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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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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Proud of British Beer

We have a curious relationship with pride in Britain.

Maybe it's guilt over our colonial past.  Maybe it's British understatement.  Or maybe the notion of national pride has been so poisoned by the Daily Mail, UKIP and the far right, that we are scared of sounding boorish and nationalistic.  We don't know how to be proud without sounding arrogant and objectionable - even though it's something other countries seem to manage with ease.

Why else does St Pancras station - a magnificent British building - try so hard to be French? There are no English pubs or shops at the stations on the other end of the Eurostar, in Paris Gare du Nord or Brussels Midi, and nor should there be - they are our points of entry to exciting foreign countries with different cultures and cuisines than ours.  But St Pancras is half-French - it's almost apologising to travellers for arriving in Britain, with its champagne bar, Des Vins Cafe,  Crepeaffaire, Paul, and Pain Quotidien.

Why else does Britain have fewer local food and drink items protected by European Protected Designation of Origin status (PDO) in total than France has for cheese alone?  Far fewer even than germany or Portugal?  Why do 'British' delicatessens stock Italian and French cheeses but no English cheeses?  Come to think of it, why are we calling them delicatessens?

Why, as I pointed out last year, can an American brewer rhapsodise about how Britain is the only nation on earth able to consistently brew beers of such quality and depth of character and flavour as real ales, at alcohol levels below 4% ABV, when you rarely hear moderate and reasonable British people expressing a similar opinion?

It's a weird one.  And it's a condition that's being tested again today by the launch of SIBA's answer to last year's American 'I am a craft brewer' film.  It's simply called 'Proud of British Beer', and here it is:


SIBA chairman Keith Bott said, "Nobody could have made a more convincing, compelling case for British beer than the brewers captured on this film. Their pride in their beer, and the pubs that sell it, jump out from every frame and will be felt, and we hope shared, by all who view it.”

Personally, I love it. But then I would - I wrote the script.  And while we're on the theme, I'm proud to have been asked.  I'm proud to have contributed.  I'm proud to be a part of this film.

It was pulled together in an incredibly short space of time on a small budget, and I think everyone involved did a grand job.

It's designed to raise awareness, and to lobby MPs, most of whom are emphatically not proud of beer (the House of Commons shop sells a variety of souvenir wines - bottled in France - but no souvenir beer).  There's an alternative version with a different ending that challenges politicians, asking why they would commit to duty increases that massacre pubs, create job losses, hurt one of our last manufacturing industries, and actually result in lower revenue to the treasury.

The film has been leaked early on Twitter, before its press launch.  Some of the early comments already illustrate the problem we have with pride, the discomfort we feel with people who express it.  Please, if this is your initial reaction on watching the film, challenge yourself on it.  I'm not asking you to lie if you think there are serious flaws in how it has been made, but try to overcome that difficult pride thing and at least judge it on its merits.

If you do like the film, and if you are proud of British beer, then please get the embed code from the Vimeo link above and post it on your blog.  If you are a brewer, or CAMRA, or a trade press magazine, or any other beer body, put internal politics to one side.  Forget the fact that it's not just talking about real ale, or it features a macro brewer, or you weren't asked to be in it.  Post it.  Talk about it.  Publicise it.  And help get the message out to as broad an audience as possible.

Alternatively: take the piss.  Parody other people's efforts to help save and promote British beer while you sit on your arse and do nothing.  But don't then complain when you're favourite pub closes, or your favourite beer is no longer brewed.

Come on people.  If we don't start to show some pride in what we do then basically, we're fucked.  Let's try being a little positive for a change.

50 comments:

Tandleman said...

Brilliant - loved it. So very well done. I'll mention it tonight at my CAMRA meeting as something to watch and pass on.

Velky Al said...

That is a bloody magnificent video, and it is about time more people stood up for the good things in Britain rather than constantly putting ourselves down, comparing ourselves to the Americans or worse, wanting to be like everyone else at the expense of being British.

SteveF said...

I think it's wonderful, congratulations to all involved. If I had to quibble I'd have taken the antioxidants bit out. But that's a really minor thing and it probably won't bother anyone but me! So sorry for quibbling.

