QUICK ONE: (A Comically Small Portion of) Food for Thought

Auguste Escoffier in pop art colours.

In 1973 the food critic Henri Gault published ‘The Ten Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine’, crystallising the new movement then sweeping French gastronomy:

  1. Thou shall not overcook
  2. Thou shall use fresh, quality products
  3. Thou shall lighten thy menu
  4. Thou shall not be systematically modernistic
  5. Thou shall seek out what the new techniques can bring you
  6. Thou shall eliminate brown and white sauces
  7. Thou shall not ignore dietetics
  8. Thou shall not cheat on thy presentation
  9. Thou shall be inventive
  10. Thou shall not be prejudiced

(This is the translation given by Paul Freedman in Ten Restaurants That Changed America, 2016. There are many subtly different versions around.)

From this side of the 1980s, Nouvelle Cuisine is a bit of a joke — huge plates, tiny amounts of silly food, very expensive. What yuppies ate. But that list made us think about changes in beer that were taking place in the same period with the rise of micro-brewing and ‘alterno beer’.

Of course some of those commandment don’t directly map (overcooking, sauces) but how about if we rewrite them a bit?

  1. Thou shall not stew good hops.
  2. Thou shall use fresh, quality products.
  3. Thou shall lighten thy beer.
  4. Thou shall not be industrial.
  5. But thou shall seek out what the new techniques can bring you.
  6. Thou shall eliminate brown beer (UK) and yellow beer (US).
  7. Thou shall be transparent about the strength and ingredients of your beer.
  8. Thou shall not prize marketing over quality.
  9. Thou shall be inventive.
  10. Thou shall not be prejudiced.

Of course there are a million exceptions to each of those ‘rules’, as there were in Nouvelle Cuisine as actually practised, but that doesn’t feel to us like a bad summary of where — in the very most general sense — people’s heads were between about 1963 and, say, 2015. (We say 2015 because, in very recent years, something seems to be changing. But that’s just a gut feeling which we’re still probing.)

This feels like a connection Michael Jackson, Charlie Papazian, Garrett Oliver or even Sean Franklin must have made at some point but a quick Google (time is short this morning) doesn’t turn anything up. Pointers welcome in comments below.

To finish, here’s another quote from Freedman:

Nouvelle Cuisine of the 1970s… had two missions that have since gone separate ways: to exalt primary ingredients simply prepared, and to advocate variety resulting from breaking with tradition — new combinations such as Asian fusion.

That sounds a bit like the break between ‘real ale’ and ‘craft beer’, doesn’t it?

Key Points in the Birth of British Alterno-beer?

More on how British beer got from where it was to where it is with this attempt to identify some key points in the development of what we’re beginning to think of as an ‘alterno-beer’ culture. (That is, beer and pubs for awkward sods.)

We’re sure there are lots of points to add and that some of those we’ve come up with aren’t perhaps as significant as we imagine them to be: additions and corrections very welcome, as always. Be gentle with us.

  • Does anyone else see a story of something taking hold outside London and working its way in?
  • For us, the birth of CAMRA and the development in the 1970s-90s of the ‘real ale Mecca’ — pubs with more than three real ales, often from microbreweries — is the direct ancestor of ‘craft beer’.
  • Or did the brown and dusty real ale pub mate with the chromed style bar to create ‘craft beer bars’?
  • So many of the early microbreweries, brewpubs and ‘craft beer’ bars didn’t make it: they were before their time.
  • Please excuse us including the founding of a beer blog as an important event, but we think it was, alright? Back off.

And some gaps:

  • When did UK supermarkets start selling US and Belgian beer?
  • Where was Britain’s first Belgian beer bar and when did it open? The Dovetail opened in around 2000, we think. Any earlier?

Updates 12/07/2012 in red. Updates 19/07/2012 in blue. Updates 24/08/2012 in green.

