An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Rant !

I’m a bit off the grog recently and did think of shutting this bollocks down for a bit, but instead I’ve started writing random thoughts about beer with the odd post in regard to the occasional snifter I neck. No reason for it. I’m not detoxing, not concerned about my health or responding to digs from the lady squeeze. Just not really in the mood to neck it. I like writing my thoughts down, it’s just nicer than talking to people.

Today’s random thoughts about beer are inspired by this gentleman here, and his sterling efforts, as well as the comments made about the grog in question being like “licking the floor of a battery factory'.

Upon my limited travels around the globe I’ve necked a far bit of unusual stuff. By no means comprehensive enough to claim detailed knowledge of the world’s fire water, but enough to discover that getting pissed up is something the world likes to do. Even Islamic countries where you actually find the hotel bars may just be for tourists but a fair few of the locals do illicitly frequent the dive bars where the grog is cheap.

As I’m not really a beer enthusiast I never went anywhere and sought out the beer, just found myself somewhere because either I had to work there or wanted to visit. Upon those occasions I necked whatever the locals appeared to be necking figuring out that it must be okay if others were swigging it. Not one for going abroad and complaining about the lack of keg bitter and pukka pies.

This led me to the conclusion that some countries have some really nice cheap wine, some countries some really nice beer and some countries have the vilest crap you can imagine that frankly a lifetime of necking won’t get you to the point of even starting to like. Thinks like fermented yaks milk or bizarre distillations flavoured with locally grown stuff that tastes like shit. At the end of the day it’s just there to get pissed up on until you get to return home. So long as you can overcome your gag reflex it is possible to drink pretty much anything, and once you’re on your way to getting pissed it becomes easier to finish the job.

Tradition explains why some drinks are popular in the countries they are drunk (agriculturally what are the fermentable sugars they grow?), and globalisation explains why new drinks gain popularity. Who wouldn’t want to try a drink featured in a Hollywood movie? Even if it is no better and more expensive than the domestic grog.

When it comes to beer, it is a staple of the British diet. Grain fermentations having a long tradition in this country. It is not a luxury product. It’s bread. Imported products from foreign climes may well have an air of sophistication, but not beer. I think I can understand beer geekery, in the same way I understand car enthusiasts.

My car is a run of the mill mass produced metal box. I have no interest in cars other than can I fit what I want into it (people, shopping, dead prostitutes), does it go when I turn the key, how much does it cost me? Others think different. They are beautiful objects, they display your wealth and position to the world, and they are works of art or sexual extensions. Not to me. I turned down the offer of a company car in favour of a few extra bob in my pay packet. The car on offer was a really nice shiny new thing. But I prefer the extra few bob. That’s my personal choice as to what I think is important to me. Others would pick different. Others would spend their weekends refurbishing a classic, polishing a posh motor and watching crap like Top Gear. I hope it rains every so often so I don’t need to clean it.

I understand beer geekery in the same way. That the beer may taste different, but like cars are all just metal boxes, beer is just fermented grain. I can understand it is more accessible to buy exciting beer than a Porsche. That a £3-4 bottle of exotic excitement is an affordable pleasure.

Visiting those countries where beer is popular one thing stands out to me. It tends to be fairly consistent and fairly good. In both Germany and Australia beer is a widely drunk drink. It’s also quite nice. Here in Britain, the popular beers are also consistent and reasonably decent. That is they taste the same everywhere you buy them and taste pretty good.

When it comes to niche beers, there is a reason they are niche. I can go into 3 or 4 pubs after work and drink the cask beer and in each one it will taste different. That’s from the same brewer. I’m meant to accept that I’m necking a quality product? Consistency does not mean quality but every quality product I buy is consistent. I like the fact that my car consistently starts and consider it a feature of quality.

If we talk about different brewers it is difficult to say that there really is anything you can really define as let’s say a pint of cask bitter. If you drink a pint of cask bitter from an unfamiliar brewer gods know what you will get. The only certainty is that is it unlikely to be like the cask bitter you’ve previously drunk. I can neck it because I can neck anything, but most people are not as undiscerning as me. I can understand how that is exciting to geeks. However if I want to go out and neck nice beer in nice company I do know that the keg lagers are quite drinkable and will taste familiar, regardless of brand. A product like cask ale can never be consistent and there is no interest in improving keg ale and making a beer better than a 3% soapy foamed pint of piss.

