Thursday 30 July 2009

Dogged Determination

Well, comments I believe are the life-blood of blogging. I don't personally mind if comments go off subject on my blog. I like it if people remain nice to each other, and I do find unnecessary swearing in print, or pixels, offensive. I don't know why, considering my kitchen language, but there you are. But at the end of the day, a lengthy comment thread is good. So, after my last post, follow that....... Well done everybody, you made my day.

Towards the end of the comments Barm responded to Cooking Lager's original question "when did you last see an ale advertise to a younger drinker?" with the reply "I can think of a canine-themed brewery which gets mentioned very often ...". It seems a shame that this got lost amongst all the noise, so I'm going to try and provoke further response.

I'm guessing he is referring to BrewDog. Now, like Pete Brown, being a beer blogger I feel like I should also have a go at looking at the latest furore over the 18.5% beer, Tokyo*. But of course most of what needs to be said has already been said. Mainly by Pete Brown, Curmudgeon and Stonch.

What interests me are peoples habits and preconceived ideas about beer. Actually, about much more than beer, but for now we'll stay on topic. I like BrewDog because they are breaking these habits and preconceptions and to me, like Punk music that surfaced when I was at school, they are doing it by firing up the youngsters. Perhaps using a great big demolition crane to crack a walnut, but doing it they are.

The thing is, I've only every tried Punk IPA, which I liked. I've not yet got my hands on anything else, but despite having very limited experience of the beer itself, which James you can fix that if you like, I am still fired up by the concepts.


Cooking Lager said...

I'll reserve making my mind up until I see bottles of brewdog in the hands of kids that otherwise neck bud or blue wicked. Brewdog have clever marketing, not sure it's youth orientated though. They give themselves a high profile on a small budget by putting themselves in the news, courting controversy. It’s certainly rebellious, which I guess is a form of youth marketing, but do the kids think it’s cool or naff? Trying to hard isn’t cool.

Unknown said...

Kids to me are people less than 40 years old. There is an increasing number of these who are becoming beer geeks but not exclusive real ale fans.

People over 40 drink real ale.

Your definition of kids are people under 25 years old. To me they are babies.

Whorst said...

I had a pint of Punk IPA in Proper Real Keg form just the other night. I thought it was excellent.

Unknown said...

Now Sausage, I think you are mistaken, the beer hasn't been exposed to air, it surely will have been complete rubbish.

Actually, being serious for a minute, if you will allow, I've only tried the bottled version. I'd really like to try the cask. I guess cask BrewDog doesn't get to your Colony of the British Empire.

Whorst said...

I'm sure it's very good in cask form, but it is also excellent in Proper Real Keg form. I like a brewery that's competent enough to brew both sides of the spectrum.

Cooking Lager said...

Interesting that the 2 brands, people used as an answer to my question are niche brands and not mainstream, and not commonly availible in most of the bars and boozers of any given town center. I still say that 10 years ago, a pint of ale in the form of boddies cream was a regular mainstream pint you'd see "babies" have a pint of. Today there are no mainstream ale brands targeting younger drinkers, only lagers.

When younger lager drinkers decide to try something more interesting it will authentic lagers and not ales they choose.

Ale, whether keg or cask, needs a mainstream national brand to normalize ale drinking among the babies.

Whorst said...

CL, you mention keg, but not Proper Real Keg. There is a difference.

Unknown said...

Cooking, are we talking about John Smiths Smooth here?

Cooking Lager said...

Smith's smooth is the national keg brand, but its advertised to middle aged men. Never seen anyone under 40 drink one. Those drinkers will be "bitter" drinkers and probally quite willing to try cask if decently kept.

Boddingtons was marketed at both kids and babies in your parlance. Though these days its fallen off the radar. I remember Boddies was everywhere 10 years ago and "babies" used to drink it.

These days I rarely see anyone drink ales under 40, unless of course I venture into a 20 cask CAMRA heaven. Not in a regular pub.

The point I'm making is that Boddies normalised ale as a beverage to new drinkers, and ten years on many of those drinkers would happily try a pint of cask.

Ten years from now lager drinking babies might want to try something new. Ale is to them a middle aged drink. They will seek out authentic lagers, rather than drink real ale.

What I am saying, is that creamflow keg bitter is far from being an enemy of real ale, it is in fact a friend.

In america, niche ales are the fashion. Its exotic. Here foriegn lager is exotic and your pongy brew will apeal to an older appreciative palate. All money is the same colour, so why care?

Well in ten years time, the older appreciative palate will not be seeking out real ale.

Only my opinion, though.

As to why I care? I don't really, I'd like you to put some super chilled Foster's in your gaff.

Unknown said...

OK, I see what you're saying. Although something that is niche stops being so once it's fashionable. No?

