Here’s all the writing about beer from the past week that most engaged, informed or entertained us, from the Fall of the Craft Beer Empire to Gamma Ray in Waitrose.
Well, most of the past week — we wrote this post at breakfast time on Friday and scheduled it to post, so if anything exciting happened on Friday afternoon, we probably missed it. We are now on holiday for a week and a bit which means no round-up next weekend. If you want a fix of links in the meantime check out Stan Hieronymus’s Monday post and Alan McLeod’s on Thursday.
“Have you noticed a decline in the demand for craft beer? Why do you think this is?”
I stared at the question, cognitive dissonance making me feel momentarily floaty…. The reason I was confused is that it hasn’t happened – not yet. When I got these questions, I’d just delivered the keynote speech to the SIBA conference. To write it, I’d had to do a lot of digging. I’d discovered that craft beer volume increased by 23 per cent last year, and that analysts are predicting continued growth until at least 2021. I’d learned that business leaders in the food and beverage industry had named craft beer the most important trend across the whole of food and drink – comfortably ahead of low alcohol drinks, artisan coffee and craft spirits – for the fifth year running.
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.)
This sour blueberry beer is the fourth and final beer suggested to us by Dina (@msswiggy) and is the result of a collaboration between London’s Beavertown and Somerset’s Wild Beer Co.
I’m convinced this is a medicinal tonic, may its healing powers grant you great health. It’s the bay leaf that really makes this beer. It’s a bit like a carbonated smoothie, but not as sweet. I couldn’t decide if I wanted a bit more blueberry from it, or if it was perfect as it is. I’m no brewer – I trust Wild Beer with my life.
We paid £11.50 for a 750ml bottle from Beer Gonzo. The packaging is more Wild Beer Co than Beavertown being screen-printed and sealed with bright blue wax. Its ABV is 5.5% and there is no foundation style, as such, as their website explains:
We made a base beer out of spelt and buckwheat and infused bay leaves to give some gentle spice, the beer has been fermented with the Wild Beer Co’s own strain of wild yeasts. After fermentation we have added more than a ton of Blueberries.
We really didn’t know what to expect other than that, foolishly, we thought it might be blue, and were also bracing ourselves for some extreme funky sourness.
One of the most critical and questioning voices in the world of British beer is not a writer but a brewer: Jon Kyme of Stringers.
When he blogs, it is usually because someone has provoked him by, for example, making a claim in marketing material that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and he often adopts indirectly the persona of ‘The Professor‘ to deliver lectures laced with economics, science and philosophy.
On Twitter, he often posts acidic sub-Tweets picking up on factual errors, grandiose claims, or even just typos. In comments on various blogs, he is similarly sharp, in both senses of the word.