Sunday, 6 October 2013

Fanboys in the bubble

The beer blogosphere regularly runs a feature called “The Session”, in which bloggers are invited to give their thoughts on a particular topic. I have always stood clear of this as I regard this not as a beer blog as such but as a beer- and pub-themed political blog. However, the latest is “Is Craft Beer a Bubble?” which chimes with many things I’ve said on here in the past.

While I've often referred to the “urban beer bubble”, I'm not suggesting that it's a bubble that is about to burst, but rather one that largely isolates the craft beer enthusiast from the wider pub world. Very often, far too much significance is ascribed to events within this bubble than they actually deserve, such as blogs gushing that "triple-hopped Imperial black IPAs are everywhere now!!" I commented on this here, where I referred to people “wending their merry way from the Port Street Beer House via the Grove to North Bar without apparently caring that the main A62 road linking those three points is lined with closed and boarded pubs.”

The recent opening of the RedWillow bar in Macclesfield can be regarded not as a move outside of the bubble but just an extension of that bubble to another town. You have to wonder how many of its customers ever visit their suburban Robbies’ locals in other parts of Macclesfield.

But take one of the crafterati out of that bubble and plonk him down in an average pub in an average town or village in England and he won't find any sign of the "craft beer revolution". Indeed, it's probably been some time since he's actually crossed the threshold of an average pub, and he might feel rather uncomfortable if he actually did. “Eww, do I actually have to drink Draught Bass?” The current poll on when people last visited a Sam Smith’s boozer will shine some light on that question.

I once suggested to one Cambridge-based commenter that he get himself on the train and travel up the line to sample the delights of the pubs of Thetford. He reacted almost with horror, as if to say “why on earth should I do that?” I seriously reckon some of these craft beer obsessives need to get out more. Looking through some recent issues of the excellent Doghouse magazine, I came across such classic pubs as the Nelson at Rocks Green and the Bennetts End Inn at Hope Bagot – I wonder if any crafterati would even see the attraction.

To its credit, my local branch of CAMRA organises regular monthly “Staggers” which give members the opportunity to try all the real ale pubs in a particular area. This gets people into pubs they wouldn’t normally visit and is a useful connection with mainstream pubs and pubgoers. Being a largely urban branch, it is easier to do, but there’s no reason why rural branches can’t organise regular minibus trips to their more far-flung pubs. Sadly, though, this activity doesn’t seem to appeal to a lot of members who would prefer to be scoring ticks along the bar of their favourite multi-beer pub.

Of course people are entitled to pursue their enthusiasm in any way they see fit, but this seems to be a beer enthusiasm that deliberately sets out to be narrow and élitist and avoids engaging with the wider pub and beer world.

33 comments:

  1. I try hard not to go somewhere that I know doesn't serve anything I want to drink.

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  2. traditional pubs sometimes sell good beer as well you know.

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  3. Well yes, like Old Brewery Bitter ;-)

    And craft beer fanboiz occasionally find something to their liking in proper pubs. But not so much as they make any effort to seek them out.

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  4. Martin, Cambridge6 October 2013 at 22:23

    That line about Port Street to North was a classic.

    I'm not sure if it was me who was disparaging about Thetford, but it's not the lack of Magic Rock that means I rarely stop by as much as the tired Wherry, Adnams and IPA in Beer Guide pubs there. Variety and innovation comes way after character and quality on my list.

    On Macc, I think this is becoming a great pub town because of the variety of pubs for all ages. The Robbie's pub opposite the station (Iron Maiden tribute band, OK Unicorn) and the odd Alpine bar serving Storm beers added up to a better Friday night out than Stockport, and I never thought I'd say that.

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  5. Lord Egbert Nobacon6 October 2013 at 22:24

    I drank good beer for three decades before I ever heard of craft beer.
    I reckon 90% of regular pub-goers in the UK wouldn't have a clue what craft beer is.
    Even if they were drinking it.
    There's good beer.And there's shit beer.
    And that really is all there is to it.

