When I wrote some musings last week about my pub and its link but distance from the more modern craft beer bar, I wasn’t planning a follow up post, hence the lack of pictures for this one. But then, I went out with my Uncle Dave and a few others of his generation in Dewsbury last Friday.
I’ve written about my Uncle Dave before; attacked him even, in a post in 2012 where he was the scapegoat of a post about old attitudes to new beer. The post was rash but necessary, as it was an infuriating evening of drinking with people with negative attitudes to beer development. I’ve come a long way since then. Beer has come a long way too. And, in his own way, my Uncle Dave has too.
Dave is approaching 60 and is a lifelong ale enthusiast. He’s been involved with his local CAMRA branch for twenty years, helping to arrange beer festivals and was even branch chairman for a while. He also has a very old school attitude to the Beer world. He doesn’t like many of the new bars or new breweries as I wrote about in that post over two years ago. His ideal beer is a Chestnut Mild. He comes out with many classic lines that we affectionately ridicule him for, such as “These new beers give me heartburn” or my favourite, “There’s too many hops in this.” And I used to resent his position and criticise it.
Now, though, Dave and I understand each other’s stance on beer a little better. It’s education for us both. Drinking with the likes of Dave and his other peers lets you see a side of Beer that we craft wankers have long criticised, but rather than hating it now I understand it.
Friday night in Dewsbury was still rife with ridiculousness, the type I would have felt slightly angry about a few years ago, yet now it's ignored. There are blatant factual inaccuracies I don’t correct, such as his claim that a beer that has nothing to do with the big Ellon brewery is “the only good beer Brewdog produce.”
The beers Dave drinks are as you’d expect. On the evening he waxed lyrical most about Brain’s SA and Thwaite’s Wainwright – two beers I’d avoid ordering unless the choice was limited to just those. He also describes his love of Acorn Brewery’s Blonde too. “It’s a great beer. A lot of others blondes are too blonde, for me.”
It’s the addition of these final two words that were missing two years ago that shows how things have changed. The reason Dave’s approach to beer drinking used to annoy me is because it was opinion presented as fact. Now he sticks with his opinion and recognises others. We don’t dismiss each other’s choices; we respect them..
He has an archaic attitude to the gravity of beers that I find bemusing even though it was once commonplace. Whereas anything up to 6% is pint territory for me, Dave still puts much stall in the huge difference between a 4.2% beer and one at 4.5% He still comes from the era where anything above 4.4% was a Strong beer and says that his head also tells the difference. He doesn’t like a lot of new bars because there’s often no attempt to offer a couple of low gravity choices. And he’s right. It still perplexes me that he can taste the difference in a couple of decimal places but it isn’t something to deride. He knows his ale and knows what he can handle.
There’s further understanding in the evening as we settle into the West Riding Refreshment Rooms. There’s an array of beers on the bar (as ever) from traditional and much more modern breweries. There are beers that Dave would normally scoff at – such as Great Heck’s Yakima IPA at 7.4%. “Beers shouldn’t be that strong,” says Dave shaking his head. It’s hypocritical – the sort of comment that annoyed me in that post back then – because this is the Uncle who introduced me to Gulden Draak (the famous 10.5% Belgian Strong Ale) as a 19-year-old. What he means is that it isn’t appropriate for a British cask beer. Still Dave chooses what he wants and I instantly plump for a half of the Yakima. We don’t take a sip of each other’s beers or exchange notes. He asks me how it is and I tell him it’s wonderful and he accepts that. Whereas once he may have tried to criticise, degrade or demean my beer choices, Dave raises his glass to me and we enjoy each other’s company.
We discuss great pubs we’ve enjoyed over the past decade. We talk about drinking towns and cities we’ve visited or wish to. We’re not talking about the next big brewery launch, the next city centre keg bar opening or the next Twissup. We’re talking about pubs he enjoyed in the 70’s beginning to try cask ale again. We’re lamenting pubs we enjoyed together ten years ago closing. We speak of snugs and taprooms and dark milds. We see the side of beer that the new Beer fan has forgotten, or even never experienced.
I’ve thought about writing posts before about how I sometime think there’s too many of the “young” beer bloggers who have started drinking beer during the “craft beer revolution.” They say things to me that give me one reaction: learn your heritage, learn the tradition.When several people recently tried to tell me that there are plenty of modern British Brewer's doing the Hopfenweisse style better than Schneider Weisse's unbeatable Tap 5 I despaired. I never developed from a lager drinker. I was hunting out the best pubs for beer from 18. This has always been my way. I can criticise Dave’s often regrettable mindset because of that, but I’ll defend the way he is to those whom have never spent an evening drinking with the likes of him and his peers.
The evening ends in surprise when the conversation turns towards that prickly subject of CAMRA, the organisation that I’ve warmed to slightly over the past year. I ask him how things are going in his branch with genuine interest and he and his wife shock me by informing me they’ve not been members for nearly two years. “There was so much bureaucracy, Mark,” Dave tells me. “Branch meetings stopped being fun social gatherings and more like being sat in parliament.” I truly was surprised. Dave fit most people's image of the stereotypical CAMRA member well and here I had him expressing his disillusionment with it.
It's just another part of a developing story. As the landscape has changed so dramatically so have we and we've grown the better for it. It’s not a battleground anymore. It’s a link between two very different viewpoints who have learnt to co-habituate. I’m unlikely to get my uncle into a Brewdog or similar bar, but I’ve enough friends to do that side of things with. Dave symbolises the tradition that should never die. Here’s to many more years drinking with him and the like. Cheers!