Category Archives: beer in fiction / tv

Adulterated Beer in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

Arabella said she would like some tea, and they entered an inn of an inferior class… They sat and looked round the room, and at the picture of Samson and Delilah which hung on the wall, and at the circular beer-stains on the table, and at the spittoons underfoot filled with sawdust. The whole aspect of the scene had that depressing effect on Jude which few places can produce like a tap-room on a Sunday evening when the setting sun is slanting in, and no liquor is going, and the unfortunate wayfarer finds himself with no other haven of rest.

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Craft Defined in Other Bubbles

If there’s one thing almost everyone is agreed on it’s that they’re bored of bloggers and beer writers trying to define ‘craft beer’ but, this week, we’ve seen some outsiders (suspicious muttering) having a go.

First, there are updates to the Office of National Statistics’ revised standard shopping basket:

Speciality beer/ale has been introduced reflecting the increase in shelf space devoted to craft beers produced by speciality and micro-breweries…

Elsewhere in the paper, they specify ‘Speciality beer/ale, bottled’ and it’s that last word which gives the key to how they’re defining it, as the other beers they include are:

  • Canned lager
  • Canned bitter
  • Bottled lager
  • Canned stout

So, Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell IPA in a can isn’t craft but Bass No 1, in a bottle, is — right, got it! (It’s a perfectly good working definition for their purposes and reflects a category distinction which most people will recognise from trips to the supermarket with their, er, standard shopping baskets.)

Then, on Radio 4 yesterday, Thomas Thurnell-Read, a senior lecturer in sociology at Coventry University, discussed his paper ‘Craft, tangibility and affect at work in the microbrewery‘ with Laurie Taylor. (Listen here at 16:25; via @waxingbeacons.)

He interviewed many micro-brewers in his research and concluded that one of the key characteristics of ‘craft’ as opposed to industrial brewing is ‘an expression of their identity through the product they are making’.

A common story I had from numerous interviewees was this idea that they could sneak into the pub unnoticed, covert, and watch people consuming the product that they had personally been responsible for producing… Quite a lot of brewers spoke of the doors to the brewery being literally or metaphorically open and their customers would come and knock on their door and tell them how much they like the beer they are producing… 

In the last 30 second of the programme, the host asked Dr Thurnell-Read to explain quickly the difference between ‘real ale’ and ‘craft beer’, and, with a sigh, he did his best:

Real ale is a term coined by CAMRA in the early 70s… the carbonation comes from secondary fermentation… Craft beer is a newer term, it’s a lot more broad, and it involves this kind of thing we’ve been talking about — skill, passion… it’s not necessarily real ale.

What all this suggests is that in (sort of) real world conversations people continue to crave a term that distinguishes Those Beers from These Beers.

John Ridd on Beer

We’re both reading R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone at the moment — a pleasingly booze-filled novel.

Published in 1869, it is set in the 17th century, and the following passage occurs when the hero, the burly Exmoor gentleman farmer John Ridd, is a guest at the house of a ‘foreign lady’ near Watchett in Somerset:

John Ridd, uncredited illustration c.1893.
John Ridd, uncredited illustration c.1893.

“Now what will ye please to eat?” she asked, with a lively glance at the size of my mouth: “that is always the first thing you people ask, in these barbarous places.”

“I will tell you by-and-by,” I answered, misliking this satire upon us; “but I might begin with a quart of ale, to enable me to speak, madam.”

“Very well. One quevart of be-or;” she called out to a little maid, who was her eldest child, no doubt. “It is to be expected, sir. Be-or, be-or, be-or, all day long, with you Englishmen!”

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Let There Be Beer 2.0

Last year, big players in the beer industry banded together to run a campaign called Let There Be Beer.

Its ostensible aim was to raise the profile of beer in general terms but, in practice, it ended up being a series of excruciatingly bald product placement opportunities for those who’d provided the funding, e.g. Carlsberg.

As far as we can tell, the public were indifferent — we didn’t see any mention of it among our ‘not beer’ friends on Facebook, for example — and beer geeks, on the whole, found it rather reprehensible. Regulators weren’t keen, either, which seems to have been the final nail in its coffin.

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