Category Archives: Mission statement

The world’s quickest brewery tour

There ARE smaller breweries that Poppyland, but not very many: the room that the 2½-barrel brewkit sits in measures about 160 square feet. Your living room is probably larger. So the “brewery tour” consists of standing in a corner and pivoting on one heel through 180 degrees. That’s it: you have now done the Poppyland experience. Maybe we should copyright it …

Your ten-second brewery tour, conducted by Dave “chief yeast wrangler” Cornell: copper, mash tun and FV on your right, barrel-ageing department centre, “grain store” on your left … Click to embiggen

Poppyland, in West Street, Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast, named for the nickname given to the area around Cromer in the late 19th century, was founded by Martin Warren in 2011, and built a reputation for well-made and eclectic beers: Poppyland was probably the first brewery in the UK to brew with kveik, Norwegian farmhouse yeast, for example, and its smoked porter with smoked hops, smoked in the local fish smokery in Cromer has been very popular, while Roger Protz featured its East Beach IPA in his book IPA: A Legend in Our Time.

‘You don’t want to brew that!’

Martin has now decided to retire, and the brewery was bought by my brother Dave at the start of this year. It’s a small enough operation to really not need more than one man and his missus (the lovely Mandy) to run, but I have a small role as part-time adviser and consultant, probably much in the style of Harry Enfield’s Mr Only Me (“You don’t want to do it like that!”). I look forward to saying to Michael Turner some time soon: “Hello, Michael, I’m a family brewer, and you’re not …”

The brewery is in  premises that were once a small garage operation, and the sign outside on the fascia that says “ALES GAS ’N LAGER” is an anagram of “ALLEN’S GARAGE”. Next to the room where the brewing takes place is another room where beer, currently,  is stored, which has a tiny (really tiny) bar. The plan is to move most of the beer storage elsewhere and stick in a couple of armchairs and a pair of stools, so that a maximum of four people can be accommodated for beer tastings and the like. Unfotunately there are no lavatorial facilities on site, which limits the amount of hospitality that can be put on somewhat: I doubt the White Horse just up the road will be excited by people popping in from the brewery to use their loos …

The Poppyland brewery premises: currently only the ground floor, but who knows …

Brewing has been slow to restart, not least because of the bureaucracy that has to be gone through. This includes, but is not limited to

● Signing up to the alcohol wholesaler registration scheme (this may involve a 45-day wait …)
● Obtaining a certificate of recognition to be a producer and holder of beer
● Obtaining a premises licence
● Obtaining a personal licence (this involves a police check, and passing an exam …)
● Obtaining permission to discharge waste
● Obtaining a licence to be a holder of acid

At the same time my brother has been undergoing a swift education in how to brew, courtesy of, among others Norfolk Brewhouse in Hindringham some 16 miles to the west of Comer.

So: hopefully, Poppyland should be ready to roll under its new owner within days. The first brew under the new management, my brother tells me, will be called Coddiwomple, which, he says, is an old English word meaning “to travel purposefully towards an as-yet-unknown destination”. I hae ma doots about that, but the motto of Poppyland since Martin Warren started it eight years ago has always been “adventures in beer start here”, and that’s certainly true. I’ll be keeping you up to date with our adventures, as we travel towards that as-yet-unknown destination …

Ads on Zythophile

Readers will notice something different about this blog: it is now carrying advertising.

There’s a very good reason for this change in policy – money. I’d like to make some, as recompense for the very considerable amount of time I have spent amassing probably three quarters of a million words on this site. I certainly won’t be making a lot: it may not even amount to four figures a year. But I’ve been writing this blog for 11 years, and while I managed to get a book published in 2015 that was based on some 28 or so of the better historical posts, the sums that book, Strange Tales of Ale, brought in were certainly pretty nonsensical when set against the time taken to research and write those posts (and that includes the prize money for winning Book of the Year at the Guild of British Beer Writer awards). Even some money is better by far than a poke with a sharp stick.

Other bloggers have gone for setting up Patreon accounts: I never fancied that, because I don’t post to this blog that frequently and I didn’t want to ask people to give money for something that might, as has happened very recently, have a gap of several months between posts. Similarly, while some beer bloggers have signed sponsorship deals, I didn;t want to feel beholden to a sponsor – and in addition, I like to feel I can be rude about anyone. Being sponsored is a restriction on that liberty.

In the end I was approached by the company that is arranging the sale of the ads that will be appearing on this blog, and I could think of no good reasons to turn down the offer. The agreement I have allows me to block individual advertisers, and even whole sectors, if I want to.

