There's an interesting and somewhat provocative article by Caroline Nodder who is the editor of both the print and on-line versions of the Publican, in the Publican On Line today. Basically when you boil it down, she is saying that there's too much beer geekery around and it and the brews it spawns are doing the industry a power of no good at all. She says "I’m worried that the revival of the cask ale sector has gone to some people’s heads.....What we have is a wave of over-indulgent niche brews that are only going to be of interest to beer geeks."
Now I'd say she's wrong on a number of points when she expends her argument, as clearly the niche brews she is concerned about are not likely to be on cask and anyway, no real ale brewer is going to risk its future by a deliberate dependency on brews that are of limited interest and saleability. Nor for that matter will producers of such bottled exotics as exist. They have their own markets and that's what they aim for. Not that I'm hugely bothered about most of them, but I don't think experimental or adventurous bottled beers - for that is what most of them are - are likely to change the brewing industry as a whole, for better or worse, despite the wishful thinking that I have remarked on before. Nonetheless there is an underlying point that building the on trade with modern interpretations of classic British brewing is the way to go for most. Where she is wrong again is in her assertion that few such beers and brewers exist. Clearly she is unaware of the activities of Phoenix, Pictish, Dark Star, Purity, Elland, Crouch Vale, Thornbridge and many more. Even Adnams are branching out a bit and the slow moving Family Brewers are starting to turn their own Titanic round, little by little. Horror of horrors, I'll even give a nod to Lovibonds here.
Caroline goes on to say "I’m not going to be overly popular with some of my fellow beer writers for saying this but they haven’t helped the situation by indulging brewers in their shoe-gazing activities either." Now I've always argued that brewers should concentrate on their pub trade and producing beers that people want to drink in volume and have argued the toss with fellow beer writers on these points many a time. It's still a bit of a departure though to see some of us accused of counter productive fawning and doing actual harm to beer and pubs. I do know that most beer writers and bloggers care deeply about the future of beer and brewing and indeed, pubs, despite leaning sometimes too far in their indulgence of certain brewers and over-reverence of the exotic. I can therefore imagine quite a few being a little miffed by her opinion of them when they read the article. Still, comment is comment and needs to be looked at seriously when it comes from such a source.
While we may disagree with her conclusions, there is a lot to think about in what she says. It is (among other things)a warning that as beer writers, we shouldn't move too far from the majority and and that we need to think a little more clearly of how we can sometimes appear to those who agree with her statement " I am passionate about beer, just as passionate as they are, but from a drinker’s perspective. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what I like. "
We are all just drinkers in the end and the more we move from that to geekery, the less we'll matter.The majority isn't always wrong.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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