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28-11-2015, 18:34
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I recently spotted an interesting post from Jules Gray, a beer blogger I hadn’t come across before, entitled Craft Beer as a Subculture (http://thenoisethatwemade.com/2015/11/24/craft-beer-as-a-subculture-imbc-2015/). This seemed to me very insightful, drawing a comparison with the punk and indie music subcultures.
The similarities are very clear – the enthusiasm for something perceived as special, the feeling of a tight-knit community, the narrow urban focus, the fanatical enthusiasm for certain artists/brewers, the constant quest for the obscure, the adoption of specific clothing and hairstyles, and the sense of betrayal when a favourite signs with a major label/sells out to a major brewer. There is also the negative side of dismissing those who don’t conform to your particular taste as ignorant and conventional.

Manchester is driving and engaging this subcultural group; something the city has always been good at. Subcultures have values and norms that are distinct from those held by the majority. Style can be an important part (for example clothing, hairstyles) but not essential as a united ideological approach can be the binding force. Not everyone can pull off a ‘Super Gueuze’ or ‘Brettanomyces’ t-shirt but you don’t need to in order to be part of this group; just as long as you’ve drunk you’re way through enough songbooks to hold an informed opinion of your own.
Within this culture are subgroups – Beer Geeks, Traders, Tickers, Beer Evangelists, Beer Bloggers, Hop Monsters, Beer Hunters, to name a few I’d recognise. Am I missing a few obvious ones?
An affinity seems to be the urge to record, develop content, engage in conversation and debate via blogs, social media platforms, online community forums and beer focused apps. If you’re a brewery doing this you are involved, engaging and part of the beer culture. Interesting to see Indy Man’s use of a webpage to host this year’s beer list, mirroring the technological information share the community has become attuned to. Though I would have preferred a printed program to write notes all over. The physical nature of writing etches beers and memories into my soul.
Social media’s accessibility via smartphones and its prevalence due to the handy/pocket nature of those devices fuels the discovery and questing of new breweries.Teeny nano breweries like – Beak Brewery, are hosted, as an example of the festival introducing drinkers to up and coming new talent.The music parallel is very interesting. Back in1977, the punk movement dismissed the previous generation of rock music – Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Yes – as “boring old farts”, despite the fact that many of its leading lights were still under 30, or only just above. Ian Anderson was born in 1947, Ozzy Osbourne and Robert Plant in 1948.
That’s very like the crafty dismissal of “boring brown bitter”, and the oft-heard claim that, going back twenty years, there was scarcely any decent beer available in Britain. All the family brewers, and the longer-established micros like Butcombe and Black Sheep, are just “boring old farts”.
I was 17 when the tidal wave of punk rock broke at the end of 1976. Now, the likes of Cookie (http://cookinglager.blogspot.co.uk/) may suggest I sprang from my mother’s womb already middle-aged, and I freely admit that I wasn’t the coolest kid in school. But I was a committed rock fan, with an extensive collection of vinyl albums including the likes of Barclay James Harvest and Van der Graaf Generator. I concluded at the time that punk was basically a waste of space, and little has happened sicne to change my mind, although many bands and artists have emerged from the “New Wave” scene and embraced the mainstream. I also always thought that punk, rather like craft beer, was very much an “art school” phenomenon. I see no craft equivalent to the NWOBHM or house music.

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It’s worth remembering that, in August 1977, at the height of the punk explosion, Going for the One by Yes was the Number One album on the UK charts for two weeks. And I still gain great pleasure from listening to Tull and Zeppelin.


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