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Whenever people best known for their writing on wine venture on to the subject of beer, they invariably shoot themselves in the foot. And rarely has this been done with such spectacular effect as by Bruce Anderson in the latest edition of the Spectator, in a piece entitled Only the south offers beer lovers a decent pint. He writes:
In recent years, the quality of civic life in Britain has steadily deteriorated. Change has become synonymous with decay. But there is one delightful exception. In southern England these days, it is almost impossible to find a bad pint of beer. Matters may be different in other parts of the United Kingdom. From my limited experience, we Scots are not good at beer. It is something that is only drunk to eke out the whisky. North of the Tweed, bitter is known as ‘heavy’, which is a fair description and not an encouraging one. In the north of England, too, beer is often excessively sweet. As for Wales, I believe that there is a brew called sheepshag, in which the hops are mixed with mistletoe, but we should leave the west Celts to their… bardic… rituals.
And, after this, he concludes:
Decent pints come almost exclusively from the southern parts of the Heptarchy.
Such a complete load of ill-informed, xenophobic nonsense hardly deserves a rejoinder. While there is indeed plenty of potentially good beer in the South, all too often it is overpriced and poorly kept. Come to the North, though, and you will find just as much, if not more, and what’s more it will in general be much cheaper and in much better condition. “My limited experience” indeed!