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EVERYTHING wrong with Beer at this moment

It hasn’t escaped the notice of some people that I’ve been a little quiet about beer on social media and via this blog recently. My friends have also noticed that I’m not dragging them to every newly opened craft beer bar every weekend. People at work noticed that boxes of beer weren’t being delivered monthly as they once were. I’d like to think that the beer shops noticed the absence of one of it’s regular customers over the past few months.

It is true that my thirst and enthusiasm for the world of beer, especially that which I have spent three years frequently exclaiming about on Twitter, has dwindled. At first I just assumed I was in a different place, that my mental health issues were having some effect on my particular passions in life. Truthfully though, as I sit down and think about it, I’ve grown a little tired of what is becoming a far too political and thought through labour of love.

When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I began with a long introductory post explaining how I felt there were lots of beer related developments happening that I had an opinion on. This was never supposed to be master journalism or a possible career, it was just opinions expressed. As I struggled to find inspiration this year, I turned to my series of stock clearance posts to try and rekindle the fire, but all that accomplished was disappointingly turning this into a review blog that I didn’t intend. Though it encouraged me to drink beers I was holding back on, I didn’t feel the love like I hoped.

Why is it all getting me down at the moment then? Well, I’ve decided to sit down and try and answer that question for myself. In what will either end up being a retirement post or the spark I needed, here is what is bothering me about beer at the moment.

Cask Vs Keg. Bottle Vs Can.

We may as well begin with one of the most exhausting non-arguments in the history of being. It was an argument, or at least discussion, that was possibly worth having two to three years ago. People were still becoming familiar with the changes and therefore views and opinions on the matter needed to be expressed. Fine, that's all good. So let's explore it now. Cask beer is a unique tradition in this country that gives a condition to beer that is so different and yet satisfying. It also naturally suits a lot of beer. The value of key kegged beers though, especially when leant to some of the stronger, hoppier IPA's is necessary and helps deliver the intended finish and taste to the style. Also, for various reasons, some public houses are better suited for keeping cask beer and others for using key keg. Both are useful dispensers of beers. Both are necessary. Argument? Discussion? No. Move on. When I see "craft beer" lovers drinking a cask beer and claiming it "would be better on keg," I despair. 

Of course, now we have to hear the same arguments with the arrival on the shelves of more canned beer. Again, it's a tired discussion. Refer to the same points made about cask and keg. Some are more suitable to styles of beer. Some make dispensing easier. Both are good. Honestly, stop even thinking about starting a conversation about it. And STOP announcing it EVERY time you have a canned beer. It is not 2012. 

Seeing your favourite beers

I announced via Twitter earlier this year, whilst sat in Stalybridge Buffet Bar enjoying a terrific pint, that if you were to ask me what my favourite every day beer is it would be Magic Rock's Rapture. On Cask. If I had to choose a staple beer that every pub sold so I drank it more than anything, this is what it would be. Cask Rapture is an endless pleasure and delight. However, since sending that tweet and coming to that realisation, have I actually had any Rapture? Of course not, despite being one of Magic Rock's core range. In that period, I've seen plenty of Magic Rock about, predominantly on Keg. We've had everything not from their core range - Slapstick, Kraftwerk, Farmhouse IPA, Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady, not to mention Un-Human Cannonball THREE times - but I can not get hold of this most primary of delicious beers. Every ridiculous strength special or one off you'll ever drink you can find but if you just fancy a pint of your favourite beer you best change it to a 28% salted popcorn soaked Belgian IPA because you'll have more chance. 

CAMRA Bashing

HYPOCRITE! What? Who? Who said that? Oh you, there, politely reminding me of a post I did nearly two years ago that is undoubtedly "CAMRA bashing." At the time, a lot of things were still changing and developing and there were still a lot of the older CAMRA members who fell into that Neanderthal stereotype that made so many of us resent their views (and has recently led to a fair few Memes. Plus, it was a knee jerk post as I was incredulous at what I had witnessed on the night in question. Now CAMRA bashing is entirely unnecessary. There's clear divisions. They aren't the only support breweries have or only arrangers of beer festivals. They've changed plenty about themselves to accomodate the changes to beer in this country. If you don't agree with all of their policies, like myself, then don't join and leave them be. If anything, after a few years of feeling a little tired, CAMRA are again beginning to be required once more. It now seems easier for me to get hold of a Punk IPA or even a Goose Island IPA in the centre of Manchester than it is for me to get a pint of, say, cask Well's Bombardier. The focus on the "craft beer" bandwagon has now put "real ale" under threat once more. 