I guess I can see why our inbuilt Britishness might make some people not like it. But I'm as British as they come when it comes to feeling uncomfortable with showing off and generally being pubically positive, but I can put that aside when I have to and I hope the vast majority of people can do likewise when it comes to things like this.

We should be proud of British beer and I'm really really glad that this video unashamedly shouts this out.

Andrew Bowden said...

I am indeed proud.

Cooking Lager said...

It isn't guilt of a colonial past. American need to wave their flag, I'm English and I don't. The thing I like most about England and the English is our understated nature. I actually like the video but it is ripe for a piss take.

deadmanjones said...

It was hackneyed, jingoistic, and all true. I loved it.

I smell a successful meme, and, regardless of whether the intention of those retweeting, liking or sharing is ironic or heartfelt, the result will be the same. It'll get back to its intended audience and have an affect.

As it St David's Day, can I request a "Brewed in Wales" sequel?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eozO09thrE
I'm sure someone can mash one up.

Mark N said...

I rather liked it.

Terry Lock said...

Excellent, says it all and from the heart, which is where the committment comes from.
I shall mention it at the CAMRA parliamentary reception tonight and also will post a link to my EBCU colleagues to view it.

Terry Lock
EBCU Chair

The Beer Nut said...

I never noticed any of those concessions in St Pancras Station, but I did notice The Betjeman Arms, and I don't think it's possible for anything to be more British than Betjers, despite the dodgy Dutch name.

Anonymous said...

“ Far fewer even than germany”

Wow. Dismissive much?

Germany has always been more populous, much more regionally diverse (to the point of not having a central government before 1871), and all this on a larger land mass than Britain. It'd be a minor miracle if Germany *didn't* have more PDOs than the UK.

I'd say your sense of superiority is alive and well.

None of this has anything to do with the overall point of the entry, I realize, but still.

BLTP said...

excellent stuff, shame they've no brass for a shorter version to go on the box, fits in with John lewis/heinz style ones that have been around recently. Don't have a problem with being proud of things like this. Is there somewhere where it explains who everyone is? Like for BBC perfect day ads?

Jordan said...

Single tear, Pete. And I'm not even British.

jesusjohn said...

For my money, the music and cutting just makes the whole seem overly parodic (and it is waaaay too long) - for those of us hungry for beery videos, I'm sure it's a treat. God knows my own efforts with moving pictures are not up for a BAFTA.

Now't to do with a lack of pride though. British beer is on terrific form and we should robustly celebrate it. I think there'd be a way to do that straight, in perhaps a less overtly earnest style, that would be more, well, British.

I'm 27 though - 'I vow to thee my country' and sweeping vistas of barley really aren't aimed at me. Perhaps it'll work on the Tory MPs (fingers crossed).

HardKnott Dave said...

For me, it's a very nice "welcome to SIBA" pressie.

Anonymous said...

I thought it started stupid, middled really well then ended fairly confused. Overall I liked it - my only criticism is that it would have been nice to know who everyone was...

Curmudgeon said...

Excellent stuff - avoids any sense of factionalism that might have undermined the message. IMV it is very good that the woman who brews Carling is included :-)

scott murray said...

Great bit of filming done here, just wish it could be more published across the nation, not only by bloggers by radio or even newspapers to reach more people across Britain.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Eddie Taylor would be proud!

Anonymous said...

Nice try, but as hackneyed and wooden as a Mikes Carpet advert. 3/10

Mark said...

Great work! Brilliant British beer captured on film for the world to see and we can be rightly proud of it.

Ed said...

It's a worthy effort but more than a little like 'Acorn Antiques'.

So I shall indeed take piss, which surely is much more British than copying cringe worthy videos from the states?

Martyn Cornell said...

Strange how the miserable criticisers can't dare to put their names to their comments.

Pete Brown said...

Thanks for all the positive comments - glad many oif you like it.

For those who don't or aren't sure - okay, I'm instituting a new policy for blog comments. If you have a grievance and you want to express it in person, let's have a grown up conversation about it - like those I've been having with JesusJohn and Jeff Rosenmeier.

