London-centricity & Blogs Around Britain

Pie & Mash shop, East London.

Our post on under- and over-exposed UK breweries prompted a comment from Tandleman suggesting London breweries get unfair attention.

In sub­se­quent com­ments and on Twit­ter, oth­ers enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly agreed. Is there some­thing in what he says?

Numb3rs

There are now almost 80 brew­eries in Lon­don (about 6 per cent of the total num­ber in the UK) but, when we chal­lenged our­selves, we could name only 13 off the top of our heads. Bear­ing in mind that, com­pared to most peo­ple, we pay pret­ty close atten­tion, that sug­gests there are a good num­ber of Lon­don brew­eries about which no-one is talk­ing very much at all.

Then there’s this list of the brew­eries our read­ers think are ‘the usu­al sus­pects’:

 Adnams (Suf­folk) | Batham’s (West Mid­lands) | Beaver­town (Lon­don) | Brew­Dog (Aberdeen­shire) | Brodie’s (Lon­don) | Bux­ton (Der­byshire) | Cam­den (Lon­don) |  The Ker­nel (Lon­don) | Mag­ic Rock (West York­shire) | Red Wil­low (Cheshire) | Siren (Berk­shire) | Thorn­bridge (Der­byshire) | Wild Beer Co (Som­er­set)

That’s thir­teen brew­eries of which four are Lon­don-based – clear­ly more than its fair share. (Though some were sug­gest­ed by peo­ple who believe Lon­don-cen­tric­i­ty is an issue so that’s a bit cir­cu­lar.)

Here are a few more lists that might also be help­ful:

Our gut feel­ing on digest­ing all of that is that Lon­don brew­eries prob­a­bly are slight­ly over-rep­re­sent­ed, but not huge­ly.

Demographics

Lon­don has a pop­u­la­tion of 8.5 mil­lion (city) or 9.8m (greater urban area) mean­ing that some­thing like 14 per cent of every­one in the entire UK lives in Lon­don.

For com­par­i­son, Man­ches­ter has 500,000/2.5m (3.9 per cent) and Birm­ing­ham 1m/2.4m (3.8 per cent).

There are also reck­oned to be ‘over twice as many 25 to 29 year olds in Inner Lon­don than in the rest of Eng­land’ and the medi­an age of a Lon­don­er in 2012 was 34 com­pared with 39.7 for the rest of the UK.

In oth­er words, the kind of peo­ple who drink ‘craft beer’ and write blogs (can any­one find a bet­ter source than this?) are more like­ly to live in Lon­don, and they are, of course, going to write about the beers to which they have access.

The Mainstream is OK

Though this arti­cle in the Inde­pen­dent last week was a bit of a mis-fire (‘Lon­don is still the craft beer cap­i­tal’) it seems to us that pro­fes­sion­al jour­nal­ists and their edi­tors go out of their way to avoid being Lon­don-cen­tric.

For exam­ple, Will Hawkes, who lives in Lon­don, has rec­om­mend­ed 37 beers in the Inde­pen­dent in the last year, 8 of them from Lon­don.

The Guardian’s Tony Nay­lor is based in Man­ches­ter and wrote this notably Man­ches­ter-cen­tric arti­cle, as well as guides to pubs and bars in Glas­gowLeeds and Liv­er­pool.

What’s missing?

Where there is a gap in region­al cov­er­age is, unfor­tu­nate­ly, the blo­goshire.

A few years ago, beer blog­ging was all but dom­i­nat­ed by Leeds. Now, Leigh Lin­ley has tak­en a job in the indus­try and tem­porar­i­ly put his blog on hia­tus; Zak Avery posts infre­quent­ly (though it’s always good when he does); while oth­ers have moved to oth­er parts of the coun­try, had chil­dren, or oth­er­wise run out of steam.

By their own admis­sion, Birm­ing­ham blog­gers Dan Brown and David Ship­man are both ‘semi-retired’.

And our favourite Bris­tol beer blog has­n’t post­ed since 2013.

