Thursday 31 December 2009

Don't call time on historic pubs

Writing in the Guardian, Simon Davies says that the government should be doing much more to preserve the interiors of pubs. While there is a good case for listing the interiors of pubs that appear on CAMRA’s National Inventory, whether as whole interiors or as part survivals, beyond that the survival of pubs must be a matter of commercial viability. I like pubs with a sense of tradition and history, but I recognize that pubs can’t be preserved in aspic if they can’t attract customers. And, as many commenters point out, the government itself is the chief villain in making profitable pubs unviable at the stroke of a pen. Davies says:

It is time for political parties to take action to preserve what is left of the pub heritage. To hell with the idea that we shouldn't stand in the way of progress. I want future generations to stand in a grotty pool room and sniff the air that Johnny Rotten smelled when he changed history.
Oh the irony!

Home drinkers can’t count

The latest piece of festive joy from the Righteous is a warning that people drinking at home are pouring themselves measures much larger than the official “units” and thus underestimating their alcohol consumption.

Most people who drink spirits at home pour well over what they would get in a pub when trying to give a single measure, figures suggest.

The government's Know Your Limits Campaign found that among 600 people tested, the average amount poured was 38ml, compared with a standard 25ml.

Those aged 31 to 50 - the most generous pourers - gave an average of 57ml.

For a person thinking they were drinking 7.5 units a week, the extra measures would equate to 17 units...

…When asked to pour the equivalent of one unit into a large (250ml) wine glass, the average amount poured was 157ml - almost exactly twice the correct amount of 76.25ml.

In a smaller wine glass (175ml), it was 131ml, which is still 55ml more than the correct standard measure.

Surely the real reason for this is not ignorance but the fact that people couldn’t give a toss about the made-up official guidelines and their teeny units. And does anyone really think that 25 ml of spirits or 76ml of wine represents an acceptable or satisfying drink?

Tuesday 29 December 2009

The drinkers of Britain have murmured

Back in September, Emily Ryans of CAMRA created a very laudable petition on the Number 10 website saying:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reject proposals from the British Medical Association to vastly increase taxes on alcohol and restrict pub opening hours; and to protect the interests of the responsible, sensible majority of moderate drinkers.
What drinker or pubgoer could object to that? Yet it only achieved 2,824 signatures. When we consider that CAMRA has over 100,000 members, at least half of whom must be Internet-literate, that is frankly pathetic. It was given a certain amount of publicity in What’s Brewing, but it never appeared on the front page with a direct link to the web page.

The proposition in the petition was entirely reasonable and moderate and did not challenge any of CAMRA’s shibboleths. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that far too many members are still preoccupied by tilting against the windmills of Lager, The Supermarkets, The Tie, The Pub Companies and The Keg Menace and completely fail to appreciate the existential threat to every single thing they hold dear.

Monday 28 December 2009

Any bets on a pub revival?

There have been various comments in the beer blogosphere suggesting that we are likely to see a revival in the pub trade in 2010. This one by Paul Garrard is one example – I’m sure I’ve seen a similar one by Tandleman, but I can’t locate it at present. Locally we have seen high-profile reopenings of the Magnet in Stockport and the Black Lion in Salford. However, I have to say I think this is all dust in the wind – we may see a few more optimistic reopenings in 2010, but on balance we will continue to see closures vastly outnumbering openings. But you can give your opinion in the poll.

More or less going to the pub

I recently concluded a poll asking the question: “Do you visit pubs more or less often since 1 July 2007?” There were 73 responses, broken down as follows:

I didn’t go to pubs before but have now started: 1 (1%)
Much more often: 10 (14%)
A little more often: 10 (14%)
About the same: 11 (15%)
A little less often: 2 (3%)
Much less often: 29 (39%)
I have completely stopped going to pubs: 8 (11%)
I never went to pubs before or after: 2 (3%)

Quite a wide divergence of opinion there, whereas I suspect a real-world poll of a representative selection of drinkers would cluster much more strongly around the options of “about the same” and “a little less often”. As we know, the smoking ban is an issue that arouses strong feelings and many responses on both sides may have had something of an axe to grind. But it is notable that by far the largest single group was those who said “much less often”, and combined with those who said “I have completely stopped going to pubs” they account for over 50% of the total of respondents. So it’s hardly surprising that so many pubs have closed, and so many of those that remain are visibly struggling. For what it’s worth, I was one of only two who said “a little less often”.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Enter your high score here

I had to raise a smile at the latest example of the unintended consequences of Righteous initiatives. The NHS have launched an iPhone “app” which lets users enter details of the alcoholic drinks they have consumed and then warns them if they are exceeding “safe” levels. However,

within days of the tracker being released it was being described on the internet as an “awesome game” and users were boasting about trying to beat their “top score”.
Now who could have ever guessed that would happen?

