Generalisations about beer culture opinion

Intense Beer for Adolescents?

Tents by Stuart Heath, from Flickr under Creative Commons.

This week, academics at the University of Cambridge published research into how taste in music develops over the course of people’s lifetimes.

As teenagers, people desire ‘intensity’, according to Dr Jason Rentfrow:

Adolescents’ quest for independence often takes the shape of a juxtaposed stance to the perceived ‘status quo’, that of parents and the establishment. ‘Intense’ music, seen as aggressive, tense and characterised by loud, distorted sounds has the rebellious connotations that allow adolescents to stake a claim for the autonomy that is one of this period’s key ‘life challenges’.

In early adulthood, the research suggests, people begin to develop an appreciation of ‘contemporary’ and ‘mellow’ music as they seek not to stand out, but to fit in, and find intimacy with others.

Finally, in middle age, people become ‘sophisticated’, becoming keen on jazz and classical music; but, at the same time, seek something less ‘pretentious’ and so develop ‘an interest in country, folk and blues’.

The University’s press release also includes this statement:

The explosion in music consumption over the last century has made ‘what you listen to’ an important personality construct – as well as the root of many social and cultural tribes – and, for many people, their self-perception is closely associated with musical preference.

Increasingly, we think that is true of food and beer, too — for many, they are part of popular culture as much as they are refreshment or sustenance.

The success of Brewdog and ‘craft beer’ more generally in the UK is partly down to tapping a market among young people who might previously have rejected beer (mild-mannered, session-strength, subtle) outright.

The good news for more traditional brewers is that those young people are drinking beer and, in years to come, will likely put aside the brashness of Brewdog in favour of classical, unpretentious, folksy beer. (You can look back at 6+ years of our blog to see some evidence of this process taking place, though we’ve always been pretty fuddy-duddy.)

But what about when brands and brewers grow up and perhaps lose their rebellious image? In the world of music, the coolest band is usually one no-one over the age of 20 has even heard of.

Generalisations about beer culture

Signs of a Healthy Beer Culture?

Koelsch -- an example of a regional speciality beer.
One example of a regional speciality.

It seems that every week, there is some fresh improvement in the beer scene in Cornwall.

For example, Penzance now has its own home brewing supply shop; the Lamp & Whistle keeps expanding its range of Belgian and keg ‘craft beer’; and a specialist beer shop is to open in Truro in the next month or so.

Over a few pints of St Austell Big Job at Docktoberfest on Friday, we found ourselves pondering these developments, and whether they might fit into a generalised checklist of indicators of a healthy beer culture.

Here’s what we came up with:

1. There is a drinking establishment within walking distance of where you live where you like to spend time, and which serves decent beer.

2. If you are skint, there is an acceptable drinking establishment within walking distance which sells decent beer at ‘bargain’ prices.

3. If you fancy something special, there is a pub or bar within reach on public transport (WRPT) which sells imports and ‘craft beer’.

4. The nearest town/city centre has a range of pubs serving different demographics, and offering between them a range of locally-produced beers alongside national brands.

5. There is a well-established family/regional brewery.

6. There are several breweries founded since 1975.

7. There is at least one brewery founded since 2005.

8. There is a regional speciality — a beer people ‘must drink’ when they visit.

9. There is an independent off licence (‘bottle shop’) WRPT.

10. There is a shop selling home brewing supplies WRPT.

11. There is at least one beer festival in the region.

Perhaps inevitably, there’s an obvious UK-bias in the way we’ve approached this, and in how we’ve worded the list, although we did our best to avoid it. We’ve also used lots of deliberately vague terms — don’t ask us to define ‘decent’! (Or ‘beer culture’…)

With those disclaimers in mind, what have we missed? And how does where you live score?
American beers Generalisations about beer culture opinion

What do Brits Think of American Craft Brewing?

Vintage American beer label.

Earlier today, we saw this interesting question on Twitter:

Now, there’s no simple answer, and, even if the British beer fraternity did share a single opinion, we wouldn’t be qualified to state it. Nonetheless, here’s our attempt to summarise the various camps.

1. People stuck in the nineteen-seventies don’t know it exists

Back then, there really wasn’t much ‘characterful’ American beer — check out Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer for a valiant attempt to find some. As far as British beer enthusiasts were concerned, American beer was all ‘cold fizzy flavourless piss’. Some people, though they profess to be ‘into their beer’, still believe this is the case, if our experience of conversations at beer festivals is anything to go by.

