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Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?

Trying to avoid a "Them & Us" culture with the beer scene's Kids

When I was very young, before Channel 5 was launched, I remember (for some reason) asking my mother this: "You know how TV Channel 1 has Radio 1 and Channel 2 has Radio 2 and Channel 3 has Radio 3 and Channel 4 has Radio 4... who has Radio 5?" My mum didn't answer my question or correct my assumptions and thus I spent a long time believing my media number correlation theory. Perhaps she wanted to punish me for the time I swore at her when I didn't want a bath. But perhaps she felt it was easier to humour the ill-informed child in front of her rather than correcting the nonsense being spouted.

The main sentiments of the new year resolution type posts from beer bloggers, including myself, were prophecies of the future need to tolerate and co-operate with newer drinkers. With beer becoming more popular, you become more accepting and guiding to those discovering good beer for the first time. But, alas, as good beer expands and becomes more inclusive, it will open doors to the Kids.

I use the term "Kids" as my favourite slang term for a certain type of newbie beer drinker; those that I've described many times as "discovering that beer existed 18 months ago." The nickname Kids came from a conversation I had with a brewer at a famous Northern brewery (I've not asked if it's okay to name him so I won't.) They brew a defining milestone beer from the last twelve years' beer scene development in this country, that is often derided by newbie drinkers who have the audacity to dismiss it despite its importance and status (as well as delicious taste.) I asked him what he thought of those new commentators. "They're just kids. No matter their age they're just kids. Don't let them bother you. We don't." 

Let’s be clear, I’ve nothing against new beer discoverers. I've spent most of my adult life being a beer evangelist to anybody sad enough to listen. I don’t want good beer to be exclusive to those who’ve been aware of it for years, but allow me my indignation when some alternative pinhole spews incorrect facts at me without listening to correction or other opinions. Or criticises an important beer because it didn't come from their favourite instagrammed Bermondsey hop hole.

Facebook's UK Craft Beer Network is like a Kids forum for those recent beer discoverers, having apparently started life as a pleasant homebrew page. I only joined fairly recently - certainly within the last 6 months - and immediately realised my mistake. Certainly, my continued subscription to the group is one of pure masochism and hypocrisy. I've commented very rarely on the group and never set up a post myself. Any comment I do make generally comes from sheer anger, hysterics or drunkenness. There is usually an overpoweringly emotional reason for me to find a reason to respond to the numerous word-defying posts that appear.

This exchange was the first time I really made my feelings felt on the forum. Here was a reviewer describing a beer as "boring and bland" as if it were the worst thing he'd ever put in his mouth and sharing his Untappd review with everyone. Yet according to his review score it was 70% of the way to being perfect. "Not good at all - THREE AND A HALF STARS." I'd like to think my dig back to this was all in good humour. I'd really like to take this young man out for a pint of Robinson's Trooper so we can cry into our glasses about how foul a beer it is before rating it four and a half Untappd stars. 

Then come the rub-your-eyes posts:-

Part of me wants to believe that these questions are done by the group's vesion of Gemma Worrall; that this is an incredibly profound question on the meaning of "Craft Beer" just phrased badly. Sadly there's a chance that, had this question been put onto Yahoo, it would not be out of place on a list of some of the craziest questions ever posed by humanity since the internet age.

As beer gets bigger and more people discover it, these are the type of posts we'll have to become accustomed to. This is how we will have to cooperate and tolerate the shifts in attitude. It's not that it's unfamiliar; I've smiled and nodded as plenty in pubs have started a factless conversation with me. I've not jumped to criticise and correct as it's all a voyage of discovery. Remember the Kid in Browton's who really wanted to try those Beavertown American cans? "They're just Kids," I was told and I guess I wouldn't ridicule my 6-year-old niece if she couldn't explain trigonometry to me. 

Unless you believe that certain nations completely bypass one of beer's key ingredients and are defiant in that belief... 

I have jumped to the defence of smoked beer too and the response was so aggressive I actually decided to apologise just to stop myself from losing it. I wasn't sorry. The way the commentators reacted with verbal insults was unacceptable as far as I'm concerned but I was worried I wasn't being tolerating enough."I don't like smoked beer but keep buying them so I criticise them." It's the beer review equivalent of football fans who watch YouTube videos of their rival teams to leave unnecessary vile comments for their own provocative joy.

