Friday, 1 March 2019

Refreshing the parts others cannot reach

Recently, somebody posed the question on Twitter as to which subjects did not get sufficient attention from beer writers. There were the predictable right-on responses championing increasingly obscure minorities, but one thing that struck me that they rarely touch on is the experience of ordinary, non-enthusiast drinkers.

This is a charge that cannot be levelled at Britainbeermat, whose Life After Football blog regularly chronicles the pubgoing experiences that others cannot, or choose not to, reach. For example, he was recently in the Bell Inn at Tile Hill, Coventry, where he observed:

...considering it is around 2pm on a Monday then there is a reasonable crowd in and a large group of 50/60/70 somethings are making their presence felt in the lounge...

...One of the group was leaving with a walking frame and he was getting plenty of stick with one particular sage warning him not to hit the accelerator button otherwise he’d end up in Canley!

the menu didn’t appear to have any food over £8...

Now, there is nothing particularly special or wonderful about this place, and to be honest it isn’t really a pub that I would choose to spend much time in. But here were people enjoying themselves in a pub at a typically slack time of the week a world away from the “beer bubble”.

Of course, if you want to concentrate on the rare, innovative, unusual and expensive in the beer world, that is your prerogative. Indeed the same can be said of most of the food writing you come across in the media. But it would help if you accepted your enthusiasm for what it is – a middle-class niche interest – and stopped trying to pretend that you were being marvellously inclusive or doing your bit to change the world for the better.

And it must be remembered that, in the early days of CAMRA, this certainly wasn’t the case. They were celebrating beers that were drunk by ordinary people, often in large quantities, without a thought as to their wider significance, and the Good Beer Guide included plenty of pubs described as “Basic drinking pub” and “Unspoilt working man’s local” (both of these in the Salford entry in the 1978 edition). It doesn’t any more.

31 comments:

  1. The world will be a better place when all the gammon pubs close and we have nothing but woke pubs where your speech and actions are policed to ensure they do not offend intersectional feminists.

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  2. The issue in beer writing is not one of class it is one of gender. Beer writing needs more fat birds like me and fewer white saviours like you banging on about boring brown bitter, dying old peoples pubs and smoking in pubs back when George VI was King. The middle class woke trust fund Curtis's are part of the solution as to all intents they are big girls too.

    Then beer writing will be relevant.

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    1. Melissa, women could do their bit to save our pubs if they'd only joyfully accept a glorious -as it is - menu choice of stew and dumplings, faggots, mash and mushy peas, or pie and chips. It is the necessity to branch out into salads, paninis etc. which makes pub food provision a PITA.

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  3. The reason so little beer writing caters for the lager swilling brexit voters is the lumpenproletariat are not given to reading, so why write for them?

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    1. The headline writers at the Sun and DM seem to think that it's worth it.

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  4. PS, but pubs should get rid of sport TV, and replace it with stuff which women generally prefer. They have the spending power among the under-35s after all.

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  5. Just based on that post, the Bell sounds like the kind of place I would enjoy, if being a tad young given the 50 something age cutoff...

    Maybe what needs to be accepted is that this is a difference between 'beer writers' and 'pub writers', though of course there is some overlap there. Sadly, in my experience, it is the beer writers that struggle to enjoy a good pub without the latest, greatest, rarest, brewed with the weirdest shit, craft brew on keg.

    In Fuggled world, a good pub is more important than good beer. Good beer will get you just as drunk as bad beer, a good pub will give you companionship, community, and a sense of belonging - in the modern world, who doesn't need those?

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  6. Cheers Mudgie and just to prove I am a modern man.."The bank tansfer is in the post!" Ultimately I like visiting pubs more than I like experimenting with beer. Most of the boozers in my youth in Solihull/East Birmingham were pretty much cask free places where both sexes went along for a laugh, drink and chat and what you drank was irrelevant.
    I'm definitely a cask convert but don't care if pubs don't sell it as if they don't then there probably isn't a market for it so it is likely to be average anyway.
    Most of my best nights in boozers have been when people aren't talking about drink but a multitude of other subjects. Cheers for the plug Mudgie - I'll keep forcing myself to these places!!!
    Britain Beermat

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  7. The Stafford Mudgie2 March 2019 at 02:13

    The problem is that some beer writers have no idea how alien comments like "Beer should be good. Beer should be fun. Beer should be inclusive" are to ordinary drinkers in ordinary pubs like the Bell Inn at Tile Hill, Coventry

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    1. You are right Stafford Mudgie. To be frank,. 95% of people in pubs don't really care as long as they have a good time and their drink is palatable. People who go to pubs because of the beer options are very much in the minority. I like it but I know most people aren't fussed. I shall be watching Blues/Villa next Sunday and I can guarantee that most people won't give two hoots after the match if they can't a pint of premium cask or keg.
      Britain Beermat

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    2. The Stafford Mudgie3 March 2019 at 21:56

      BB,
      Yes, indeed, they want a good time ( however defined ) and a beer they know that's palatable.
      "84% of ale drinkers want to see at least one nationally recognised ale brand on the bar" and in Uttoxeter that means Draught Bass or Marstons Pedigree.

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  8. The majority of members of CAMRA in its early days were university students/recent graduates who were either 'middle class' or on their way to joining the middle class. Their interest in cask beer was of a similar type to that shown by beer enthusiasts today,visits were paid to 'workingmens' locals' primarily because these pubs had not been modernised by brewing companies as they were generally seen as less profitable and were therefore a good source of cask beer. I cannot recall that CAMRA was a movement which championed 'the ordinary drinkers' beer' its members drank in places where cask beer could be found in good condition and they were very similar in many ways to craft beer enthusiasts today.