1963 Homebrewing legalised.
1963 Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood founded in Epsom.
First ‘good beer’/anti-Big Five campaign group.
1971 CAMRA founded. Presents an alternative to ‘monopoly beers’.
1973 Durden Park Beer Circle founded by Dr John Harrison and others. Homebrewing culture institutionalised.
1972 Selby Brewery, North Yorkshire, re-opens after eighteen year hiatus. First British brewing company to open since at least World War II.
1973 Westbury Ales begins brewing at the Miners Arms in Priddy, Somerset. First new brewery.
1974 The Big Book of Brewing by Dave Line published. First really useful homebrewing manual.
1974 Litchborough Brewery founded in Northamptonshire by Bill Urquhart. First new brewery selling to the free trade.
1975 Pollard’s Brewery founded in Stockport by David Pollard. Early microbrewery.
1976 The Hole in the Wall, Waterloo, makes a name as a specialist real ale pub. Early ‘beer exhibition’ real ale specialist pub.
1976 Old British Beers and How to Make Them published by the Durden Park Beer Circle. Inspirational recipes for historic beer styles.
1976 John and Betty Blackwell take over the Barley Mow, St Albans, eventually selling 18 real ales. Early (the first?) ‘beer exhibition’, must-visit real ale pub.
1977 Godson’s brewery opens in Clapton. First new London brewery.
1977 The World Guide to Beer by Michael Jackson published. Inspirational beer Bible.
1978 Ringwood Brewery founded by Peter Austin. Early microbrewery.
1978 Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy by Dave Line published. Inspirational recipes for cloning commercial beers.
1979 Firkin brewpub chain founded by David Bruce. Early microbreweries/new British brewpubs.
1979 Marler’s Bar opened by Tim Martin. First Wetherspoon’s pub.
1979 Butcombe Brewery founded. Early microbrewery.
1980 Two Brewers Off Licence, Pitfield Street, London opens. Makes available German and Belgian beer.
1980 Franklin’s founded by Sean Franklin. Early microbrewery; use of exotic hops.
1982 Pitfield Brewery founded. Revival of historic styles and recipes.
1987 Summer Lightning launched. Early (successful) ‘blonde’ British ale.
1989? West Coast Brewing founded by Brendan Dobbin. ‘Hop-forward’, openly US-influenced British ale featuring ‘new world’ hops.
1990 Alastair Hook sets up Packhorse Brewing in Ashford, Kent. First ‘craft keg’ brewery.
1990 Kelham Island founded by Dave Wickett. Influential in development of ‘craft beer’ culture in the UK.
1990 Michael Jackson’s The Beer Hunter shown on Channel 4. Belgian, German and US beer treated with respect and admiration.
1992 Belgo opens in London. Belgian beer in a trendy bar/restaurant.
1993 Rooster’s founded by Sean Franklin. Yet more ‘hop-forward’ British ale.
1994 Dark Star Brewery founded by Rob Jones. Influential in development of ‘craft beer’ culture in the UK.
1994 Freedom Brewery founded. First UK ‘craft lager’ producer with wide distribution.
1996 Mark Dorber takes over at the White Horse. First (?) ‘craft beer’ pub/bar in the UK.
1997 North Bar opens in Leeds. Early ‘craft beer’ bar.
1999 Meantime Brewing founded by Alistair Hook. German-inspired UK lager and wheat beer production; attempts to revive historic British styles.
2000 Zero Degrees brewpub opens in Blackheath, London. Lager brewing; style-bar and beer geek destination.
2001 Microbar opens in London. Early ‘craft beer’ bar.
2002 Progressive Beer Duty introduced by the Government. Makes opening/running smaller breweries more financially viable.
2004 Thornbridge founded. Early product of ‘noughties’ brewing explosion.
2006 Rake Bar opened. Centre of ‘noughties’ ‘craft beer’ explosion.
2007 Stonch’s beer blog founded. First widely-read UK beer blog.
2007 Brewdog founded. Self-identified ‘craft’ brewery.
2008-2012 London brewing explosion. 7 breweries in London in 2007; 25 open or announced in 2011.
2009 Cask opens in Pimlico. Sign that London might support more than one ‘craft beer’ pub.

Cor, blimey — we’ve used so many distancing quote marks in that, we might as well have put the whole thing in one big pair.