On Friday, we asked people to tell us which breweries they think get more than their fair share of attention, and which are being overlooked.
The results were interesting, though perhaps not quite in the way we had hoped.
There are going on for c.1,300 breweries in Britain (the numbers are disputed) but there were hardly any names put forward for either list that were not familiar to us from blog posts or newspaper articles. That rather confirmed our view that, if no-one is raving about Bloggs’s Brew Co of Dufton, it’s probably because the beer it produces is, at best, unremarkable. Or, to put that another way, there are only a handful of breweries really worth writing home about.
The following breweries were named on both lists in one way or another:
- Wild Beer Co
- Red Willow
- Celt Experience
That a brewery could be both over- and under-exposed is surely a result of the contemporary pick’n’mix approach to consuming media. We follow c.750 people on Twitter who won’t be the same people you follow; and we read the blogs on our blog roll (← over there) which won’t be the same blogs you read. We’d say we hear a fair bit about all of the breweries above (though we’ve never written anything about Red Willow or Celt ourselves) probably because we choose what to read with the intention of getting broad geographical coverage.
(But we’re planning a separate post about London-centricity to follow later in the week…)
Now we get to the tricky subject of Oakham, which is apparently the poster-boy for the brilliant-but-overlooked. We think it is probably true that, though it’s hardly ‘ignored’, it does not get talked and written about as much as, say, Magic Rock, and that is largely because it doesn’t ‘play the game’. We’ve never got a response from anyone there to emails or Tweets, and, unlike BrewDog and Magic Rock, the Oakham PR people don’t seem to push out much information through social media. We should also add that, frankly, we think Oakham’s beer has been in the doldrums for the last year or so which is why we didn’t mention them in our Golden Pints post before Christmas.
Another tricky subject is cask-conditioning. While Camden and BrewDog beers might never reach the heights of a great pint of Landlord, nor are their kegged, bottled and canned beers prone (these days…) to huge variations in quality: if we recommend Punk IPA to someone, there’s a good chance that, when they drink it, it will taste similar to the one we had. It is much easier for the hive mind to reach a consensus around consistent products than ones which are occasionally brilliant, especially if consumed within two miles of the brewery on a cool day near the end of the week.
At which point, we should also mention the generally poor quality of bottled beer: dodgy contract bottling, or even dodgier hand-bottling, does brewery reputations no favours. We don’t have access to Mallinson’s much-lauded cask ale but keep buying the bottles, none of which, so far, have really been of acceptable quality. And Redemption’s Trinity is a great cask ale — one of our favourites — but the bottles just don’t show their beer in a good light. So, if we don’t have much to say about these favourite breweries of yours, it’s because we’ve yet to be convinced of their brilliance, and can’t be bothered to write a post saying little more than ‘meh’.