News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 January 2017: Binge Britain, Birmingham Beer Bash

A pint of golden ale in a pub.

Here’s all the writing from the last week we’ve found most stimulating, from reflections on children in pubs to a peek behind the scenes of how tabloid newspapers cover Binge Britain.

For the Pool Zoë Beaty writes about her time as a junior reporter dis­patched on to the streets to find pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence of young women over-indulging in alco­hol:

We were asked to ‘find the woman, crawl­ing on the pave­ment with vom­it-flecked hair’ (a line which has always stayed with me). They want­ed fights. They want­ed bod­i­ly flu­ids. They want­ed short skirts and high heels – any­thing that fit­ted the ‘scant­i­ly clad’ cap­tion they’d already writ­ten… The true reflec­tion of the night – the hun­dreds of oth­er peo­ple hav­ing a bril­liant time, aside from that one girl who fell over and is sub­se­quent­ly ridiculed – doesn’t fit the mould they’ve already cre­at­ed for young British work­ing-class women…

(Via @philmellows.)


Breweries to watch -- logo collage.

In what has become an annu­al fix­ture Richard Tay­lor of the Beer­cast has post­ed his list of brew­eries to watch in 2017. He works in the indus­try (for Brew­Dog) which may give his obser­va­tions either more or less cred­i­bil­i­ty depend­ing on your point of view but we tend to find him bal­anced and astute, and he uses this list as a way to high­light some over-arch­ing trends and issues.


A rubber duck in a pint of beer.

The Beard­ed House­wife who last week gave us a run-down of how to find child-friend­ly pubs in East Lon­don this week returned to the top­ic in the philo­soph­i­cal abstract: why do peo­ple have a prob­lem with chil­dren and pubs and can this argu­ment ever be resolved?

Why would we not say bad­ly-behaved peo­ple are a big minus point? Is it that we assume bad behav­iour on the part of chil­dren is inevitable? Is it that we, per­haps sub­con­scious­ly, exclude chil­dren from the set of ‘peo­ple’? If the for­mer, the state­ment [that you don’t well-behaved chil­dren] starts to lose a por­tion of its unas­sail­abil­i­ty… unless your bench­mark for bad behav­iour is absurd­ly low, it’s not rea­son­able to avoid pubs on the basis that any chil­dren in them are like­ly to be, or become, bad­ly behaved, any more than it’s rea­son­able to avoid, en mass, pubs with foot­ball fans because you think they’re like­ly to kick-off.


Cloudwater DIPA V3 -- collage of images.

There have been quite a lot of blog posts about Cloudwater’s deci­sion to cease brew­ing cask but not mil­lions as some have over-excitably sug­gest­ed. Peter McK­er­ry rounds them up here but we want­ed to pick out just one to read if you don’t have time for the full set. Mar­tyn Cor­nell, a CAMRA mem­ber since the 1970s and a beer writer more or less since the cra­dle, ties the mat­ter into CAMRA’s Revi­tal­i­sa­tion project and uses his author­i­ty to cut through some of the cus­tom­ary del­i­ca­cy:

I’m not total­ly con­vinced Cam­ra can be saved in the long term, giv­en the online com­ments I read from craft beer drinkers who clear­ly see Cam­ra mem­bers as dull, bor­ing, elder­ly peo­ple drink­ing dull, bor­ing, elder­ly beer. The prob­lems with recruit­ing young activists to the cam­paign have been appar­ent for years – and the  real­ly dread­ful sta­tis­tic from the revi­tal­i­sa­tion project con­sul­ta­tion is that under 3 per cent of respon­ders were under 30. I’m in the ‘dull, bor­ing and elder­ly’ cohort myself, but I love, eg, Cloud­wa­ter DIPA as much as I love Fuller’s Chiswick. How­ev­er, I fear any­one turn­ing up to a Cam­ra branch meet­ing is more like­ly to meet some­one like Tim Spitzer, for­mer chair of West Nor­folk Cam­ra branch, than some­one like me. I am sure Mr Spitzer has done an enor­mous amount of good work for the cause of real ale in the Nor­folk region and, hav­ing been a Cam­ra branch chair­man myself, I know what hard work the job is. But his rant in the lat­est edi­tion of Nor­folk Nips, the local Cam­ra mag­a­zine, is cer­tain to guar­an­tee that any­one under 40 who reads it will decide instant­ly that the cam­paign holds no wel­come for them.


