemplative and comforting (though I’m sure very few will

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  4. [Opinion] Hop heaven or hop hell

    Hop heaven or hop hell

    We explore a snippet of evolutionary history on the most popular craft beer: IPA, and why so many of them can seem unbalanced.

    The tap handle comes forward and sweet golden nectar flows from the tap. The barman slides you a pint filled to the brim with a brew that’s overflowing with aromas of citrus fruits and pine trees. I’m referring of course to the modern IPA and all of its hoppy greatness. We (the collective craft beer drinker) love a good IPA and that love has contributed to the world-wide hop craze, so much so that hop growers are murmuring of a shortage… gasp!

    There are many theories about how the IPA (India Pale Ale) came about, but we can agree that the IPA was an ale received by the Indian market. If you want to know more about the real story behind the IPA, Martyn Cornell wrote a great blog post (zythophile.co.uk) about the myths surrounding IPA to straighten us all out. If you

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  5. The future of beer – a time traveller’s insight by Adrian Tierney-Jones

    The (short term) future of beer

    Celebrated beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones takes part in some time-travelling to see what the rest of 2017 will bring to the beer world

    Let’s take part in some time-travelling.

    It’s coming close to Christmas 2017 and I’m drinking a beer that is at the cutting edge of British brewing; it’s devoid of Brettanomyces, it’s lacking a lactic edge and its prettiness is defined by what the brewer has done rather than the imp of perversity treading about in an oak barrel. There’s no fruit and veg in the mix, and neither is there anything that says ‘hey look at me, I’m the Timmy Mallett of brewing!!!’.

    What is this miraculous beer, this draught of honesty that has heft and weight? Why, it’s a bitter, a beer that shines with the gleam of an aged sideboard, that creaks and breaks bread with the greatest in the brewing land, that has a hymnal of

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  6. [Opinion] Celebrate Women by Not Calling Me One

    Chicks Dig Beer!

    Our Beer Sommelier, Maggie Cubbler discusses her opinion on sexism in beer and it's not buxom women on pump clips.

    Just yesterday we celebrated International Women’s Day, a decades-old day which acknowledges the contributions of women around the world. The beer/craft beer industry is not unlike countless other industries in that women make up a significant portion of what makes it successful. Whether they are talented writers like Melissa Cole and Sophie Atherton, brewers like Christa Sandquist from Magic Rock or women pulling the weekend shift at the pub, we’re all just working our tails off trying to make a success out of each and every one of us.

    I’ve been seriously working in the beer industry for about seven years now. I started out just seriously drinking but now I’ve been afforded an opportunity by my amazing bosses here at Beer Hawk to actually get paid to

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  7. The Future of the Pub by Pete Brown

    The Future of the Pub

    In an exclusive extract from his best-selling book, The Pub, Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown looks at the future of the pub, and why it's not all doom and gloom

    The pub has been around for a thousand years. So why do people worry that it’s about to disappear in the next couple of decades?

    Every six months, the British media runs a glut of stories about the death of the pub. This is when the figures for the net number of permanent pub closures are announced by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale). In 2010, Britain was losing 50 pubs a week. The situation has since improved, but the number is unlikely to move into surplus any time soon.

    Running a pub is hard work. Faced with increasing obstacles, many publicans are ground down. Often, they feel crushed by the terms of the agreements they have with big pub companies, unable to make a profit no matter how hard they work. Stumped for ideas, it’s easy

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  8. Guest essay: What would we do without hops?

    What would we do without hops?

    Journalist and beer sommelier Sophie Atherton dons her hop anorak and tries to avoid considering a world without hops.

    From the beginning one of the prime factors in my love of beer was that it had bite. That lip-smacking finish, which some would call an acquired taste, was what kept me coming back for more. Sometimes it was tangy and a bit fruity, other times it was more peppery, then there were the times it made me want to eat cheese (preferably a chunk of strong Cheddar), but it always had a tangible moreishness that guaranteed I was going to order another.

    I knew nothing about hops when I started drinking beer as a teenager in the late 1980s. I probably thought beer was mostly made from hops rather than barley, but my tastebuds had a thing for them and my chosen drink was bitter. Back then only a handful of varieties were grown in the UK, most of the acreage was taken up with Fuggles and Goldings, and American

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  9. LONG READ: Why the CAN can

    Another can spins off the line at Stone Brewing’s new brewery in Berlin. The speed of the whole process is astonishing, a matter of seconds from empty can to filled and sealed. Those amazing hop aromas that Stone Brewing’s IPA is known for are locked in, only to escape as you release the swirling lemon, pine, grapefruit aromas in one of the world’s best IPAs. Cans are the perfect container for this beer. And here’s why...

