Friday, 22 August 2008

The dark side of the brewing force

Greetings again readers, and apologies for the later than usual post as I have been currently submerged in my end of year project and new job at a fairly local pub, the Shoulder Of Mutton. Thankfully upon going for the initial interview I realized I would be working in a decent pub, no bumpy-bump music, plastic chairs, disco lights, or hordes of chavs and trendys filling the place on weekends. The three cask ales available include Directors Courage, Deuchars IPA and one guest, all served with sparkler (which does mask the aroma alittle), but non the less a decent beer range on tap with what Iv heard is top quality food served in a relatively ornate interior. On the downside however, I have noticed that around 85% of the clientele order nothing but mass market water flavored lager, chemical infused cider or nitro-keg pap, which concluded that this aims to be more of a pub for everyone, not a true beer haven.
Never the less It was only the other day I got thinking about consumer behavior and how it linked in with my project. Many of my long term readers may recall using the terms ‘brainwashed by the media’ and ‘will live out there lives deprived of any knowledge of what beer really is and can be’ (stuff like that). It all relates back to (and I will cover this in my project), the rise of (what I call) ‘the dark side’. The truth is shortly after the end of the second world war in the UK the brewing industry assembled itself into collated beer companies that later grew into brewing giants (also known at the time as the ‘big six’). These brewing giants expanded there empires, aggressively trying to dominate over the beer market, and this was done in a number of ways, for example;

- Companies established there own tied estates i.e. pubs they owned which thus only sold the beer they wanted to sell.
- Beer became produced in keg and bottled form instead of cask, meaning the beer was filtered and pasteurized for a longer shelf life and a more stable product.
- Beer increasingly evolved into a minimalistic product, brewed with more flavor reducing, cheaper, carbohydrate sources and less hops in order to design beers with lass flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and general character.
- To make sure nobody noticed that beer was so bland, the new generation of beer drinkers of the time were enticed with mass market advertising specifically designed to present the product and product image in a fashionable and appealing way to the target audience. For example bottled lagers were aimed at the trendy younger gentleman, wanting to look cool and laid back at the bar, the nitro-keg bitter is designed for the middle aged straight talking working class etc.

As you might have guessed, the rout of the dark side is to try and push and present beer as a basic staple product, to be consumed in large volume in order to get drunk and be in with the guys whilst steering all away from any thought it could be anything more… And then CAMRA came along.

But the thing is, no matter how many times you grind your teeth over it, when you look back through the history books there’s always been those brewers trying to stock it high and sell it cheap (for example porter ale was often adulterated in the 17-1800s, and mild ale was often watered down to get more out the barrel come the early 20th century). But on the other side there’s always been brewers committed to the art of producing fine brewing, the main difference today is that in most cases its financial wealth that divides the two.

So remember folks, stay away from that dark side, and keep exploring the wonderful world of beer.

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