Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Collision course

If you listen to some people, we are enjoying a golden age of beer drinking in the UK. There are more breweries than there have been for a hundred years, an unprecedented range of styles and flavours, a growth in specialist beer bars across the country and a real buzz of interest and enthusiasm around the subject.

But, taking a few steps back, things don’t look anywhere near so rosy. Alcohol consumption has been steadily falling for ten years, and over 50% of the 18-24 age group now say they haven’t had a single drink in the past week. From the peak, about a third of the pubs in Britain have closed down, 10,000 of those in the past six years alone. Over the past ten years, total beer consumption has fallen by 24%, that in pubs and bars by 37%. From a wider perspective, we look like a country steadily falling out of love with beer.

So I can’t help thinking that, in the not-too-distant future, there’s going to be a collision between these two trends, in which there can only be one winner. It’s like the Beer Eloi happily frolicking with their saisons and double IPAs, in blissful unawareness that outside in the wider world the Morlocks of prohibition are steadily gathering their forces ready to prick their bubble.

In the words of the song (bonus point if you remember it),

The future train's coming down the hill
And we're tied to the track


  1. Ah, never mind though eh? Chin up.

    On a positive note these sober kids will be more economically productive and able to pay your pension. Which you will only be allowed to spend on organic pumpkin seeds and tofu.

  2. The contradiction you are seeing with certain types of pubs and beers thriving and others struggling is purely a class phenomenon. The middle classes have not been hit as hard by the recession and therefore it is their pubs and their beers that have come through the downturn strongest.

    Once the economy gets going again and the working classes get a bit of cash back in their pocket, it will slow the decline.

    I really do wish the arseholes at Alcohol Concern would just f off though. Creating a generation of miserable teetotallers who have no idea how to socialise with each other is just downright cruel. They are the real long term threat.

  3. Not sure about having to look out for fictional underground dwellers, but you may be right in the long run. But you'll never know. You'll be brown bread before it really happens, so, sup up lad, nowt to worry about.

  4. Actually, I'd say that apart from middle-class areas of large towns and cities, middle-class pubgoing, except when dining, had fallen off a cliff.

  5. So if not the middle classes, who is going to all these poncy craft beer bars and studiously faux-traditional specialist real ale pubs that are opening up in every (most?) town and city?

    Its certainly not the lads from the local council estate.

  6. It's Mudgie, pyo. Him and his mates.

    You wanna meet him in real life. Skinny jeans, hipster beard, ironic hat, skateboard.

    He's not a moaning old codger that likes bitter & cats & hates kids at all.

    He's a guardian reading, starbucks latte drinking 29 year old tech worker with city studio apartment who has been taking the p out of us all along.

  7. pyo, that was covered by my previous restriction of "middle-class areas of large towns and cities".

    The chances of a 50-year-old Telegraph or Mail reading middle manager socialising in a craft beer bar are pretty tiny, I would say. But back in the day you might well have seen him in his local pub.

  8. One for Cooking Lager

  9. I guess we can all think of a few 'On-trend hostelries'.

  10. It's a good 'un that JJ.

    I think part of the decline of youth pub going lies in childhood. It is the hostility of old codgers to kids in pubs which puts them off for life. They pick up the vibes and it stick with them.

    The whole decline of the pub can be laid at the feet of people hostile to kids in pubs.

  11. Pubs were a whole lot more successful with the young when kids weren't allowed in and so they were regarded as forbidden fruit.

  12. More like rotten fruit, Mudge. Toxic customers creating an unwelcome environment put many kids off for life.

    There has been some lights in the darkness. The government handed the industry a favour by banning smoking, making pubs nicer for kids and places like Wetherspoons have created an "all welcome" sort of pub.

    The trend, sadly, has been one of decline, though, by hanging on to out dated practice and pandering to low spend toxic child hating punters.

  13. Cooking Lager, Wetherspoons introduced a smoking ban before smoking indoors became illegal. Had it been successful other pub chains would have followed. Was it successful or was it swiftly reversed?

  14. I think Cookie may have been trying to wind me up there.

    My recollection is that Wetherspoon's introduced a premature smoking ban in some of their pubs, but stopped the roll-out to the rest once they realised that trade had fallen off a cliff.

  15. Yer think? Let 'em bite. That's the fun of trolling.


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