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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Lazy thoughts

It's not the enemy; it's a very naughty lager.
"It is generally acknowledged that lager and keg beers are the enemies of “proper” beer aka ale" is the opening sentence of an article in the Morning Advertiser (the newspaper of the pub trade). It's a typical journalistic technique to create a false disagreement and present it as fact; in this case suggesting that there are ranks of ideologically opposed, implacably hostile drinkers. The writer, Robyn Black, was referring to the fact that two big regional brewers noted for their ale had launched keg lagers - Marston’s Revisionist and Fuller’s Frontier.

As a real ale drinker, am I shocked? Not particularly. My actual reaction was, "So what?" But that's not how Ms Black sees it. She wrote: "The beard and sandal brigade will no doubt be up in arms. CAMRA has fought a long, hard battle to rid the world of bland keg beers and to champion real ale." There's that false disagreement again: where are these people who will be up in arms? I don't view the pleasure of having a drink in such confrontational terms, and I do not choose my friends by their taste in drinks; while many do drink real ale, others prefer the likes of smoothflow, Guinness, lager, wine, or even diet Coke.

Ms Black does refer to the fact that real ale has in recent years had a modest growth while sales of all other types of beer have fallen, but nonetheless, the biggest selling style of beer remains lager. It might look as though real ale has "won" some kind of war as it is now available in more than 50% of pubs, but that doesn't mean it constitutes 50% of sales: in reality, sales of real ale are nowhere near such levels. With the resurgence in recent years of craft keg beers, it's hardly a surprise that brewers might turn their attention to producing a better quality lager than what's on offer in most pubs. I'm assuming that's what Fuller's and Marston's are trying to do - Fuller's describe Frontier as a "new wave craft lager" - because it isn't worth the time, trouble and money to produce yet another lager along the lines of Carling and Fosters: you might as well just buy in a well-known brand.

So why is Ms Black wrong? Because CAMRA, as I have written before, is about choice, and it always has been. In the early days, it was about campaigning for real ale drinkers to have the choice of drinking real ale, but the logical consequence of such a position is accepting that other drinkers have a choice too. Choice is something that Colin Valentine, the CAMRA national chair, strongly emphasised at the national AGM in Norwich last year.

Her reference to "the beard and sandal brigade" is simple stereotyping - neither I nor most CAMRA members I know wear beard and sandals - and is no more than another cheap trick from the Ladybird Book of Lazy Journalism.

P.S. I've just realised that Robyn Black's article was written a while ago, and therefore isn't latest news. However, I haven't seen either of these craft lagers anywhere, not even in Marston's houses (there are no Fuller's houses around here that I could comment on).

7 comments:

  1. You are correct but you assume all beard club members are enlightened as us, Nev. We may enjoy many beer styles and appreciate what CAMRA does by way of preserving tradition and promoting a beer style that is nice to drink but poorly marketed.

    We both know not all our beardy pals share our enlightened views don't we? We both know a few active beardy types that are fighting against the chemical fizz and the smooth flow? Come on fella. We may not be, but some are.

    If you don't believe me, have a craft can at a beard club meeting, you'll get a reaction. ;)

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  2. You have a point: there's always the Taliban element in any campaign.

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  3. and who do you think are the most visible? it's the nutters, the pub bores, the oddly attired, the eccentrics. Those are the ones in the CAMRA t shirts.

    I dress normally. Presumably you do. I drink lots of places, no one knows I'm a beardy weirdy.

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  4. Dicky said the other day that CAMRA's work will only be done when there is not one single keg of beer left in the world.

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  5. Most of the family brewers originally brewed their own lager, but eventually dropped it in favour of the big nationally-advertised brands. Nobody can blame them for now wanting some of that business back.

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  6. True, Curmudgeon: I remember Grünhalle Lager, made by Greenall Whitley. You don't have to be a genius to work out that Grünhalle is German for Green Hall.

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