View Full Version : Taking the Beard Out of Beer - A Nod in the Wrong Direction

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13-12-2010, 12:23
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Before I start this article I'd just like to say that a) you should probably read the original article (http://www.thepublican.com/story.asp?sectioncode=16&storycode=68596) that I'm responding to first and that b) I like Caroline Nodder a lot, I've known her for years and we've shared more than the odd pint together over that time but I find her leader column in last week's Publican somewhat odd.

The gist of it is that, as a consumer, she doesn't want to be consistently bombarded with complete geekery, that she considers beer the stuff that greases the wheels of sociability.

That bit I get, I really do, there are days when I just order a pint, drink it and order another because I've got better things to concentrate on than the delicate earthy aroma of the East Kent Goldings (for example!), but her attack on brewers and beer writers that are innovating is either deliberately provocative or the mark of someone who has become overly cynical about the industry they work in.

If the beer market hadn't started to successfully communicate beer's fantastic flavour attributes more effectively, using the language of food & wine writers, and celebrity chefs, then it was doomed.

This is because the new beer drinker demographic is the same one that already understands food descriptors and wine words and they don't just speak in the language of Jilly Goolden - who hasn't graced our screens in more years than I care to remember - they speak the language of Tim Atkin, Jancis Robinson, Jonathan Ray, Susy Atkin AND Jamie Oliver and they demand more of their beer descriptors than the lazy and slapdash use of the phrases hoppy & malty (shudder!).

But what really surprises me about Nodder's article is the section where she says:
"But I don’t see anyone out there really working on building a portfolio of strong modern beers, instead I see brewers showing off by tinkering with aged beers or overly strong ABV products, or shock launches a la BrewDog, when they could be building something that can change the very culture of the beer drinker forever."

So, can someone tell me what exactly it is that Dark Star, Thornbridge, Lovibonds, Meantime, Harvey's, Fuller's, Adnams, Sharp's, St Austell, Harviestoun, Marble, Moorhouse's, Otley, Breconshire, Rooster's, Kelham Island, Lancaster and countless others are doing then?

Every single one of those breweries I mention there has a strong, core range of sessionable beers that stand proudly as such on the bar - from London Pride to Hophead and Pint to Pale Rider every single one of these beers is award-winning and, more pertinent to Nodder's argument, profitable, but they are complemented by limited release beers like Brewer's Reserve or a limited release Imperial Stout here and there - which is a sound business model.

Why? Well as Nodder rightly points out, people's interest in all things craft and local is at an all time high so why would a brewery not want to take advantage of that by producing niche products that appeal to a niche audience alongside their wider appeal core range?

And whilst I can understand her frustration at some of the dumb stunts that have been pulled over the past few years by a few misguided brewers - or out-and-out pubicity junkies - you only have to look at the success of every single stage of the summer's Thornbridge meet the brewer tour, nearly every event BrewDog runs, Cask in Pimlico's constant draw of punters every time it does a brewery event, the White Horse's beer festivals (like the Old Ale one just past which had a record year) and even my humble lovebeer@borough business over the last few years to see that the special edition beers are the ones with draw for a growing audience.

And what's wrong with that? Uncovering hidden gems is awesome, it's something to share with your friends, it's an excuse to meet up and try what you've found or even Tweet about it for the world to see.

What Nodder has missed, and maybe it's because she so dislikes the world of geeks (as she is entitled to) is that breweries like Marble wouldn't be in the happy situation of moving into a brand new brewery and are still brewing all the hours god sent to keep up with the enormous demand for their products without the beer nerd network.

The shoe-gazing that she refers to, which she feels has been indulged by beer writers like myself, are often actually high publicity projects that pay dividends for breweries and the writer alike. Every time I go and brew somewhere I learn something new, which can only make me better at my job, and it's something I'm proud of - particularly when it produces something profitable for the brewery.

For example, the brew I did at Otley, thai-bO, was so commercially successful that it's been incorporated into the seasonal roster (sorry that sounds a bit boastful but it's true!), Pete Brown's book Hops & Glory and his epic IPA journey has helped put Worthington White Shield on more people's beer map in the last couple of years than any advertising campaign ever could and Stuart Howe's interaction with the geek network has seen him brew 52 beers in a year, some of which will now make it onto the Sharp's roster because they've been so well received.

I guess, in summation, what Nodder sees as navel gazing I see as interaction with interested consumers - what do you think?https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/7870641958407671573-7635500748681223209?l=girlsguidetobeer.blogspot.co m

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