I have been promising to write about this mysterious breed of beer drinker for some time, so here goes. In simple terms as I understand it, the name is given to those that write down and keep a permanent record of the beers they have drunk. The name ticker is also used and does not appear to have any actual difference in meaning to scooper, though there may be a slight tendency for the term ticker to be used more in the North. Less well used but widely understood is "scratcher". The benign theory about scoopers is that they are harmless oddballs with an excessive compulsive disorder, though Gazza Prescott, a leading scooper (and he should know) thinks it is more akin to Aspergers Syndrome. That may be so and would explain a lot, but in most cases, it is just a bunch of harmless social misfits getting their rocks off their way.
"So", you ask, "how do I recognise these geezers should I be glancing round the pub?" Well if you want the stereotype (and who doesn't,) you could look for a dishevelled, anorak wearing type, with bad teeth, unkempt hair - or what there is pulled back in one of these daft ponytails. He will often be alone, a social misfit, usually sporting a shoulder borne bag of some sort in which he keeps the tools of his trade. Another sure fire tip is that he will eagerly rush to the bar to check the pumpclips or blackboard and will usually order halves. His tools may vary from a Good Beer Guide - though this is laughed at by most - they have their own sources of good pubs and beer- various updates from his pals at Scoopergen and Scoopgen and a copy of the Imbiber (or whatever it is called now). There may also be a set of railway timetables (to plan the next "move"), a thick, well thumbed notebook (replaced in some cases by an electronic device) and maybe if the gadgie is a "bottler", a funnel and a set of Panda Cola bottles. Among the more disgusting things these guys do is swapping "winners" with each other by pouring "required" scoops into bottles for later consumption, thus increasing the scooping tally. And this is the point. These guys by and large are not interested in quality, but in numerical quantity, though of course there are some who are interested in both.
Right that's the stereotype. What's the reality? Well pretty much as above really. Of course like all groups there is vast variances from the more extreme examples above, to some very respectable, funny, chatty and erudite types, though you are far more likely to encounter the former than the latter. My old CAMRA Chairman Tony Molyneux for example, a renowned scooper, was a wonderful, hail fellow well met type who was a pleasure to be with. Unfortunately he is dead and I am not sure if there are many more like him. Most are rather introverted, taciturn individuals who you can spot a mile off (often on the bus or train while heading to the pub). They aren't usually interested in talking to you, though most are absolutely harmless. I think my fellow blogger Tyson describes them as "a benign nuisance". Not a bad description. These guys even have their own language. That is where "required", "bottler" and other terms come from. Scoopers call those that don't scoop "normals" probably without thinking through what this implies about them.
So is there a balancing side to these aberrants? Well yes. Scoopers have to some extent stimulated the market for cask beer by encouraging brewers to vary their range more often and to produce more "one off" beers. The down side of this is blending and rebadging, just so the tickers can tick one more off, though the scoopers are good at outing such practices. They also provide much needed information for those of us who just want a few pints of decent beer and with the advent of foreign scooping, a beacon for us to follow in some otherwise dark cities. That is a service I think we should thank them for wholeheartedly. I find Scoopergen an absolute treasure for my foreign travels, so thanks for that Gazza.
Like a lot of beer curious people, I have practised a form of scooping myself (though not a qualifying one because I didn't write it all down) in that 20 years ago I'd try as many different beers as possible in the hope of finding that Holy Grail, the perfect beer. I must have wasted thousands of pounds in doing so, by continually changing from a beer I was thoroughly enjoying, to one I subsequently found was shite. I haven't done that for years. Liver cells are far to precious to waste on such flippancy. Now I find a beer I like and tend to stick to it. Life's too short and cash too precious to chuck it away on bad beer, but tell THAT to a ticker.
Well there you have it. This note just scratches the surface of a vast and interesting sub culture. For those who wish to know more about this obscure sect of drinkers cum obsessives, I can recommend the site run by Gazza Prescott, Scoopergen, which is permanently linked left on this site. It tells it from the horses mouth and while it may have you shaking your head in bewilderment, it certainly is interesting and well written. There is also another scoopers site here which gives some of the scooping "rules". Good "gen" too about British pubs.
Scoopergen even has a handy picture gallery so you can spot all the scoopers when you go to a free house - their normal locus. Why not print a set off and make a game of it? See how many you can tick off. Scooping scoopers? It could catch on!
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