Wetherspoon's bashing. BrewDog bashing. Just generally bashing everything. 

More hypocrisy in a post that is a list of complaints but one of my main complaints is how much we complain about everything. Wetherspoon's try to adapt to the changing beer scene by bringing over the delicious cans of Sixpoint. They continue their series of American collaboration brews that, whilst they have been a little hit and miss on taste and quality, have at least brought some big brewers over to this country. And all I hear is complaints - because it's Wetherspoons. They do have their faults, but they've also offered something different, saved a lot of historic buildings from misuse, created a place to eat a £1.49 breakfast whilst supping an incredibly cheap pint, formed the starting point and recovery place of every stag do you will go on in this country, all whilst offering up to ten pints of cask ale. If you don't like that, don't drink there.
BrewDog are BrewDog. We don't need to go into this once more but they've certainly aided the development of beer in this country and I happen to like many of their bars and beers. I've already written about why you should all stop bashing them. Yet we still like to complain and find fault in everything. I understand, I am a Brit too. Sometimes people try to adapt. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. That brings me nicely to my next point on...

Daniel Thwaites'

I've started a post about my not so beloved Thwaites' brewery twice. It was to be entitled "Your Thwaites and mine," but after writing nearly 2,500 words, I realised it would be too long so I'll try and now briefly concise my feelings on this brewery into much fewer words. 

Thwaites own my localist of locals the Stamford Arms. The running of this pub has been a joke for six years despite being a terrific little place in a great location with a huge catchment area and devoted locals. Much of my anger stems from the way Thwaites have run this place, from doubling rent to tenants, refusing to sell real ale to the pub and allowing one landlord to not pay rent for months and sell cans of Calrsberg instead of anything from the pumps. They've now shut their main brewery, sacked a bunch of people and outsourced many of their beers to Marston's. 

Meanwhile, they opened their Crafty Dan brewery and got right in the thick of the "Craft Beer" lovefest. This became their focus. I like 13 Guns so I should be happy, right? Of course not, because you would think that in some form, whether cask, keg, bottle or can I would now be able to get 13 Guns and other Crafty Dan products in the Stamford Arms. You would be completely wrong. It's not even on the current tenants list of potential purchases. So whilst people who have not witnessed such an atrocity as the Stamford Arms get gladly on their knees for Thwaites' over their new beers, I've received no answers and only the odd cowardly Personal Message on Twitter (nobody wants public criticism) about my complaints and queries. Shocking. 

American Love 

"We are excited to announce that we are now stocking South Mid-West Coast Brewing's IPA - hop wankers get ready - and it's only £14.99 a bottle." Can we just... not? Look, I know much of this beer revolution was inspired by US beers and there are hundreds of brilliant breweries over there that we'd all love to try but for God's sake aren't we really excited and impressed by the excellent UK beers? Shouldn't we show our devotion to them first? I've never had a Brew by Numbers beer you know and I hear they are excellent but nobody's bothering to stock their beers as they are concentrating on getting every American IPA over here that they can. I've never tasted any American IPA that is presently comparable or better than Buxton's Wyoming Sheep Ranch is right now; freshness probably being the key to this fact. 

European Ignorance 

I've returned to my love of brews from continental Europe this year that has included favourites from Belgium and Germany, as well as traditional beers I'd shamefully never had before. Regardless of this, too many Tweeters and Bloggers seem unaware of some of the most iconic beers in the world. I complained about this in my review of 2013, so all I'll add here is my dismay the other week when a large American brewery announced a new bar they were opening in Germany (possibly in Munich) and somebody I follow on Twitter replied, with no sense of irony, "I didn't know there was a craft beer scene in Germany." WHAT. THE. FUCK. 