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  6. A good example of this mentality is the recent frothing in the beer blogosphere about "Saisons". I'm not aware I've ever seen a Saison on sale anywhere, and certainly not on draught in any pub I ever go in.

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  7. Ah the staggers, a mad rush of necking halves around some piss poor pubs in an attempt to get to the multi beer house sooner ;)

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  8. Even more worryingly, I spoke to one fanboy who boasted that he NEVER goes to the pub at all since he can get his craft fix at home.

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  9. Beer blogging = "A load of people telling others what they should do, where they should go, what nthey nshould drink how they should spend their money, despite no one asking them"

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  10. Cookie - I disagree with that. Blogs have evolved over the last couple of years into something closer to journalism, where things are being reported much more, rather than agendas being set.

    That said, it's still helpful to substitute the word "soapbox" wherever you see the word "blog". At least then you know what you're getting into.

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  11. Nah, Avery matey, what you are observing is the decline of journalism not the improvement in blogging.

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  12. Sadly I have never been to a Sam Smith's pub, because when I left the UK in 1999 I was a Caffrey's drinker that knew no better.

    I would to have a pint of Old Brewery Bitter on cask....

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  13. Two meanings of the word bubble. The question if bubble as in 'South Sea bubble' whereas you mean something completely different. Isolated areas in city centres.

    Port Street to North Bar is a bit silly. What about all the great pubs and bars in Huddersfield and Halifax. In Stalybridge or Dewsbury, Baum at Rochdale (pub of the year)or The Sparrow in Bradford. Blooming heck, how many brilliant breweries are there between Manchester and Leeds making great beer (Mallinsons, Magic rock are just a few that spring to mind but check out the quaffale website for a full list or map)

    I am not from Manchester or Leeds, but am aware that there are many places in both cities selling great beer. Any of the Leeds Brewery pubs, Friend of Ham, mr foleys or any of the Market town tavern joints(there are more and the same goes for Manchester).

    Wetherspoons have started selling bottles of punk and goose island.
    Thwaites, Brains of now Greene King have craft Breweries. The bubble keeps getting bigger

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  14. >Saisons

    Was on, *cough*, keg at the aforementioned Redwillow. Tried a half but doubt I'll be trying another. Not because it's bad but it's just not to my taste.

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  15. But was it a barrel-aged Saison? If not, as any fanboy will tell you, it's not a proper Saison.

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  16. Saison Blanc may be a beer, but Saison Blanche is a timeless collection of modern bridesmaid dresses. Plenty of room here for your missuses to get the wrong idea and before you know it you're up the aisle and all you wanted was to neck some grog. Stay on the safe side, lads, neck cheapo lout.

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  17. Tyson - simple "barrel aged saison" is SO last month! Surely you know it now has to be an imperial saison with brett or nothing.

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  18. Saison is meant to be a simple and refreshing summer beer, accessible to everyone.

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  19. Indeed but many have been available all year round for a long time of course. I agree though they should essentialy straightforward beers which are very accessible (I think a good dry finish is perhaps a defining characteristic) but a little tinkering around the edges doesn't do any harm. It's when some get the full on "craft treatment" that the plot is lost.

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  20. Someone said to me: "Am I really living in a craft bubble or is it just that you are living outisde of it." Deep.

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  21. Maybe there is actually a shrinking bad beer bubble that the rest of us are outside?

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  22. Suppose that you are sitting in a craft pub, in the craft beer bubble, with a pint (in a poncy glass) in front of you; the pint exists in space and in time. The craft beer bubble space is like an invisible three-dimensional grid in which the pint is positioned. Suppose the pint, and all physical objects in the craft beer bubble universe, were removed from existence entirely, say by Clarkey necking a pint in one. Would the crafty beer bubble space as an "invisible grid" still exist? René Descartes and Leibniz believed it would not, arguing that without physical objects, "space" would be meaningless because space is the framework upon which we understand how physical objects are related to each other. Newton, on the other hand, argued for an absolute "container" space. Current thinking is back to relational space with Einstein physics.