Birmingham Beer Bash glasses.
By Fran­cis Clarke from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

We’ve been pre­dict­ing that Birm­ing­ham will be the next city to gain a thriv­ing craft beer scene for a cou­ple of years and it has seemed to be get­ting there. But now, fol­low­ing on from the loss of the The Craven Arms as a beer-geek-friend­ly des­ti­na­tion, comes news that the Birm­ing­ham Beer Bash will not be tak­ing place in 2017. (Link to Face­book.) We don’t read this as a death knell for British beer – we know from speak­ing to David Ship­man that it was always a huge effort to put on and left the organ­is­ers out of pock­et, and the deci­sion to run anoth­er has been touch and go each year – but it’s cer­tain­ly bad news.


But, then again, there is also the news that Brew­Dog has closed its cen­tral Lon­don bot­tle-shop and this from Craig Heap in re: Cardiff’s best-known craft beer venue:

We’re going to start keep­ing a tal­ly of good news vs. bad news – per­haps 2017 is when the hurt begins?

9 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 January 2017: Binge Britain, Birmingham Beer Bash”

  1. Like most analy­ses of CAMRA I found Martyn’s piece deeply unsat­is­fy­ing. No mat­ter what prob­lems CAMRA my have it is big­ger than it’s ever been and still grow­ing. Even if this is the high water mark it will be around for decades to come. Let’s face it the Soci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of Beer from the Wood is still going and it nev­er had any­thing like the mem­ber­ship CAMRA cur­rent­ly has. I sup­pose there’s enough to say about CAMRA to keep beer geeks argu­ing for decades too, but I’d like to see some­thing based more on mate­r­i­al real­i­ty than opin­ion.

    1. What is the point of thou­sands of mem­bers who don’t active­ly par­tic­i­pate and often don’t even believe in the espoused prin­ci­ples of the cam­paign? Num­ber of total mem­bers is a red her­ring. Num­ber of active mem­ber under the age of 60 is what you need to look at. How’s that look­ing?

      1. The inac­tive mem­bers must con­tribute north of £3,000,000 a year in mem­ber­ship fees, which must go a long way to pay­ing CAMRA’s numer­ous pro­fes­sion­al staff so I don’t think they should be dis­missed out of hand. Or the pro­fes­sion­al staff for that mat­ter.

    2. it is big­ger than it’s ever been and still grow­ing”

      Direct deb­it iner­tia does that. But the rate of increase is slow­ing, and anec­do­tal evi­dence sug­gests Cam­ra branch­es are strug­gling to fill com­mit­tee posts. Organ­i­sa­tions can col­lapse extreeme­ly quick­ly. The Ancient Order of Froth­blow­ers had 700,000 mem­bers at its peak and dis­ap­peared with­in a few years.

      1. Well, the CPGB dis­solved into Demo­c­ra­t­ic Left in 1991 – which had itself dis­solved by the end of the 90s – and I’m not sure how much good paper mem­bers are to any­one. But there is a sto­ry there about the CP in the late 80s, which I remem­ber writ­ing about for Tri­bune at the time. Some time in the mid-80s they intro­duced an elab­o­rate fee struc­ture for mem­ber­ship, which was tiered both on income and on age – so if you were well-off you paid more, and if you were mid­dle-aged and loaded you paid even more. And – the inter­est­ing part – if you were over retire­ment age and well-off, your sub cost the most of all. I’m guess­ing who­ev­er drew up that fee struc­ture knew that the CP had a large tranche of mem­bers on index-linked pen­sions and want­ed to get the most out of them. God knows where the mon­ey went in the end, though.

  2. I am not sure the Cloud­wa­ter sto­ry has been prop­er­ly framed. When you com­pare it to the tough news from Dave at Hard­knott on the one hand and the pos­i­tive sto­ry from Hawk­shead which runs 65% cask it seems that the ques­tion could be why Cloud­wa­ter took on cask with­out the full resources or appar­ent­ly a plan to make it suc­ceed – as cask suc­ceeds else­where. I found Eddie Gadd of Rams­gate Brewery’s tweet a bit telling: “most new brew­ers (inc me) don’t look too close­ly at the num­bers dur­ing start-up – we don’t want to be put off the dream!” In any event, the idea that the 1/3000th of the mar­ket not suc­ceed­ing is cause to raise prices is a bit off. Do what makes you mon­ey. Con­grat­u­late oth­ers who suc­ceed where you can’t or as you shouldn’t try.

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