Tag: Proud of beer

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Proud of British Beer

We have a curious relationship with pride in Britain.

Maybe it’s guilt over our colonial past.  Maybe it’s British understatement.  Or maybe the notion of national pride has been so poisoned by the Daily Mail, UKIP and the far right, that we are scared of sounding boorish and nationalistic.  We don’t know how to be proud without sounding arrogant and objectionable – even though it’s something other countries seem to manage with ease.

Why else does St Pancras station – a magnificent British building – try so hard to be French? There are no English pubs or shops at the stations on the other end of the Eurostar, in Paris Gare du Nord or Brussels Midi, and nor should there be – they are our points of entry to exciting foreign countries with different cultures and cuisines than ours.  But St Pancras is half-French – it’s almost apologising to travellers for arriving in Britain, with its champagne bar, Des Vins Cafe,  Crepeaffaire, Paul, and Pain Quotidien.

Why else does Britain have fewer local food and drink items protected by European Protected Designation of Origin status (PDO) in total than France has for cheese alone?  Far fewer even than germany or Portugal?  Why do ‘British’ delicatessens stock Italian and French cheeses but no English cheeses?  Come to think of it, why are we calling them delicatessens?

Why, as I pointed out last year, can an American brewer rhapsodise about how Britain is the only nation on earth able to consistently brew beers of such quality and depth of character and flavour as real ales, at alcohol levels below 4% ABV, when you rarely hear moderate and reasonable British people expressing a similar opinion?

It’s a weird one.  And it’s a condition that’s being tested again today by the launch of SIBA’s answer to last year’s American ‘I am a craft brewer‘ film.  It’s simply called ‘Proud of British Beer’, and here it is:

SIBA chairman Keith Bott said, “Nobody could have made a more convincing, compelling case for British beer than the brewers captured on this film. Their pride in their beer, and the pubs that sell it, jump out from every frame and will be felt, and we hope shared, by all who view it.”

Personally, I love it. But then I would – I wrote the script.  And while we’re on the theme, I’m proud to have been asked.  I’m proud to have contributed.  I’m proud to be a part of this film.

It was pulled together in an incredibly short space of time on a small budget, and I think everyone involved did a grand job.
It’s designed to raise awareness, and to lobby MPs, most of whom are emphatically not proud of beer (the House of Commons shop sells a variety of souvenir wines – bottled in France – but no souvenir beer).  There’s an alternative version with a different ending that challenges politicians, asking why they would commit to duty increases that massacre pubs, create job losses, hurt one of our last manufacturing industries, and actually result in lower revenue to the treasury.
The film has been leaked early on Twitter, before its press launch.  Some of the early comments already illustrate the problem we have with pride, the discomfort we feel with people who express it.  Please, if this is your initial reaction on watching the film, challenge yourself on it.  I’m not asking you to lie if you think there are serious flaws in how it has been made, but try to overcome that difficult pride thing and at least judge it on its merits.
If you do like the film, and if you are proud of British beer, then please get the embed code from the Vimeo link above and post it on your blog.  If you are a brewer, or CAMRA, or a trade press magazine, or any other beer body, put internal politics to one side.  Forget the fact that it’s not just talking about real ale, or it features a macro brewer, or you weren’t asked to be in it.  Post it.  Talk about it.  Publicise it.  And help get the message out to as broad an audience as possible.

Alternatively: take the piss.  Parody other people’s efforts to help save and promote British beer while you sit on your arse and do nothing.  But don’t then complain when you’re favourite pub closes, or your favourite beer is no longer brewed.

Come on people.  If we don’t start to show some pride in what we do then basically, we’re fucked.  Let’s try being a little positive for a change.