Saturday, March 13, 2010

Changing Expectations.

A few things have made me muse on how things have changed recently. First Pete Brown wrote his piece ‘I remember when it were all fields round here’ , then Dr Mulchin, now a resident of Liverpool, sent me a package of MerseyAle the Liverpool and Districts CAMRA magazine, then I started thinking about the area of my job that involves helping restaurateurs, café and bar owners put together beer lists and how what we expect from a good beer list has changed.
The two issues of MerseyAle the Dr sent both had features looking back to the past. One of them contained a piece on the first Good Beer Guide (1974), detailing the Liverpool pubs it listed and what has become of them now. The other piece looked at 30 years of the CAMRA Liverpool Beer Festival and 30 years of JDW. In both pieces it was driven home how what was at stake was the survival of traditional amber bitter and mild in a cask conditioned form, many of the beers have disappeared but also many of them are still around, and are today dismissed as ‘boring brown’ and viewed much today as Red Barrel and Double Diamond were then. Yes these beers might have declined in quality but I suspect there is something more going on. The ‘Activists’ are expecting something different now from what the ‘furious four’ originally were striving for. Today there seems to be a desire to see a range of styles , not just another traditional bitter on the handpump. While sometimes I think like Zak Avery that this move to demand different styles is at the cost of acknowledging how good some of these “boring brown’ beers are its probably a positive sign of a maturing beer culture.
Here in NZ we are facing our own developments. A decade ago, no actually make that 5 years ago, we would have been pleasantly surprised to open a menu in a restaurant, bar or café and see a beer from an independent brewer. The fact is that the beer would probably be an interpretation of a style the big brewer’s trade in, a standard golden lager, a New Zealand Draught or perhaps a dark lager. Today however I am being approached by more and more restaurateurs wanting to improve their beer lists, wanting a range of beer styles (even if the Golden Lager sections of their lists are still by far the largest) from a range of brewers. The really positive aspect is in large part these are restaurateurs who don’t have an interest or knowledge of beer, they are improving their lists because the punters are demanding it and their competition are doing it.
I guess I remember when it were all fields round here, its no high rise yet but the building site is raging!

The picture is from the dreadful days of New Zealand 6 o’clock swill where the country came very close to prohibition and pubs had to close at 6pm each night meaning punters binge-drinked their watery tasteless beer down as fast as possible before heading home. Its a period in our history that still has implications on our drinking culture.


MicMac said...

Hi Kieran - nice piece - I've no other comment to make really, apart from to say that if you want to catch up on MerseyAle & your friend hasn't posted them out, the current issue & back issues are online here -
Mike McG, Wirral, nr Liverpool.

Matt said...

Nice post!