Category Archives: opinion

Somewhere Between Passion and Greed

We stick by the idea that most brewers, or most craft brewers — cut it how you like — are motivated more by passion than greed.

But let’s unpack that word ‘passion’ a bit: it doesn’t necessarily mean gibbering, cultish fervour. How many people are really passionate about what they do to pay the rent? But plenty of people have jobs they find interesting, stimulating and enjoyable; and, if they didn’t, would probably go and do something else instead.

That’s not to say that someone who starts a brewing business doesn’t hope that, at the very least, the venture will cover its costs, and that they don’t set out with the dreams of making a few quid down the line.

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‘It’s Meant to be Like That’: 2015 Edition

Tandleman has long been an outspoken critic of unfined beer, primarily on the grounds that hazy beer looks bad and, in his experience, usually tastes bad.

We haven’t always been receptive to that — the idea that clear = tasty, cloudy = rough is, we’re certain, a learned cultural prejudice — but in recent months, Mr T has made an ever-more persuasive case for why everyone should share his concern: it is confusing people, dragging down the quality of cask ale overall, or at least threatens to, and is damaging public confidence.

We’re not completely convinced there’s a trubocalypse underway, not least because most ‘normal’ pubs and the people who drink in them aren’t remotely interested in the politics of unfined beer. The following recent Twitter exchange, however, suggests there might well be an issue at the specialist end of the market (click the date below to read the whole thread):

Now, half-arsed bar staff have been using ‘It’s meant to be like that’ as a deflection probably for as long as beer has been sold — we remember being given a pint of vinegar in a pub in Salisbury and the chap behind the counter insisting ‘real ale is meant to have a tang to it’ — but this new angle on the same wheeze isn’t good news.

Perhaps hazy-beer-brewers labelling their products with a warning is no longer sufficient — maybe breweries who want their beer served bright should also state that clearly on the pump-clips and keg lenses, and shout about it on social media? It would be difficult for bar staff to say ‘Oh, it comes hazy’ if the point-of-sale material states boldly otherwise. And there’s plenty of historical precedent:

Brickwoods advertisement, 1912.
From 1912.

Cloudwater specifically has another problem: that name, which rather implies that all its beers might be ‘fantastically cloudy‘.

What Do We Mean by ‘Variety’?

When we’re asked what we want from British beer culture we tend to say ‘Variety,’ but what exactly does that mean?

The story of Brew Britannia is arguably that of the journey — dare we say of progress? — from homogeneity to variety. A Which? magazine article from April 1972 sums up where thing were at back then:

Our tasters thought none smelt very strongly in the glass — none were either unpleasant or very pleasant… As far as taste went, the overwhelming impression of our tasters was that none of the keg beers had an very characteristic taste… We can see little reason for preferring one keg bitter to another…

But 43 years on, it’s not unusual to hear even hardened beer geeks emit the occasional whine about the ‘agony of choice’.

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Trousered on Craft

Stumbling home the other night, we reached a conclusion: the biggest problem with ‘craft’ beer (def. 2) is that it gets us more drunk than ‘normal’ beer.

It’s a multi-pronged attack.

First, it seems to us generally stronger. Whereas old-school breweries are pushing best bitters at c.4%, trendier breweries tend to have as their flagship products pale ales and IPAs at 5-6% ABV.

Then, secondly, that almost inevitably forces special releases and one-offs into high ABV territory and, let’s be honest, to people like us, those are all but irresistible, quite apart from the fact that big flavours paired with big booze often tastes so nice.

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One to Watch: Sarah Warman, Influencer

A while ago, we thought aloud about whether there was anyone talking or writing about beer with anything like the ability of Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith to mention a product and immediately cause it to sell out across the country.

Though she’s not quite there, we reckon Sarah Warman (@sarahfwarman) might be the one to watch. (Literally.)

Back in 2011, we joined Twitter because we were frustrated by the BBC’s blank refusal to mention beer in any substantial way on its flagship weekend cookery show Saturday Kitchen and wanted to join in a campaign to encourage them to reconsider. It didn’t really work.

In recent months, however, without much fanfare, Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch (another show following much the same template of light chat around a cooker) has done what we all wanted and made beer a semi-regular feature, with Ms. Warman as their in-house expert.

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