I’ve been reading Danny Peary’s Cult Movies, published in 1981 when the idea of a cult film was quite new and, inevitably, it’s started me thinking about what might qualify as a ‘cult beer’.
Here’s how Mr Peary defines a cult movie in the introduction to the book:
Of the tens of thousands of movies that have been made, only an extremely small number have elicited a fiery passion in moviegoers that exists long after their initial releases… Cultists don’t merely enjoy their favorite films; they worship them, seek them out wherever they are playing, catch them in theaters even when they have just played on television, see them repeatedly, and are intent on persuading anyone who will listen that they should be appreciated regardless of what the newspaper or television reviewers thought. Strike up a conversation about movies anywhere in the country and the titles found in this book soon will be flying back and forth in frenetic debate. And as likely as not you’ll end up forcing someone to watch The Late Late Show to see a special favorite of yours or find yourself being dragged to some repertory theater to see a picture your well-meaning abductor has viewed ten, twenty, or a hundred times.
I certainly recognise something of the attitude of the beer geek in that description: “We just need to get a train and a bus, then it’s a short walk through an industrial estate, but trust me, it’ll be worth it…”
There’s also something appealing about the idea of a descriptor that sidesteps all those conversations about ‘craft’.
It’s not about whether a film is well made, says Mr Peary – “often the contrary” – or which studio made it (though many cult films are independent productions). What matters is that it has dedicated, even obsessive fans.
And perhaps also that it’s not readily available everywhere, all the time. You need to put in a little effort to enjoy it, especially if you want to see it on a big screen.
That’s why in Peary’s world, Citizen Kane can sit on the same list as Emanuelle alongside The Warriors a few pages on from Bedtime for Bonzo.
If cult beers exist, if that’s ‘a thing’, we might end up with similarly unlikely bedfellows.
Bass is probably a cult beer – a big name in its day but hard to find in its natural habitat, the pub.
Orval is, surely? Especially with all those instructions about storage and service. In fact, doesn’t Belgium rather specialise in cult beers all round?
Batham’s, too – the way people go on about it!
Schlenkerla Rauchbier, which people either love or hate, feels like a contender.
It would be easy for this to turn into a list of canonical beers, though. What’s not on the list? Anything you can easily find in a pub or bar in most towns, I suppose, which puts Guinness out of contention, even if it has T-shirt wearing fans.
What do you reckon might count as a cult beer? Something you’ve queued for, hunted down or gone well out of your way to drink.