Please comment below on any issues you feel arise from this decision: if you feel there are too many ads, they are too intrusive and/or they don’t belong on what is meant to be an independent platform for one man’s rantings and musings, say so, and if at any time you feel advertisers are appearing who clash with the values you believe the Zythophile blog stands for, or should stand for, do let me know.

Martyn Cornell

Fine dining. Fine wine. And, surely, fine beer

The beerysphere (it’s like a bathysphere only more pressured, sometimes) has been rocking and bobbing again with attempts to define this drink that we love. Much effort has been put into digging ditches, and insisting that everything THIS side of the ditch, defined by methods of dispense, or size of brewing plant, or attitude of brewer, or some other criterion, is OUR SORT OF THING, while everything the OTHER side of the ditch is, automatically, BEYOND THE PALE (insert your own joke about “beyond the pale ale” here).

Over on the left-hand shore of the Atlantic they’re pretty rock-solid about what they like, and how to define it: the good stuff is made by “craft brewers“, and you can tell a “craft brewer” because (1) he/she will be “small” (although the US definition of “small brewer” is still around 12,000 UK barrels A DAY, which is more than many British small brewers make in a year), while the second most important criterion is that “The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation.”

Now, I like innovation, and I’m delighted to see much more of it now that when I first started drinking beer. Hurrah for brewers who push the envelope, even if the envelope tears sometimes. But what I most want from a brewer isn’t innovation: it’s consistent excellent beer. I think I would actually give up all the innovation of the past 15 or 20 years, just to be guaranteed that the beers I found in every pub or bar I went into were of uniformly impeccable quality. So if the number one hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers isn’t top-notch product, but something else, then I suggest the wrong horse is pulling the cart.

Continue reading Fine dining. Fine wine. And, surely, fine beer

Can you drink beer and stare at your navel at the same time?

I did try to promise myself I wouldn’t return to the subject of the Wikio beer blog rankings again. Frankly, there aren’t more than 50 people in the country interested in them. If that. (Of which navel gazing, more later.) But I indicated, I believe, when I raised the subject before that Wikio’s presentation of its rankings as being properly meaningful, rather than simply an artefact of the way it fixes the measurements, is actually harmful to those rated lowly by its methodology, who deserve much better.

Wikio’s methodology statement says

The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are backlinks or links found within articles. Only links found in the RSS feed are included. Blogrolls are not taken into account, and the weight of any given link increases according to how recently it was published. We thus hope to provide a classification that is more representative of the current influence levels of the blogs therein.

But does Wikio’s methodology really reflect blogs’ influence, and blogs’ importance? I have serious doubts. They’ve decided that recent links from other bloggers are far more meaningful than numbers of links or numbers of visitors, without giving, as far as I’m aware, any rigorous justification for this: it’s just their opinion. Which is not necessarily any better than your opinion, or mine. And the result is that the three British beer blogs that Alexa says come one two and three for highest number of visitors come 37, one and 65 in Wikio’s rankings. Now, any system that ranks the blog with the third highest number of hits as only the 65th most important is, you might think, curious. But only if your dictionary defines “curious” as “a crock of shit”.

As you can see from the table below, there are currently at least four beer blogs in the Alexa top 20 that Wikio reckons aren’t in the top 40 and two in Alexa’s top 10 that aren’t even in Wikio’s top 60. Wikio’s top 10 and the Alexa top 10 have just four blogs in common. Blogs such as Beermerchants, BarBlog, Beer Reviews, Lager Frenzy, Real Ale Blog and TTBOOB (and I am going to be SO in trouble for turning Melissa’s “Taking the Beard out of Beer” site into an acronym there) are damaged by Wikio’s rating system, because it makes them look much less popular than they really are. Continue reading Can you drink beer and stare at your navel at the same time?

Mission statement

This is the first entry on the Zythophile blog, and thus the place to explain what this blog is meant to be

The idea is to present one beer drinker’s life of beer with a few side trips, diversions and so on along the way. A zythophile is a lover of beer, a word formed from zythos (pronounced ZEE-thos, with the th sound as in thus), an old Greek word for beer, and philos, the old Greek word for loving or fond of. Zythophilia is thus the love of beer (you won’t find the word in any dictionary yet, but it would be the final entry in most), and zythography is writing about beer. I trust this blog will appeals to fellow zythophiliacs and zythographers. Themes that will crop up, I hope, should include beer history, beer styles, beer with food, pubs, tastings and beer in the news. Friendly and constructive comments are welcome. Unfriendly ones will be tolerated.