    First, let’s look at why the can used to have such a bad rap? There are two major contributing factors. First, we must consider the beers that were available in cans 15–20 years ago, this is our first impression of canned beer. Whether it’s you or your folks who only saw generic big brand lagers in cans, it leads to the conclusion that only shit beer comes in cans. This isn’t true anymore. You can get nearly any craft beer style in a can. In fact, cans are so prolific in the brewing world today that CAMRA

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  10. Cult beer: Should we believe the hype?

    Cult beers

    I am a cult beer. I am a beer you will scrape and save and queue and turn blue for; I am a beer for which anticipation, impatience, hysteria and fear mix and match within the soul when thought of. I am a beer you will swoon over, fall in love with and give out signals to the universe that this is why you drink beer.

    I have many names — Cantillon Zwanze, Dark Lord, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, various manifestations of Bourbon County Stout, Pliny the Younger, Unhuman Cannonball, DIPA v11, Born To Die, Surly Darkness. Maybe once in a while I am also a special release blended and bonded and aged and hounded and brought forth into the world. Tonight as I write I am Wild Beer’s The Blend Summer 2015, gueuze-like

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  11. 2016? What was that?!

    The year that was

    Quite a year for beer... Our Beer Sommelier Maggie Cubbler looks back at the year in beer in the UK and US, and wonders what next for the 'Craft Beer Revolution'

    Bubble? What bubble? With 2016 bringing another 730 new breweries into the US market that brings the total to 5,005 breweries now in operation – the vast majority of them being small and independent companies. According to the Brewer’s Association’s (BA) 2016 figures, the craft beer segment in the States had a bit of a slow-down in growth last year with an increase of only 8% as opposed to double-digit growths in the preceding years. Nevertheless, growth is growth, and it’s evident that new brewery owners are still confident that the market has many opportunities for success.

    The so-called Craft Beer Revolution has had the better part of a decade

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  12. How to make beer the guest of honour

    How to make beer the guest of honour at the table

    It's time for beer to take centre stage at the dinner table argues our Beer Sommelier Maggie Cubbler. Here she provides a few tips for a successful dinner party

    Beer is not a drink that should be served for formal dinners.”
    “Beer is fun when hanging out with friends, but wine is the perfect companion for a special dinner…”
    “If you’re having a fancy dinner party, [beer is] kind of suck in the etiquette department.”

    Do a quick Google-search for ‘beer’ and ‘dinner party’ and these are some of the things you’ll find on the internet. Suffice it to say, wine seems to have the reputation of being for those who are sophisticated, intent on impressing a date and devoted fans of Come Dine with Me. Yet, there’s no reason why beer can’t

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  13. LONG READ: Behind the Barrel

    Behind the Barrel

    Barrel-ageing beers is not a new thing, but it is getting more and more popular, and has probably never been as inventive.  Adrian Tierney-Jones explores the new wave of ageing beer in wood

    It’s the spring of 2015 and I’m in a nondescript warehouse across the road from BrewDog’s main brewery. It reminds me of a massive garage but instead of cars there are several hundred well-worn wooden barrels, metal bands round their pot-bellied middles, all stacked on metal trestles.

    “Try this.”
    The brewery’s co-founder Martin Dickie hands me a beer whose name I note down as Anarchist Alchemist. It’s a remarkable beer, musky, earthy and in possession of a slight spindly raw-edged sweetness that fades in and out like a bad signal. I can pick out the umami cloak of soya sauce and marmite alongside a farmyard

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  14. LONG READ: What exactly is an IPA?

    What exactly is an IPA?

    The history of the IPA is an enigma. Here the writer Adrian Tierney-Jones untangles some of the information to discover what makes a beer an IPA

    Here is an IPA, golden and brazen in the glass, sun-ripening wafts of mango, lychee and orange swirling out into the open air, summoning up images of glowing summer days by ozone-rich Pacific shores, pleading to be drank. And that is what you do, whether it’s a sip, a gulp or a glug – and now there’s more tropical fruit, though it’s as if the fruit have grown up, developed muscles, after taking those Charles Atlas course. There’s also a riptide of bitterness and dryness and sweetness, a revolution in the mouth, a resolution made to drink more.

    Here is another IPA, darker in its sense of gold, bruised perhaps, a creamy egg-white colour of foam signalling its invitation to the drinker. The bright tropical

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  15. In Praise of... CAMRA

    In Praise of CAMRA

    Here we celebrate the work of CAMRA and offer a guide to the complex flavours of British real ales


    We should thank the Campaign for Real Ale for sounding the alarm in the early 1970s, for lighting a beacon for the beauty of cask-conditioned beer and helping to maintain its survival.

    Forty-five years on, the Campaign has decided to revitalise itself, to look at itself and find out where it needs to go in an era where keg beer is no longer the monster of homogeneity that inspired its members throughout the 1970s and the decades after. Some might mock this self-introspection, but in reality it’s a sign that the Campaign recognises that the world of British brewing has changed since the 1970s and

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