Beer Birthday: Ben McFarland

Today is UK beer writer Ben McFarland’s birthday. I first met Ben when he was over here working on the CAMRA beer guide to the west coast with Tom Sandham and Glenn Payne. We invited Ben to join us judging Double IPA’s at the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival, which I believe was something of a shock to the system for both Ben and Tom. These days he and Tom are The Thinking Drinkers, performing their “‘The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol,’ a unique comedic drinking show that debuted at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe.'” Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

Ben judging at the Double IPA Festival at the Bistro in Hayward while he was working on the CAMRA guide to the west coast of the U.S. in 2007.

Taken at the CLASS Awards, by CLASS Magazine.

Taken somewhere in the U.S. of A.

Note: The last two photos were purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday: Glenn Payne

Today is also the 60th birthday of Glenn Payne, an Englishman wearing many beer hats. I first met Glenn many moons ago when he was the beer buyer for Safeway in the UK. Since then, we’ve judged together many times at both GABF and the World Beer Cup, and I think once at the Great British Beer Festival, too. He’s been involved with Meantime Brewing among too many projects for me to keep track of, and he’s been a great ambassador for British beer but, perhaps more importantly, for American beer in Great Britain. Join me in wishing Glenn a very happy birthday. Cheers, mate.

Glenn Payne and Melissa Cole, from the UK
Glen, with Melissa Cole, at GABF in 2009.

With Chris and Cheryl Black, owners of the Falling Rock, Mark Dorber, formerly the publican of the White Horse in London (and now owner of the Anchor) and Glenn Payne at the Brewers Reception at Wynkoop during GABF Week in 2007.

Glenn Payne & Greg Koch
Glenn with Greg Koch, from Stone Brewing, also at GABF in 2009.

Glenn accepting a World Beer Cup award on behalf of a British brewery who couldn’t be there in 2008.

Beer Birthday: Pete Brown

Today is the 46th birthday of Pete Brown, author of Shakespeare’s Pub and Hops and Glory. Pete was also the winner of the UK Beer Writer of the Year in 2010. I had a chance to meet and spend some time with Pete before and at GBBF in 2009. He’s a kindred spirit, especially when it comes to neo-prohibitionist shenanigans, and writes one of the most engaging beer blogs out there. Join me in wishing Pete a very happy birthday.

Pete Brown and Steve Parkes
Pete with Steve Parkes at a British Beer Writers event before GBBF a few years ago.

Pete Brown and me at GBBF
Pete and me at GBBF in 2009.

We Totally Let You Win! Newcastle Brown Ale’s Hilarious Independence Eve Campaign

Happy “Independence Eve” everybody. If you’ve never heard of “Independence Eve,” that’s because Newcastle Brown Ale made it up. But it’s so brilliant, I’m going to start observing it, and maybe even will start a tradition of drinking a British ale every July 3. Perhaps even a Newcastle Brown Ale just to say thanks for this hilarious series of ads.


There’s maybe fifteen ads on YouTube or at the dedicated website Newcastle set up for the promotion: If We Won. The latest is below, though I’d encourage you to go back and watch them all. Here’s the most recent one, and they keep adding news ones every few hours.

And here’s another favorite one, with Britsh comedian and writer Stephen Merchant. There’s also ones with Elizabeth Hurley and Zachary Quinto. You can check out all fifteen (at last count) at Newcastle’s YouTube channel.

AdWeek has a story about the advertising campaign, Newcastle Ambushes July 4 by Inventing ‘Independence Eve,’ Celebrating British Rule The Redcoats Get Revenge. From the article:

British brands, understandably, don’t have much to say around the Fourth of July—until now. Newcastle Brown Ale, among the cheekiest of U.K. marketers, has turned America’s most patriotic holiday to its advantage by inventing a new, completely made-up holiday: Independence Eve on July 3. The idea of the tongue-in-cheek campaign, created by Droga5, is to “honor all things British that Americans gave up when they signed the Declaration of Independence,” Newcastle says.

“Newcastle is a very British beer, and needless to say, it doesn’t sell that well on July 4. So why not establish it as the beer you drink on July 3?” says Charles van Es, senior director of marketing for Heineken USA portfolio brands. “Unlike the Redcoats in the 18th century, we’re picking our battles a little more wisely. By celebrating Independence Eve, we’re taking liberties with America’s liberty to create a new drinking occasion and ensuring freedom on July 4 tastes sweeter than ever.”


But not to worry, they’re returning to American beer promptly at the stroke of midnight, when it’s no longer Independence Eve, but officially the Fourth of July, and Independence Day.

Film History: Old Man Drinking A Beer

Here’s a curious piece of film (and beer) history. I don’t know if it’s the first time someone was filmed drinking a beer, but I imagine it has to be one of the first. The film is from 1898 (or 1897), and is known as Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer, though it’s also sometimes known as Comic Face. Frankly, he doesn’t look that old to me.


