“Shall we watch this?” I enquired of the squeeze as I showed her the exciting and interesting DVD I’d bought? “No” came the reply “Beertickers? Why on earth have you bought a DVD about beer? Can’t you watch it on your own? Do I have to see it?” With that I pottered upstairs, DVD in one hand, can of Carling (with giant wine glass) in the other anticipating the excitement of discovering all about the thrilling world of Beer Ticking. The film has been knocking around for a while but I’ve only just got around to watching it. I guess whiling away a boring day in the office by reading beer blogs isn’t enough for me. I’m guessing I need beer geekery in my home life too.
In the shortish (some might say not short enough) film amiable film maker Phil Parkin takes us on a guided tour of beer geekery & beer ticking meeting along the way a series of unusual odd balls engaged in the hobby. Phil explains the rules to us as “You drink ‘em, then you tick ‘em” sets himself the task of ticking 500 beers and on the way we get to meet characters such as Dave Unpronounceable, Gazza Prescott, Mick the Tick & Brian the Champ.
On the way there are some peculiar diversions involving Phil interviewing such beer luminaries as a thinner than he looks now Pete Brown & a bang tidy looking Melissa Cole. I say peculiar because these bits appear to have little to do with beer ticking and shoe horned in. Pete informs us of the important role beer has within the history of our sceptred isle on a five minute walk round of Burton on Trent’s brewing museum and Melissa informs us that drinking beer is great and it’s those wine drinkers with their 250ml of 14% grog that are the problem. An argument that falls over later on in the film where we get to see that an important part of beer ticking is indeed getting pissed as that's what happens if you “tick” 13 different beers. Not to mention the 250ml glass of wine being entirely a development from pubs and bars and not a reflection of typical home drinking. It’s as if Phil Parking decided upon a documentary on beer, asked a few well known faces to take part, got a response of “yes”, filmed a short interview entirely unrelated to the topic and slotted it in regardless because like heh, these people are beer celebs.
Where the film really works is in the contributions from some actual beer tickers. These people are portrayed sympathetically and the impression you get is one of a decent bunch of chaps with an unusual but entirely harmless hobby. Phil falls in love with his topic and rather than maintain an objective distance from it, he wholeheartedly engages in it. This results in a fair insight into the hobby including the rules that you have to neck a half before it’s a tick and the peculiar activity of bottling. This involves pouring your half into an empty 250ml panda pops bottle to tick later in the event of their being more that needs ticking than you are able to do. I mean I’m no expert but that can’t be a way to actually enjoy the beer, can it? Necking old stale beer from panda pops bottles? We are informed by a chap called Gazza Prescott that “scoopers” appreciate the beer and tickers just need to tick it off.
The lack of objective distance results in the documentary being a little thin on detail and as a viewer watching it the questions I had were not answered. Are the hobbyists suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder in the sense of what is a diagnosis of an actual doctor? What are the lives of the tickers outside ticking? Do these men have wives, girlfriends, children, hold down jobs? Are they in any way regular chaps with an odd hobby or do they live at home with their elderly mother never talking to girls and holding down a boring admin role at the local council on the lowest pay grade? Do these chaps have other obsessive compulsions? Do they like World of Warcraft? How much do they spend on their hobby and does it result in forgoing other pleasures as the hobby dominates their lives or is the hobby part of an otherwise balanced life? All this went unanswered. Interesting asides were not pressed by Phil Parkin in favour of maintaining bonhomie with his subject. I’d have loved to know why Dave Unpronounceable and Gazza Prescott got banned from a local pub they are choosing to boycott, especially if it was related to their hobby.
A feature of the documentary not all will like is that one aspect of Phil Parkins love of real ale paints a picture not that beer ticking is a minority sport within the ranks of CAMRA members and beer enthusiasts but that beer ticking is a central plank and activity. You do get the impression that beer enthusiast = Beer Ticker, though Phil’s enthusiasm and general chappish likability do add greatly to the journey he takes you on.
One feature of the closeness to his subject that does work is the insight the beer tickers afford him. We get to see Brian the Champ pull out a massive folder of the nearly 40,000 beers he has ticked and start cross referencing it with the beer menu at the Great British Beer Festival as he hunts for his 40,000th tick. They all have massive folders, except the younger ones (by younger I mean middle aged) who have electronic PDA’s.
One aside works well in that Phil Parkin creates his own tick by brewing a Thornbridge Jaipur variant on a brewery visit, nicely connecting the visit with the theme of ticking.
I was left with the impression that the tickers at least enjoy their hobby and are not necessarily the weirdoes you might assume if someone were to simply explain the activity to you. At least the ones in the documentary. That they enjoy drinking and ticking is an activity that enhances their drinking pleasure rather than detracts from it. I cannot think of a less fun thing to do whilst having a pint than to note it down in a book (Brewer, Beer Name, ABV), but whatever gets you through the night is alright. The DVD extras are worth viewing if you need a bit more beer geekery than the 70 minutes of the documentary and as an overall personal view I liked the piece. Worth watching.
Will that in mind I offer the DVD to you, dear reader, by way of a prize. You can win this exciting now second hand DVD by posting “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” in the responses below. If more than one people respond I draw a name out of a hat to choose the winner. On announcing the winner I will then ask for an address to post it to. It’s only a DVD, I can nick a jiffy bag from the stationary cabinet at work and don’t mind whether the postage is UK, Europe or beyond. The DVD is all regions but English Language only. I attach but one condition to the prize. Once watched you have to pass it on with the same condition that they pass it on. Pass it about and let anyone interested see it. You have to see it to the end to see whether Phil ticks 500 and reaches his goal.