I do think you are right, at some time in the future the appreciative palate will not be seeking real ale as such. Diversity, that's what I think the appreciative palate looks for, and always will. I think BrewDog does represent the future, if only part of it. 10 years? No, I think it'll be longer than that, but will be slow anyway.

Super chilled Foster? In my gaff? Cooking, I like you, just don't push it!

Rob Sterowski said...

Young drinkers aren't deserting ale in favour of lager; they are deserting what they perceive as tatty, old-fashioned pubs in favour of trendy bars. These bars are generally supplied by the likes of InBev and the choice of beers is predictably awful.

Most people are in bars to socialise with their friends, to pull or to relax. What they drink is a secondary matter to them as long as it gets them in the mood and doesn't get them stick from their mates.

I can think of several trendy bars in my city where the people running them do have a clue about beer and have stocked several kinds of ale and stout along with the German and Belgian beers, and they all seem to sell reasonably well.

Rob Sterowski said...

I actually think Cooking Lager is completely wrong on this, so I'll continue. Something like Deuchars IPA is widely available round my way and very popular indeed. I don't think it's very good any more, but that's not the point.

I also don't believe most people know or care whether a beer is an ale or a lager, or would be able to tell you the difference.

I'm inclined as time goes on to think that differentiating beers on the basis of the behaviour of the yeast is a bit mental in the first place.

Andy said...

I wonder if things might seem different depending on which region you are in. First disclosure - I live in London but hail from Scotland and regularly visit my girlfriends family in Wigan. Both in the NW and in Glasgow I have seen little evidence of growing interest from younger drinkers in cask (or indeed "Proper Real Keg" which seems to be much less available in those parts of the country. The exception to this from my experience is York.

In London however I do see a lot of younger drinkers choosing Cask and "Proper Real Keg". By "young" I mean the 25-35yr age group. I would describe it as an emerging trend and I think it has the potential to pick up quickly over the next few years. Pubs down here do seem to be responding to this with wider selections of cask and increasingly Proper Real Keg is available (indeed I know a number of pubs where I can now get Sierra Nevada and the Meantime range on draught) and hopefully supply begets demand etc etc.

Brewdog range is great and their marketing is very effective, but I think thats because it reflects their personalities and their style wouldn't suit every brewery. On occasion I do think they have been controversial for the sake of it and perhaps made a few needless enemies along the way, but they make great beer and the fact they are helping to create a real buzz about good beer is helpful to all the other smaller breweries committed to quality

johng said...

I had brewdog -storm last night it tasted like paint stipper and looked like soup last week i had dogma didnt taste as good as it can taste and was cloudy.its never going to be mainsteam beer so real keg sounds good to me,On cask unless you have someone who knows how to look after the beer you will turn off rather than on young drinkers to the brilliant beers brewdog are making.

Rob said...

To cooking lager. I have seen a great deal of younger people drinking cask conditioned ale. I have also worked at beer festivals where the majority of the customers are not old blokes with beards but just anyone with intrigue of beer that actually tastes of something, anything in fact. Sausage I will applaud. Real Keg beer is under represented and not understood in this country. A great beer writer known as the 'The beer Hunter' once write that the United States of America will in the future be the inspiration for craft brewing. I hope this is so, so real keg comes in force to the UK. Wurst, we salute you on your comments, and indeed your very entertaining blog

Unknown said...

Wow, Rob, that's coming down hard one side. Mind you, having been to USA, I know what you're on about.

But still, do you not think there is a place for cask?

Whorst said...

Thank you for the kind words Rob.
There's a lot of misinformation about beer on blogs and the internet. I've tried to cut through the crap with a straightforward approach. I still feel that Proper Real Keg doesn't get the credit it deserves. I remember drinking in The Sun while in London many years ago and noticing they had Anchor Steam in Proper Real Keg form. This is probably circa 1988. That was the birth of Proper Real Keg in the UK. You guys had a beer called Newquay Steam Beer at one time that was similar to Anchor Steam. But like many nice things, they go away. Where's Sam Smith's Museum? At one time before beer blogs and the internet, I ranted about how great that beer was. I've drank it in Tadcaster and in London. There was a Sam Smith's pub across the road from a post office in Trafalgar Square. I remember eating pork pies loaded with Coleman's mustard and mowing through numerous pints of Museum.
So what's it tonight then? Probably a pizza and a few pints of Punk IPA at Pizza Port. One must adapt to their beery surroundings.

Rob Sterowski said...

Well, I'm just back from the pub where there were loads of hipsters and students drinking cask ale. Andy, drop into the State Bar off Sauchiehall St next time you're in Glasgow and see for yourself.

I don't think it's "young people" or a region as such that is displaying an interest or disinterest in real ale and craft beer. It's the same affluent and/or sophisticated demographic that also supports a restaurant/music/club scene in certain areas.

Cooking Lager, I couldn't agree less with the statement "creamflow keg bitter is far from being an enemy of real ale, it is in fact a friend." I think keg bitter has driven more people to become lager drinkers.

