Friday, 1 April 2011

Changing Perceptions

Whilst attending a recent Meet The Brewer event with Mark from Darkstar, I was met with a remark along the lines of "You're far too young for Real Ale, F%&k off back to nursery". Although there was no real menace in this statement, it made me start to think; How old should you be to drink Real Ale? And why do people hold these perceptions?

It was clear from the moment we turned up that myself and the group of friends I was with, were the youngest people taking part in this event. This was met with enthusiasm from the barmaid who commented that it was nice to see some younger faces. So why the ageist remarks? Surely if you're attending a meet the brewer event you're more passionate about beer or that particular brewery than the average drinker and should take pleasure knowing that there are others like you - young and old alike that share that passion for great beer.

Compo & Friends
We all know Ale is often portrayed as an old mans drink, for many the word Ale often conjures up the image of an old man sitting in the corner with a newspaper and a pint. Although there is clearly some evidence for this stereotype (check out your local Wetherspoons!) why can't Ale or Craft beer be a drink for everyone? The American craft beer scene is huge, and on a trip to New York last year I couldn't believe how many bars were filled with people young and old, male and female, trying out great craft beers. Brewers like DogFish Head, Stone, Left Hand Brewing and Brooklyn (to name a few) are spearheading a craft beer revolution, making beer cool again and putting it back into favour with the younger generation. Brooklyn Brewery is a prime example of this, I stumbled into the aptly named Dive 75 not expecting much at all in the way of good beer. What I found was a Brooklyn tasting session matched with different cheeses in a trendy basement bar! Something that I'd rarely find over here in the UK.

Breweries like Brew Dog here in the UK, have clearly taken inspiration from the USA and tried to make beer cool again. Whipping up a storm and controversy with their high percentage beers, no nonsense punk attitude and general mischief, they've opened craft beer and ale to a brand new market. People like me! I've stated before that the press lead me to Brew Dog and inevitably my adventure into beer and ale. Now, because of that I'm a CAMRA member and writing this blog.

Westow House SE19
Local to me is a perfect example of how things are slowly heading in the right direction. The Westow House is a trendy pub catering for a younger crowd. Open to 2am on a weekend, with DJ's retro arcade games, a ping pong table! and most importantly Real Ale on tap. Not only that but they regularly tweet their current ale offerings. I honestly can't think of anywhere else I could be at 1am on a Saturday morning sampling Thornbridge Japuir! If only more places would start coming around and offer a quality experience with a quality range of drinks to go with it. I'm not saying I want some sweaty Shoredich club to start selling ale but bars and club-pubs are missing a trick by not offering a variety of beers to a younger experimenting crowd.

As Mark from Darkstar said at the event, the craft beer world is changing. Drinkers are far better travelled and as such they are becoming familiar with more varied flavours and  thus want more adventurous and unusual tastings beers. It's really encouraging that so many people (and breweries) in the ale and craft beer scene have embraced this and hopefully it means that more people will be tempted to try local or specialist beers in the future, rather than their regular bland fizzy lager's. It's still nonetheless sad though that a small minority are resistant to new ideas, and wary of new faces at 'their' events.

Maybe I'm just a young person in an old persons world? But it certainly doesn't feel like that to me!