Friday, 13 November 2009

Stand up and be counted

Both the Forum and responses to my Blog show that all of us who contribute to beer-pages have one thing common: a love and passion for good beer. But recent comments on two issues -- the statement by Professor David Nutt on cannabis, ecstasy and alcohol, and the Independent's feature on 50 Best Beers -- show deep divisions among us.
Where alcohol is concerned, I think it vital to stand up against those who would seek to tax it almost out of existence. We may disagree about the relative harm caused by cannabis, ecstasy and alcohol but we must not waiver in defence of our drink of choice. Beer is a legal drink, consumed on draught in legal, licensed premises. Sections of both the media and the scientific community are campaigning for increased prices for beer and other alcohols and more restictions on their availability. The Tories have said they will take a hard look at the current licensing law and may return us to the restricted pub hours that prevailed before the new act was introduced.
It's essential that we make common cause in defence of beer before it's taxed even more highly asnd more pubs close as drinkers are forced into the arms of supermarkets who are more interested in discounts and profits than choice.
I have to say frankly that some of the comments about the 50 Best Beers feature in the Independent are naive. First let us be grateful for the fact that the Indie, almost alone among national newspapers, gives regular space to beer, including a major supplement that coincided with the Great British Beer Festival in August. The critics of the choice of "50 Best..." are clearly unaware of the fact that every Saturday the paper runs a feature called "50 Best..." We could scarcely ask the paper to change that to something along the lines of "50 Not Bad Beers". It was promoting good beer. You may disagree with the choice but it was made by a team of seasoned beer writers (none of whom were paid, by the way). I think the Indie made a mistake in inviting too many writers to contribute, as a result of which many of our chosen beers did not feature as the paper had around 200 to choose from. In one case at least, a beer attributed to me was not on my list and never would be. But let's, above all, be pleased that a feature promoting beer appeared in a newspaper while most of competitors wouldn't touch beer with a barge-pole.


Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

No comments about Labour I notice. I think you should talk about how Labour have killed off the pub and taxed everything they can, rather than say what the Tories MAY do.

You will also find regular pieces about beer and pubs in the DT. if you care to look.

I would recomend that people search out their local small breweries and buy direct from them.

We have so many now in Norfolk its a delight. I am not a stout drinker but I tried my local Beeston Brewey " Norfolk Black" at or over 6%. A great drink.

To be honest I take other peoples views in the press with great caution. I think many are recomendations on a commercil basis rather than someones favorite
Let the drinker beware and make up your own mind.

14 November 2009 at 23:41  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

I think the beer writers should turn their back on these massive producers and search out and recomend LOCAL beers. The Indi list is just far to full of large comany beers with fancy marketing. They may not be paid for writing but I am sure they are in other ways.
Of couse small local brewers are not able to wine and dine the critics, and i suspect this is part of the reason we hear so little about them. we must not upset the big boys must we.

14 November 2009 at 23:53  
Blogger Laurent Mousson said...

Mr. Norfolk, I'm afraid the problem is not who did more damage to our freedom of appreciating alcohol in moderation in the UK,.
The problem is that Neo-prohibitionists have infiltrated all political parties, made advances under Labour, but chnging to the Tories (or LibDems or whoever) will just mean changing horses to them and they'll merrily charge on, possibly not citing publich health but public disorder... And when the tories have run their course, the day Labour returns topower, they'll change horses again and tally-ho !

Whatever the political colour, it's the same load of b*ll*cks beer lovers have to stand up to. Together.

15 November 2009 at 10:52  
Blogger Unknown said...

Gosh, Johnny, that's a really bad case of chronic cynicism you've got there. You should see someone about it.

As one of the writers of the Indie piece, I can confirm that there was no reward whatsoever save the satisfaction of seeing beer covered in the national press (a rare occurrence indeed), and that of seeing one's name in print.

I wholeheartedly agree that people should buy local where they can. But to (a) describe some of the brewers featured as "massive" and (b) to suggest that we should turn our backs on a brewer simply because of their scale - irrespective of how good or bad their beers are, is astonishingly narrow-minded.

I had the pleasure of spending a day at the Norfolk real ale shop recently sampling some of the excellent local beers you've got up there. Not everyone is as lucky as you. In London we have a choice of Fuller's and Meantime. I think both produce outstanding beers. But in your world I guess London Pride is a shit pint, and Vintage Ale is worthless, simply by virtue of the size of the company that brews them. I'd love to see you make this argument to John Keeling's face.

And in case it had escaped your notice, the Independent is a national newspaper. The stipulation was that the beers featured in 50 Best should be relatively easy to get hold of. This rules out a lot of small brewers who simply don't have distribution. Many small brewers actually don't welcome publicity such as the Indie piece because they would not be able to meet the anticipated surge in demand.

I honestly don't see the problem with championing beers produced with love and care that are available on a national basis, while at the same time allowing and enjoying discovery of smaller brews on a local basis.

Your view - driven by a conspiracy in which anyone who writes about beer only does so because they have been 'wined and dined' by large corporations (large corporations like Westerham's in Kent, perhaps?) - seems to be that things would be better if there was no coverage of beer in the national press at all.

I'm afraid I think this is idiotic. And I find the insinuations behind it personally a little offensive.

15 November 2009 at 12:07  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

Methinks you do protest too much.

However of course not all large brewers and not all professional writers, but most of them.

15 November 2009 at 19:13  
Blogger Roger Protz said...

Johnny, Laurent Mousson has hit the proverbial nail on the head -- all political parties make a complete mess of the brewing industry. For very different reasons to you, I'm no fan of New Labour but look at the total balls-up when the Tories were last in power. Remember the Beer Orders that forced brewers to sell of pubs? The result has been the giant pub companies who are far worse for consumer choice than the old national brewers.
I don't think a government run by Cameron will be any more friendly to beer, brewers and pubs than New Labour.

16 November 2009 at 12:41  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

Why do you list what the Tories did in the past, and not what labour has done.

Labour has done more to kill the pub than anyone.

As a non smoker the ban was way over the top, it has destroyed so many pubs.

16 November 2009 at 17:40  
Blogger Unknown said...

Johnny, I think you are bit off target here accusing these guys of taking money to say the right things. I know them, or know of them well enough to say you are wrong on that one.

I own a 2 barrel brewery whose beers normally travel no further than 30 yards, so I have no inherent love of national brands. As it's said, the choices are national brands for a national paper, appropriate I'd say.

16 November 2009 at 23:52  

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