Celebrity chef and food opiner Anthony Bourdain has given an interview to Thrillist in which he has harsh words to say about craft beer and its culture:
I would say that the angriest critiques I get from people about shows are when I’m drinking whatever convenient cold beer is available in a particular place, and not drinking the best beer out there. You know, I haven’t made the effort to walk down the street 10 blocks to the microbrewery where they’re making some fucking Mumford and Sons IPA…
Now, Thrillist is a frightful den of clickbait, and craft beer types are easily baited, but Mr. Bourdain often has interesting thoughts and in this case, he makes some good points. For example, this…
[The] entire place was filled with people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes. This is not a bar. This is fucking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is wrong. This is not what a bar is about.
…is probably fair comment if you accept that the ideal bar or pub is a lively, even raucous place, which we do, on the whole. He probably wouldn’t like us much – we do enjoy over-thinking beer – but some places are too church-like and sterile even for us.
Pin your ears back, this is going to be a big ‘un, this’ll probably clear you right out. Now then… I want ten crates of stout winter brew, five crates of best brown, twelve quarts of Dragon’s Breath, two barrels of bitter, two crates of Danish lager, and a barrel of rough cider.
Cor, blimey! Are you going to have a party?
No, me grandmother’s coming over.
From Hancock’s Half Hour, ‘The Reunion Party’, BBC Television, first broadcast 25 March 1960.
The Apprentice has been a guilty pleasure of mine ever since it started. Bailey doesn’t share my interest, so he missed out on watching the two teams attempt to lay on a themed food evening in a different London boozer.
The girls organised a “Bollywood night” – curry, music, dancing – in the King’s Head on Upper Street, Islington, which is a place I used to haunt back in the day. The boys put on a more formal Italian food evening in the Duke of Hamilton, Hampstead, a pub I haven’t been to, but it looked like it had some nice ales on. And did I catch a glimpse of Barclay Perkins livery?
Anyway, lest you think this is just an excuse to blog about my favourite TV programme, it got me thinking about themed nights in pubs. The idea in general sounds a bit tacky, and I’m not sure either of these were particularly good examples – though I do love a bit of Bollywood.
But the right theme, ideally but not necessarily focused on the beer, is potentially an excellent way for pubs to get new punters in. Tandleman wrote about a Welsh-themed night for St David’s day, which shows that you don’t have to have a particularly exotic theme. Some new beers, some different food, and dare I say it, some music, and you’ve suddenly given someone a reason to choose your pub that night. And maybe once they’re there, they’ll discover how nice and friendly you are, and how great your ales taste.
Photo: ex-soldier Simon is one of the contestants on The Apprentice. I’ve picked him because it’s about time a beer blog had some totty for the ladies…
The more I think about so-called binge drinking, the more I think it is a result of the Northern European attitude to work – the weekend feels like the only time people can really relax, after slogging through five or six days of boredom, stress and aggravation, and they want it to be something special, memorable and overwhelming.
It’s not a new thing. In the 1958 social realist novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe described a Saturday night in Britain like this:
For it was Saturday night, the best and bingiest glad-time of the week, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, a violent preamble to a prostrate Sabbath. Piled up passions were exploded on Saturday night, and the effect of a week’s monotonous graft in the factory was swilled out of your system in a burst of goodwill. You followed the motto of ‘be drunk and be happy’, kept your crafty arms around female waists, and felt the beer going beneficially down into the elastic capacity of your guts.
People always talk about the sensible Spanish and French attitude to drinking, but could it have anything to do with the traditional long lunch breaks and 35 hour working weeks in those countries?
Binge drinking is not the problem – it’s a symptom.