“What are the up-and-coming beer locations that you see as the next major players in the beer scene?”
That’s the question the people behind Our Tasty Travels have asked for this month’s beer blogging session, leaving us, frankly, stumped.
Seriously, who knows? If we knew, we’d start a bar and/or brewery while railway arches are still cheap.
You don’t make a beer destination such as Prague, Brussels or Munich overnight — either your town has a long history of brewing, or it doesn’t. London has and merely forgot it for a few decades, so perhaps Burton-upon-Trent could pull off the same trick, but we rather doubt it, unless some colossal government intervention occurs.
But what is it that allows a place with no great association with brewing to become a beer destination? Let’s look at Sheffield, for example, which we know is the Hay-on-Wye of beer, even if your Bamberg-obsessed global beer travellers might not have cottoned on quite yet.
- It is well-connected to other towns and cities and is a major regional rail hub.
- Property remains relatively cheap thanks to an unfortunately long period of industrial decline.
- There are tons of students, who can still just about be relied upon to drink more than people with jobs and babies.
- There are also artistic types — a side effect of items 2 and 3, along with attempts by authorities to regenerate the city by designating a creative quarter. Creative types seem, in general, to be the harbingers of ‘craft culture’, with its street food and trendy bars.
- There are lots of good-to-excellent breweries in the city or within delivering distance. Without wanting to go all ‘great man theory’, that is at least partly because of the influence of one person — the late Dave Wickett.
Bristol, where the beer scene has exploded in the last few years, has a similar story to tell.
So, which UK university cities, which also have semi-derelict industrial buildings near the centre where artists might fancy living, are currently lacking a ‘beer scene’?
It’s wishful thinking on our part, perhaps, but parts of Plymouth feel a bit how Bristol did a decade ago, or like Hackney in the early 1990s — beginning to mellow, and the graffiti getting cleverer. It already has a pleasantly hippyish pub selling Belgian beer (the Bread and Roses) which feels like the city dipping a toe in the water.
Then then there’s Falmouth — an attractive, buzzing university town which already has a bit of a beer scene and which, thanks to the proximity of Penryn and its industrial estate, continues to attract even more new breweries.
Knowing that Cornish brewery Harbour have been looking to open a pub or bar for some time, we asked Eddie Lofthouse if they had considered Plymouth as a location and, if not, why not. Here is his response, quoted with permission:
We have considered Plymouth as a destination for a bar, but for some reason we always discount it in favour of other places. It fits our criteria of being a university town/city, and has a high and increasing population of 20/40 year olds. It is my understanding of the demographic profile for the Plymouth area has a below than average ABC1 and a great deal of the ABC1 population live in rural areas surrounding the city, not in the city itself. For that reason we have always thought it a risky proposition to open a bar that serves premium products in a city with a population having lower than average disposable incomes. There are areas we would consider more seriously, namely the Barbican and Harbour front, but there the rents are fairly high so have been discounted in favour of other locations.