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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Thursday, 6 March 2008

A Turning Point?

It's been a busy week.

Complaining about the lack of coverage given to beer and pubs has become such a reflex reaction now for so many of us, I suspect I actually mumble in my sleep about there being not a single regular beer column in any UK national newspaper, Sunday supplement or magazine.

But after years of saying, "It's got to change," it just might be starting.

On Sunday I was quoted in a Sunday Mirror piece on Carlsberg's most expensive beer in the world. It was a tabloid piece so they were looking to knock it, but I did manage to get the journo to include some flavour descriptors of a typical barley wine style beer. As we got to talking I mentioned my India trip, and this coming Sunday the Mirror will be running quite a big story on it - they're coming to take my photo in about an hour. This, three days after I was on Market Kitchen talking about the same trip.

And yesterday I got a call from the Independent. Today they're running a very even-handed piece on the new figures from the BBPA on how pubs are closing at the rate of four a day. Of course it's a bad news story, but again, they quoted me and used some of my stuff as background to giver the case for the pub as a balance for the problems - it's by no means a doom-mongering piece.

Also yesterday, there was the news that Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey is filming a three-part series to be shown on Channel 4 this summer about his quest for the perfect pint. He's opening a microbrewery, and is currently talking to ad agencies about launching the beer. "Beer should not just be for men with sparrows in their beard or lager louts. I want to create the everyman's ale," said Morrissey. This will be the first series about beer on British TV since Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter in 1990. While I'm a bit gutted personally because it probably finally kills my own long-running attempt to get Man Walks into a Pub used as the basis for a TV series, it's a huge step forward for the image of beer.

It's possible to pick fault with any of these stories individually - the Mirror won't treat beer as seriously as we might like; maybe you'd choose a better celeb than Neil Morrissey; maybe the Indie could be more positive - but I can't remember a week when there were so many different, unconnected people wanting to talk about beer and pubs. And in the week when many other media outlets resorted to bare-faced lying in their coverage of the government review of licensing reform, that's got to be a good thing.

7 comments:

BLTP said...

Top stuff, look at you with ya fancy dan Daily Mirror stories. Neil Morrissey did do a a good if lightweight doc about scouts last year, so one on beer might be good. Sadly Channel 4 don't do docs by anyone other than celebs and also they do only seem to do life style programmes that promote the business of presenter. The latest being about a some blokes chocolate firm, but all the foods programmes promote directly the stars restaurants, books, food courses, the property shows are the same.
But anyway good stuff and we'll have to get a copy of the mirror! oh and have drink too

Knut Albert said...

Interesting, but maybe not that surprising. The big American newspapers, particularly the New York Times, have been covering beer, including beer travel, quite exstensively the last year or so.
I would think that the growth of the British micros would be a good source of stories for the media as well. The success of BrewDog who are taking the world by storm from their remote base would make a splendid article!

BLTP said...

Knut: Sadly the media in the UK are wine drinkers to a man (woman) and having be putting forward a "honey hued tuscan farmhouse large glass of chilled white view of the world" for many years now. In every other sphere of food production they love local micro businesses but beer seems to beyond the Pail (pale ale !?) let's hope this is a sea change.

Boak said...

Yes, it's bizarre. You'd think local, traditionally-brewed real ale would be a great seller in the days of the great food revolution.

Some of the brewers are getting in on this, obviously, and trying to launch themselves as a premium product (Meantime springs to mind). Will be interesting to see the Neil Morrissey thing.

jaipur said...

again very odd after Morrrissey has spent years portraying a lager lout ( now has there ever been such an odd sentence at that?)

anyway, you must be holed up in some town centre boozer singing by now - let me know if we need to take Browny's Barnsley Bitter to Wembley!

well done and you must really be looking forward to looking in The Mirror tomorrow!!

James said...

Nothing to do about beer from me Pete.

Congratualtions on a fine win from Barnsley this weekend though. You must be chuffed !!

Jeff Pickthall said...

I wrote a follow-up letter to the Independent describing how the tie system is a major contributor to the woes of pub trade (IMHO) - it wasn't printed.

The letter included a description of this nasty phenomenon I've observed recently-

Regional brewer owning 100s of pubs looks at its spreadsheets and decides to flog a few of the poorly performing ones.

Enquiries to the agent handling the sale are met like this "are you in the pub trade?" or "are you looking to develop the site?".

A positive reply to the former meets with stony obfuscation, the latter meets with the kind of greeting a long-lost relative who happened to win the lottery would receive.

I tried, I rang them.

So there you have it - chains, flogging off their under-performers, actively cultivate non-pub developers. Presumably this behaviour is motivated by a desire to reduce future competition for their remaining pubs.

I don't know how common this but continue to be convinced that the chain operators are the biggest culprits in screwing our unique pub culture.