JJ, I think the film definitely comes across differently to people under a certain age or with a certain expectation from media - it is a bit straight and full on, perhaps cheesy, but I believe it will hit its main audience right between the eyes.

And Jeff - like we've been saying on Facebook, I do see your point, but this is about fighting against a common enemy. Given the size of big lager brewers in the market, compared to the exposure they get here, I think it's a perfectly fair balance - they're hardly dominating the film, and never pressured to make it more lagery.

But we're grown ups, and we can agree to disagree on some aspects, knowing we share many views about beer in common.

But here's the other side of my new policy. If you're just going to slag stuff off and fire cheap shots from behind the veil of anonymity, from now on I will continue to publish your comments, but will respond to them with some mildly inventive and appropriate abuse. That only seems fair.

So Anonymous 3/10: Fuck off and piss up a rope, you chickenshit little fuckstick.

Stono said...

loved it, specially the "I brew beers that match food better than wine does..." bit ;) ok the last half is aimed more at the legislators so it starts to feel overly long and not quite as to the point as the US craft brew video, but its really only a minor quibble and no reason to do anything over than spread the good word about it.

on the St Pancras front,I suspect high rents could discourage quite alot of business, though the cornish pasty has now been made a PGI in the last week that should mean the West Cornwall pasty shop is at least a gain on the British food front. The Betjemen Arms is ok,it was the place that launched "Cask Ale week" to the media a few years back, but easy to miss if heading for Eurostar (who whilst were at this should note dont serve anything other than Stella or Kronenbourg) but its certainly no Euston/Sheffield tap.

Darren said...

Nice post Pete, always like to see people who care about their craft, all the better if its beer.

Oh and ditto to Anonymous

The Last of England said...

Pity you had to get in a cheap gibe about UKIP who are more patriotic than you will ever be

deadmanjones said...

I demand an alternate version that ends "if you're not proud of british beer, then fuck off and piss up a rope, you chickenshit little fuckstick."

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

I Agree With Pete — good stuff, has a couple of troughs towards journey’s end but for me it’s generally powerful and potent and deserves a wide airing — Alastair Hook in particular provides a right up and at ’em presence. Why not be proud of British beer?

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

No problem Pete, I've posted it out to my people.

I guess the other point regarding Carling is whether it is actually a British brand, but since I haven't been able to figure out if Coors are Canadian or American for a while now, I let that one slide. ;-)

On to some serious feedback...Professional photography etc and it was great to see some of my friends on screen.

I also think if the point of this was to take it to the government, that point needed to be made in the first 20 seconds, not the last minute...I'm afraid a lot of people will have tuned out by then.

It is as British as the IAACB was American, that is for sure.

The Beer Nut said...

The Betjemen Arms is ok ... its certainly no Euston/Sheffield tap.
Feel the pride!

mentaldental said...

It was a bit long...

Some of the delivery was very wooden but that really adds to the charm and certainly makes it feel very British! The plucky amateur pushes through to success and all that.

I was uncomfortable with the comment about the number of German PDOs. I bit ill judged but, hey, nobody's perfect.

And I love the fact that the music is by some bloke with the very British name of Gustav. Still makes a change from old Eddie Elgar.

PivnĂ­ Filosof said...

I'm not British, nor do I get the chance to drink much British beer, but as a beer lover who happens to live in the Czech Republic I must say I really, really loved this video and above all, its message.

Well done, Peter. Hats off to you and everyone involved in this. I sincerely hope it will get the attention it deserves.

Richard said...

Excellent piece of work and well done! Sadly I can't immediately see how the knobheads in HMG will actually get the message. Tragic!

Alan said...

Loved it: http://beerblog.genx40.com/archive/2011/march/otherbeertrade

Alan said...

And Carling is definitely a Canadian brand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carling#History

It's even back in Canadian hands (sorta) under Molson Coors. An artifact of our corner of the Empire.

Liam & Charlotte said...

Hammy as you like, but still struck a chord with me as a lover of British beer, more so after being away from Britain and decent beer for a few months (I'm currently in Russia - 'nuff said!).