Everything was boring before and Everything is so different and varied now

Before craft beer came along, breweries in this country were just brewing the basic roster of beers for their collection; a Boring Brown Best Bitter, a Premium Bitter, a dark mild and maybe a stout. Now, of course, new breweries all have a massive cornucopia of different beers as their core range... don't they? Well, no, I'm calling complete bullshit on that. Instead, a new brewery opens every hour and they brew an IPA, a session IPA (aka a Bitter) a Black IPA and maybe a Stout... that's packed full of American hops. Yes, I'm generalising here. I know practically all breweries made added a Sour beer to the list in 2013 as it was a fad. I'm aware that there are plenty of terrific experimental beers going on with beetroot, marshmallows and children's tears mashed in but my point is that, although the styles have changed, at the very core most are still doing the same thing. I mentioned in that first stock clearance post how, if I was a brewer, I'd like to experiment with my own Scotch Ale, Rauch beer or Dunkel. There are just so many styles to potentially play with and, instead, most breweries opened in the last five years are going for the same. Just brew me a God damn Dark Mild, at least you'd be different. 

Free stuff still tastes brilliant 

I spoke in that review of 2013 post about how disgruntled I'd become with those refusing to criticise items they'd been sent for free. This remains, isn't diminishing and, unfortunately, I can't forgive it. The worst example I saw was a group discussing on social media about newly branded bottles of Shepherd Neame's Bishop's Finger they'd been sent. Newly branded, not newly tasting. It's still in a clear bottle, still not bottle conditioned and still tastes like tree branches blended with wombat faeces. The recipients of this completely NEW beer were either full of praise, sat on the fence or actually refused to review it, I assume for fear they'd be sent no more. Free stuff does taste better, I'm sure, but it must be hard to taste the product sometimes when the breweries are putting something else in your mouth. 

"Ain't nobody fucking with my clique, clique, clique, clique..." 

Every hobby has a clique. It happens. If you have a niche bond or common thought then you are brought together naturally. I mean, have you ever been to a party where you are the only person there not involved in professional track cycling in some way? Now that's a clique right there. Not that I want to compare any terrific beer people to cycling wankers but I've never been one to try and get involved with cliques. If you don't want to reply to my Tweets because I'm not part of your clique - I'm OK. If you only Retweet your best friend's blogs then that's for you. But we're all here because we have the same interest. Also, maybe the London writers can one day make the effort to have a big day out at a Northern city, rather than expecting the world to come to them every time. Hash tag, Just Saying...

Being a total prick is now socially acceptable and cool 

I was in London in June. Just after half 6 on the Sunday I found myself on Goodge Street so thought I'd check out the Draft House. I was on the phone at the time but saw the pub and saw there was still about seven people in there sat at the bar. As I entered, I was welcomed by a lovely bearded fellow of similar age to me who greeted me with that famous hello of "We're shut. You are in a shut pub. That's why all the lights are off. It's obvious." all with a face that suggested he was close to murder. I was so taken aback and still on a phone call that I left without a word. Looking back now I wish I was a little tipsy so I could have gladly smashed his bar up and made sure it stayed closed for a longer time. Though in hindsight, maybe I should have expected a busy city centre pub to be shut just after tea time at the weekend. I don't know - maybe London has different opening hours to, say, everywhere else in fucking Britain. The problem is so many "craft" beer houses are full of grumpy and gruff barmen, who are probably just trying to be ironic and would be fired from any respectable local free house for being rubbish at their job. My only antidote is to let them know on social media what I experienced and then never return. I certainly will never go to the Draft House. 

Can Craft Beer be Fun? I asked. No, replied the world. 

