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 replies on “Beer: Punchline to its Own Joke”

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.

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.

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.

[…] This post from Boak and Bailey jumped into my mind when I read Jeff’s thoughts on a restricted use of the word “lambic” yesterday. It is an understanding of little value to me, being that combination of dreary taxonomy and unspoken branding that one meets too often in claims to the traditional. But it’s one that goes to the root of the quandary that we have in the beery discourse – how to identify and handle facts. […]

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