Wednesday 24 February 2010

Christmas Gets Earlier

Cast your mind back a couple of months. What did you drink on Christmas Day?

I've landed a commission to contribute to a book of Christmas food and drink which, all being well, will be flying off the shelves next December. No, I haven't been given the Terry's Chocolate Orange or Toblerone sections. Funnily enough, I've been given the beer entry.

I don't have a huge number of words to play with so I'm going to concentrate on beer/food matching for the classic festive comestibles.

My brother and I have been attempting to create sublime beer and food matches at Christmas for years. We've come up with a few principles to narrow down our own Christmas beer search e.g. golden ale or darkish lager, low to medium bitterness, to go with the turkey.

What are your Christmas beer/food guidelines? I'd like to see if my perceptions are are shared by other beerophiles, or whether I'm going to look like a turkey with my suggestions.

Might be worth keeping it simple, such as festive comestible / beer style / example such as roast turkey / golden ale / Swannay Orkney Blast.

Your wisdom is appreciated. Remind me to get you a pint next time I see you.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Beer Electioneering Semiotics

I often start the day with a browse of the Daily Mail's website. I know I shouldn't but it is a useful adjunct to the effects of caffeine in getting me fired up for the day.

Today this caught my eye: "Now 'Dave' claims he likes nothing better than to sit on the sofa watching darts... who does he think he's kidding?"

Apparently "Dave" Cameron has given an interview in which he talks about his love of darts, canned Guinness and 'gritty' shows on the telly." 

That is of course a mendacious and patronising attempt to appeal to working class voters and should be treated with eye-rolling disdain.

But beer gets a mention – what role does it play in Dave's electioneering?

Dave Cameron is a clever bloke and more than capable of understanding and manipulating subtle messages of "brand".

Canned Guinness says (and you may contradict me here): "I'm ordinary; I don't like fancy things but canned lager is a bit too crude for me; I choose Guinness because it offers more flavour yet doesn't possess a snobby elitist image; I'm a man of the people but not undiscriminating".

It can't have escaped your notice that he is pictured clutching a pint of cask ale. I expect this has come from the DM picture library rather than issued by the Cameron machine to accompany his interview with Shortlist magazine. Nonetheless Dave would have been aware of the semiotic value being pictured with a pint of cask ale. This will no doubt go do well with Dave's core voters – the home counties middle class. For this group – the blokes at least – cask ale is the default beer choice. 

When Dave became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, for one interview (so Dave, what attracted you to the aristocratic multi-million heiress Samantha?), he was pictured in his kitchen at home with his wife and kids. Difficult to miss, on the wall behind them was a Grolsch neon. A Grolsch neon? It can't have escaped Dave's people that a prominent brand image was displayed. I imagine the intended message was "I drink lager, I'm ordinary; however I choose drink posh import-only lager, I care about provenance, flavour etc".

All-in-all, it's a fairly confused message. The only message I think I'm getting is that Dave probably is a beer drinker. I don't think the same can be said for the humourless Scottish puritan control-freak Gordon Brown.

Will Dave the Beer Drinker, or Gordon the Hair Shirt get my vote? No. Hell will freeze over before I could vote for either of them. Nor could I bring myself to vote for Nick "it's a recession: we've downgraded from Ocado to Sainsbury's" Clegg. I'm stuck on "none of the above". I suspect I'm not alone.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Beer On The Telly Again

A few evenings ago my TIVO picked up this sympathetic piece from the formerly-nasty Michael Portillo:

Pleasing though it is that our beer history is getting some mass-media, my heart sank a little at one point.


2 mins 47 seconds.

Why the old-fashioned van? I'm no expert but that van looks 1930s to me. Just what has that got to do with brewing in 2010? OK, the thirties were in Burton's glory years but the brewery concerned is contemporary. I can see that they want to suggest "we revere the tradition we are part of", but isn't it an awkward and unnecessary way of saying it? I might be imagining it, but I think Portillo's laughter is disguising a cringe. I certainly cringed.

It bothers me that the world of cask ale is perennially keen to promote itself to more people yet it doesn't listen to those it wishes to convert. The perception "cask ale is for old men" is still inhibits the unconverted yet brewers still trot out the very "ye olde" cliches that created it.