Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feast And Famine And The Age Of Social Sterility

The world of beer and brewing is going through odd times : times. on the one hand, of feast, and on the other, of famine. I am mainly talking about Britain, but I wouldn't be surprised if the changes don't extend to a number of other beer drinking countries as well.

First we have the feast : and the feast currently on offer to the discerning beer drinker is the sheer number of different ales and lagers available to them. The last ten years has seen an explosion in the number of microbreweries producing and supplying a glittering selection of real ales - on draught and in bottles - to thirsty drinkers. Not since the seventeenth century, when each individual pub would brew its own beer, has there been such a bewildering selection available : pale ales, golden ales, bright beers, dark beers, hoppy and mellow, light ales and heavy ales. The variety - and in the vast majority of cases - the high quality of these products make sampling a delight and raises beer drinking well above the status of thirst quenching.

But then we have the famine : and that is the developing famine of pleasant places to drink this golden array of brewed delicacies. Yes, yet again, I am moaning on about the decline of the British pub. During a depressing drive from Hebden Bridge to Halifax the other week I think I counted more closed pubs en route (and by closed I mean permanently closed) than open ones. 

It would appear that if we are entering a new age of the super-abundance of different types of real beer we are also entering an age in which we will drink them in the social sterility of our own homes. Which, to me, is a great shame.


  1. First, I must let you know I read the rental placquard as TOILET at least twice.

    I agree with you on your pub situation. Why doesn't the National Trust have a string of them on their register? Tourists like pubs, I'm told.

  2. There's been a similar huge increase in micro breweries here in the US too (at least where I live there has) Likewise wineries. A good "second career" for baby boomers retiring with money to invest and no shortage of acreage to grow hops or grapevines. It's meant that suddenly there are actually pleasant places to go and drink.... no heritage of pubs to mourn the loss of so we can only gain. Very sad to think of so many pubs closing in Britain.

  3. When I left my job at a brewery, some 20 years ago, landlords were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. The consensus was then, and I suspect it still is, food is what keeps them in business. Sadly, the beer has almost become incidental in some pubs.

  4. But now you probably have some large establishments that hold hundreds of beer drinkers? so there's another feast...lots of people to drink beer with.

  5. Pubs aren't the social place they once were, are they?
    We have so many other choices for our diversions. Internet, TV, most people have cars now and can travel more. We don't celebrate the neighborhood or village any more. I don't think pubs are as much a part of a community any more. Sad.
    My mom always talks about her dad's pub walk every evening.
    We have lots of great place here in the US to drink, but non of them are really neighbor hood pubs.
    Well, at least you have good beer to mourn the loss of pubs with.


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