View Full Version : The Pub Curmudgeon - Does provenance matter?

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27-01-2011, 13:24
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The point was made in the comments the other day that the vast majority (in terms of shelf space anyway) of lagers on sale in the average supermarket are brands of foreign origin that are brewed in the UK – Carling, Fosters, Carlsberg, Stella, San Miguel, Kronenbourg 1664 etc. In the early days of CAMRA it was a major campaigning point that lager drinkers were being palmed off with an inferior (and usually weaker) British-brewed version of the original. In a sense, of course, this was true, but I'm not sure it ever represented a deliberate act of deception, and even thirty years ago I think most lager drinkers accepted that their tipple wasn't actually brewed in Copenhagen or Leuven. Of course, many of the early leaders in the lager market such as Harp, Skol and Tennent's never made any pretence of being anything other than British.

Nowadays, I doubt whether any consumer of "industrial" lagers genuinely believes they are getting an imported product and, to be honest, it's a matter of complete indifference to them. It's accepted as a fact of life that major consumer brands are produced in various countries and few people are at all chauvinistic about them. How many of its drinkers even realise that Carling originated in Canada and isn't a home-grown brand? I don’t really see any dishonesty involved at all.

Interestingly, as I was half-way though writing this post, this piece (http://www.thepublican.com/story.asp?sectioncode=16&storycode=68902&c=3) appeared on The Publican website discussing the very same issue:

Joe likes his lager beer brands for sure, and he has a reasonable idea of where they’re supposed to be from – not always spot on, but close enough. One thing’s for sure though, when you ask Joe if his Kronenbourg is certifiably ‘made in France’, the Gallic shrug that follows tells much of the story. He’s not that bothered. “It’s a global market place, mate. Volkswagens aren’t all made in Germany; these Armani jeans aren’t made in Italy”, says Joe. And he’s right of course.However, move higher up the value chain and originality of source starts to become more important. Beck’s and Heineken, which occupy a kind of “premium mainstream” position, both make a point of being only brewed in their purported country of origin. The same is true of the currently fashionable Peroni, and of German beers such as Krombacher and Warsteiner which are often found in bars aiming to promote a slightly up-market, more discerning feel. Customers would be very unimpressed if they found out that Budweiser Budvar or Pilsner Urquell were being brewed in the UK, and to do the same for Duvel or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would be unthinkable.

On the other hand, you will find that some brands seeking to cultivate a bit of a left-field image such as Asahi Super Dry are actually brewed in the UK. It must be a fine judgment on the part of brand owners as to whether or not brewing a “foreign” beer in this country is going to put its target drinkers off.

Of course, nowadays there is a contradiction between reducing “beer miles” and encouraging authentic provenance, and any condemnation by CAMRA of the licence-brewing of international beer brands in this country comes across as a touch hypocritical.

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