It’s on a par with those roadside signs that light up saying “Your speed is 36 mph” which inevitably acted as an invitation to the local yoofs to see who could record the highest speed.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Bah Humbug!

Good to see the spirit of joy and goodwill to all men is alive and well this Christmas:

Snow-trapped cars abandoned at pub are wheel-clamped

Festive wine list branded as irresponsible

A Merry Christmas to all blog readers, and make sure you don’t exceed four units of alcohol even on Christmas Day, as you know how harmful it can be.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Minimum effectiveness

From the school of I could have told you so, a report by Wilson Drinks Research says that a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol would be unlikely to affect overall consumption. Only one in five adult drinkers in the UK said they would buy less alcohol and spend the same amount they do now, while more than half of those responding to the survey said they would either spend more on the same amount of drink or look for cheaper drink alternatives.

Interestingly, given that such a measure has been most strongly advocated in the country, “Scottish drinkers were the most likely (35 per cent) to take the hit on pricing and continue to drink the same amount should minimum pricing be introduced.”

Of course, if you jacked the minimum price up high enough, it would start to affect overall consumption, but I suspect we would be looking at the £20 bottle of whisky and £1.50 can of cooking lager before that started to happen to any significant degree. Well before then, ordinary middle-of-the-road drinkers would have started to realise that a measure claimed to be targeting cash-strapped problem drinkers was actually hitting them hard in the pocket. And of course there would be all the inevitable unintended consequences such as a rise in smuggling and the growth of illicit distilling and home brewing for resale.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Starting them early

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has announced that he is going to step down in the middle of next year. For many, of course, that couldn’t come a day too soon. Today he’s come out with another load of prohibitionist nonsense suggesting that parents giving their children alcohol is likely to encourage binge drinking in later life. Once again, as I pointed out back in January, he completely fails to make the distinction between irresponsible parents who couldn’t care less about what their children are doing, and responsible parents who introduce their children to alcohol in a controlled and supervised manner.

I am not David Cameron’s greatest fan, but surely he was right with this last year:
The Tory leader said his friends with the biggest alcohol problems were those who were ‘never allowed to drink anything at home’.

Those who had been allowed small amounts to drink at mealtimes were now the most responsible drinkers, he said.

Even Sir Ian Gilmore, who normally sings in harmony with Fat Liam, conceded that:
We know that adults who drink sensibly tend to pass these habits on and that some families choose to introduce alcohol to their children younger than 15 in a supportive environment.
The worry, of course, is that what is “guidance” today gets the force of law tomorrow, with children being put into care and their parents arrested for daring to give them a small glass of shandy with their Sunday lunch.

Raedwald very effectively dismisses Donaldson as someone suffering from a crazed compulsion about stopping other people drinking alcohol:
The one consolation with cranks like Donaldson is that they can quickly take up novel obsessions; perhaps convincing the French that eating cheese is bad, or advocating the health benefits of the German habit of walking about naked once you reach forty years of age. Perhaps all of these together; a shrill, naked little man prancing about opposite Parliament waving a 'No cheese, No wine' placard. That will get you taken seriously, Liam.
Edit: I’ve just spotted another good article on the same theme in today’s Telegraph by Cassandra Jardine: Why I will let my children drink alcohol. This reinforces the point made above:
My children all say that the thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds most likely to be found heading to the park with alcopops concealed in plastic bags, are those who come from homes where there is total prohibition.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Gone but not forgotten

Earlier this year I made a post noting the sad loss of most of the pubs on the main road between Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham, which provoked an oddly poetic comment about the decline of the Ashton pub scene.

