FOR THE LOVE OF BEER
Beer stands tall among other drinks. But over the years, it has not been revered.
Over at least the past 2 decades, the big beer companies dominated what was available and where we could buy it. They taught the UK population that beer brands were better if their tap was colder or sleeker in design than the one beside it. Does it have condensation on it? Is it so cold it tastes just like sparkling water? Does the glassware look like some kind of strange cylindrical vase? Yes, then it must be good. Let’s have it.
We’re so easy to impress and impressionable too, aren’t we? Due to this, most of the nation forgot about the actual drink and neglected to consider it based on the merits of whether they liked it or not. It was easy to drink, for sure. But was it ever a memorable liquid? Doubtful.
Sadly, it all gets a bit silly when multi-national organisations start outdoing one another with brand showmanship and advertising. It becomes less about what we drink and more about the spectacle and the wow-factor. Innovation becomes a much-abused term. It gets bandied about as much as the word ‘unique’ and copycat behaviour is rife in the drinks industry. Not many lead, most follow.
In the nineties and noughties, the major brand owners subliminally fed us lots of things using clever marketing. One of the things they taught us was that beer came in just one format: artificially-fizzy Continental style lager.
Oh, and it had a TV advert. And a connection to something stylish. We should definitely want to buy it, we were told.
Big beer brands made a lot of money out of dominating what was stocked in supermarkets and achieving listings in bars. As customers, we woefully gained a lot of 4% ABV beers that tasted pretty much the same.
Then the corporations began aligning their tasteless beer with music and sport. Soon, this kind of mass-produced yellow fizzy pop had become part of our lifestyle and we never really questioned why. At the time, we were not really an enthusiastic beer audience, we were just being peddled commodities.
As a result of being over-played by mediocre beer and synthetic advancement, we began to revolt.
It was at that turning point that we looked for honesty in food and drink. We looked to farmers, microbrewers, independent creators, cottage industries – anything we could feel we could see, understand, respect and trust.
But there was still a journey.
Without the availability of the enormous diversity of beer styles that actually existed in reality – as well as the portly-bellied image of beer drinkers outside of pubs, loutish lads and the daunting measure of a full pint – lots of us distanced ourselves from beer presuming that it wasn’t for us.
Beer became seen to be unfeminine, when it wasn’t and isn’t. It was also seen to be unhealthy or fattening, which is also not entirely true either.
Luckily, this didn’t last. Myths began to be busted.
Supermarkets reducing beer prices as a loss-leader to gain customers began to devalue the dominant brands. And people began brewing again. This time, not for scale, but for the love of beer and good ingredients – because, unsurprisingly, creating something that is real is damn exciting.
That’s pretty much where we are right now.
However, there is still lots of education and re-positioning of beer to be achieved. And it takes a long time to undo a multi-billion marketed mindset.
If you enjoy a real coffee, salivate over a globe of sourdough or reckon you could assess a decent ploughman’s lunch then why, when it comes to beer, are you buying the equivalent of instant coffee, sliced white bread and orange processed burger cheese? From this standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense.
Beer is a high quality drink and it is also really diverse in flavour.
Cask ale finished in the cellar is often the freshest beer you can drink at the pub. Kegged beers with their myriad opportunities for flavour – from sours through to porters can wake up the palate and always provoke conversation. There are exceptionally-conditioned bottled beers and vintage varieties, some which can be laid down and aged. Cans of beer which, like mini kegs, keep the contents fresh and easy to store are beginning to appeal and also speak to a new audience by blending artistic style with edginess and a sense of convenience that sits neatly in the fridge. There really is something for everyone.
There are few drinks that can be appropriate for so many social moods. Beer can be a comfort (a pint beside an open fire with a pub roast), a catch-up (setting the world to rights after work with a few mates) and a celebration (pitching the tent at a music festival and cracking open a can) . It can whisper in your ear when the sun is shining and lure you to a nearby pavement square dappled with light. It can be both homely and exotic.
Beer menus should exist in many salubrious venues alongside wine menus and cocktail menus. Beer advertising, pump-clips and targeting should stop being misogynistic and welcome more women to try different styles without all the pink pony patronisation.
Education in beer across pubs, bars and restaurants should improve. And, while pinning all hopes and dreams on this happening, let’s also ask for more people to consider the merits of beer as a credible high quality drink.
It’s such a smile-maker. Plus, it’s tricky to be jovial while sitting alone indoors just drinking water.
Don’t be that person.