Mean­while, two of the UK’s most con­sis­tent­ly read­able, fun­ny, enter­tain­ing, inter­est­ing and vis­i­ble blog­gers, Chris Hall and Matt Cur­tis, are based in Lon­don.

In con­clu­sion, if writ­ing about beer is Lon­don-cen­tric, and it might be a bit, it’s part­ly because Lon­don is both­er­ing to write about beer.

This was meant to be a quick before-break­fast post and we haven’t had much time to dou­ble-check facts and fig­ures. By all means ques­tion or cor­rect us in the com­ments below.

33 thoughts on “London-centricity & Blogs Around Britain”

  1. Might also add that Lon­don has >10% if the nation’s pubs. Oh, and > 10% of CAMRA mem­bers live here too.

  2. I live miles away from Lon­don, in a region dom­i­nat­ed by small, tra­di­tion­al brew­eries (Nor­folk), so I’d like to think that I don’t have a bias. Over half of those ‘usu­al sus­pects’ are amongst my favourite brew­eries. So maybe they are just any good and deserve all that atten­tion. Or maybe I am just eas­i­ly led 🙂

  3. Iron­i­cal­ly one of the only times I ever see posts about Lon­don brew­eries and bars is on Tan­dle­man’s blog.

  4. Not so long ago, the only beer from Lon­don I could have named would have come from Fullers. Does this mean that Lon­don­ers had a near blank slate (like the USA) and as such are not restrained by tra­di­tion. Less ‘bor­ing brown bit­ter’ that although well made is hard­ly going to fill col­umn inch­es and more stuff that is new or inter­est­ing and is actu­al­ly worth writ­ing about.

  5. Leeds blog­ging was­n’t just about Leigh and Zak, though cer­tain­ly they are two of the most promi­nent and ear­li­est blog­gers. What about hopzine.com, beer­p­ro­le, Ghost Drinker, and dare I say it, myself? We were all proud to be part of a thriv­ing scene which many of those writ­ers are still in – though some of us have sad­ly moved on to pas­tures new.

    1. Could­n’t list you all! You’re includ­ed under moved away/babies. Am I right in think­ing you live in Lon­don and work in St Albans now?

    2. all of those (with excep­tion of maybe hopzine (vlog not blog ;)) have seen a dra­mat­ic decline in num­ber of posts, as has broad­ford brew­er.

      In fact most UK beer blogs with excep­tion of the afore­men­tioned chris, matt, tandie, mudgie and B&B all seem to have declined (myself includ­ed)

      1. I think you’ll find that both my and Tan­dle­man’s out­put has sub­stan­tial­ly dimin­ished, although I’d say Twit­ter was the main rea­son in my case rather than lack of time or loss of inter­est. Very often now I will just link to some­thing on Twit­ter rather than do a short blog­post about it, although the lat­ter would gen­er­al­ly pro­voke more dis­cus­sion. I have said to myself that I should do more snip­pet-type blog­posts, but in prac­tice it has­n’t hap­pened.

        There is quite a sub­stan­tial body of cur­rent­ly active North-West based beer blogs – see the side­bar here. One that sad­ly seems to have dropped off the radar recent­ly is Red­Nev 🙁

        Anoth­er fac­tor is that some­one from Birm­ing­ham or Leeds is much more like­ly to vis­it Lon­don from time to time than a Lon­don­er doing the oppo­site, as Lon­don is the cap­i­tal and the hub of the coun­try. As some­one said above, I prob­a­bly read more about actu­al Lon­don pubs from Tan­dle­man than any­where else.

  6. Also I’d refute the the fact Lon­don has always been the cap­i­tal of British beer in the blog­ging age, for years it was woe­ful­ly far beyond the likes of Sheffield, Leeds and Man­ches­ter. Both in num­bers of brew­eries (just 23 as of Good Beer Guide 2013) and in terms of good places to drink those beers – par­tic­u­lar­ly on cask, which was and to a cer­tain extent still is Lon­don’s achillies heel.

