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.