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03-12-2011, 16:02
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Reading many beer blogs, you can’t avoid getting the impression that a “craft beer revolution” is taking place. The country, it would seem, is awash with new, exciting, challenging styles and flavours. But how far does that really spread beyond a handful of specialist outlets?

In the general run of pubs I go into, while you might see the odd guest beer or Peroni tap, that’s about it, and the vast majority of the beer drinkers are still necking Unicorn, Holts Bitter, John Smith’s Extra Smooth, Carling, Stella and Guinness. In Tesco, while there might be a little ghetto with a few BrewDog bottles and Belgian and American imports, much the same is true. I don’t really think the craft beer evangelists are giving a warm embrace to bottles of Spitfire and Warsteiner.

It’s also very much an urban phenomenon, confined to major city centres and the urban villages of the prosperous, liberal middle class. You might see it in Chorlton, but hardly in Levenshulme, let alone in Leominster. And, because London has quite a few neighbourhoods like Chorlton, it’s supposedly sweeping the board in the capital. But, beyond that limited sphere, it just doesn’t resonate at all. It’s a bubble of urban hype.

Back in the 70s and 80s, you would travel around the country and see plenty of A-boards and roadside signs proclaiming “The Red Lion -15th Century Inn – Good Food – Real Ale”. The concept of “real ale” is something that, at the time, had really caught the popular imagination. I never see similar signs advertising “craft beer”, and I don’t expect I ever will. And the Red Lion itself is probably now a private house.

“Real ale” connected beer enthusiasm with the wider drinking public. Far from evangelising to a broad audience, “craft beer” locks beer enthusiasts into a bubble of self-absorption and means they end up just drinking in their own exclusive venues and steering clear of any engagement with the hoi polloi.

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