The problem is you are preaching to the converted. Anyone who watches this as a none real ale/craft beer/Carling drinker is going to be laughing at the outrageously nationalistic tone and laughable soundtrack. I'm not cultured enough to know exactly what the music is but I'm pretty sure I've mostly heard it on screen behind comedy sketches or nationalist political party broadcasts. I'm sorry but you're going to have to try harder if you're to 'convert' people from drinking sub standard lager or going down their local instead of getting pissed up at home, but then again the message is muddled by including Carling (most of which its safe to assume isn't consumed all that responsibly?) Most of the other foreign mass lager consumed day to day is still brewed in Britain right? Can we still be proud of that?

I think the best hope is that you appeal to a few of the right wingers in power and tax legislation might be eased.

Sorry to be so negative as I love British beer culture, but I guess I am apologetically British and prefer more understated methods of promotion.

Don't get me wrong I am proud of British beer culture but I guess this video rubbed me up the wrong way.

The Professor said...

Nice job, Pete, and I do think it does a better job than the video that circulated here in the States last year...yours seemed somehow much more in earnest.

And while we're at it, your comment to "Anonymous 3/10" made me laugh out loud.
A lot.
Really loud. (actually, still laughing)...you do indeed have a way with words.
There's a number of people to whom I'd love to recommend that particular rope trick. Cheers.

Rob Nicholson said...

@Liam Charlotte: this video is nothing at all to do with converting people to beer. It's a heartfelt message to politicians to stop cocking up a fine industry. I just thought "I wish CAMRA had such passion" but I agree that it's too long

Curmudgeon said...

"then again the message is muddled by including Carling (most of which its safe to assume isn't consumed all that responsibly?) Most of the other foreign mass lager consumed day to day is still brewed in Britain right? Can we still be proud of that?"

Surely the whole point of the video is that it is inclusive and covers ALL British brewing. Brewing is still a major manufacturing industry in Britain, providing tens of thousands of jobs and giving pleasure to millions. Even if you're drinking Carling or Stella, it's better than not drinking beer at all.

If it descended into factionalism, then the point would be lost. British brewing is ill-served by the fact that many of those who are most vocal on the subject dismiss most beer brewed in the country as crap.

No video promoting the Scotch whisky industry would remotely contemplate dismissing Bell's as mass-market rubbish.

samhill said...

Hi Pete,

Which are the maltings are featured in the video?

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

@samhill, that was Warminster Maltings, in Warminster, Wiltshire...really good stuff!

Gary Gillman said...

Good effort, and just returned from a few days in London, I am reminded of the incomparable nature of British beer at its best. I was stunned how good Bengal Lancer was, it outshone even ESB in my opinion. or draft White Shield. I am sure these represent a kind of bitter quite prevalent 60 and 100 years ago.

And can a better pint of ale be had than Old Hooky at its complex best?

These beers, and many others, are equal or better in their class to a fine claret or any other wine, or a fine malt whisky or brandy.

Yet, I had to look with bemusement too often at people walking in and ordering lager (often imported or with a foreign name), seemingly 8 out of 10 times. Even Guinness, ordinary as it is today, seemed more popular than bitter.

Yes there are some duff beers, I didn't find the ones with U.S. (or that type) hops that interesting, Jaipur aside. Beers with spices or garden herbs didn't work for me. And I still can't get a taste for Old Speckled Hen. Different strokes for different folks.

And still so often, real ale is badly kept. I'd say, if I just walked in to a place at random, the chances of a poor pint were 50/50.

The core of the great British beer experience is still there but I think pace CAMRA it has kept going more from instinct and tradition than anything else. Hence the fall in sales over the decades of top-fermented beer especially real ale.

Efforts such as this video will help to promote good beer more forcefully. This is necessary in a time when people tend to think something from afar or made in a foreign style is superior. In matters of beer, the reverse is true in England.

Gary

Anonymous said...

Great film. I am a Brit living in Germany and working in the German beer industry. I am always amazed when I come back to UK just what a wonderful variety of different beers you see now. Germany may have 5,000 different brands, great beers and more breweries but in terms of creativity and choice the UK is definitely winning. Good luck with the politicians.

Gary Gillman said...

