Beer: Punchline to its Own Joke


One of the great frus­tra­tions for those involved in ‘beer edu­ca­tion’ (writ­ers, ‘som­me­liers’, those who run tast­ing ses­sions, and so on) is that it just does­n’t get tak­en seri­ous­ly. Here’s ‘A. Drinker’, author of 1934’s A Book About Beer, on that sub­ject:

The names of wines are thought to lend a glam­our and glit­ter to the print­ed page; but put upon the same page the word BEER and it is as if the come­di­an had entered and sat on a chair that was­n’t there.

Leeds-based CAMRA vet­er­an Bar­rie Pep­per echoed those sen­ti­ments when we spoke to him ear­li­er this year: ‘Beer just isn’t tak­en seri­ous­ly… Even in the nineties, I found myself being laughed at when I said I wrote about beer for a liv­ing.’

This used to both­er us – how come wine gets all the respect? All the ‘phi­los­o­phy’ and Oscar-wor­thy films and broad­sheet columns and its own big leather-bound menus in restau­rants?

Increas­ing­ly, though, we’re begin­ning to won­der if a sense of humour might not be beer’s great strength. Don’t most of us, if giv­en the choice, pre­fer to hang out with peo­ple who can laugh at them­selves? Isn’t approach­a­bil­i­ty a great ‘brand val­ue’?

Mak­ing beer needs to be a seri­ous busi­ness, and peo­ple who think, cam­paign and write about it should take care to get their facts straight. They just should­n’t take them­selves too seri­ous­ly, and we should all be grate­ful that beer remains 99% pom­pos­i­ty-free.

Dis­claimer: sta­tis­tic giv­en above rep­re­sents best-esti­mate based; we reserve the right to change our minds tomor­row; and we still don’t have much time for rub­bish ‘saucy’ pump­clips.

4 thoughts on “Beer: Punchline to its Own Joke”

  1. Actu­al­ly, I think it does get tak­en seri­ous­ly now, most of the time – some­times a bit too much so. The exam­ples you’re quot­ing are from a long time ago, and in my expe­ri­ence, as a brewer/“sommelier”/person who con­ducts tasting/whatever, it is now quite rare to encounter some­one who thinks you’re hav­ing a laugh.

  2. Great point! In a way, it reflects a bit what I’ve been think­ing about late­ly. I’ve also lament­ed how lit­tle respect beer gets from food writ­ers, restau­rant crit­ics, etc., even here in CZ. But now I’ve start­ed to won­der how bad a thing that is, and if it isn’t actu­al­ly bet­ter than the forcibly seri­ous way beer is being tak­en by some peo­ple, a good exam­ple of that is how sil­ly beer looks some­times in long stemmed glass­es. Maybe I’ll write some­thing about that.

  3. Good points – although we want beer, and be edu­ca­tion to be tak­en seri­ous­ly, we don’t want it to be as stuffy as most wine com­men­tary.

    It’ll sound like a non sequitur, but a videogames are under­go­ing a sim­i­lar debate – it’s a pow­er­ful, prof­itable cul­tur­al medi­um like cin­e­ma, but it does­n’t get tak­en half so seri­ous­ly as cin­e­ma in com­men­tary and jour­nal­ism. (I’m of/ex film and film and games journo and beer enthu­si­ast…)

    I guess when things are gen­uine­ly of-the-peo­ple, pop­u­lar and pop­ulist it takes a while for them to be deemed wor­thy of seri­ous com­men­tary – though it’s not like beer has­n’t been around for a while! I guess part of the prob­lem in the UK is that by the time peo­ple start­ing tak­ing real beer seri­ous­ly, pubs had been tak­en over by poor qual­i­ty lagers and a whole gen­er­a­tion grew up only expe­ri­enc­ing poor qual­i­ty lagers – which arguably don’t mer­it quite such seri­ous com­men­tary and real beer.

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