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    1. The Stafford Mudgie2 March 2019 at 08:13

      John,
      Your description of "the majority of members of CAMRA in its early days" and their activities is accurate.
      But CAMRA "championed 'the ordinary drinkers' beer'" because by a fortunate coincidence Britain's best beer, real ale, was Britain's cheapest beer and it was consumed in large volumes, at least in the midlands and north, by 'the ordinary drinkers'. That wasn't going to last though and, even without CAMRA's annual prices surveys, the Big Six, led by Whitbread, soon realised that a premium product could be priced more highly.

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    2. It's undoubtedly true that there are many similarities in the social make-up of early CAMRA members and modern-day crafties. However, there is a massive difference in that in the early 70s they were actively seeking out unfashionable pubs frequented by ordinary people, whereas nowadays they are actively shunning them.

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    3. The Stafford Mudgie3 March 2019 at 08:59

      But in the early 70s they were actively seeking out unfashionable pubs frequented by ordinary people not because the pubs were unfashionable and/or frequented by ordinary people but because that's where the best beer was to be found.
      Now though their favourite beers are too extreme, and expensive, for 'ordinary drinkers' in 'ordinary pubs' and that's why micropubs are being set up, often 'on the cheap', to cater for them.

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    4. Yes, but basic, unspoilt pubs were often sought out for their own virtues irrespective of the beer they sold, which certainly isn't the case now.

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    5. The Stafford Mudgie3 March 2019 at 18:05

      Yes, "university students/recent graduates who were either 'middle class' or on their way to joining the middle class" were attracted to "basic, unspoilt pubs" as there was a lot of inverted snobbery in the 1970s.
      Now their twenty-first century hipster equivalents are content with "basic" micropubs opened 'on the cheap' with random furniture and unplasterd walls. 'Ordinary drinkers' stick with more comfortable 'ordinary', but no longer "basic", pubs.
      How times change.

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  9. Do craft beer enthusiasts actually exist ? Surely no one would drink it out of choice ? Overpriced keg rubbish and usually not real ale at all.

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    1. Mudgie mentioned food writers up above. I'd liken craft beer enthusiasts to food folk who wax lyrical over arugula and Kobe beef as opposed to iceberg lettuce and 'half a pound of ground round'. ;)

      Oh, and I was going to say that the attention has probably gone to BBM's head... but he's probably used to that from his previous profession. :)

      Cheers

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  10. BeerMat makes me want to go to pubs. Even the ones without good cask. Same with BRAPA.

    I guess that's the difference in campaigning. Many CAMRA members want to promote beer by running beer festivals in grim halls and talking up the number of homebrewers we have now.

    Some of us want to promote pubs and pubgoing in its widest sense.believing that only increased pub visits will save pubs and cask.

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  11. let's be honest. Most people going out for a session to a proper pub will either drink a gallon of lout or BBB. No one drinks a gallon of murk.

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    1. No-one can afford to drink a gallon of murk!

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    2. Ey Up Mudgie ,
      I`ve got a gallon bucket and a few ells of rope somewhere ; I`ll dredge the River of your choice and do you a good price on a bucket o murk : ) : ) ,
      Cheers
      Edd

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  12. I am a pub man. I rarely drink beer at home, so good pubs are important to me and I agree woth Al above, er, above all.

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  13. So what. We don't need CAMRA no more. It's done its job. We should just get on now enjoying the piss water we like.

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  14. Professor Pie-Tin4 March 2019 at 07:55

    The meat draw is a much underrated characteristic of a proper boozer.
    Whenever I see a hand-scrawled sign for one in a pub I know things are going to be okay.
    That and a condom machine in the bogs.

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  15. But today's "unfashionable pubs frequented by ordinary people" are Wetherspoons, which CAMRA supports.

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  16. Ordinary Drinker4 March 2019 at 14:23

    As an ordinary drinker of ordinary bitter I long to be educated into appreciating beer by beer communicators so I may appreciate murky sour beer, pay more to support craft beer, and not complain when expensive £60 a session craft beer festivals go tits up and punters are out of pocket. I long to be educated to never complain and always be positive. God bless Melissa and her cronies, they do a great job.

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    1. Well how about this for starters. Most sour beers are not murky. In fact most craft beers are not murky. Mainly New England IPAs which is a sub style that represents a small proportion of craft beer sold in the UK. As for £60 beer fest tickets. These are all inclusive with unlimited pours. Considering the quality of beer on offer it's no surprise that these events are almost always sell outs. Instead of showing disdain and sarcasm for something that doesn't interest you how about saying live and let live. I know that's a radical thing to say in this day and age but try it sometime...

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  17. If one is sufficiently interested in a topic to the point of spending time writing about it, it is almost inevitable that the interest will swiftly transcend the ordinary activities of ordinary people, whether it's beer, wine, food, cars, porn, politics, tropical fish or brutalist architecture.

    I think Stafford Mudgie is entirely correct here. In the 1970s the beers that beer enthusiasts were enthusiastic about just happened to overlap somewhat with the everyday drinking experiences or everyday drinkers. This is largely no longer the case and nor should we expect it to be, nor attempt to force people to do things they dislike, or others to feign an interest therein.

    There's nowt wrong with being 'more about the beer than the pub', and there's nowt wrong with being t'other way around either.

    Personally I feel cheated when I go out if I can't tick new cask beer, no matter how interesting the pub building is, no matter how friendly the people are, no matter how good the keg beer is etc. etc. That's just me. It's my preference, my motivations, my perspectives. They don't apply universally and neither do anybody elses.

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