This is now starkly underlined by Steve Gwilt in the latest issue of Opening Times, in an article entitled Gone but not forgotten... Ashton-under-Lyne, a study in misery for the drinker. (Warning, it’s a big .pdf, and you’ll need to scroll down to Page 16).

More than one in three pubs in existence in the town fifteen years ago have now closed, he says, and the situation is much the same in many of the Manchester satellite towns, although Stockport has not suffered quite so badly. He writes:
Out west, the credit crunch, the smoking ban, town centre redevelopment and the changing demographics have done for several pubs.
And his conclusion is a reproach to anyone who still goes on about the reason pubs are closing is that they’re crap:
And yet I’ve always admired those down to earth staunchly working class locals and Ashton had many. Places doing what they’ve done for a century or more – being the heart of a local community and helping dull the pain of the day to day miseries we all face. Of course these pubs are much the better if they have some architectural merit; and much more palatable if they sell real ale. But even a cold leaking shack dispensing chemical lager to a band of dedicated locals should have its place in our communities. No food, and no frills and no beer mats laying down the law and selling healthy lifestyles either. But these pubs are slipping away and part of our history is going with them.

More than one in every three pubs we had in Ashton 15 years ago is gone, and many of those that remain are up for sale or to let. Now you might disagree with me that these pubs are worth saving. But too often in Opening Times I see remarks such as “good riddance” when a non-real ale pub closes for the last time. Yet it is these ordinary pubs that form an established network of community locals – with their darts teams and pool tables, their dominoes, cards and quizzes and yes, their keg beers too. They are the fabric of our communities and we should do all in our power to support them – real ale or not.

A “bad” pub can always be turned into a “good” pub. A demolished or de-licensed pub is lost forever – like the nearly 40 pubs of Ashton you won’t find today.

The same issue of Opening Times also contains the write-up (on Page 9) of the pub crawl of Stockport Market Place that I referred to here – so those who don’t know can find out my real name.

Taking the rough with the smooth

There was a lot of discussion in the beer blogosphere the other week about innovation in the beer market. Surely one of the biggest innovations of recent years, albeit one not to the taste of cask ale fans, is the establishment of smooth beers as a distinct market category in their own right.

If we go back twenty years to 1990, the draught beer market was (very crudely) divided into “bitter” and “lager” (OK, with a few pockets of mild too). All the lager was keg, whereas the bitter was divided between real and keg. The real ale drinker knew the difference, but most of the bitter drinkers neither knew nor cared. In any case, a lot of real ale, especially in the North-West and the Midlands, was still served by electric pumps so it wasn’t obvious at the point of sale whether or not it was real.

But then Bass in Ireland dreamed up Caffrey’s, a sweet, copper-coloured ale dispensed by the same nitrogen system used for Guinness, which produced a much smoother (some would say almost soapy) and less fizzy beer than traditional kegs. For a brief period, this took the beer market by storm, and other brewers inevitably followed suit with their own version of what were then called “smoothflow” beers. A new market category had been created, which some people started deliberately looking for when they went in pubs.

You hardly see Caffrey’s any more, and the lasting winner has proved to be John Smith’s Extra Smooth, which surely now must be the biggest selling ale brand in the on-trade by some margin. Earlier this year I saw it on the bar of a tied house in Sussex alongside one of the finest “ordinary” bitters in the country, Harvey’s Sussex Best. Despite this, it was still attracting a number of customers.

One of my worst predictions was suggesting that I didn’t think our local independent family brewers would have any truck with smooth, whereas of course it wasn’t too long before they all did. You will now see fonts for both pale and dark versions prominently positioned on the bars of many Holts, Hydes and Robinsons pubs. In hindsight, that particular column was spectacularly wrong in every way.

In 1990, you wouldn’t really get anyone who would describe themselves as “a keg drinker”, but nowadays there are plenty of people who would say their beer of choice was “smooth”. In a sense this change gives cask a clearer profile, with more people choosing it specifically because it is cask rather than just generic “bitter”, but on the other hand it has led to it losing market share and disappearing from a lot of pubs.

Sunday 13 December 2009

A crisp deal

As the tide of bansturbation spreads across our once pleasant land, it opens up surprising opportunities for keen-sighted entrepreneurs. Create a shortage, create a demand. 12-year-old Joel Bradley was caught allegedly selling a packet of Discos in a Liverpool secondary school at a marked-up price of 50p. No doubt he has a bright future ahead of him in business.