  7. I’d have to dis­agree with you to a cer­tain extent as it most cer­tain­ly depends on the blogs you are aware of and read­ing. I could pick out Paul Bai­leys Beer Blog and Look At Brew as just two which cov­er local brew­eries and events (in Kent and Sus­sex respec­tive­ly).
    As for myself I am now look­ing towards my home coun­ty of Essex, par­tic­u­lar­ly with ref­er­ence to two of my last three posts, and have stat­ed that the local beer seen is my focus for this year. I realise that it was under-rep­re­sent­ed, and this was one of the rea­sons that we start­ed Beer East Anglia, and even though Lon­don was on our doorstep so to speak, beer in Essex is large­ly over­looked by those of us who live there. I’m sure this isn’t pecu­liar to my coun­ty either, with the shiny craft beer bars of the big city attract­ing our atten­tion (guilty as charged) but I feel we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to our­selves to help facil­i­tate change and edu­ca­tion at a local lev­el.
    I think that the rise of brew­eries fol­low­ing the Lon­don mod­el but, us locals, well we don’t like change do we?

  8. My com­ment was kind of tongue in cheek, but most beer blog­ging and indeed most beer writ­ing does­n’t reflect real drink­ing any more than the craft beer rev­o­lu­tion does. In vast swathes of the coun­try peo­ple just go about their boozy busi­ness car­ing not a jot about such things.

    Beer blog­ging has changed too. Most of us were just ama­teurs, now many are pro­fes­sion­al, or aspir­ing pro­fes­sion­als who push their own agen­da. Some are not, but sad­ly, the best writ­ing tends to come from those who see it as a career, though frankly it isn’t always to this read­er at least, the most inter­est­ing. Blog­ging about every­day beery expe­ri­ences is what is on the wane as it the com­mu­ni­ty feel­ing we used to have in beer blog­ging. The pas­sion – if there is any is in self pro­mo­tion and being pos­i­tive about beer no doubt with one eye on the career.

    What we need I think is more crit­i­cal com­ment? Where’s the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty?

    So if Lon­don shines and gets more men­tions than it actu­al­ly deserves, it shines for the rea­son it always does. It is where the mon­ey is.

    1. Fun­ni­ly enough, we had tongue-in-cheek in the first draft and then thought it safest to leave it out.

  9. Thanks for the very kind words guys – It’s immense­ly kind of you and real­ly appre­ci­at­ed.

    Chris and I often talk about try­ing not to be Lon­don-cen­tric but we are so very *immersed* in the beer cul­ture down here and some­times you’ve just got to go with what you know. We are work­ing on a project that we hope is going to pro­mote the very best parts of the UK’s beer cul­ture and, along with our col­leagues Ruari O’Toole and Craig Heap (excel­lent New­cas­tle and Cardiff based blogs by the way) we’ve done an awful lot of trav­el­ling these past few months to try and find it. Hope­ful­ly what­ev­er does­n’t make it into the fin­ished ver­sion of what we’re work­ing on will sur­face on our blogs and go towards mak­ing what we do much less focused on the cap­i­tal.

    It’s fun­ny though because what I write about the brew­eries peo­ple have said we’re pay­ing too much atten­tion to gets far more inter­est and clicks on my blog. I felt that I’d writ­ten some real­ly inter­est­ing pieces on my win­ter trav­els to the US includ­ing a trip to the fas­ci­nat­ing sour beer pro­duc­tion facil­i­ty at New Bel­gium but the arti­cles I wrote about brew­ing with Cam­den got almost three times as many hits as those I wrote about my trav­el expe­ri­ences.

    I guess that inside the beer bub­ble hear­ing about the same old thing can get a lit­tle bor­ing and repet­i­tive but the evi­dence is there to sup­port that more peo­ple are inter­est­ed in read­ing about brew­eries they can eas­i­ly expe­ri­ence such as Cam­den, Adnams and Beaver­town – brew­eries that they can buy beers from pret­ty eas­i­ly with­out hav­ing to look too hard. These peo­ple out­side the bub­ble who don’t spend time on twit­ter or write blogs or com­ments on blogs but do enjoy read­ing about some­thing that is both excit­ing and tan­gi­ble.