It was made by legendary British filmmaker George Albert Smith and features a close-up of comedian Tom Green drinking a beer and making faces. Green was a local Brighton comedian and was known for his “pantomime harlequinades at the Brighton Aquarium.” He went on to appear in many subsequent films made by Smith.


This was apparently a groundbreaking development in film, showing the actor close up making changing facial expressions and this type of film became known as a “facial,” defined as “a work showing a variety of facial expressions to the audience.” According to one source, “the ability to get close up to the star was a great advantage that film had over the stage and early filmmakers were keen to exploit it,” and in this one Green is shown in a single shot “drinking a glass of beer whose face and hands become increasingly lively as a result.”


Here you watch the entire 38-second silent film:

Beer Birthday: Martyn Cornell

Today is also Martyn Cornell’s birthdays. Martyn is an English beer writer who writes online at the Zythophile. Martyn is hands down my favorite brewing historian, and among my very favorite beer writers. His scholarship, research and skill is second to none. I had the pleasure of meeting him and sharing a few pints during a trip to Buron-on-Trent a few years ago, where we met up in London before taking the train north to Marston’s. Join me in wishing Martyn a very happy birthday.

Me and Martyn, sharing a pint at London’s Perseverance in 2008.

Martyn with Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildsohn, at St. Pancras Station, also in 2008.

Beer In Ads #1128: Beer Is Best Etching

Wednesday’s ad is for English brewer’s “Beer is Best” campaign, from 1936. The campaign began in 1933, and ran for 30 years, and included “a generic advertising campaign with a nationwide poster campaign and television advertising involving Bobby Moore and his wife Tina and the entire Liverpool football team. At its peak it was worth over AL1 million per annum in today’s money.” It was done by a C. Harrison and depicts an on-going darts game of 301. There are four beer glasses on the table, two full and two empty. I’m getting thirsty just looking at it.


Beer In Ads #1127: Good Honest Beer

Tuesday’s ad is for Mitchell & Butlers, a “Good Honest Beer” from the Cape Hill Brewery in Birmingham, England. It’s a curious ad, with a pair of full beer glasses, portrayed almost as if they’re a couple on a romantic date sitting on a bench surrounding an old tree overlooking a field. Or maybe it’s just a couple of mates hanging out by a field of wheat. Either way, it’s a funny little ad.


A Historical Look At English Drinking Habits

This is an interesting report from the British Parliament, specifically from the Health Committee. It’s a memorandum by Dr. Phil Withington and Dr. Angela McShane entitled Fluctuations in English Drinking Habits: An Historical Overview.

The overview includes a chronology beginning around 1550 and discusses increases and decreases in alcohol consumption in five periods since then, which they summarize as follows below.

In terms of consumption (inevitably crudely measured at times) it can be seen that England experienced a significant rise and consolidation of drinking levels during the “early modern period” (1550-1750). Between 1550 and 1650 there was a commercialisation of “old world” production and distribution plus the introduction of tobacco. The 100 years after 1650 were in turn characterised by the assimilation of, and moral panics about, new commodities, in particular coffee and gin. In the following two hundred years, which coincided with industrialisation and massive increase in population, there was a marked decline in the consumption of alcohol. The post-industrial or post-modern era (post-1960) seems to have returned to the kind of trends in the early modern period: increased consumption—especially conspicuous and public consumption among certain sections of the population—facilitated by powerful business organisations that are extremely competent at managing their relationship with political authority.

The dense information about continuities, discontinuities and gender is fascinating reading, but takes time to digest. It’s still marinating in my brain. I’m especially intrigued by this statement. “The medical industry now has the technology, knowledge, and incentives (especially commercial) to identify and treat many of the biological consequences of alcoholic consumption. This is in definite contrast to previous centuries, when medicine was more likely to use alcohol as a treatment rather than cure its related maladies, and when the primary impact of medical practitioners was, it seems, to create, legitimise and/or popularise new kinds of intoxicants.” The memorandum also notes that “[i]ncreased female consumption of alcohol may go some way to explaining the increases in general consumption since the 1960s since half the population was tacitly barred from drinking before then.” So that would suggest that per capita consumption is actually falling if one of the primary reasons for an increase is essentially a twofold increase in the number of people consuming alcohol.


As prohibitionists incessantly nip at the heels of drinkers, doing everything they can to curb consumption, I think it’s constructive look at the bigger picture. Patterns of consumption tend to ebb and flow, and are affected by a variety of factors: economic, social, legal, and others. So whenever some prohibitionist group claims their new law, or awareness campaign, or what have you, has caused consumption to go down — or more often claims whatever they’re proposing is necessary precisely to decrease peoples’ drinking — it’s important to remember that people have always enjoyed alcohol, and will continue to do so, and changing the laws merely changes those patterns, it doesn’t really effect much over the long haul. I wonder if anyone has taken a similar look at historical drinking patterns in America?

Beer In Ads #1123: Beer Of England III

Friday’s ad is a third one for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the third of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.