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Thursday 30 September 2010

A small step for real ale-kind... A giant leap for a John Smiths drinker.

Monday saw the launch of The Cask Report 2010 and I found myself in the heart of Brew Wharf for the shindig. Well, it was more of a presentation, but when I'm drinking ale and sneaking more than my fair share of canapes with the bigwigs of the UK's beer industry, I'm in shindig frame of mind. It did feel a bit like stepping into an edition of The Publican, but all the pictures were alive and talking to me.
(The delightful Jo Theakston from Black Sheep and I pondered what life would be like if a bomb fell on the venue: we'd all have to be drinking Guinness.)
But have no fear- the gravitas of the report wasn't wasted on me. Sitting next to Marverline Cole (aka Beer Beauty, who I want to be my new best friend) I contemplated the lack of real ale in the O2 despite it being the biggest entertainment venue in Europe and the fact that I met a woman the other day who refused to accept a free sample of real ale, saying 'I don't drink bitter.' She was drinking John Smiths.
I sincerely agree with Maestro Brown (Pete, by the way, not Gordon/ Bobbi/ Derren) that educating folks about Cask Beer is key to its continued growth. People don't hate the stuff, they just don't always consider it worth a try or understand why it’s such a special drink.
Which is why I was delighted to see exactly that education going on in one of my local Wetherspoons (oh yes, I'm lucky enough to have two within ten minutes walk from my gaff.)
This is a pub that could reap the benefits from ale educating; not lectures, nothing forceful, but friendly, free exposure to real ale’s delights. The pub itself does well with ale- they have regularly changing guests from an exciting range of microbreweries. They organise brewery tours and advertise ale events on behalf of others. So some people here must drink it. I just seem to always be at the bar next to the person who is ordering Tuborg and yet more John Smiths. It’s not a particularly glamourous area, lots of punters come to the pub alone and its really not the most stylish or inspiring of joints.
So, on a miserable Wednesday evening, in the midst of a power shower level downpour, just what everyone needed was a bit of a freebie and some friendly banter. It came in the form of a meet the brewer evening with a lovely chap from Hogsback and some dapper gents from Itchen Valley. Punters approached with inquisitive intrepidation- some were regular cask drinkers, others were after a free drink. We all sampled the wares, discussed the beer, compared the breweries’ artwork,  enjoyed the raffle (Real Ale Brother securing tickets for the Hogsback fellow from Sainsbury’s over the road) and admired the stylish shoes bedecking the feet of Gary and Mark (not from Take That, but Itchen Valley). It was low key, it wasn’t groundbreaking, it won’t make a massive impact on the market value, but if it just makes one person switch from John Smiths, just once, and helps turn 8.6 million cask ale drinkers into 8.7, then it was worth the boys making their rainy journeys.


  1. I don't need educating, treacle. I neck Foster's 'cos I like it.

    Why is it all these nice well meaning middle class people seem to think us working class prols "need educating"?

  2. Hey Shea, how are you darling? Wicked to meet you the other night. Cheers for mentioning me. You're damn fine yerself. Mutual beer-girl love! lmao!
    Great post cos now I need to check out if any Wetherspoons up here in Brummieland are doing the same sort of meet & greet thing! It is such a simple idea and to be expected since they've started their own real ale website!

    PS Wing me over your address and I'll sort you out THAT DVD we mentioned: xxxx

  3. As Cookie intimates, there is a fine line to tread here.

  4. Thanks for your comments, gents- they crtainly made me re-read the post from a different angle. Perhaps the word educating was a bad choice. Patronising and pompous- exactly what I strive against. I think teterm is exposure- I am not suggesting everyone in South East LOndon must be forced into changing thier normal choice of drink. I was simply referring to a point made in the Cask Report 2010 sumarised in the Barriers to Cask Beer Growth section:

    "Lack of product knowledge
    46% of Britons have never tried cask. Non- cask drinkers have no deep held antipathy to tne product- they just haven't been given a reason to try it and know very little about it."

    This was my inspiration behind my comments- here I was, watching people who would'nt order a real ale normally being given a free opportunity to try it. My apologies if my wording offended. However, having a pop at my being patronising when you are calling me Treacle, Cooking Lager?

  5. Some great facts in the cask report.1 in 6 pints served in pubs now real ale (considering many don't sell that's pretty good!)