It is a sad commentary on the state of our nation that the humble crisp should be banned in the first place.

Have you been drinking, Sir?

And, if you feel reasonably confident of passing a breath test, the answer tends to be “just the one”.

I recently concluded a poll asking the question “How many times have you been breath tested in your driving career?” There were 60 responses, and the results were:

Never: 23 (38%)
Once: 18 (30%)
Twice: 7 (12%)
3-5 times: 3 (5%)
6-10 times: 1 (2%)
More than 10 times: 1 (2%)
I have never held a driving licence: 7 (11%)

I was really asking this out of interest rather than trying to make any particular point. Obviously the likelihood of anyone being breath tested depends both on how long they have been driving and the pattern of journeys they make. I would imagine anyone routinely driving in suburban and urban fringe areas late on Friday and Saturday nights would have experienced more than one test.

While I am certainly not an advocate of large-scale random breath testing, there is no doubt that having been tested, or knowing a friend who has been, is an effective deterrent to drink-drive offending, and the widespread replacement of traffic police with speed cameras may in a sense have given a green light to offenders. But, given that most drivers rarely or never experience a test, it calls into question what safety benefit a lower limit would bring. If you just blend into the general flow of traffic, your chances of being pulled up are miniscule. Of course, though, the situation in which you are most likely to be tested is having just driven out of a pub car park.

For what it’s worth, I have held a driving licence since November 1976. Since then, I have driven more than 350,000 miles, and have been breath tested just once, almost exactly twenty years ago, in precisely the circumstances described above, having just pulled out of a pub car park in an urban fringe area at about 8.30 pm. I had had a drink, but an amount that I believed would leave me well below the legal limit, which the test confirmed.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Who are you working for?

On the day when Alastair Darling, not surprisingly, confirmed that he was not going to cut beer duty when VAT went back up to 17½%, thus effectively imposing a stealth increase of 8%, it’s a sobering thought that the beer and pub industry makes five times more money for the government than it does for brewers and pub companies.

Oxford Economics conducted a study for the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) that compared the Government’s tax take on beer with the profits made by brewing and pub sector sales.

The study showed that the total taxes, including excise, VAT employment and corporation taxes, raised by the Government from beer sales totals £7.2bn. The profits made by brewing and the pub sector amounted to just £1.4bn.

The total UK beer market generates £19bn. The Government takes 84% of the £8.6bn total tax and profit generated by beer sales.

That makes all the hard work by licensees seem really worthwhile.

Edit: I see that Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan has actually cut alcohol duties in an otherwise hard-hitting austerity budget.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Don’t call me stupid

“What’s the matter, lagerboy?” goes the Hobgoblin advert, “Afraid you might taste something?” Well, actually he probably is, possibly something along the lines of vinegar or yeast.

It has long been an article of faith amongst many in CAMRA that people only drink keg beers and lagers because they have been taken in by advertising and promotion into believing that these products are desirable, and they need to be educated into seeing the light and switching to the proper stuff. But surely that view is very disrespectful of the judgment of most beer drinkers, and if you’re trying to change someone’s mind you’re off to a bad start if you call them stupid.

Most people who drink beer are not really particularly interested in the subject, and tend to drink the same brew or a limited range rather than constantly experimenting. To them, it makes sense to choose something familiar and consistent from what they perceive as a reputable source. They want it to be refreshing, to lubricate their socialising with friends and to have something of an alcoholic effect on them, and if it meets those needs reliably then they’re happy to buy it. They may well see it as desirable to avoid extremes of flavour that would have the beer buffs’ tastebuds tingling.

It has been said that all the advertising in the world will only sell a bad product once, and if people are repeat purchasers of kegs and lagers then obviously they must satisfy their requirements – which will not be the same as the requirements of a beer enthusiast.

For example, I have no interest whatsoever in breakfast cereals. There are hundreds of different varieties on the market, but I eat the same one pretty much every day of the year. With the same type of milk and the same type of sugar on it. But I don’t think that makes me a fool.

There are some people who give the impression of trying to live their entire lives on the bleeding edge of experiment and unconventionality. And they are often some of the most crashing, self-obsessed bores you can hope to meet. Life really is too short for that kind of approach – you have to decide what matters to you and take the rest as it comes.

