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.