Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What's In a Name?

Surfacing from the depths of the CAMRA stuff I am currently embroiled in - editing (writing?) a magazine, proofing Good Beer Guide entries, writing articles for local newspapers and the like - I had a look at Twitter and a message about a newspaper dissing Scottish beer caught my eye. Now as an exiled Scot, I keep my eye on the Scottish brewing scene as much as I can, mainly through the likes of @robsterowski and of course, through Scotland on Sunday, the paper edition of which I buy every week. It also allows me to look on in amazement at the word battle over Scottish independence, but that's another story.

 So what was this? A fellow exiled Scot has tweeted as above. The newspaper was the Glasgow based Sunday Herald and seemed to be to be absolutely inoffensive and in fact, given some of the absurd clichéd, tartan bedecked Brigadoonish names unwisely chosen by some, it has let them off more than a touch lightly. How about a pint of Sheepshagger? Or maybe some MòR Tea, Vicar? (There are no vicars to speak of in Scotland.)  Or would your boat be more floated by Sporran Lifter, Kilt lifter, Nessie's Monster Mash, Santa's Swallie or the Terror of Tobermory?

Funnily enough, I am very impressed by Scotland on Sunday's coverage of Scottish brewing and its rival now seems to be setting off down the same path. In fact there are plenty breweries mentioned that I didn't know of, so the article itself, far from being an insult, was serious attempt to look at what's going on and to me at least, informative.  For the uninitiated, probably more so.   (Some of the beers in fact did have some well thought out and interesting names that had local connections without being naff.)  The article actually illustrated that the newspaper was hosting a (slightly pricey) craft beer lunch where, one course lunch sampling of ten Scottish beers was offered.  Something to be welcomed, in principle at least, I'd have thought.

It is hardly the Herald's fault that some of the names are daft.

This isn't a pop at my fellow twitterer.  His take is different, this is just mine. The article can be read here.


Cooking Lager said...

Did he make a twitter storm? I love a twitter storm. It is the mob in action. It is what twitter is for. Outrage in 140 characters or less. There is one every week. Sexism in beer commercials gets a lot of the self-appointed morality police up in arms, and is a fun one to follow. If you are involved in campaigning for a greater appreciation of beer I can understand why boorish stupidity in marketing would annoy you. It may attract Nuts readers (of which I am one) to a brand and sector but put off the Guardian readers (of which I am also one, but less frequently than Nuts). What I don’t get is why it REALLY annoys. A boorish beer name, yeh so what? Don’t drink it. They will get the message if it doesn’t sell.

Tandleman said...

No he didn't. He was just ignored really.

I dislike lots of things. Sometimes they are contradictory. So what?

Zak Avery said...

I'm with Denis. And I'm not sure how it can be viewed as a serious attempt to look at what's going on - aside from presenting a list of beers that you might not have heard of, it does precious little to inform.

To me, it smacks of "Let's just brew any old shite and call it Haggis Hunter". There's no sense that any one of these beers might be more enjoyable than any other, or indeed that there might be a way of choosing any beer other than by "Best Name"

Cooking Lager said...

Yeh Zak, but not every article about beer needs to fulfil some campaign agenda to educate and inform people about beer and promote beer and such like. An article can be an entertaining load of rubbish. Nothing to get worked up about. But maybe we have a different views. I prefer entertaining loads of rubbish to most things. That’s why I like beer blogs. Someone once called me a nihilist. I didn’t see the point of disagreeing.

Zak Avery said...

I agree Cookie - it was Tanders who said it was a serious attempt to look at what's going on.

But sorry if I seem to take it too seriously. I guess having been in the industry for 13 years, written hundreds of thousands of words about it - for money and for fun - and relying on it for a day-to-day living, it might make me a bit more sensitive than most at viewing it a squandering of column inches. Your mileage may vary.

Tandleman said...

I was me indeed. I had regard to the thousands of Scots, nay hundreds of thousands, nay millions who are completely unaware that such variety exists. You would be too if you lived outside the beer bubble - and that's not having a pop - just how it is. Don't be fooled by beer geeks and writing. Scotland is a beer desert for the most part, though there is the odd oasis.These Scots haven't written hundreds of thousands of words on beer and this is all likely to come as news to rather a lot of them.

If it makes even a few curious, then its worthwhile. Serious needs to be taken in context. Of course to the well informed it's just a piece of fluff, but as the descriptions seem to be by the brewers, it gave the breweries a chance to put a point over.

py0 said...

I would like a name to tell me
a) who brewed it
b) roughly what its going to taste like

If that is via a direct description like "mild" "citra" "american black ale" that's fine, if its via some well-known shorthand, eg word you associate with India = IPA, thats fine too.

Anything less informative and I'm liable to skip over it and look at the next pump instead.

Pump Clip Parade pretty much summarises my feelings as to beers I would never order. Stupid name = "we hope this pun distracts you from the shitness of the beer"

Zak Avery said...

I take your point Peter, although that beer bubble is actually my career!

I just think it was a missed opportunity, and the premise - Best Names - a poor starting point. Why not "20 Beers That Prove Scottish Is Best"?

Tandleman said...

And I take yours Zak. At least, even if it could have been better, it wasn't a knocking piece.

Anonymous said...

Even if its a crap list it might educate many people including the beer geeks to the amazing amount of new breweries popping up in Scotland.All beer news in the press is good news.I wish the people behind Camra BEER mag would take notice and start promoting the smaller brewers rather than writing about Black Sheep -Batemans etc.

steve thack said...

The terror of tobermory is a nice pint. isle of mull brewer do nice job, name is link to local history mainly to attract tourist money. (nb this is good not 'zac should be selling' good ;-) always pleased in Scotish pub to drink mull but not half as pleased as finding loch fyne. That said there are good beer guide pubs selling far worse.