Efforts to boost the pub trade often focus on nagging those who already go to go more often, and to more pubs, and drink more while they’re there. This seems misguided to us.
We go to the pub several times a week — more often than most of our friends and family — but sometimes feel under pressure from the collective weight of pub campaigners, messages from the trade, and fellow enthusiasts, to pull a bit more weight. Don’t ask us for specific examples — this is just a sense we’ve picked up over several years drifting about in the conversation.
But we reckon the saving of the pub (if it needs saving — an entirely different conversation) is in making it a normal part of everyday life for more and different people. We have plenty of acquaintances who used to go to the pub, who have a good time at the pub when they do, but just… don’t.
Last year, the total economic impact of the beer brewing industry in the state of Maine was approaching the same scale as the lobster industry. Let that sink in for a second.
What leaps out at us from Ms. Lauter’s post is the omission of pubs and off licences (bottle shops) which are not (usually) breweries but are a considerable step up in terms of fundamental importance from some of the examples she gives, e.g. a firm that makes fancy bottle-openers.
And that’s one way of cutting this:
Businesses that are essential to drinking beer.
Those that can enhance the enjoyment of beer.
Parasitic businesses that add little or nothing.
Tempting as it is to spend the entire post ripping into number three — all the press releases we get about beer-flavoured soaps — we’re going to focus on something we think belongs in that middle section, even if at first glance it might seem classically parasitic: T-shirts and hats and the like.
We’ve been collecting these beer advertisements from booklets and magazines published in the celebratory period from the 1951 Festival of Britain to the Coronation in 1953 and, though we’ve shared the odd one on Twitter before, thought we ought to collect them in one place.
Here’s a little detail that caught our eye in the Boddington’s Brewery board minute books, from August 1963: an order for pump clips.
Advertising — Pump Clips.
It was decided to place an order with Nightingale Signs Ltd for 5000 Pump Clips, yellow barrel design, at 3 and 4 each, to be apportioned as follows:-
2500 Bitter Beer 1250 Best Mild 1250 Mild
We didn’t notice any earlier reference to pump clips in these documents, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any — we had half a day to read the lot and might have just missed them. And even if this is the first mention of pump clips, it might just be that no-one bothered to write it down before this point.
But, still, our gut feeling is that this was recorded precisely because it was the first time — it was something new for Boddington’s, and literally remarkable.
We’re working on an article about mild in the 21st century, research for which prompted this statement in an email from Andy Smith at Partizan:
The beer was originally simply called mild… We then decided to rebrand as X… This worked OK but not as well as we’d hoped. It was at this stage we put dinosaurs on the label and sales rocketed! I kid you not. It sells as well if not better now as our other dark beers. Dinosaurs! Now we spend our weekends hearing how cute the dinosaurs are (recently changed) and answering the question what is X?
That’s funny, of course, but also made us think, ‘Huh. So craft beer drinkers are like children?’
We’ve observed before, as has almost everyone else who’s written a tedious think-piece on the subject, that craft beer in cans has been successful partly because they are tactile and colourful, bright and toy-like. Beavertown Brewery’s cartoon-laden designs in particular suggest material for an (admittedly slightly weird) animated series and also make them look like a bit like soft drinks. (Gamma Ray more so than this example we have at hand.)
And sometimes, with fruit and residual sweetness and novelty flavourings and higher carbonation, the hippest beers can taste a bit like soft drinks too.
Of course we checked ourselves fairly promptly: one person’s infantile is, of course, another person’s fun, and we understand that you humans enjoy this emotion fun is good.
And even if it is infantile, is that a bad thing? One key reason people drink is to reduce the pressures of adult life and the pub is where grown-ups go to play.
This is a question we’re going to have in mind from now on, though, especially when we find ourselves considering the generation gap between real ale culture and craft beer. (Def 2.)