Thursday, 4 December 2014

A middle-class embrace

Here’s a perceptive and entertaining article by Peter Robins in which he looks at how the metropolitan middle classes have finally taken beer snobbery to their hearts.

Unlike many such media pieces, it’s pretty well-informed, with the rise of the railway arch brewer nailed and saisons accurately described as “what a brewer makes to show they can do something subtler than their big IPA”. The one slightly false note is where he refers to “Relatively low alcohol content (most of the time) makes it possible to complete a wine-tasting-style ‘flight’ without either spitting out or reducing yourself to a Sideways-style mess.” Well, it may have a low alcohol content compared to wine, but much “craft” beer is actually stronger than mainstream brews.

In the conclusion he looks at what the future may hold:

I’ve begun to wonder whether anything could pop this bubble, and what I think about is the force that held back middle-class beer snobbery to begin with: the fixed prejudice against real ale. No matter how many demographic surveys Cask Marque produced, no matter how many Sumerian wheat goddesses Camra dug up for its marketing, for most people real ale still meant nerdy old men with beards. Craft beer, by contrast, means nerdy young men with beards. And while nerds have a great deal more cultural capital than they used to, young men continue to grow old. Within a few years, the craft beer boom may seem as difficult to separate from the ridiculous fashions of the 2010s as the real ale boom was from the fashions of the 1970s. If we’re lucky, it will leave as many enjoyable new flavours behind.
There was a brief period in the early days of CAMRA when beer snobbery did raise its head with the middle-class gent in the saloon bar holding a dimpled mug of Ruddles County or Wadworths 6X and pontificating about its virtues, but by the 1980s it had become the opposite of aspirational.


  1. Pretty much sums up beer geekery. Old beardy twats V young beardy twats trying to out snob each other.

  2. I think the point is that beer snobbery has escaped from geekdom to the fashionable Islington dinner party.

  3. We've had the "Real Ale Twats" in Viz, so what about the "Craft Nerds", or something similar?

    I haven't seen Private Eye for some years now, but if Pseud's Corner still features in the magazine, your typical craft hipster would be the ideal candidate for inclusion!

  4. I don't know if they still do "It's Grim up North London", but craft beer pseudery could certainly feature in that.

  5. Definitely not "this kind of thing", StringersBeer, as there is nothing pseudo about Harvey's, their Christmas Ale, their talented and erudite head brewer, or indeed the brewery's home - the charming Sussex town of Lewes!

  6. This though, IS Pseuds Corner!

    Celt Experience have released two new beers: Hallstatt Deity, a resinous saison with a tart fruitiness and pomegranate finish, and Lammas Harvest a tart and lemon Berliner Weisse with bold gooseberry and thyme characters.

    Siren Craft Brew have also released two new sour beers. I Need a Vacation is a beautifully tart Berliner Weisse with papaya, mango and lime. When the Light Gose Out is a collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal. This black Gose has been brewed with hibiscus flowers and Hawaiian black volcano salt.

    A beer's just got to have that Hawaiian black volcano salt!

  7. Paul Bailey,

    "A beer's just got to have that Hawaiian black volcano salt!"

    I've tasted a few beers that people consider as "craft" - lots of money spent on branding and marketing, fancy expensive locations, gimmicks galore in their beer range, a pretentious use of imagery to suggest considerably longer heritage than they actually have. And their beers are pretty average, no better than a bottle of Becks.


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