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My copy of "The Book Of Beer" by Andrew Campbell arrived this week. I can't believe I'd not heard of it before. It provides a drinkers perspective of beer in an age before CAMRA and Michael Jackson. Fascinating stuff.

I'll be annoying you with quotes from it for some time. But to kick off, here are a couple about the 1950's beer drinker:

"The man who goes out to select his beer with the care the connoisseur gives to wine is in for a difficult time. He will meet with little encouragement, he will have to cross-examine barmen and barmaids almost with the skill of a Q.C. to secure any information other than the most general. It is in fact quite an amusing pastime to collect and note the number of times he is given absolutely wrong information. Nobody will offer him a 'vintage list'. If he asks his friends for advice they will probably be violently partisan between the brews of X and Y and Z, mostly on the basis of habit and with little real reason."
"The Book Of Beer" by Andrew Campbell, 1956, page 198.
That's eerily like many of my own experiences. Trying to work out if a pub sells anything interesting but being frustrated by ignorant bar staff.

"The war years apart, the public has had stronger and better beers before it, and it has solidly preferred the weaker. It is not just a question of price, for many men will buy a light ale and pay more than they would for a half-pint of much higher gravity draught beer. In the face of this remarkable preference for the weaker drink it is commendable that brewers have persisted with their stronger beers, and that they are at present introducing new types and publicizing them widely."
"The Book Of Beer" by Andrew Campbell, 1956, page 199.

Why is British beer so weak? It's a question often asked. The war and taxation are often blamed. But I think Campbell has hit the nail on the head: ultimately, it's down to the preference of drinkers. It's a point those who criticise British brewers for lack of daring should bear in mind.