I’ve just read an article in today’s Independent about beer. It’s called ‘A young person’s guide to real ale’ but it should, perhaps, have been titled: ‘More young people seem to be drinking real ale but I don’t know why.’ It’s actually made me quite angry.
The tone is all girly and lightfooted and it’s rife with unanswered clichés and questions; it’s a soundbyte of what we don’t want people to think about real ale: Harvey’s is described as ‘warm’; JHB ‘tastes a bit like drinking a flat lager’; Thornbridge Halcyon ‘tastes nothing like what I would expect an ale to be like’ but we don’t discover why this is or what she expects; to dig the knife in: ‘I had no idea there were so many types of ale and some are really delicious. I might consider ordering one on a wintry afternoon some time but as far as drinking it on a night out, I'm pretty sure people would find me a bit, well, strange’; and to finish the job: ‘who knows, with a little bit of work on its image and the right marketing, perhaps a refreshing glass of real ale could be the drink of choice for the stylish and hip.’
The Cask Report might have shown a good growth area for 18-24 year olds but something like this certainly isn’t going to help. You might as well hand them a picture book of different pints and write next to it: This one is called porter. It’s black. It tastes like burnt toast. It’s served warm. You probably wouldn’t like it so order a red wine.
Protz’s beginners guide is also completely unhelpful (I’m guessing, however, that it’s come from the Good Beer Guide and not quoted by him specifically for this piece, but I don’t know). This is what it says about bitter: ‘Copper or bronze-coloured, it's heavily hopped – hence the name – but the bitterness is balanced by biscuity malt and citrus fruitiness from hops and yeast. Best bitter is a stronger version.’ Is that going to make anyone order a pint of bitter?!
There is serious potential for growth in the younger market and that’s where the long-term future of ale drinking is, but this patronising piece isn’t the way forward and it’s not going to convince anyone to swap their lager for a bitter. The fact it purports to be a guide for young people is just embarrassing as it’s actually a guide from someone who doesn’t drink real ale and probably never will. You can’t blame the Indy for trying but the resulting piece is just a few steps backwards and none forward – the person who wrote it isn’t even convinced to turn to drinking beer, so why would any of the readers?
Anyway, I’m ranting... That article is not a guide for young people, it’s for people who don’t drink real ale and don’t plan to and that's a shame. Has this angered anyone else? Or do you think it’s a generally positive thing that the nationals are covering real ale, even if the message is blurred?