For Quality ( in a beer drinking ) Life
A Page of White Propaganda
Beer drinkers anonymous, if you have seen the pages devoted to Miller, Budweiser, Boddington's and Fosters ads you realize these drinks qualify as beer, but only just. You are often simply drinking a pint of over-hyped liquid lacking body, taste and variety. Maybe you have even been influenced by the semi-subliminal, manipulative, advertising. But, whatever, if you prefer to drink these brands or any other nationally advertised beers and lagers from the big multinationals you are missing out on real beer. Chill out with brands such as Black Sheep, Pedigree, Spitfire, Speckled Hen, London Pride, Stallion, Caledonian 80/- or Bombardier. But make sure you buy your drink from a pub where the publican knows how to look after their beer - and the bar staff serve it at the proper temperature.
Far too often real ale is served by incompetent and under trained bar staff at a temperature more suited to lukewarm soup - a sure guarantee that drinkers will turn to something cooler. That means mass produced, over-hyped, overpriced and over-chilled, easy to look after nitrokeg beers and lagers. At the double chilled extreme, over chilling doesn't just chill your beer it also kills the ability of taste buds to taste beer (or any drink). Drinkers of iced beers might as well be spending their £2 or more per pint drinking carbonated ice-water with a touch of alcohol.
Anyone who has any knowledge of beer readily realizes that under the influence of mass advertising and promotional activities most young drinkers and many of their elders have been turned into brainwashed, conformist, sheep responding to the influence of advertising, marketing pressures and ready availability. They end up drinking virtually anything with a nationally advertised label under the impression that they are getting a good quality product. They are not. The nearest equivalent would be to compare such beers with nationally available cheddar cheese (and that's not fair to the cheese). There is a much wider variety of beers available from the national brewers than they every advertise nationally. These are of far superior quality to the keg beer sold in most pubs, restaurants and hotels and comparable to the best beers from regional and other independent breweries. Why don't these get advertised nationally?
The answer to that question is simple. Note the earlier reference to sheep. This was deliberate but the term of derision doesn't originate with the author. See the Budweiser and Boddington's pages for what could be accepted as an admission by the big brewers that drinkers of national brands are perceived as sheep. The newspaper article below also indicates that the big brewers continually choose to produce cheap, easy to look after nitrokeg beers and lagers, instead of producing slightly more expensive quality real ale. But then you only get what you pay for. However, if real ale were produced in larger quantities then price would probably not come into consideration.It isn't price that is the problem. It is the desire for greater profits that is the source of the problem. It isn't possible to produce real ale in the same mass produced manner as nitrokeg beers and lagers. So, to increase profits quality has to go and it is a gullible public who pay the real price in lost pubs, less choice, centralized breweries, lost jobs and anaemic beers. And the advertising hype rolls on, mostly in an ethical manner (if spin-doctoring and hype are considered ethical) and sometime unethically when ads become manipulative.
Producers of real ale don't need to produce manipulative ads. Their products sell on the basis of the quality of the product. The products of well known real ale breweries such as my local Castle Eden, Durham and Black Sheep breweries are always worth trying. If you don't like one product there are many others to try until you find the type you really like. Then the fun begins. There are hundreds of small breweries, each producing slightly different brews. You can stick to you favourites at home but why stick to one brand when you travel? Bring your drinking into line with the messages common in most magazines nowadays. Be as adventurous with your drinking as you are encouraged to be with your travel and sex life. Support regional breweries and give the multinationals who do little more than produce boring, easy to look after, products the heave-ho until they produce the beers of quality that they built their reputations on. Caledonian 80/- shows they can still do it.
Now a cautionary note and a message for publicans. If real ales are properly looked after, virtually anyone with any sense is willing to pay a premium for beers that cannot be beaten in terms of choice, taste and even effect - they don't fill you with gas. If all you want from your customers is for them to get pissed then offer them the cheapest plonk on the market - but be honest and tell them that's what it is. If you want them to drink, behave responsibly, be part of a community and appreciate what they are drinking, get them to join CAMRA. Encourage them to boycott mass market products and help them get real pleasure from their imbibing. Get them to call into pubs like No. 22 or The Quaker Inn in Darlington and chains like Hogshead and Weatherspoon's throughout the UK and sample Real Ale. Better still, get your staff properly trained, upgrade your cellar and sell Real ale yourself.
For all the information you need about quality beer in Darlington get the Darlington Drinker. It has provided a consistently good read for the six years or so that I have been familiar with it and provides a great source of information about national and local beers. Copies are distributed around the towns pubs regularly. Try out some of my town centre favourites, No. 22, The Quaker Coffee House (yes, it is a pub), The Old Yard, The Tap and Spile and The Turk's Head. None of these outlets have sold me a duff pint of cask ale yet. Others in the town centre, not mentioned, have on more than one occasion had staff serving drinks almost at body temperature without apparently having a clue as to what the correct serving temperature should have been. Even when they held a warm glass in their hand wasn't sufficient to tell them that the contents were below par. And a sniff or a taste would have confirmed any suspicions.
For a chance to sample some of the best in music and real ale, check out Darlington's Rhythm'n'Booze festival in the Autumn and the Spring Thing in - yes - the Spring. And for the best choice in quality bottled beer from around the world check out Binns award winning selection.
Newspaper clippings often make the case for Cask Ale very effectively. Do you fancy real ale or do you prefer what Jeff Vinter is quite happy to consider the equivalent of liquidised offal? Describe your liquid offal as the Genuine Article and millions of trendy but unsophisticated drinkers will tramp a path to the door. If it is the real thing, however, it won't get a look in in most pubs because it takes time, effort and money to produce and look after a natural product with a relatively short shelf life. If that was a good argument for producers removing quality products from their range then just about everything from cheese and wine to fish and meat would be pasteurized, homogenized, standardized and life would be as dull as eating French Fries in McDonalds every day of the week.
First off, a clipping about what some writers seem to consider liquidised offal. Perhaps they are being a little bit too hard on Messrs Bass, Scottish-Courage, Whitbread, etc..but then again perhaps not as many of their products are inferior.
Most of the big UK brewers are now part of large European organizations. In future years we can look forward to even more rationalization and the same type of beers and lagers from Liverpool to Leningrad unless consumers begin to realize how much they are being ripped off so far as choice and quality are concerned.
Everything you ever wanted to know...but too embarrassed to ask about real ale.
CAMRA's address is CAMRA, 230 Hatfield Road, St. Albans, Herts., AL1 4LW
The views expressed on this page are those of the author and do not represent those of CAMRA or any other organization.
Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003