Exposed piping. As many mis-matched stools as you can find from your old Science classroom. Religious style beards. And all the pulled pork you'll ever want to eat. We know the formula for opening a "Craft Beer" bar by now and it's tiresome. I miss the pub. I've spoken recently about how much I've enjoyed being in the pub. I like small tap rooms with cosy stools and a fireplace. I like random brass and copper utensils on the walls. I like bar flies that know your name and sit in the same spot with the racing post every day. I like Sky Sports on the television and maybe a pool table around the back. I like inexpensive bar snacks from Big D and Mr. Porky. I just wish this was where I could get a good beer. I've said it before and will say again, when drinking in Leeds I'd rather be sat in the delightful Grove Inn on Back Row than in Tapped Leeds. Yet the remarkable choice of beers always leads me to the grey and soulless new bar. There are no flashing games machines here. There is no memorabilia of bygone days in Yorkshire adorning the walls. There are no locals starting a random conversation with you about the problems Joiners have had in the past six years. There is just beer and I've allowed that to be enough. I've become the embodiment of everything I am criticisng. I like Tapped - and the bar staff have always been delightful here - it just makes me question myself.

Well, that was longer than I expected or intended. Heck, I could have got 12 seperate blog posts out of this little tirade and really milked it. I just had to let it go in one swoop, to get it off my chest and refer back to those beer demons that inspired me to create a part time blog using a ridiculously archaic but beautful word as the title. This is the passion that fuels us all and makes us critiques. We see the changes and developments and form opinions that not everybody is going to agree with. Yet whilst one man is being a snob and the next man is being a hop blower I find myself scanning through the tweets and blogs with a sense of disillusionment. We've got more choices of beers, more shops to buy them and an infinite number of bars to drink them in. When is the thirst quenched? When are we happy? At what point is somebody going to take a flame thrower to the Wetherspoon's AM lager drinkers because they don't approve? We're all still learning and educating ourselves. Accept it.



Curmudgeon said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curmudgeon said…
Excellent rant! Especially the penultimate paragraph. And some people accuse me of being curmudgeonly!
Unknown said…
I was sat in the Draft House when you walked in on your phone and Max said they were shut (I didn't know it was you at the time). Although they weren't 'shut, shut' it was a ticketed event for a tasting with the Wild Beer co. I think a better explanation to you would've been that they were closed for a ticketed event. I wouldn't write the Draft House off based on a single bad experience, in my opinion they're one of the best run pub chains in the City.

The essence of blogging be it via video, podcasting or the written word is based on having an opinion and wanting to express it. If everyone agreed on everything all of the time then there would be no need to express your opinion and therefore no need for blogging, life would be simpler but also incredibly boring. This is a great post, its rich in opinion, I may not always comment/retweet etc but i've been reading your blog for as long as I've been writing my own.

Enjoy beer. Couldn't say it better myself but if that enjoyment, that passion drives you to communicate about it then you shouldn't be lambasted for it. I'll be at Indyman in October on the Saturday and out in Manchester in the evening. It'd be good to meet for a drink if you're about.
Cooking Lager said…
brilliant stuff, love it.
BeerCast Rich said…
Well, if that's it for blogging you certainly went out swinging! Great stuff

Unknown said…
This is the best time there has ever been to be a beer writer and especially a beer drinker. I know: I was writing about beer 15 years ago, and I wake up happy if hungover most mornings thanking my lucky stars it's not like that any more. This is an excellent post with many issues very close to my own heart. It actually makes me want to write (and drink) more. But the petty debates only matter if you pay attention to them: the momentum behind beer is now bigger and more powerful than a bunch of bloggers and hopheads can have any control over. And outside the craft beer bubble, good old cask ale is in small but steady volume growth, eight times the size of other craft beer formats combined. Mine's a Timothy Taylor Landlord followed by a Westmalle Dubbel, cheers.
Mark Johnson said…
How incredibly random that you were in the Draft House during my public humiliation. Small World indeed. I suppose that explanation does relax my attitude to the Draft House a little, but doesn't change the fact that the majority of bar staff would politely say "Sorry pal, we're closed for a private/ticketed event." I would have smiled in acceptance and everyone would have departed as the best of friends, rather than leaving me with a very bitter opinion of the place.

But, never mind, it's all good fun. I do happen to be at the Indy Man Saturday afternoon session and undoubtedly falling about in the city afterwards so it's prime for us to embrace at some point
Unknown said…
Craft hugs for Craft thugs. See you there.

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