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Real ale and lower division football

This month’s Beer magazine / supplement from CAMRA features an article on the Leyton Orient Supporters’ Club, winner of multiple awards from local CAMRA branches. They host real ale festivals, and have a large number of handpumps, making them the best spot for ale for miles around.

Being a local, I’ve been dragged down to see the O’s by keen evangelists on a couple of occasions, and have even been in the supporters’ club bar. From what I remember, it’s very friendly, extremely well-priced and the beer is in excellent condition. It welcomes both home and away fans. So well done to them for winning all those awards.

However, it got me thinking – I’ve seen quite a few references to lower division football clubs on other beer blogs and beer sites. Is there a direct correlation between people who are into real ale and people who are into lower division football? If so, what’s behind it? Is there an American equivalent?

Boak

11 replies on “Real ale and lower division football”

there’s a definite connection- if i’m being nice, the lower-league/non-league geek and the beer geek share an admirable independence of spirit and a commitment to the values of the small scale and local over the mass market. if i’m being nasty i’d say that they both lack normal social skills. i remember seeing a thick glassed, anoraked gentleman at leyton fc (not even the O’s, many leagues below) making notes on the floodlights, there’s a definite affinity between the ground hopper and the ticker.

I doubt you’ll find minor league teams of any sport in America that have a “real ale” contingent or anything of the sort. We’re lucky if we get Sam Adams or the like at most of the larger venues, with some very few exceptions at the professional level around the country. The rest, including the minors, go for the bottom line of having cheap beer sold at ridiculous prices.

I don’t think you should single out lower teams, particularly. There supporters are just as likely to be into keg as anyone else. However, what they do tend to have are supporters socail clubs, where you just may find real ale. But it’s only the same as, say, rugby clubs, where there’s an equal chance of finding the real thing.

Welcome MB, both your nice and nasty comparisons are interesting observations.

I was certainly thinking that the ground-hopping hobby is not that far removed from ticking. In fact, I’m not being remotely original there, because Gazza Prescott has identified the same thing.

Interesting post.

I think there is a definite connection, and I would agree with mb that it is likely to be due to a rejection of the homogenous and mass-produced. Lower division football fans support their local teams as a way of expressing their identity, and drinking local ale and experiencing the others’ local ale is a natural extension of that. Doesn’t mean every lower-league fan drinks cask-conditioned ale of course.

As for the common lack of social skills…the connection between a tickers/groundhoppers has been made before, but as a lower-league football fan, I would say that meeting in a local pub before a game to chat and banter about the beer and football is an integral part of the lower-league matchday experience.

I went to Leyton Orient with my mate Wee Rossie once – his dad’s a Tranmere fan and they were playing an away fixture at the O’s. Despite knowing about it’s rep for real ale, we completely failed to visit the supporter’s club afterwards. Rubbish, eh.

When I was a teenager I used to support my local non-league team with my dad. The beer at the club was terrible.

to throw my name into the hat – I avidly support Leeds Utd (who I think we can now all agree are a lower league team – as much as that hurts!) and one thing that made me smile this season was Leeds Brewery, who are only up and coming themselves, aligning themselves with the club immediately by creating a fan-named beer called Radebeer. We voted for the name, and 10p of the price went to the club as a donation!
Although I would not say the majority of Leeds fans a real ale drinnkers, the beer was popular when served in the Elland Road bar (Billy’s Bar). It certainly brought Leeds Utd and Leeds Brewery together in a way that surprised many. and there are many social’s in Leeds serving great ale – Guiseley being one.

Welcome Mwp and Leigh. So perhaps there is a connection, but it’s a lot more complex than “lower division football fan = nerd = real ale lover!”

Breweries could do well to align themselves with local clubs, because as MWP suggests, if fans have already taken the step to support something small and local, they may well be tempted to extend that passion to a local ale, even if they’re not ale drinkers? Certainly the Leeds example is very interesting.

I disagree with the comment from ES Delia, about bad beer at minor league baseball. Perhaps it is regional, but in the non-farm (not AA or AAA) St. Paul Saints stadium they serve our local micos and had a special beer contract brewed for them. In the Madison Mallards stadium they serve great Wisconsin micros like new Glarus. It’s a big country, so what is true in the grain belt is probably different from the bible belt etc.

Brendan, you guys also have Great Taste of the Midwest and some fantastic breweries! On the East Coast & Southern US, I think it’s a little harder to come by good beer at sporting events, and I have a feeling that much of the country is in similar straits.

In Seattle (well, it’s not really minor league) the Mariners (baseball) and I believe the Seahawks (american football) have contracts with Pyramid Breweries. Now, it’s not “REAL ALE” but in the good Ole U.S. of A. it’s “craft” beer.

The Cubs (baseball) have been affiliated with Old Style since 1950. It’s not craft, but it’s definitely the beer that goes with the Cubs. The Cardinals (baseball) have that partnership with AB, but also you can find most of the Schlafly products available at the games.

At the place where the St. Louis Blues play (hockey) they had more Schlafly taps than I knew beers that Schlafly produced.

Real Ale, isn’t connected so much with a team here as “Craft Brewery” is.

V

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