'Which would you like?' We'd say. 'There's lager, pale ale or stout.' A blank face looked back. Lager is what most went for. A default choice.
This was a street food festival but it was also in the middle of tourist London, so the crowd was mixed. What I couldn't believe was the number of people that just walked to the bar and asked for beer without specifying anything else. Don't people care what they drink? They must have a general preference for something and be aware that more than one beer exists, right?
You wouldn't walk into a sandwich shop and just order 'a sandwich, please', would you? So why would it happen with beer?
The majority of people don't care about anything. They don't care what they eat, what they watch, what they read or what they drink. That's why massive global companies can churn out well-marketed cheap crap and make millions. It's half depressing, half comforting; just to know you're not another mindless droid...ReplyDelete
I half understand this, and probably subscribe to it with things like toothpaste, but surely people are semi-conscious of their decisions when it comes to spending a few quid on something to drink? They must have *some* idea about it...Delete
I agree with you Tomethy.ReplyDelete
In fact, the majority of people don't care about beer at all.
Then why drink it over something like wine or gin or mouthwash?Delete
Yep. The zombie masses are a interesting bunch. Always fun to see the response to when someone asks for "a beer please" at places like Akkurat and Oliver Twist in Stockholm.ReplyDelete
Frederik - what kind of response do they get?! I imagine the bartender just walks away and serves someone else...!Delete
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Got it all the time when I worked in a certain pub. Sometimes I got tired of it and just served them the most basic bitter on the bar... it was weird-er when people would come in and just ask for a "glass of wine please" Large, small?? Red, White??... nope, just "glass of wine please" - So they usually got the large expensive house red given to them then...ReplyDelete
Michael Jackson said it enough times; "Never ask for a 'beer'."
Ordering a glass of wine is pretty vague... I don't really get it. Sure, order a plate of chips, but how many places order more than one type of chips, but when it comes to going to a bar and ordering a drink, I just don't get it!Delete
No, they don't know that there's more than one kind of beer, they really don't. Or they do, but they don't have enough experience to know which of the beers on offer they might like. I don't dismiss these people as mindless sheep or zombies like the commenters above; I think they are open to trying something new, they just have no idea where to start, and are embarrassed to ask for help. You and I know what a pale ale is, the average person doesn't.ReplyDelete
I have never had any truck with the idea of giving people bland "gateway beer". When I'm working at festivals and encounter people like this, I ask if they like bacon and if they say yes, I sell them a Schlenkerla. Or say "this one is rich and roasty like coffee, and this one is light and lemony." You have to start with flavour, rather than sending people away to learn about beer styles. Meantime used to do this quite well on their menu, I believe, but they seem to have gone back to dividing them up into lager, ale and wheat beer again, which is a shame.
I agree with you. When we got the question we'd always explain that the lager is crisp and refreshing, the pale is citrusy and juicy and the stout is roasty and dark. Simple words and descriptions.Delete
I guess my thinking this odd is that beer isn't an unusual or exotic food-stuff. I might go to a shop serving Asian food and ask for an explanation, but beer is everywhere and most drinkers, I assume, have even a basic knowledge of the type of beer they like to drink...
You say the festival was in the middle of tourist London, Mark. Were the people who were asking just for "a beer", Americans by any chance?ReplyDelete
Nope, the Americans almost universally ordered the pale ale or stout. Everyone who ordered 'a pint' was English and almost all male in their 30s.Delete
I think we sometimes forget that as beer junkies, *we're* the unusual ones. Sure, when I walk into a pub the first thing I do is scan all their pump clips to see if they have anything interesting / unusual but most of my non-beer friends will just order "a lager".ReplyDelete
Ghost Drinker actually has a point with wine. Even if you're more specific and order a "large red wine", is that any better than ordering "a lager"? I'm sure a winophile would be horrified that you weren't even specifying at least a country, let alone a region / vineyard.
I'd never order a generic beer, but that's because I want to drink a specific beer. Most people just want something wet, fizzy and slightly alcoholic.
I wouldn't order a glass of red - I'd order a glass of a specific bottle. Ordering a red or white, for me, is the same as ordering a lager or ale, so at least it's a start... And yes, we are the unusual ones, of course, and my view is blurred because of that!Delete
Interesting. I wonder if you'd have got fewer blank looks offering lager, *bitter* and stout?ReplyDelete
How many were not native English speakers? British people often ask just for 'a beer' in Spain, when, generally, Spanish people specify the size of the measure they want ("Una caña").
In Cologne, of course, you can get away with just holding up a finger in the direction of a distant waiter...
I'm not sure about bitter. As I mentioned in reply to Paul, most people who did this were guys in the 30s, so 'bitter' is probably not quite their thing, but I might be wrong. Lager, ale and stout are surely the three common threads of beer? And all were English.Delete
In Belgium, despite the huge variety of beers that we have, if you ask for 'une bière' (a beer), you will automatically receive a 25cl glass of lager... That's how it works and nobody seems to find this strange!ReplyDelete
If you want something else than a lager, then you specify what you want, but apparently 'bière', in Belgium, only refers to Jupiler/Stella/Maes...
One of my favourite bars to go to in Norwich is a Whiskey bar with around 100 whiskies. The amount of time people have gone in there and just said they want a whiskey... scotch? Highland? Lowland? Middle earth? Bourbon? Rye? Japanese?ReplyDelete
Hey Mark, lager the default choice? nothing wrong with that! as long as its craft lager!ReplyDelete
I've heard that big breweries ferment at around 14C and lager for only 2 weeks! shocking! is this true?
How long does Camden lager their beer for???
Recently attended a Meet the Brewer with Odell, and Doug made a great point: it's all about educating people. When Odell's was starting up, he said he went to lots of local pubs and bought people his beers to show them that beer could actually have subtle, distinct flavours and be an amazingly varied drink. I know it's probably not feasible to do this sort of thing (unless you're independently wealthy ;)), but when working at a bar with lots of beer options, I find giving tasters and discussing the beers with customers works well. They may again drift back to a standard lager, but at least I feel as though I've given them a little insight into what's out there...