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The February issue of the CAMRA newspaper What’s Brewing included an opinion piece by barley merchant Robin Appel in which he argued that “if you want quality beer, you’ve got to be prepared to pay”, and said that drinkers should stop complaining about the high price of beer, something which drew a predictably angry reaction.
The article also included this highly inaccurate paragraph about trends in UK alcohol consumption:
Serious correction to the UK beer (and malt) consumption began in the second half of the 20th century with the demise of our heavy industry, before which workers regularly sank eight pints per night. This falling beer consumption was further helped along by the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967.
This was corrected in the letters column of the March edition by one Peter Edwardson of Stockport (cough), who wrote:
Robin Appel (WB Feb) is wrong to say there was a serious correction in UK beer consumption in the second half of the 20th century. In fact, the 1960s and 70s saw a boom. Large numbers of new pubs were opened in new housing developments, often much larger than the inner-city pubs they replaced, and existing pubs were extended and refurbished.
After a drop in the early 1980s resulting from the recession and the rundown of heavy industries, beer consumption held up well into the 1990s. It is only in the past 10 or 15 years that a perfect storm of factors has led to the decline we are currently experiencing. Having said that, the UK is still producing and drinking more beer overall than at any time during the 1950s.
However, I am given to understand that the sense of the letter would have been much improved if the original second sentence had been retained:
In fact, the Sixties and Seventies saw a remarkable boom in beer drinking, with UK beer production increasing by 73% between 1959 and 1979. The introduction of the breathalyser in 1967 scarcely caused a blip in the upward trend.
The great 1960s and 1970s beer and pub boom tends to be airbrushed out of history as it does not fit in with the “CAMRA narrative” of what was happening to the industry during that period.
The letters page also includes letters from John Ogdon of Scarborough and Peter Judge of Brighouse urging CAMRA not to give up on the fight against fizzy beer. Obviously “old CAMRA” is alive and well in Yorkshire!