It also cannot be denied that there is a strong and genuine demand for beers served colder than the natural cellar temperature that is appropriate for cask. If people really didn’t want cold beer, they wouldn’t buy it. They only didn’t buy it in the past because the refrigeration facilities weren’t available. And of course far too much cask beer still ends up being served well above cellar coolness anyway.

I have written before about the “quality lottery” involved in drinking cask beer. For some people, the peaks are well worth enduring the occasional troughs, and they take the view they end up better off all round. But for others, indeed the majority, keeping their stake in their hand and keeping out of the troughs seems a better bet.

It is maybe less true now, but in the past many car enthusiasts would praise the driving qualities of Alfa Romeos. The only problem was, they were likely to leave you stranded by the roadside rather too often, so it wasn’t surprising people chose to buy Toyotas instead which at least could be relied upon to get them from A to B, even if in a somewhat dull and predictable manner.

For most drinkers, beer is just a commodity, and within their terms of reference they are making a rational and sensible choice by picking well-known keg and lager brands. In no way are they deluded dupes. That is what suits them according to their criteria.

Surely in this era of pub closures and anti-drink hysteria it’s a good thing that people are drinking beer at all. And if you want to encourage them to take more of an interest in the subject rather than just accepting the default choice, the way to do it is to communicate your own enthusiasm rather than telling them they’re stupid.

Sunday 6 December 2009

What’s a nice girl like you doing in a dump like this?

Given that this is a blog whose main themes are pubs and beer, a recent poll showed a surprisingly high proportion of people who had not been to a pub at all in the past month. So, as a commenter suggested, I thought I would ask people what was the main interest that led them to read this blog.

With some polls you have a good idea of what the answer will be, with others you may be looking for a particular response, but with this one I genuinely had no idea of what the outcome would be.

There were 65 responses, and the results were:

Beer: 16 (25%)
The pub trade: 12 (18%)
The smoking ban: 27 (42%)
General lifestyle freedom issues: 10 (15%)

So make of that what you will...

As I’ve said before, this isn’t wholly or even mainly a blog about the smoking ban. But I think being the only “beer blogger” to take a strong anti-ban stance does give the blog a unique selling proposition which is probably what accounts for that result.

Friday 4 December 2009

Smoking policy poll

Well, the great smoking policy poll has come to an end. The question was: “What should be the official policy on smoking in pubs and bars?” There were 134 responses (which I suspect will prove an all-time record for this blog) and the results were as follows:

Licensees should be able to decide their own policy: 83 (62%)
Smoking should be allowed in separate rooms: 20 (15%)
Private smoking clubs should be permitted: 8 (6%)
Smoking should be banned in all indoor public areas: 15 (11%)
Smoking should be banned in outside areas of pubs too: 8 (6%)

So 83% of respondents favoured some relaxation of the status quo. I hope the 8 who voted for the final option aren’t the same antismokers who are constantly telling us that it’s no problem for smokers visiting pubs to go outside.

I wonder whether, if I’d included a further option “Smokers should be ritually disembowelled and hung from lampposts”, it would have received any votes.

The preponderance of opinion demonstrated in this poll shows clearly that the smoking ban issue is not going to “go away” and those who oppose the ban (many of whom are non-smokers) are not going to “move on” anywhere.

Rise of the anti-pub

This provocative article on Sp!ked by Nathalie Rothschild is bound to ruffle a few feathers: A place where nobody knows your name - as Britain’s dark, smoky, friendly pubs close down, the anti-pub - the JD Wetherspoon - is taking their place.

That the chain is marching on in these credit-crunched times signals not a healthy growth of public houses, but the relentless rise of the anti-pub, which is a suck-up to, and a beneficiary of, our unhealthily killjoy times.

The rise of JD Wetherspoon parallels the slow but steady decline of authentic, grimy, smoky, welcoming, rowdy and unruly real pubs. There’s nothing wrong with family-friendly cheap eateries, but publicans and their customers should be allowed to relax, to sing and talk loudly to friends and strangers, play games, misbehave and drink if they want to.

