Doom Bar and the Question of Origin

It’s official: thanks to Lucy Britner at Just Drinks we now know that Sharp’s Doom Bar – the bottled stuff, at least – has been being brewed outside Cornwall since 2013.

From the moment Mol­son-Coors bought out Sharp’s in 2011 peo­ple down here in Corn­wall have been won­der­ing how long it would be before pro­duc­tion moved to Bur­ton-upon-Trent. Oth­ers assumed it had already hap­pened and that there was sly­ness afoot. One local source even told us they’d heard a Sharp’s brew­er drop­ping big hints about it last year.

Now the cat’s out of the bag, what does it mean?

In a part of the world where the act of buy­ing local is high­ly politi­cised it might cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for oth­er Cor­nish brew­ers to sup­ply restau­rants, super­mar­kets, del­i­catessens and bars which have, until now, been hap­py with bot­tled Doom Bar.

In real­i­ty, though, we sus­pect it will take months for most peo­ple to clock this news and, even then, many won’t care – it’s a pop­u­lar beer which pre­sum­ably sells to the trade at a com­pet­i­tive price and it’s still Cor­nish-ish, right?

But if we ran a busi­ness and had for the last two years been buy­ing those bot­tles on the under­stand­ing that the beer was Cor­nish-made – and prob­a­bly pitch­ing it to our cus­tomers as such – we’d be pret­ty annoyed.

We came to this sto­ry via the West­ern Morn­ing News and are grate­ful to Kev Head for point­ing us to the orig­i­nal source.

UPDATE 01/07/2015

We asked Sharp’s the fol­low­ing ques­tion on Twit­ter but have yet to get a reply despite prod­ding:

Beers With a Pinch of Place

For as long as we’ve been pondering what ‘local’ means in terms of beer, we’ve also been interested in beers made with ingredients that evoke the place of their origin.

In the last year, oth­ers have crys­tallised that into a con­ver­sa­tion across var­i­ous blog posts and arti­cles, of which there have been a par­tic­u­lar flur­ry in recent weeks.

The idea that what is at hand – what grows in near­by fields or hedgerows – might shape the design of a beer is allur­ing and, frankly, rather obvi­ous to any­one who’s ever clapped eyes on, say, bright yel­low gorse flow­ers, or glossy rose­hips. Real­is­ing that our stash con­tained a few beers which make a virtue of con­tain­ing unusu­al place-spe­cif­ic ingre­di­ents, we decid­ed now was a good time to taste them, with a ques­tion in mind: does this approach cre­ate tasti­er or at least more inter­est­ing beers?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Beers With a Pinch of Place”

Local beer for local people

Beer mat detail: Tisbury Local Bitter -- a Local Authority.

We think we’ve iden­ti­fied one of the ear­li­est exam­ples of ‘local’ being used as mar­ket­ing schtick for a post-CAM­RA ‘real ale rev­o­lu­tion’ beer.

In 1980, a Vic­to­ri­an brew­ery build­ing at Tis­bury in Wilt­shire was tak­en over by a civ­il ser­vant, Alis­tair Wal­lace, and an ‘exec­u­tive’, Christo­pher Bak­er. With a for­mer Whit­bread brew­er, John Wilmot, who also had con­nec­tions with God­son’s in East Lon­don (aka God­son, Free­man & Wilmot), they start­ed turn­ing out a beer aimed at the local mar­ket. They called it Local Bit­ter.

Their mar­ket­ing, han­dled by a local agency, empha­sised that the ingre­di­ents were local (‘except the hops’), and that is was brewed to local tastes, to be drunk in local pubs, at a price local peo­ple could afford – they under­cut the big­ger brew­ers by between three to five pence a pint.

The prob­lem with mak­ing a spe­cif­ic loca­tion your ‘unique sell­ing point’, how­ev­er, is the lack of flex­i­bil­i­ty that comes with it. Like a lot of brew­eries found­ed c.1980, they strug­gled for var­i­ous rea­sons, and, for a time, Local Bit­ter had to be brewed about a hun­dred miles away at God­son’s, in Bow. The name, dur­ing that peri­od, must have seemed a lit­tle unfor­tu­nate.

Tis­bury ceased oper­a­tions in 1985.

Sources: ‘The local brew adds strength to the vil­lage’, Trevor Bai­ley, The Guardian, 11 Sep­tem­ber 1981, p.16; Twen­ty Five Years of New British Brew­eries, Ian Mack­ey, 1998.

Session #61: Local Beer

The full title of this month’s ses­sion, host­ed by Hoosier Beer Geek, is What Makes Local Beer Bet­ter? Well, that’s a hard ques­tion to answer, because we don’t always think it is.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a good beer hotspot local beer can be very good indeed. Even when it doesn’t taste good, it can be Good because it is envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly and each pint arrives with a halo of com­mu­ni­ty and a ‘sense of place’.

On the oth­er hand, local­ness can become just anoth­er mar­ket­ing gim­mick to help sell real­ly crap­py beer.

For exam­ple, if we were more cyn­i­cal, we might think that some of Cornwall’s micro­brew­eries were delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ing the ‘gullible’ tourist mar­ket:

Brew­er: I thought I’d start a brew­ery.
Brewer’s chum: But you only make crap­py home­brew! Hon­est­ly, that last one was undrink­able. And your fermenter’s next to the manure pile.
Brew­er: Don’t wor­ry! All I need to do is put some­thing Cor­nish on the label, say it’s made near a farm, and sell it by the box to cor­ner­shops near camp­sites. The Emmets‘ll lap it up, and by the time they realise how bad it is, they’ll be back in Lon­don.

Some­times, local beer is real­ly about sell­ing the local­i­ty, with the beer as an after­thought. And, of course, the same wheeze is prac­ticed, albeit with more gloss, by some big­ger brew­eries too.