Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A good image?

I'll have to be honest and say that my beer blog resulted as an indirect conflict between my perception of what CAMRA seemed to be saying and the realities I found in running a pub. The peak of that conflict occurred before we found our feet here, before we started brewing beer, before we gained entry to the Good Beer Guide and most importantly, before I joined CAMRA. Luckily I didn't start this blog until I had gained some understanding that it is all to do with perception, perspective, context and opinion. For sure there is no right or wrong answer. Except when it comes to sparklers.

Today I saw that Melissa Cole is picking a fight with Malcolm Gluck. Good, I thought. But I'm getting bored of this Gluck fella. He's clearly a pillock and a wine snob and his comments are simply being used to gain attention. I was concerned that Mellisa was biting. But still, riding his publicity won't do her any harm. I lazily browsed to find her writings about the situation and found a piece that I enjoyed. I was interested in seeing a comment from some blogger called WellDoneFillet, which of course, for any food aware person is a contradiction of terms. I had to check it out.

I was initially quite offended by what I read. The guy is a waiter in a restaurant and it seems his blog is mainly about things that annoy him during his time at work. These annoyances normally come in the form of customers. I understand this, as we get customers too. Some are not worth the hassle, although normally the annoying types can be spotted by their confusion over the lack of Carling, or similar. This blogger had clearly had a real ale drinker in and had been irritated by the customer's questions over the beer on offer. Mr WellDoneFillet, in his piece, proceeded to attack real ale drinkers in a similar way to Malcolm Gluck's attack on beer drinkers in general. It does bother me that a restaurant waiter is alienating a section of his customer base that would like to eat quality food but would also like quality beer with his food, I could do a whole post on this alone.

Luckily I have learnt to step back from offending posts and take a deep breath. Perhaps sometimes not long or deep enough, but I'm getting there. I decided that his post was a bit of naughty fun making and little more. The problem is, despite the fact that real ale drinkers cover a much wider spectrum of people than is portrayed in this and many other places, it is still a perception held by many.

There are people who have been bothered about this perception for some time. Despite attempts by CAMRA to dispel this perception. Jeff Pickthall being one and pubcurmudgeon another. A very important observation was made by Real Ale Blog recently, which I had to sympathise with. Perhaps Malcolm Gluck has a point about the perception that beer drinkers are sadsacks. If a proportion of the population thinks that beer drinkers are either lager numptys or real ale geeks, then while his observations might insult us, the real beer geeks, there might well be a discerning customer base out there that would only ever drink wine with food, G&T most of the rest of the time and a fizzy lager if it's hot, because they don't want the label of real ale drinker.

Out of the three people in the pictures here, which one is an odd one out? The obvious answer is the last one, he's a normal person. The other two are bearded weirdos. Well although this is true, the last person is our Labour MP - normal? you judge. Actually, I've got my reservations about the damage done by Labour to small businesses like pubs, but still, he is a nice guy and drinks real ale.

The first picture is of a real ale drinker at the NWAF. The second is my father, who does not drink and is always slagging off Labour at every opportunity and I wish he wouldn't. I have a beard, drink real ale, other beers, wine and whiskey - I don't waste my unit allocation on G&T, I might vote Tory next time, but might not.

The correlation between beards and real ale does exist, but it is not as strong as perception suggests and is damaging to it's image.

Yes, I know I've mixed up CAMRA and politics and beards all together. But I'm concerned about perception, not reality, which I know are two different things.


Alistair Reece said...

I read that WellDoneFillet blog and there's a guy who loves the sound of his own voice, and is still stuck in the paradigm that being rude about things you don't like is funny, a bit like Margaret Cho (possibly the world's least funny woman - even Thatcher was funnier).

Given the choice between his ilk and the stereotype that he presents of the real ale drinker, I know in whose company I would rather spend an evening.

Tim said...

I couldn't resist. I had the enter the debate. My rant is here (Wine vs Beer@ The Beer Diary)

Unknown said...

Velky Al, You are so right, I'd much rather spend and evening with that stereotype, and often do.

Tim, I like your fight fire with fire approach in your own blog. Nicely satirical - I'm not very good at satire.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately we live in a world where veneer is king. I'm convinced that people are put off real ale because of image. It's not how it should be but that's the way of the world sadly.

Manuel said...

oh for goodness sake lads! It's all just a bit of fun, a joke even.....!


Some of my best friends are real ale drinkers. I have other friends with beards too......I love them all....

c'mon lets just hug it all out.....

Unknown said...

OK Manuel, hugs all round.

I think you might have upset a few folk thought. Still, it helped to make my point.

But, there is this thing about food working with beer. It is important to me, as much as stopping people ordering well done fillet is to you, oh, and me. There is a large market in restaurants for quality beer working with food, be it real ale or quality bottled craft beer, waiters could do the beer industry much good by enthusing about it.

So, as a waiter, do you not do your job and enthuse about the product? Selling is what it's really about, increase the turnover for the establishment, sell up if you can, but most of all enthuse about the product and give the customer the confidence to buy.

Maybe you do all that, and your blog is about irritating customers, which boy, do we all get. I assume when you work, you bite your tongue and pull your forelock, only to go home and bitch on your blog. Good therapy for both you and your readers, I suspect.

But remember, if you are going to poke fun at such a large group of people, then expect Holocaustic style comebacks, whether they are fair game or not.

And just for good measure, further hugs and kisses.

Alistair Reece said...

Was thinking further about Manuel's post on his blog and part of me suddenly thought, concerning the customer being dealt with, did this guy really know his stuff or was he a bit of a wannabee, especially if these questions are genuine:

"Is it local?"

"Is it a heavy ale?"

"What are the principal flavours?"

"Is it a dark or light beer?"

It makes me want to see the menu the customer was reading - perhaps there was insufficient information, but those questions are kind of strange. Most people I know who drink craft beer are more than happy to experiment rather than asking pointless questions.

Oh, nearly forgot - hugs and kisses all round.

Tyson said...

Hmmm. When is a joke not a joke? The problem is if no one gets the joke, it's not funny and therefore not a joke. But group hugs all round.