Sunday, 3 March 2013

Boom and bust

The February issue of the CAMRA newspaper What’s Brewing included an opinion piece by barley merchant Robin Appel in which he argued that “if you want quality beer, you’ve got to be prepared to pay”, and said that drinkers should stop complaining about the high price of beer, something which drew a predictably angry reaction.

The article also included this highly inaccurate paragraph about trends in UK alcohol consumption:

Serious correction to the UK beer (and malt) consumption began in the second half of the 20th century with the demise of our heavy industry, before which workers regularly sank eight pints per night. This falling beer consumption was further helped along by the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967.
This was corrected in the letters column of the March edition by one Peter Edwardson of Stockport (cough), who wrote:
Robin Appel (WB Feb) is wrong to say there was a serious correction in UK beer consumption in the second half of the 20th century. In fact, the 1960s and 70s saw a boom. Large numbers of new pubs were opened in new housing developments, often much larger than the inner-city pubs they replaced, and existing pubs were extended and refurbished.

After a drop in the early 1980s resulting from the recession and the rundown of heavy industries, beer consumption held up well into the 1990s. It is only in the past 10 or 15 years that a perfect storm of factors has led to the decline we are currently experiencing. Having said that, the UK is still producing and drinking more beer overall than at any time during the 1950s.

However, I am given to understand that the sense of the letter would have been much improved if the original second sentence had been retained:
In fact, the Sixties and Seventies saw a remarkable boom in beer drinking, with UK beer production increasing by 73% between 1959 and 1979. The introduction of the breathalyser in 1967 scarcely caused a blip in the upward trend.
The great 1960s and 1970s beer and pub boom tends to be airbrushed out of history as it does not fit in with the “CAMRA narrative” of what was happening to the industry during that period.

The letters page also includes letters from John Ogdon of Scarborough and Peter Judge of Brighouse urging CAMRA not to give up on the fight against fizzy beer. Obviously “old CAMRA” is alive and well in Yorkshire!


  1. There's nothing like evidence based debates is there? You end up getting off the original topic completely and fighting little side skirmishes.

    Remember: the quick lie usually beats the slow truth.

  2. Thanks for the info on the March What's Brewing. Hopefully my copy wil arrive sometime in the next few weeks. Do CAMRA pay a special 'even slower than normal' delivery rate?

  3. My physical copy hasn't arrived either - I was reading the online version.

  4. Not bad but your reaction was a little to well mannered and considered for my liking.

    I preferred the on line reaction to Dredgies quite interesting history of hops thing. There is nothing like a minor inconsequential error to get the odd balls foaming at the mouth.

    Next time mention something like "I have spent my life trying to get across the truith, how dare ....."

  5. CAMRA won't adopt so-called craft beer, and rightly so, because it isn't real ale. I don't agree with silly comments about fizzy beer, but if this attitude makes me "old CAMRA", so be it. It also makes me current CAMRA, because proposed compromises over craft beer have been decisively rejected.

  6. Perhaps we should go back to our roots as the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale, then this silly and redundant "real" beer term wouldn't get in the way of a rational debate.

  7. The question to ask yourselves, gents, isn't whether to campaign for fizzy filth or vinegary pong, but why bother anymore?

    You guys have won. You have lots of pubs with lots of things you like so enjoy it. So what that not everywhere sells it. So what if you are not the majority, you have your niche. Some places sell what others like. You cannot buy the clothes you like in every clothes shop either. You have charity shops with 80’s jumpers in for you lot and trendy shops for me. Vive la difference!

    In 1973 given the choice of red barrel or hofmeister, I get why you guys did it. Now? Is it such a big deal some people like drinking wine at home or crappy lager? Is it a big deal a few pubs you know to avoid have beer you don’t like usually with the footie on big screens? . Not a pub shuts that is really any good. You have lots of what you do like. Time to enjoy it and stop worrying about what others like.

    Mudgies social pongy beer social club sounds a cool thing. I’d join it. I’d join owt that involved necking grog. All this campaigning for bollocks, you what? Why?

  8. Richard says we must not rest until 100% of the beer drunk world wide is real ale. Personally I think he's setting his sights a little low; why should wine be let off the hook? All wine should be real ale as well.

    Anyway, the reason we campaign for beer we like is because if we can convince more people that its better than Carlsberg, then the more people ask for it, then more pubs will put it on, then there's less chance I have of being forced to drink a Guinness because its the best thing on offer. Its all 100% selfish motives.

    There's still 50% of English pubs that has no decent beer on offer whatsoever. Thats unacceptable.

  9. If it makes you happy I'm not stopping you, Pyo. Seems pointless to me but if you enjoy it then it isn’t is it?

    Is there a way of going about it that doesn’t worry about the price of a cheeky bottle of red or can of Carlsberg in Tesco? I’ll still pop into pubs. It’s where you can nick the best glasses.

    Nev seems to have a nice approach of promoting what he likes without denigrating others. I’d listen to him before listening to Dickie or anyone out of a Viz cartoon. About beer campaigning that is. None of that left wing tosh he occasionally comes out with.

  10. "None of that left wing tosh he occasionally comes out with."

    Only occasionally? I must try harder.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval. See here for details of my comment policy.