    I think there are prob­a­bly a lot more young beer blogs that already exist, bub­bling away under the sur­face that we don’t know about yet. We’ve just got to find them and encour­age them to post more – I cer­tain­ly feel like I would­n’t have got­ten estab­lished as I am now with­out encour­age­ment from peo­ple like your­selves, Melis­sa Cole, David Bish­op and Zak Avery, to name just a few.

    1. the evi­dence is there to sup­port that more peo­ple are inter­est­ed in read­ing about brew­eries they can eas­i­ly expe­ri­ence such as Cam­den, Adnams and Beaver­town – brew­eries that they can buy beers from pret­ty eas­i­ly with­out hav­ing to look too hard.

      I’m afraid that’s a very Lon­don-cen­tric per­spec­tive! I see Adnams beers every week at the super­mar­ket, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of the oth­ers, in bot­tle or on tap. Dark­est Man­ches­ter here.

      1. You see Cam­den Hells, very, very occa­sion­al­ly, but I’ve nev­er been both­ered to try it.

        Beaver­town were one of those brew­eries I always read about but nev­er saw in real life, but in the past 12 months their bright­ly coloured cans are sud­den­ly absolute­ly every­where from posh burg­er restau­rants to street food stalls to the fridges of unlike­ly pubs.

      2. Depends a bit on where you are, prob­a­bly? Cam­den seem to be a fair­ly stan­dard choice for pubs around here that are try­ing to “do craft” by stick­ing on one or two non-macro keg lines, but I’d imag­ine that the fur­ther you are from their dis­tri­b­u­tion range, the less like­ly they are to show up. Which sug­gests in turn that if this stuff is pop­u­lar on blogs because it’s famil­iar, then a lot of the read­ers of those blogs are based in Lon­don and the South East where Cam­den and Beaver­town are famil­iar. More North­ern read­ers might be more like­ly to fol­low a link to an arti­cle about Mag­ic Rock or Mar­ble…

        In gen­er­al, I can under­stand peo­ple not being that inter­est­ed in blog arti­cles about the writer hav­ing been to an amaz­ing place that you’ll prob­a­bly nev­er go and drunk an awe­some beer that you’ll prob­a­bly nev­er get to try. I’m rel­a­tive­ly geeky about beer, but what­ev­er inter­est­ing per­spec­tive the author’s come up with I’d rather read about stuff that I might actu­al­ly drink at some point. But then, the inter­est­ing mid­dle ground – and I think what this dis­cus­sion is real­ly about – is how much inter­est you get for blog­ging about UK brew­eries whose stuff is fea­si­ble to track down but which aren’t writ­ten about so often.

      3. I was in Man­ches­ter research­ing the project I’m writ­ing back in Novem­ber, Phil and out of 11 pubs I vis­it­ed on that trip Cam­den and Beaver­town were in more than half of them. I was actu­al­ly a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed, I want­ed to be sur­prised by some­thing local I had­n’t heard of yet!

        1. That has­n’t been my expe­ri­ence – although to be hon­est I don’t always scru­ti­nise the keg taps very close­ly! As for being sur­prised, you prob­a­bly went too far up (up?) the craft scale. I can think of a few very old-school ‘pub­by’ pubs where the beer range is most­ly noth­ing very unusu­al but some­where small & rel­a­tive­ly local is reg­u­lar­ly fea­tured. One of my locals, the Beech in Chorl­ton, has a core range of Land­lord, TT Gold­en Best, Sum­mer Light­ning… and some­thing from Sala­man­der (Brad­ford). Or there’s the city cen­tre pub which majors on Moor­house, but with a cou­ple of beers from Green Mill (Sad­dle­worth).

          What you’re not like­ly to find, in pubs like these, is any indi­vid­ual beer that’s par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing or out­landish – but if they were, they would have been picked up on the craft radar & made it into the spe­cial­ist bars. Black­jack are a great exam­ple of a brew­ery which has made exact­ly this jour­ney, from two or three shades of brown bit­ter to a bizarre assort­ment of beers that can’t be described in few­er than three words – and which you’ll gen­er­al­ly find in places with mul­ti­ple keg taps!