    But what this says about the craft beer bubble would also need to consider time. The flow of time had been denied in ancient times by Parmenides and current fundamental laws of physics suggest a time-reversible universe, perhaps explained by a statistical understanding of thermodynamic entropy.

    Common sense tells us that objects persist across time, that there is some sense in which you are the same person you were yesterday, in which the plant is the same as the seed, in which you perhaps even can step into the same river twice or drink a pint of craft beer twice (I gather Clarkey likes a few).

    An endurantist might say that craft beer exists at each moment of its history, and the same object exists at each moment. A Perdurantists would believe that the Saison is four-dimensional entity made up of a series of temporal parts like the frames of a movie, each one disappearing as Clarkey necked it. When Clarkey necks the last one, there is no more craft beer bubble.

    Does that make it clearer?

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  23. It wouldn't surprise me if Carling sold more than all cask beer put together, and certainly more than all cask beer not brewed by Greene King, Marston's and Wells & Youngs.

    Slow day at work is it, Cookie? ;-)

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  24. It doesn't take a slow day to rethink your bubble, like the flow of a river, into a series of bubbles all existing for a moment in time. Rising then popping. A process. A crafty beer foam, rather than persistence. Each one beginning and ending with the start and end of a pint.

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  25. A bubble depicted in 4D spacetime would be a 4-tube.

    I just googled images of 4-tube to read more about them but I didn't find what I was looking for AT ALL.

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  26. Dear God. Since when did beer bloggery ascend to Newtonian physics? (Speaking as someone who failed physics O Level in 1978 and didn't bother resitting) I just like a nice pint of beer, me.

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  27. Cookie, I'm seeing it all in a totally different way now. I'm picturing Clarkey drinking as he approaches the speed of light. His timeframe will have slowed to a crawl whilst ours will have flown past. In the time it takes him to finish his Imperial saison, we will have moved onto craft lout.

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  28. @Pyo, a favourite of mine is a tesseract or hypercube,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract

    @Bill, Eye Fella but craft beer is the single most important issue facing the world today and in my view needs considering using every tool in the box. Philosophy, economics, politics, science, physics whether Newtonian, Einstein or Quantum mechanics. Through this we can find the elusive cast iron definition, alongside the single unifying theory of the universe.

    @Tyson By considering the craft beer foam as a series of bubbles rather than one bubble, each one representing a glass of liver killing ‘orrible grog necked by the crafterati we can make an effort to then use fluid mechanics to predict the life of the foam. Hydrodynamica (1738) by Daniel Bernoulli would inform us that the foam will last as long as there is gas to sustain it. When the crafterati run out of gas, the foam dies away.

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  29. Every two months our camra branch(Montgomeryshire)arrange minibus trips to our rural pubs. Always fill up quickly and the focus is not about unusual beers but about visiting new pubs. We leave the beer snobs at home!! :-)

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  30. From Port Street Beer House to back street boozer it makes no difference to me; by the time the froth has been blown off and/or the (much talked about) bubbles have burst, all that’s left is the beer. Real/Craft/Fast Cask/Keg/Good/Bad – it’s up to you to decide.

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  31. Martin, Cambridge10 October 2013 at 19:47

    Good for you, Analog kid. When I visited Newtown and Llanidloes last month the pubs were thriving on a mixture of lively chat and quality brown beers at their best. Some of the pubs in Newtown would be national treasures if they were in London or Manchester.

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  32. Yes, classic examples of places a long distance outside the beer bubble.

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  33. @Cookie: you are of course right, foolish of me. There was me thinking it was all about people in daft hats with ironic facial hair lurking in railway arches. You have lifted the scales from my eyes.

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