Showing posts with label pencil and spoon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pencil and spoon. Show all posts

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Local - Guest Blog

When I went to France in 2008 for Christmas and New Year, we actually spent Christmas in Kent at my eldest brother's house, I drank a fair bit of local Kentish ale. One of my January posts was about the Gadd's beers that I drank while I was there, and in the comments was a new commenter for me at the time, one Mark Dredge, author of Pencil and Spoon and subsequently much lauded beer blogger. It is my pleasure then, that today Mark is my guest blogger.

I don’t have a local. Not somewhere I’d like to regularly drink that’s stumbling distance from my front door. I never have had a local. When I moved in with my girlfriend two years ago I went in search of a local and found nothing (I found pubs but not ones I’d like to drink in...). I’m moving house in a few weeks and I’ll go on the search for a local again then. I hope I find somewhere good, although I doubt I’ll go there very often.

Not having a local doesn’t bother me much. I wasn’t brought up around the pub environment so it never mattered to me. More important was spending time with family and friends. For me, being with family or friends is more important than where we actually are. I very rarely go out drinking alone. I don’t pop to the pub for a few pints and a chat with whoever is there. I’d rather sit at home with a bottle from the fridge (though solo drinking can be a fine thing).

There are pubs that I go to more often than others, so I guess these are my ‘locals’, even if they would take me over an hour to travel to from home. But I don’t work near where I live and I tend to go out near where I work. And that’s in London and London has a lot of pubs.

I’m not a monogamous drinker. I regularly return to the same places but I go because I like the beer there or want to meet friends there. A local, for me, is something that other people have. Maybe if I lived near a good pub this would be different. Maybe not.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Craft is Daft

I like to think that I drink good beer. My friends who drink Budweiser like to think the same. My friends back in Prague who drink Gambrinus like to think they drink good beer. Everyone, it seems, who enjoys beer is convinced that the beer they drink is good.

I don't like Budweiser particularly, but if that is all that is available and it is colder than a penguin's feet then I'll drink it. I won't savour it, I won't notice the hop aroma (that joke is simply too easy to make, so I won't bother), I won't comment on the lacing down the side of the glass. I will just drink the bloody thing because it is hot out, I am dying of thirst, I want a beer and there is nothing else available. The same could be said about many a product coming out of small breweries that like to give themselves the title "craft". I can think of several beers made by well known American craft breweries that were I given a choice between Budweiser and said product, I would drink to the financial health of AB-InBev.

When I was living in Prague, I drank a fair old bit of Gambrinus. That was until I met Mrs Velkyal on that fateful day in Pivovarsky klub and I discovered a whole different world of Czech beer. It wasn't that I went from drinking pale lager to super hoppy IPAs overnight, but rather I went to drinking better pale lagers, then discovering that there were some smaller breweries doing insanely interesting things like brewing a hefeweizen, or an English Pale Ale (a beer that Mrs Velkyal still misses). Yet my favourite Czech brewer does none of those things, they make but 4 beers, 2 pale lagers and 2 dark lagers. All 4 beers are magnificent, but is it craft brewing or just making Czech lagers the way Czech lagers are supposed to be made?

Since moving to the States, I have drunk an awful lot of craft beer, not to mention a lot of awful craft beer. Even in it's native context, craft beer is something of a pointless term and, if I may be cynical, entirely made up. When certain brewers got too big to be considered a mircrobrewery they needed a new term, given the absence of a middle ground between micro and macro. The term itself, whilst perhaps, at a push, acceptable in the American context, becomes divisive, allowing people to label themselves "craft beer drinkers" as opposed to just regular "beer drinkers", as though they have somehow attained to a higher existence by virtue of their drinking choices.

Having not lived in the UK for over a decade now, I guess I can look from the outside on my own culture to a certain extent, and in the British context, as with the Czech, craft beer is an utterly pointless term. Especially when you remember that many of the "innovations" coming out of the US are in fact just re-discoveries or interpretations of British brewing traditions. Black IPA? Nothing new, the Brits were over-hopping porter and shipping it to India along with IPA. A simple change of hop varieties a new beer style does not make.

The thing that needs to be constantly remembered is that, regardless of appellation or waffly bollocks from the marketing people, beer is the everyman drink. The thing with an everyman drink is that it transcends class and status, as such it should not be used as a status symbol. Beer has been drunk by kings and commoners, presidents and peasants since time immemorial, it is nothing new. Adding the label "craft" does not make it a lifestyle choice or mark a consumer out as somehow special, though strangely it does bump up the price, at least in the US context.

I guess it is clear that I think the term "craft" beer to be somewhat antithetical to the very nature of beer, though I can understand why it is used over here, with the back drop of Prohibition and market domination by BudMillerCoors. Within the British context, and it was that context that Mark at Pencil and Spoon wanted to address, the term is fatuous. Britain did not, thankfully, have its brewing traditions smashed by a bunch of manic religious zealots. The reality of the British brewing scene is that the new brewers have greater access to ingredients from around the world, and the transfer of knowledge and experience allowed by modern technology has broadened horizons. Is modern beer then really a craft, or just the logical outcome of the globalised world?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Difficult Position

No, this post isn't about the advanced acrobatics required by the Karma Sutra, but rather about the uneasy position I, and most certainly many others, find themselves in. It is only 7 posts ago that I could in all honesty write these words:

"as long as the beer remains good then I am a happy BrewDog fan".

As a result of the latest marketing stunt, which is more clearly laid out by Mark over at Pencil and Spoon, and Pete Brown, I find that statement sorely challenged. As I have commented on Mark's blog, I am shocked by this latest whoring of the BrewDog name to the media circus, which of course we bloggers are part and parcel of, whether we like it or not.

At the end of the day, as I have said before here, the important thing for me is not what is written on the bottle, not the factory that the bottle came from, but what is in the bottle, the beer itself, and this is where I feel BrewDog can very easily redeem themselves, they make truly excellent beer.

Yes, the Portman Group often appear to be misguided zealots, ranting, raving and generally getting the wrong end of the stick entirely, but paying  excessive attention to them does nobody any favours.

I don't care if you call your beer Nanny State, Knackered Old Cripplecock (still the funniest suggested idea for a beer name in history) or Coors Lite, it is the brew itself which will pass or fail the test of excellence, and it is excellence in the beer that the niche market BrewDog is looking to exploit cares about. There is a very fine line between standing for one's beliefs and courting needless controversy, and this stunt is needless. The people that Tokyo* was allegedly aimed at lapped up the beer, loved it, raved about it, gave BrewDog heaps of positive, free, advertising and marketing.

Those very same people are no doubt confused and have taken a step on the path to disenfranchisement from the BrewDog brand.

As lovers of craft beer (I am sick of the phrase "beer geek"), many of us consider ourselves sophisticated, well read, educated and worldly wise, and this is most probably why this stunt has backfired so spectacularly - BrewDog have insulted its core target group, not a very good "lesson in marketing".

As I said, they can easily redeem themselves. Admit they were wrong to pursue this course of action, attempted justifications just makes me think that they should stop digging their hole, and go back to what they do best, making great beer.

After all that is what James, Martin, myself and the rest of the beer blogsphere care about, great beer.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...