Beer! Glorious beer! What a revival the beer industry has had. It’s so amazing to see all of these independent breweries popping up and challenging what has been the rut that beer culture has been stuck in since the 90s.
Despite the fact that Camden Town Brewery was recently sold to AB InBev and, more worryingly, the latter’s acquisition of SAB Miller; making the company the biggest brewer on the planet – owning about a quarter of the world’s beer – this is a great time to be an independent beer maker.
Where the likes of Camden Town Brewery and London Meantime were sold to bigger companies, independent breweries such as Brooklyn Brewery and particularly BrewDog are going from strength to strength. BrewDog really are creating a well renowned brand for themselves and producing quality beer at the same time.
You can go to any major city now and you will see speciality beer stores popping up anywhere you look. I was even in a small village on the outskirts of Barnsley the other day and came across a tiny shop stocking the likes of Beavertown, Bethnal Pale Ale, Magic Rock and many more. At the end of the day, this is a great thing as it is challenging the ‘Carling culture’ and even encouraging brands like this to rebrand their image to appeal to the changing market.
Please don’t think that I’m saying that we should boycott Camden Town Brewery or London Meantime, we shouldn’t punish them and make them victims of their own success. After all, there is a reason why they were acquired by larger companies, they make fucking great beer! I also believe that, in some cases, big acquisitions like this can actually help other independent breweries…
Hear me out.
London Meantime is now available in Wetherspoon(s) and think what you may about the Wetherspoon brand but it has embraced and even, in some ways, pioneered alternative beer options. I used to go to the Wetherspoon pub at uni to order a pint of Carling because it was cheap as fuck. But now, I find myself going to a Wetherspoon branch because they have good beer for good prices.
It has a knock-on effect too. I noticed that when a Wetherspoon opened up in the village next to the one I grew up in, the local independent pubs upped their game. I walked into The Red Lion and almost automatically said, “Fosters please.” But then I saw that they were serving Bradfield Brewery on tap and bottles of Affligem. I then looked at their spirits and they had about four different gin options, as opposed to the general offering of Gordon’s or Gordon’s. It’s not just ‘same old, same old’ anymore. Even small pubs in sleepy little former mining villages in Rotherham are embracing the change in culture towards alcohol.
Despite the acquisition of SAB Miller, AB InBev recently saw a fall in profits for the third quarter in a row (don’t feel too sorry for them though, they’re still making a shitload and making it rain). This is down to a number of reasons across the board but one of them is the fact that more and more people are opting for alternatives to the brands that have dominated the taps in our pubs, bars and supermarket shelves for so long. I can’t remember the last time I ordered a Stella Artois, Carling or Fosters… actually, that’s a lie, about four months ago I ordered a Fosters in an Australian themed bar in Lille, France, because I was feeling nostalgic for my teenage years and wanted to drink something shit out of a plastic cup.
What has happened to beer in the past 10 years is something that we at Wined Up are trying to do with wine. Nobody bats an eyelid if someone says they are interested and possess good knowledge about beer. Nobody says it is pretentious, on the contrary, it is something embraced and celebrated. Yes, some hipsters may give it a bad name but hipsters give everything a bad name. Even in Bethnal Green, arguably the most hipster place in the country, nobody admits to being a hipster.
So, although the beer world is welcoming the revolution and entering a golden age; why are you still deemed pretentious and ‘wanky’ by some if you have an interest in or possess knowledge about wine?
I like IPA, I wear a rolled up beanie hat indoors and have been known to listen to Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. I also like 2011 Vouvray, Californian Pinot Noir and have a good nose for Meursault… what does that make me?
…. A pretentious ‘wanky’ hipster. I guess, sometimes, you’ve just got to embrace the labels.