  10. over twice as many 25 to 29 year olds in Inner Lon­don than in the rest of Eng­land”

    Did­n’t that seem a bit odd to you as you wrote it? And, well, com­plete­ly improb­a­ble?

    I expect you meant, “As a pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, there are over twice as many 25 to 29 year olds in Inner Lon­don than in the rest of Eng­land”.

    That’ll prob­a­bly be about right. The rea­sons for this bizarre demo­graph­ic dis­tor­tion are prob­a­bly quite inter­est­ing.

    More gen­er­al­ly, why do we insist on mak­ing com­par­isons between Lon­don and either “Every­where Else” or “Small­er City” when more mean­ing­ful com­par­isons would be with the oth­er regions like the “North-West” or “East Mid­lands”. Lon­don isn’t a city, it’s a col­lec­tion of more-or-less crap towns near a city. Like the oth­er regions.

    1. That’s what we assumed the source we’re quot­ing meant but, no, it’s not expressed very clear­ly; if we have time, well try to actu­al­ly look at the cen­sus data. At any rate, there are loads of young peo­ple in Lon­don, is the point.

        1. That’s a sug­ges­tive point @mudgie, we could make some guess­es about the cul­tur­al back­grounds of those young peo­ple (he said, care­ful­ly), and we could prob­a­bly guess that a lot of them aren’t blessed with the dis­pos­able income required to par­take in Lon­don’s Craft Beer Explo­sion. I’m guess­ing it’s less sig­nif­i­cant than it looks.

          @B&B Inner Lon­don (pop ca. 3.5m ?) has an excess of about 7% in that age group, so some­thing like 250k peo­ple more than you’d expect

          i.e. some­thing like 12% of the UK’s 25–29s live in inner Lon­don. I won­der where they go when they grow up?

          1. This might be more use­ful infor­ma­tion: 60% of inner Lon­don work­force made up of uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ates Lon­don work­force now 60% grad­u­ates – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25002401

            Anec­do­tal­ly, lots of Lon­don twen­ty-some­things are like me: grew up some­where small, stud­ied in a sleepy mar­ket city, moved to Lon­don for work/thrills, became old and bor­ing, moved away. Most of my pals from Lon­don now live in St Albans, Bath, and places like that.

          2. Birm­ing­ham, accord­ing to the lat­est data. No. 1 des­ti­na­tion for peo­ple mov­ing out of Lon­don.

    2. The North West (M’cr + Liv­er­pool + etc), the North East (New­cas­tle + Sun­der­land + etc), West York­shire (Leeds + Brad­ford + Sheffield), the West Mid­lands (Birm­ing­ham + Coven­try + Wolver­hamp­ton), the Bit of Scot­land Where Peo­ple Actu­al­ly Live (Glas­gow + Edin­burgh), Wales Dit­to (Cardiff + Swansea + P’Tal­bot)… Any oth­er pop­u­lous regions? A lot of the coun­try is basi­cal­ly sheep.

      Lon­don’s bloody big, though – if you go as far out as Read­ing or Craw­ley you’re still in the cul­tur­al & eco­nom­ic rain shad­ow of the place. The Lon­don Region would still be twice the size of any of the oth­ers.

      1. Nope. If we’re talk­ing NUTS (and why not) the South East pips Lon­don. See what I mean? We tend to assume that Lon­don is big­ger (and more impor­tant?) than it is. It becomes a self-ful­fill­ing delu­sion. Ho hum.

  11. I stopped blog­ging from the wastes of Wirral. The Lon­don types seem to have more to talk about – new brew­eries, new bars, meet the brew­ers, fan­cy imports, invites.….…..

    My son is 26 is and lives in Liv­er­pool. His girl friend is a nurse who works shifts and if she’s work­ing week­ends he often does­n’t go out because most of his friends are work­ing in Lon­don which has sucked in all the worth­while jobs.

Comments are closed.