I can understand why beer drinking is in decline, because as nice as cooking lager is, it’s not as nice as the lager in the countries where beer is popular and everyone drinks it. It’s okay, but I’m not kidding myself a Carling is anywhere near as nice as the consistent keg lagers of other nations. By comparison it’s fairly crap. When sharing a bottle of Merlot is nicer, why neck lots of piss?

And don’t get me started on women and beer. A few lady bloggers like to encourage women to drink beer. I enjoy those blogs and consider them well written, articulate and interesting. They are, however, pissing in the wind. You will not encourage women to take an interest in beer by any of the following means, geeky niche products, beer brands for women, beer as a cosmetic ingredient, a nice recipe that you’ve knocked up. Though you might catch a fella with the recipe. Who wouldn’t want to knock about with a nice lass that liked beer and cooked meals? Unfortunately the blokes you are likely to meet are beer geeks. There is one reason and one reason alone lasses by and large do not neck beer. It is cultural. When the laddettes of the 90’s were all the fashion you did see a number of girls swigging pints and watching football. And a good laugh they are too. Lasses that imitate blokes are a good idea and if you want to call in feminist liberation I’m all for birds acting like blokes, necking pints and putting it about.

In the UK beer is culturally a man’s drink. Not everywhere. Go for a beer in Europe and notice both beer and wine are enjoyed equally by both sexes. You can make beer a universal drink in the UK. It’s called advertising. Put adverts on the telly of young men and women enjoying a nice beer of universal appeal in a modern setting and repeat ad nauseum. It is that simple.

Ask yourself why Diet coke is a girl’s drink? It’s advertising. Coke even had to go to the bother of marketing another sugar free version called Coke Zero after shooting themselves in the foot by making the sugar free pop only appeal to lasses. Had they marketed it universally inviting us to buy the world a diet coke, they needn’t have bothered. Advertise a nice lager to both men and women. So long as the Carling and Fosters adverts are made to appeal to blokes, those brands are blokes’ brands. Create a brand of nice lager and advertise it properly. Bob’s your transvestite aunty and you have a beer for men and women.

When looking at the more unusual beer geekery, like in Marks post I ask myself one question, why on earth would I want to drink a beer that tasted like licking the floor of a battery factory? (see what I’ve done, gone full circle, how about that?) Not even just so I could tick that one off. I just want something nice that I will like. I read lots of crap in the blogosphere about expanding interest in craft brewing and educating customers either on taste or to accept a higher price and I think “what utter tosh” If you want more people to drink beer then what the market needs is high quality consistent product at a reasonable price. There may be beers on the beer geekery shelf waiting for mass appeal, ones that don’t taste of batteries.

Beer geekery will always be there and there will always be people that like that sort of thing, but the idea that it will ever be mainstream is ludicrous. The only people interested in hop bombs or battery flavoured beer are odd people into that sort of thing. There is nothing wrong with being odd. Britain is a country of eccentrics. It’s just that is it odd to get excited about drinking a beer that makes you wince.

You drink things that make you wince when you’re stuck in a crap hole country trying to do a bit of business and need to fit in with your hosts. Then you drink things that makes you wince, get nicely pissed and think that what you drank wasn’t as bad as you first thought until you drink it again and realise that it is as bad as you first thought, and now you’ve started you have to get pissed again to make it better.


Whorst said...

I could never have said it better myself. These days I tend to just drink it and communicate my disgust with tracks.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

what about whisky then, I’ve never got the attraction of setting fire to your throat and then talking about peat and heather (the stuff that grows on moorlands like Exmoor that is), even when I never needed some courage after declaiming loudly at an Edinburgh party (think ‘what fcuker said that?’ in Withnail) that Scottish football is rubbish.

Mark said...

Blimey that was a rant.

I actually think a little differently on some points, but it might take a while to explain and will probably confuse myself in doing so... The unpredictability of cask beer is a problem and it puts me off. I like to try new cask beers but sometimes don't through fear of getting a crap one. That's where nice bottles come in - I can trust it more, especially ones that I've geekily read about. A pint of lager will always be the same. It won't cause offense but will rarely spark off a 'wow' response. A good cask beer can be wow!