And, as I posted here, I broadly agree. Wetherspoon’s are soulless, corporate eating and drinking barns – they are not real pubs.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Pubs face renewed drink-drive threat

It’s reported today that Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has asked legal expert Sir Peter North to draw up plans (yet again) to cut the drink-drive limit. This news is exceptionally galling for pubs and pubgoers as only last year it seemed that any such plans had been rejected for the time being.

During their term of office, New Labour have toyed with this idea on several occasions without ever putting it into effect. Indeed, after the 1997 general election, it seemed for a while that it was inevitable, but those plans were eventually quietly dropped. It is my suspicion that it is the privately-expressed scepticism of senior police officers that has kept the plan from being implemented. However, given that it has been made abundantly clear over the past twelve years that New Labour hate pubs, hate motorists and hate the countryside, what’s not to like with a policy that kills three birds with one stone?

Of course these plans will run into the sand with the General Election being imminent, and there is no guarantee that a new government will implement them, but this is a clear indication that the threat to pubs from a lower limit has not gone away.

Another interesting aspect of the report I link to is how the amount of alcohol represented by the current limit seems to have been deflated over time. I have in my possession an CAMRA publication from about 1980 called 100 Classic Pubs in the Heart of England that explicitly states “the limit equals three pints”. Now, that might be taking a rather optimistic view, but it has always been my understanding since I passed my driving test over thirty years ago that if a man of average build consumed two pints of sub-4% beer he would stay comfortably within the limit – something that is borne out by this TRRL publication from 1986.

However, the report states that “the current 80mg limit equates to one-and-a-half small glasses of wine or one-and-a-half pints of normal strength beer,” which is not the case. In reality, it equates to roughly 5-6 units for a man, and 4-5 units for a woman. A 50 mg limit would still allow someone to legally consume one pint of ordinary-strength beer, or glass of wine, although whether they would think that was worthwhile is of course a moot point.

And, as often stated before, wouldn’t it make more sense to enforce the current limit more effectively rather than impose a lower limit which in practice people will all too often be able to flout with impunity?

Heads in the sand

There’s a quite astonishing piece of smoking ban denial on the Number Ten website in the response to a petition calling for pubs to be allowed to have indoor smoking rooms.

Survey data, anecdotal evidence and reports in the media seem to indicate that the impact on the hospitality trade as a whole has been at worst neutral and in many cases positive.
Have these people been living in a cave for two and a half years? There is a vast amount of anecdotal evidence reported on this blog and other websites that the ban has been extremely damaging to the pub trade, and the rate of pub closures has dramatically increased.

There have been numerous reports that the smoking ban has proved a significant factor in deterring working-class people from voting Labour:
Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South East, said: “I’m getting complaints from our core Labour vote that they feel the Labour Government is just hitting them left, right and centre. They are heavily bruised at the moment.”

Dr Iddon cited the ban on smoking in public places and rising alcohol and food prices as other causes of anger.

This response shows a complete unwillingness to listen to any evidence that contradicts the official message. Now, where else have we seen recently that evidence must be discarded if it doesn’t fit the theory?

And the school exam results go up and up every year despite the fact that major employers bemoan the growing illiteracy and innumeracy of school-leavers. Meanwhile, tractor production continues to set new records!

Tuesday 1 December 2009

X-certificate drinking

An annoying feature you come across on an increasing number of beer and brewery websites is a requirement to either enter your age or confirm that you are of legal drinking age in your country of residence. I assume this originally began in the US, but it has now spread to this country, for example on the website of Wells & Youngs.

Obviously these controls are easily circumvented by anyone with half a brain, and so are no more than a futile sop to political correctness, but even so there is an underlying assumption that it is undesirable for anyone under the legal drinking age to find out anything about alcoholic drinks, because if they did they would immediately head out for a mammoth binge. Presumably we’re not meant to see any schoolchildren researching projects on the brewing industry, although that in itself would probably lead to howls of outrage from the Righteous.

In most countries the legal age to drive a motor vehicle is at least 16, yet I don’t see any of these age controls on automotive websites, and indeed they are probably an endless source of fascination to pre-pubescent boys. Nobody suggests that being able to view the Ford website is going to encourage a 14-year-old to go out on a joyriding spree. So why do we have to have these double standards when it comes to drink?

Isn’t it time that, at least on this side of the Atlantic, those running beer-related websites stopped treating all their readers like naughty children?