Ale is international. This beautiful drink in all its beautiful varieties has fans around the world and is loved around the world. It is tasted around the world. It is appreciated around the world. It is absolutely a global cultural phenomenon that is sweeping across the globe. Everyone loves it and it is wise and old and brilliant! It’s like liquid Meryl Streep.
They are popular around the world, these beers. These drinks. Such a popular drink it is, such a popular drink! So I’m always on air planes flying around the world trying to keep up with the global ale community. I went to Paraguay and drank a Porter. I flew to Canada and drank a can-of-beer. I flew to Japan and drank a pint. I’ve don it all! I live near Liverpool which has a fantastic real ale culture, with really great pubs and really great drinks around every corner. It is really, truly, amazingly, unbelievably, super great!! But I often have to leave Liverpool, I have to pull myself away from the Bar here in Liverpool and get out of the city and go really far away to drink and to taste and to promote and to talk about one thing: real ale.
I jump in the old banger and head out to the airport and I leave this damn country. Now car parking at Liverpool airport used to be a complete nightmare but it is no longer a complete nightmare because they’ve built a flipping massive car park and their are some great ways to find cheaper parking. So I park up and I head onto those magic metal birds and get the hell out of this country and go around the world and bloody well show everyone just how bloody great the ale is.
One from the archives this. Back in 2013 at Brouwer’s Big Wood in 2013 one beer really stook out for us when we were over in the US and that was ‘American Stupid Sexy Flanders’. Despite the very, very, funny name. Like, an actually funny name rather than a really awful funny name as most funny name ales. Also, unlike many funny name ales, the beer was really interesting. It came from the bottle a deep, dark red, tasted a little tart but with a strong fuzz too it. It was like drinking a classic Duchesse but with rockets under it. A fantastic beer that we’ve just got a new case off. Lovely stuff!
If you have a suggestion of what should be our Beer Of The Month next month, let us know!
During the 2008 economic crash one of the only British industries which had consistent growth was the Scottish Scotch industry. Scotch, it transpired, hit an absolute economic boom in that period despite its traditional markets in the UK and the USA completely crashing. Why? Because Scotch became the drink of choice in, of all places, Japan!
Small time Scotch producers managed to break into the Japanese market by pooling their resources to pack their scotch up into timber packing cases and get it shipped over to Japan. They managed to get their fine whiskeys tasted by the right people and suddenly BOOM the whisky market was changed forever. Suddenly Japan couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Suddenly the number of Whisky enthusiasts world wide had its biggest jump in the long history of this proud drink. And all thanks to a little ingenuity and a lot of whisky and those packing cases that took that beautiful brown elixir all that way.
Now, why does that matter to us? We are not the campaign for exporting whisky to Japan, our focus is strictly on Ale right? Well, yes. That is completely right. But what I’m talking about is a little bit of page stealing. As in, stealing a page from their book. From the book of the Scotch people. Yes. From that book. It’s a pretty great idea, and I’m pretty excited about it. We just need to do what they did! Pool a few small brewery’s together, get them to all chip in for some timber packing cases (From Barnes & Woodhouse) and some shipping costs, and then just get that ale in the right mouths! That is really all it takes, and it could be such a massive boon to the industry. Japan loves new things and loves the idea of old Britain and these things for some reason, so let’s give them what they want!
Let’s give them REAL ALE!
When I was young we were lucky enough to live in a nice house with a fire place that we would gather around in the winter, feeling the natural heat warm our bones. I like that. ‘Lucky enough…’ in America they tend t say ‘we’ve been very blessed’. ‘So you grew up in a mansion in up state New York because your father was the CEO of the company that makes all the string?’ ‘Yes, we were very blessed’ or’ Yes, I’ve been very fortunate’ but, you know… ‘we were always taught the value of money’ or ‘we weren’t spoilt’ or ‘we had to earn our keep!’ or ‘I was still working on the weekends at 16!’ oh! ‘Wow! That really is humble, it’s almost like you’re a real person!’
Confronting and acknowledging your privilege is an uncomfortable thing to do and it is uncomfortable exactly because it is not a case of you simply being lucky or fortunate or blessed as an individual. This gives your privilege an isolation from the context that creates it. Your privilege was not simply a product of you and good fortune. It is calculated and it is cold. ‘We were very blessed’ divests you from the context in which your privilege arose. In ‘We were very blessed’ you were just one family existing on it’s own, being blessed. Especially when this is actually formed in the religious context in which it belongs this becomes completely removed from the essential relationship between the privileged and the impoverished in our world. You have a direct relationship with a God who, in their power and wisdom, has blessed you.
God did not have to take from another to bless you, he simply blessed you. But in the real world, in the world where your ‘blessings’ are manufactured, are produced, are given to you in abundance and deprived of others, there is no such thing as ‘blessed’. I remember sitting by that fire, I remember feeling the warmth on my bones (now our fire holds peat and hardwood briquettes, not quite as warm or as fun, but less guilt I suppose) I remember thinking about the fire, and thinking about the wood, and thinking about the warmth. And never once thinking about those out there with no fire, with no wood, with no warmth. And never once thinking about how the structure that gives me warm bones makes theirs cold. I was lucky to be born into the life I was born into, but only because we live in such an unequal and unjust world. The ‘luck’ of some to be born with one life and the misfortune of others to be born with another is a damning indictment of the institutionalised inequality we all now accept as normality.
I live in a rural outback that I could hold up and call the ‘heart of Britain’ or ‘Britain’s Heartland’ or ‘True Britain’. Or anything else insultingly reductive and exclusive. I could look around and see cricket pitches and rolling hills and the green grass of home. I could see the Britain the officer class sent people to die for. I could see the postcard Britain that drove people to travel perilously across the world to live and work here. I could see the perfect, civilised Britain that embodies a certain sensibility and set of values. A sensibility and a set of values that made us so morally superior in the world that we had a duty to become an expansionist, military civilising power.
Because what made us a marauding army of dominance and death in many ways lies right here in the green grass peacefulness of the village. This is a well off little village. People spend money here. I live at number 5 on my street and during this week alone I saw that: Number 1 bought a new two seater sports car, number 2 re-did their garden with beautiful wooden decking, number 3 installed a brand new conservatory, number 4 went on holiday to some far flung tropical island and we, perhaps the most modestly, had some new laminate flooring for our kitchen put in. This, of course, is for our second kitchen, it would be treacherous waters indeed to have people round to see laminate flooring in our main kitchen.
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I like being in the kitchen. It’s a nice place to be. But as I was saying, this is a wealthy village and a lot of it’s wealth is not generated in the village. We are a little community sitting on the top of a massive pile of communities and we are doing very well out of the pile. A lot of the pile, in fact, but the piles filth and pain and chaos does not come here, not to the pristine green grass we have here. And we can forget about it whilst always remembering it and imagining that it is our manners, our green grass, our cricket and our cakes, our polite conversations in the street, that make our community so different to theirs. But it isn’t. It’s just money and power.