Esoteric beers appeal to a certain geek market. Souped-up turbo-charged boy racers appeal to a certain market. A lot of people look at them and scoff in horror. Those on the 'inside' love it. Geekery, by its nature, will never be mainstream and it's a particular extreme of enjoyment. Enjoyment of a geek product CAN be mainstream - cars, sci-fi, music, films, beer... I guess it depends on the level of input the 'consumer' whats to put in.

There's nothing wrong with being content with what you know. It's a natural condition. I think we are generally programmed to not cause offense to ourselves and others. We are also habitual creatures, doing the same routines, parking in the same spots, sitting in the same seat at work, buying the same trolley of food each week.

You should've been in Sheffield, there was no shortage of very good cask beer, you just need to be a geek to know what's best to order!!

ZakAvery said...

You're right Cookie, in that there will never be enough people to make Scruttocks Old Borajo a lout-challenging bestseller. But interest in good quality beers has never been greater.

For every beer geek blogging about something rare and virtually unobtainable, there are thousands of ordinary drinkers having a go on Grolsch Weizen or Fullers ESB bought in the supermarket. Of course, there are millions still louting it up, but there is a drift from one to the other, and I don't believe it's towards lout appreciation.

Twisted said...

Wow - what a long, rambling post! Have you switched from lout to speed, by any chance?

Kristy BitterSweet said...

Couldn’t resist commenting on this ...think I may have mentioned my work with BitterSweet Partnership around women and beer! Firstly, from our research we’ve seen that the culture in the UK is a defining factor in women not drinking beer, with many women associating beer drinking with “chavviness”, binge-drinking and masculinity. I definitely think we need to tackle perception to bring about a cultural shift (which is part of what we’re trying to do with BitterSweet).

Your example of Diet Coke is an interesting one – advertising of course had a large role in positioning it as a female drink. However, it was already a product that was suitable for a weight-conscious female audience and didn’t have anywhere near the number of preconceptions and myths surrounding it as beer does. If it was as simple to market beer to women as you make out, don’t you think more of the big beer companies would have already done as you suggest? The work of BitterSweet Partnership and others may be experimental in nature, and small-scale compared to a nation-wide advertising campaign, but perhaps what we do needs to be done in order to find out what women really want, and pave the way for larger-scale work in the future.

Cooking Lager said...

I think maybe it’s too simple, that’s why it has never been done. I cannot think of many beer adverts aimed at both men and women. I think you need to target the young adult for no other reason than they have no preconceptions you need to alter. My Granddad refers to lager as a girls drink, as it was marketed to women in the 60’s.
I think targeting women with specific brands is pointless and patronising and as for what women want I have learnt that it is somewhere between thinking they are being listened to when they try and bore you with a story about their friends relationship woes and chocolate.

I don’t think product innovation is necessary, nor glassware. Go boozing in Europe, Germany in particular and come office throwing out time you’ll see bars full of lasses drinking halb mass (0.5 litre) glasses of lager in really ugly glasses. It’s a nice drink and not considered unfeminine. There is respect for domestic produce above foreign sophistication, unlike the UK, within the culture but that difference ought to be of advantage to marketing a lager in the UK.
The key points are to market a brand of quality pilsner style lager with no adjuncts and full ingredients and calorie information and target it at both men and women. Times have changed, the future is androgynous.

Whorst said...

Avery, just shut the hell up! Everything you mention is always subjective. When do you actually state facts?? Just drink it and go write a book for children if you're enthralled with creative writing. That big, bulbous, burgundy glass, does you no favors.

First Stater said...

Did no one pick up on this statement?

"did think of shutting this bollocks down for a bit"

Is your real name Stonch? I've just wasted hours of my life catching up on your old blogs and would be sorely pissed if you shut this shite site down. extra points for shut/shite/site in one sentence.


Cooking Lager said...

It a great mystery of the beer world, who I am, Stater. Some think I am Avery, Brown or Protzy. Some think Stonch. It would disappoint too many to reveal I am who I say I am, a humble lout enthusiast.

Tyson said...

Interesting piece. Or so I gather fromt the comments here. Obviously, you wouldn't expect me to actually waste valuable drinking time reading through the whole thing.

But keep this up and you will no doubt find yourself sharing a platform this year with the likes of Pete Brown and the young Dredge. In fact, I may put a farthing on you. I made a shilling or two last year by backing Woolpack Dave.