Just if I may clarify, I did not mean that Bengal Lancer outshone cask White Shield, but rather, that they are on a par of top-most quality. White Shield cask had a palate not dissimilar to the bottle of 20 years ago but is much bigger all-round, more sweet apple and other fruit, more resinous hop. A titan.

These are truly (and of course many others) the Chateau whatevers of English drink gastronomy, and should be shouted from the rooftops.

The profusion of ciders was interesting too, I liked the ones from the box, the scrumpy, or in that style.

Incidentally, the beer shop at Borough Market is a wondrous place. The knowledgeable and friendly owner made shopping there even more enjoyable. His UK selection was amazing but the rare US stuff he had (at very fair prices) stunned me too, all sorts of comparative tastings can be done now just from what he has.

Beer in London at any rate, and I only had a small sample, is in good shape overall but you need to know where to go - the heritage of 50 years ago where you could take great beers for granted is lost. Had pride existed nationally in beer then such as this video exhibits, that might not have happened.

Gary

Pub Diaries said...

I'd count myself as one of those taking the odd pot shot via Twitter and blog post - how else to wile away the time before the clock hits 5? And yes I'm anonymous to an extent. I'd stand by any pop I took but with the added context of time, budget and intended audience my view does thaw slightly.

If it gets the message over to a targetted group and that’s the intention then great, but I'd stand by the point that something else could take this alot wider. So taking account of this and comments that it doesn't hit the spot with a younger audience there's a spark of an idea. It may just be the hangover wearing off but perhaps SIBA, CAMRA, Individual Brewers or just individuals pick up the baton, or in this case a camera and record why they are Proud of British Beer? If you've got a video phone or a digital camera then you've got the tools for the job. Could this be the start of a number of lo-fi Proud of British Beer indie films? Brewdog, Proud of Punk anyone? Right that's my quota of constructive thought for the day I'm off to the Pub.

Kevin Worth said...

I'm proud of British Beer....:-) Awesome film, Well done to all involved, lets shout it from the rooftops.

Cheers and happy brewing

Kev

Anonymous said...

"Strange how the miserable criticisers can't dare to put their names to their comments."

It's even stranger that the criticisers of the miserable criticisers get so hung up on anonymity,why? are you intent on harassment? do you want to know where they live?

Martyn Cornell said...

are you intent on harassment?

No, Mr/Ms Anonymous, I merely wonder why you, and the UKIP wanker hiding under a stupid pseudonym, don't have the courage to put your real names to your unpleasant comments. Internet anonymity makes many cowards feel big men, it appears.

Steve Welburn said...

Well done, and I'm sure it'll hit some targets, but I'm in agreement with JesusJohn on this - 'though I'm a 40-something.

If it was half the length (and with some other music) it could get across (most of) its message and there'd be a chance of getting not-that-interested-in-beer types to sit through it. So any chance of another cut to try and pull in more viewers ?

Gary Gillman said...

Pete, just catching up to this older post, so no one likely will see this comment except you, which is fine. I fully agree with you. The difficulty is that the taste-makers, i.e., those who travel (an ever-increasing bunch), those who make opinion (an ever-increasing bunch due to blogging and social media), want to vaunt the foreign, just because it is different and therefore presumed better. But often it isn't.

The English people - the people - kept top-fermented beer going for 100 years after most of Europe dropped it. It was British self-confidence in action. British is best - which it often was and certainly in the beer field still is if you know where to find it.

In the 1800's, if you read enough beer history, you may conclude, as I have, that the top British brewers and scientists then expressed doubts about British beer: it was too strong, too bitter, too this or that. They admired the new 3.5% German lager. Well, the people didn't follow them. But finally they did, or were sort of forced to due to mass marketing and other features of the modern beer scene. And so it goes with Euro this and that in food and fashion today.

Part of this process is inevitable, is the result of Britain becoming less of an Island. But part of it too reflects conscious choices. I hope people will hearken to your message. This is why CAMRA, so often questioned and misunderstood in our day IMO, is important. They have the Dunkirk spirit when it comes to beer (I believe Michael Jackson wrote that in the 1970's) and good for them. They may not always be politic or inclusive but they are responsible in my view in large part for the survival of traditional English beer as we know it today.

Gary