It is when I see comments like the next that the atmosphere changes. Please be aware that these sort of interactions are not uncommon on the group.

As I say, this is not an infrequent occurrence. Reference to getting a beer due to some factor concerning the "missus" or "the better half" is all too regular. "Missus is on a girl's night," "Done housework so Missus let me reward myself," "Such a good beer that the Missus even enjoyed it." Life is just one long mission to convince women to let men drink beer. Why don't they just Blame John for ease? What can we do to try and get a woman, God forbid, to drink dirty beer? 

It's not just references to the missus. Items like the following are also shared too... 

Any ignorant Kids reading this should read thoroughly about the sexist controversies we're continually combating in the beer world before they start to believe any of this is an over-reaction. 

So is the solution here to just ignore the Kids? To unsubscribe and never read another male powered voice attributing them to my passion? This is a large community group clearly entitled the UK Craft Beer Network. I see bloggers posting their latest posts on this page. I see breweries promoting their new beers on the wall. Whether we choose to distance ourselves or ignore the group doesn't change the perceptions of all of us the group can give. What if this is the first Beer Network a female beer drinker joins? If they feel isolated from the group at the start, how do we make them feel more welcome to the larger community and encourage them to be involved?

Ignorance comes in many forms. It's too easy for us to ask for cooperation and tolerance of the Kids. It is, of course, far from being all of them. I'm not going to make any friends on that group by writing this - and I'm really all out of coitie to give about that. They don't represent me and my peers but that might not be how everyone else perceives it. The Kids don't need squandering or shut away and I welcome the decent non-aggressive, non-idiotic, non-sexist ones into the beer community with open arms. Just don't tell me to be more tolerant and co-operative when others need teaching such virtues instead. 

It turns out that ITV do not own Radio 3, nor do Channel 4 control Radio 4. I wish my mother had told me that there and then. Similarly it turns out that the Belgians do brew with hops and that buying beer you know you will not enjoy so you can publicly criticise it is known as "trolling." And, yes, being a sexist tool in any form isn't acceptable. Maybe when you asked your mother whether it was she didn't correct you, but if you already know that it's unacceptable then I'll see you at the bar. Mine's a smoked beer if it's available. Not a packet of Prawn Cocktail crisps though, thanks.  



John Clarke said…
While you rightly point out much to take issue with here, I think the comment about the Belgians not doing hops was perhaps just unfortunately worded more than anything else. Whilst the Belgians do of course use hops in their beers it is also the case that most of them, both historically and even currently, are not particularly hop forward. There are an increasing number of welcome exceptions to that rule but it's still a fair observation I think.
Curmudgeon said…
I think you are rather yoking together two different issues here - neophyte ignorance and laddism.
Unknown said…
Reposting (rather more concisely) as it appears my post hasn't been accepted. Join the UK Craft Beer Forum. We set it up to be everything the UKCBN isn't. Admins work hard to ensure no sexism, put in places to avoid too much repetition including bans on asking if things are craft, and the kind of related comments that start arguments.
Mattias said…
Saison Dupont
De Ranke XX Bitter
Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel

Just some of the reasons why you're wrong. These are not new or eccentric exceptions to the rule. Historically Belgian brews were even hoppier. Sure, there are popular sweet specialty beers out of Belgium, but Belgian beer is much more than that.
John Clarke said…
No I don't think I was wrong in the context of being discussed. It's always difficult to guess what was in someone's mind when you get third had reports of comments made but I assumed that the comment "Belgians don't really do hops" mean that they don't produce the big hop forward beers with citrus, flowery, tropical fruit etc notes that you get from the generous use of USA, New Zealand and Australian hops.

The beers you quote don't really have any of those characteristics - the hops used in those beers produce a notable bitterness but not really a "hoppiness" (although for me I don't think Westmalle Tripel has that firm bitter finish that it used to). De Ranke perhaps come close with XX Bitter, XXX Bitter and Guldenberg but they have only been around since 2005. There are an increasing number of new brewers that do make "hop forward" beer - the IPAs from Viven, and beers from the likes of Den Triest, Du Brabant, Ingloruous Brew Stars and others , and this a growing trend I think but I still think my general comment was fair.

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