Local beers, Locale and all that

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2012 by kmflett

Local beers, Locale & all that

I was struck by a blog post recently reposted by Boak & Bailey from Martyn Cornell about the history of London brewing and in particular breweries.

You can read it here:

It rightly celebrates the, at the moment, ever increasing numbers of London breweries but points to peaks and troughs in the total going back to the mid nineteenth century [which was a comparative trough]

Cornell points out to the last boom in London breweries in the late 1970s and early 1980s remembering Godson’s Brewery originally of Clapton and then Bow. However the boom then was largely attributed to David Bruce’s Firkin brewpubs rather than independent microbreweries.

There is another point at least in my view.

As a London drinker in the 1970s and 1980s I don’t remember being particularly interested in drinking locally brewed real ales in the way I certainly am now.

What we were keen on in London 30-40 years ago- certainly in North London- was of course to get hold of the London brewed beers of Fullers and Youngs [not easy to come by in the area then] but more particularly to sample the products of the surviving regional brewers- say Sam Smiths, Batemans, Ruddles, Theakstons. These beers were very hard to find in London then.

The break through for cask ale in London in the mid-1970s after the keg tide had flowed was the introduction in a good number of pubs not of a local brew but Ind Coope’s Burton Ale on hand pump.

So where did the interest in local beers come in?

It was a much wider movement than just beer and focuses I suppose around the well known slogan of thinking globally and acting locally.

It has been part of a move away from corporate brands [hello Locog]towards products that are locally made with ingredients and processes that people can understand and trust.

I doubt the move started with beer but rather with food. Farmers markets- most of which are commercially run affairs- have focused on products from named producers [usually present themselves] and from a short distance around the venue of the market.

Part of this is about cutting down on the environmental impact of carting food products around the country when in many cases they can be supplied locally. This is as true for beer as it is for organic vegetables or farmhouse cheeses.

Part of it is about people buying food and now beer [and to a degree cider and perry]from producers they know personally and trust to produce good quality.

Of course in terms of beer there is still huge interest in sampling beers from around the UK and much further afield than that. But CAMRA’s Locale campaign has posed the important question of why a pub in a particular locality would not have a beer or two from its local brewer, just as many pubs boast of locally sourced food.

It is a change in perspective and one that is arguably re-opening another question. Namely are there distinctive regional and local tastes in beer in the way that there certainly were 50 and 100 years ago?


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