ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
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Monday, December 2, 2019

Lost Breweries: J is for Jarrow

One of the biggest changes to the beer industry in recent years - and it's probably part perception, part reality and part aggressive promotion forcing reality into perception - is the defining nature of the new breweries that are springing up.

Think for a moment about what it means to set up a brand new brewery these days. What do you imagine that means? In meeting-speak, what would a new brewery about to launch in early 2020 'look like'?

Would it be run by self-confident young hipsters? Based under a railway arch or on an industrial estate? Maybe crowd-funded to some extent? Bold marketing campaigns with some edgy but slick artwork that their mate did? American IPAs and plenty of pale hoppy beers? High strength experimental dessert Stouts? Lots of beer going into keg and can? Tap room open on Saturday lunchtimes? A relationship with CAMRA that's love-hate at best?

Sounds about par for the course, yes? That's certainly how I see it. And, yeah, I know that not all new brewery start-ups are exactly like this, and those that are probably achieve more prominence than those that aren't, due to that whole 'forcing reality into perception' thing I mentioned, but, overall, this is how it feels to me.

And it represents a marked shift from the 90s and 00s when new microbreweries typically took a somewhat different form. E.g.

Often run by older chaps (and it was almost always chaps) who had already enjoyed a lengthy career and perhaps taken a redundancy or early retirement; Sometimes spin-off projects from long-serving pub landlords or former brewery workers; Focused mainly or entirely on producing cask beers, usually ordinary strength, not particularly hoppy bitter; Beer names invoking historical curios, bad puns, railways or, in the worst cases, crassly sexist jokes; Inconsistent pumpclip design featuring poor typography and rubbish illustrations? Firmly in bed with the local CAMRA branch (and not above designing a 'hilarious' pumpclip playing on that phrase)...

Sound familiar, if slightly nostalgic?