We puzzled over this one a bit. We’ve met the odd brewer and some pub landlords, but that’s about it when it comes to beer people. “Most of the people we know,” we thought, “aren’t that bothered about beer.”
And that’s the market most ale breweries are working in.
People like our mate Jack are where they make the bulk of their money. Jack drinks real ale by default — it’s in his blood and, these days, a cultural prejudice of the educated middle classes. But he won’t go out of his way to try new beers. If he goes to a pub and all the real ale is off, he’ll be disappointed, shrug, and order a Guinness. He’s not bothered enough about beer to walk to another pub.
On our visit to the Oakdale Arms on Sunday, we met another character who struck us as being a typical British real ale drinker. Charlie was a very chatty, friendly bloke who wandered over to say hello. He wanted to know if we were “tickers”, having seen our type before. We denied it hotly, of course. He then told us that his big problem was that the beer he’d been drinking was off, and he didn’t like to change. “I tend to find a beer I like and stick to it,” he said. “I’m not bothered about trying new things.” But he was adamant about one thing: he was a real ale drinker through and through.
How much money can a brewery make by appealing only to ‘beer people’? Or beer geeks, if you like. Not as much as it can by appealing to people who just want a weakish, refreshing pint of ale and becoming their default choice, perhaps.