Rob said...

Well Dave many brewers would no doubt firmly object to kegging. But thats not just it, its about the overall impression and presentation the artist/brewer wants to achive. Best bitter and mild are by no doubt server in best form cask conditioned. Pilsner, Hells ect wouldnt be the same without the cleanness of texture and higher carbonation achived by kegging. Yes I think there is room for both.

John Clarke said...

As a long standing CAMRA activist I guess I am supposed to despise all "keg" but like most sensible beer drinkers I don't. I think many long standing CAMRA people are haunted by the memory of the truly awful keg stuff that was churned out in the 1970s and 80s but the then national brewing groups in the UK (and with all due respect to Cookie still is, in the form of the industrial "cooking lagers"*).

However times move on and technology changes. Consequently there are some very fine "keg" beers now made in the UK,and elsewhere of course. It's pasteuristaion that does the damage in my opinion. Exclude that, and a bit if filtering, a touch of gas and a slight chill don't necessarily cause irreparable damage. I think beers made in what you might call traditional British style are usually better in cask form. Others - such as lager style beers, or Hoegaarden style wheat beers are infinitley more enjoyable in "real keg" (for want of a better term) form. Take Taddington Brewery's Moravka (by the way Wurst that's another UK brewry for your list of real keg producers), that would be truly terrible as a cask beer but as a authentic Czech-style lager it's great.

So, the old "cask = good, keg = bad" argument no longer holds good. We are now in the rather more grey area of (for UK beers) "cask is often better but keg can be good, too". Unsettling perhaps for those who like the old certainties, but we live in interesting times.

* but as for cooking lager, Tim Webb sums this up nicely in the latest Good Beer Guide Belgium' "Supermarket lagers are the white sliced bread of brewing. They are psychoactive comfort foods. Their bottles should spout teats."

Andy said...

Barm - thanks I will check out the State Bar next time I am up in Glasgow. My usual haunts when visiting are The Three Judges and Tennents Bar in the west end.

Surprisingly when I have been into Tennents I have not seen too many students drinking cask (it's very central to Glasgow Uni)
Like I said though I do think this will change and I agree that overall cask and good keg is growing in popularity across the country and your right to point out the social demographics driving this.

Unknown said...


Thanks for that nice balanced comment.

I'd like to see a little more experimentation with craft beer in this country. There is no doubt at all that some styles of beer will always be best in cask. I know that when nobodies listening, Wurst will say this too. But don't tell anybody I said so.

But we need more research into "Proper Real Keg" and cask breathers. For instance, I think there is a problem with cask breathers because the technology used is quite crude. Control of carbonation is poor, possibly resulting in over-carbonation, which does ruin cask.

Whorst said...

I'll say it, cask beer generally speaking is great. What pisses me off is people who serve it as warm vinegar and expect you to pay for it. I'm coming from a different perspective, because I generally don't act like an arsehole when I'm in another country. So, I'm not going to explode and tell the server that their beer is shit. But, the server should know their beer is shit and offer you another alternative. Unfortunately, that alternative is Carlsberg, Kronenburg, Carling, Fosters, etc. Basic, table beer, suitable for people who just want something wet and cold.

I'm all for the use of modern technology when it comes to cask beer. Beer quality should come first. Anything to enhance the beer experience should be utilized to it's full potential. Proper, cool cellars, cask breathers, conditioning via exposure to air, etc.

John Clarke said...

I think Worst has it bang on here (as a CAMRA member I'm not sure I'm allowed to say that, but there you go).

Bailey said...

I see quite a lot of people between 18-35 drinking ale in London, even if they're not that interested in beer. Certainly it's the default choice for most of my non-beer-obsessed mates.

But Cooking Lager is right -- ale isn't often marketed at younger drinkers, and I'm not sure what the angle would be if the manufacturers tried. The 'brand values' (scuse marketing jargon) of ale seem to me to be around tradition, moderation and complexity. How do you get them to buy into the idea that drinking ale is sophisticated, contemporary and likely to help you pull?

Boddington's marketing strategy in the 1990s was to tap into the fact that Manchester was super cool at the time -- very clever, and very effective.

Unknown said...

Wurst & John, great to see you agreeing. Personally I don't think CAMRA members should feel that it is wrong to discuss things that seem to go against the core values. CAMRA, I would like to think, is democratic. To be truly democratic there must be the ability to discuss the issues freely.

My overall impression is that CAMRA is a little backward looking. Wrapped up in a tradition that has lots of value, but at the same time is limiting future development.

For me, quality beer is the issue, cask is only part of that.

Bailey makes a good point. Cask will almost never give the impression that it will help you pull. I remember being 20 once. Getting laid was the most important thing in my life. Choosing cask over getting laid? Even at 44 it's a tough choice. Luckily these days, I don't have to make the choice.