Poll: the Provenance of Beer

This poll is now closed.

On Sunday, we drank a great pint of Camden Hells, but were slightly concerned that we didn’t know for sure whether the beer in our glass was brewed in the UK, or in Germany.

We want to know whether transparency about place of manufacture is important to other people, hence this small, extremely unscientific poll.

[yop_poll id=”-2″]

The results of this poll fed into this blog post.

21 replies on “Poll: the Provenance of Beer”

Actually I would have liked an option between “essential” and “nice to know”, although I went for the latter. More transparency about origins and ingredients is always desirable.

If you are saying you would have actively preferred your Camden Hells to be brewed in the UK rather than Germany it’s an interesting reversal of the situation a couple of decades back. Or is it just a case of feeling uneasy about the ambiguity?

I did a blogpost about this a while back entitled Does Provenance Matter? which gratifyingly is the first result if you Google “does provenance matter in beer?”

There are all sorts of reasons that food provenance is an important issue (“health, economic, environmental, social and ethical considerations” – EU Regulation 1169/2011), so a big Yes from me on this.

I think it is nice to know. However the Camden case is a bit different. Their website is loaded with stuff about brewing in London, bringing the brewing of German styles to London… yada yada yada IN LONDON. Quoting content from their own website:

“When ordering beers for the Horseshoe we had to get the lager and wheat beer from Germany and the pale ales from America. Why wasn’t anyone making them in London? Why couldn’t we get great examples of those beers made around the corner from us?

So we decided to be the one to do it; to make the beers we really wanted to drink and to do it in Camden Town.”

I can’t find any reference on their website to any of their beer being brewed in Germany. So their website sets up a false expectation – nigh on an outright lie.

I think that a brewery ought to be out in the open about where and how their beer is produced. It’s a matter of basic honesty.

From the enthusiast point of view, I would say that even more important in these days of widespread contract and cuckoo brewing is knowing in which brewery your beer was actually produced. I wonder how many BrewDog fans would have been impressed to learn that Punk IPA was actually being brewed by Thwaites in Blackburn.

With very few exceptions, any “enthusiast” beer will be quite open about country of origin.

The Punk thing makes me wonder about BD flying the flag for provenance – saying where the beer was brewed was one of the key criteria for calling it ‘craft’, according to James W. Have they expanded capacity so much that they can be sure they’re never going to farm out production again?

More importantly, I’d like to know whether Camden won WBA Best keg beer with beer not brewed by themselves but by Germans.

Agree with Yvan. Fabricating a story to sell your product is no better than Fosters or Peroni. At the extreme end is the horse meat scandal and supermarkets whose only tactic to sell products is obfuscation. But then that’s craft I suppose, marketing first, QC second.

The more customer information on a product the better. It’s there for those that want it, no harm to those that don’t.

All I want to know is abv & price, but you know, if others want to know ingredients, lagering time, hop varieties, product origin then fair play. If it makes you a more discerning drunk, more power to you.

I probably care less about this than about breweries (naming no names) that produce a number of beers that they brand as if they were from a different brewery (as in, using a different name and no mention of the actual brewer, not just a different style of design), particularly when they then present them as “guest ales” in their tied houses.

As far as knowing where exactly a beer was brewed goes – including stuff like the Thwaites / Punk IPA thing, or Sheps contract brewing Asahi as well as this Camden kerfuffle – I don’t care that much where something was brewed, but I’d question the motives of brewers who go out of their way to hide it.

I’d certainly expect a beer with “Camden” on the label to be from that part of London.

‘that we didn’t for sure’ — know is obviously missing, but is this an inference that Camden are contract brewing in Germany? As far as I know, looking at the website, it’s all be done in north London — not entirely sure about the point you are making? Why would you think it was being brewed elsewhere?

Oops – ‘know’ added.

More detail in tomorrow’s post, but some kegged Hells is brewed in Europe, and the fact that we only know this because people told us on Twitter is, we think, a problem.

Be nice to get a comment from Camden (journalist wakes up) about this — didn’t know any of this, interesting point about provenance, something that always provides an itch, if Saison Dupont was brewed in Holland would it be the same etc? We had beer writers wars over Pilsner Urquell in 2005/6 — all got quite feisty.

I mainly care about it because I often make a choice to buy beers from my local area because I feel that by doing so I am helping the local economy. I consciously choose to spend more on those beers than I have to.

I’d be pretty pissed off if Magic Rock weren’t actually making their beer in Huddersfield, but getting it made for them by Adnams (for example). Nothing against Adnams, I really like them, but I would be being ripped off financially and emotionally (no warm fuzzy feeling from ‘buying local’).

Finding out that Thwaites are brewing “Punk” IPA is like discovering that Keith Richard played all the guitar tracks on Never Mind The Bollocks……

If anyone is concerned that that a product is labelled in a way that’s intended (or merely liable?) to mislead the consumer, you could try raising it with trading standards.

I don’t want to dig too deep into the “Craft Beer” bear pit, but in a recent discussion with one of the most seasoned beer writers, I said that for me craft beer had to have two essential elements: provenance and authenticity. Adnams is both, Fullers is both, Titanic is both, Westerham is both. Greene King is neither: viz Morlands, Morrells, Hardy & Hansons, Ridleys, Ruddles. The list goes on. On this measure Brewdog probably would be now but would not have been last year. Trashy Blonde from London? You can argue needs must but you are stepping into dangerous territory. I think Camden are in that dangerous territory. Overstep yourself from a demand perspective and you will find yourself in this quandary. Under those circumstances, fess up and take the flak. It’ll always be worse if you don’t.

There are two qualifiers with provenance. First, where is where? People speak of Ontario beer but there is no local within a space or population that big. There is a bit of the question affinity that creeps into the equation. We like some places more than others. Belgian is better than German perhaps. Would Camden brew in The Netherlands as comfortably? Second, place does not define skill. Finding the best brewery for the job is more important than it being near or even as labelled. For years masses of NY state craft beer was brewed in less than romantic Utica. So, provenance faces the question of prejudice. You can make a better beer at a better price but face turned up noses? Honesty is great as long as it don’t hurt sales.

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