2. Some people seem to dislike America, let alone American beer

They deny any American influence on British brewing in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary; they fail to see what American beer has to offer that can’t be found better elsewhere; and find the people in 5, below, extremely irritating.

3. Some simply prefer British beer (or beer from elsewhere)

There’s no malice in it — they just like what’s local and fresh. The beer from here is pretty decent and increasingly varied and interesting — why look abroad? Many ‘real ale’ enthusiasts are probably in this camp. British  drinkers and brewers who had their ‘eyes opened’ by American beer before, say, 2007, when there were few examples of, e.g. strong, intensely aromatic British IPAs, have moved into this camp in recent years. (Brewers are sometimes motivated by a protectionist impulse: ‘Buy British!’)

4. Some feel very warm towards American craft beer

They’re interested in what’s going on in the US; will drink an interesting US beer in preference to a boring British one; generally like British beers in the US style.

5. Some think American craft beer and the attendant culture are where it’s at, and everything else is basically rubbish

The chaps at Brewdog have expressed this view, and are fairly open in their worship of Stone Brewing. We’ve spoken to other British brewers who were absolutely clear that their favourite beers and greatest inspirations are American. Many brew beers which seem to us to be obvious attempts to clone specific US brews. Some enthusiasts speak with almost religious fervour of beer enjoyed on trips to the US.

This is traditionally where people comment “I’m a 4!” and so on. Feel free to do so, or to suggest categories you think we’ve missed.

Generalisations about beer culture pubs

The Pub Remains the Default

The Buckingham Arms, Westminster, London.

People worry about pubs: they’re in decline, disappearing, not what they used to be. If they do survive, argues M. Lawrenson, it will be as the preserve of the oddball, the poseur, the ‘connoisseur’.

But, while we suspect that there will be fewer pubs in a decade’s time, we also feel confident that they’re too useful ever to disappear completely.

When we’re visit old stamping grounds and tell friends we’ll be in town, despite our frightful middle class tendencies and impending middle age, no-one ever says, ‘Let’s have dinner’, or ‘Let’s go for a coffee’ — it’s always ‘Which pub?’

They’re spacious, generally comfortable, and open later than almost any other establishment. They usually sell something to eat, even if it’s only a bag of crisps. Where could be better if, after nine in the evening, you need to spend two hours with someone at a location convenient for their house in one suburb and yours in another?

Everywhere we have ever worked, the pub has been the default location for ‘leaving dos’, celebrations, (real) team building exercises (as opposed to contrived ones), and even difficult conversations. Sometimes, the pub felt like a compromise — perhaps the wine drinkers and the trendy young ‘uns sulked, crying ‘Can’t we go somewhere nice?’ — but it did the job better than any other venue.

They’re still where we find ourselves after weddings and christenings, in neglected back rooms, with neatly-trimmed sandwiches and unbuttoned uncles. When people bang on about pubs as ‘community assets’, is this what they mean? It ought to be.

Perhaps we’ve over-optimistic on behalf of the pub, though, and maybe this instinct is dying out. We’ll have to ask around.

Generalisations about beer culture

Beer: You Can’t Handle the Truth!

Psst! Whispering men.

Psst! Psst! Yeah, you. Who do you think owns the brewery that makes that beer you’re drinking, that ‘Dan Spinnaker’s Fat Legs IPA’? Ha! That’s what they want you to think.

There is no ‘Dan Spinnaker’. Designed by focus group, he was. The bloke you see at press conferences is an actor. Been in Casualty, under a different name of course. The beer’s brewed under contract, by Global Beverages Incorporated, at a state-of-the-art plant in Poland. It gets shipped over in tankers and then bottled on Shadrack & Duxbury’s line in Warley. They sneak it back into the so-called Spinnaker’s ‘brewery’ in midnight convoys. Not very ‘craft’ that, is it? Eh? Eh? Follow the money, sunshine — follow the money. It’ll lead you to a shadowy group of Russian investors — FACT!

As for Shadrack & Duxbury… don’t get me started. Old Bob Duxbury was nice as pie when you met him but it was known in the trade that he was a member of a pagan cult. Used to kill goats with his bare hands. Most of the profits from the brewery still go to the Esoteric Order of Dagon. What did I say? That’s right, follow the money.

These days, of course, Shadrack’s Champion Best is supposedly top-notch cask-conditioned ale, but here’s what I heard: it’s high-gravity brewed using turnip starch and hop extract, and then they filter it before putting back just enough yeast to satisfy CAMRA’s technical committee. Total con.

As for CAMRA… I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you, know what I mean?