Let beer play a starring role

14 November, 2008


customers more direction with quality research ... and

how to enjoy i

t more

In tandem with

OLN's Beer Report in this issue, I thought that it might be worth jotting down a few observations that I've collected over a couple of decades of "beer enthusiasm" (beer mania might be nearer the mark, to be honest).

There is nothing that enrages a beer enthusiast more than drinking beer out of a wine glass. I learnt this the hard way, by publishing a series of seasonal tasting videos on YouTube (search for my name on the site if you're interested). There are many things about me that people could have chosen to object to (and indeed they did), but the big one was using an oversized wine glass to taste from. "It's beer, man, what's your problem?" was the main thrust of the objection, as I lisped my way through a brief description of the beer and why it went well with asparagus.

Now, I don't always drink beer from a wine glass, but it works well for some beers, and if you want to swirl and sniff anything, then a big wine glass is just the ticket. End of story.

However, just as an ordinary drinker blows a gasket on seeing me with a wine glass, so do I when I hear the phrase "beer is the new wine". It isn't the new wine, it's beer. It's always been beer, it always will be beer, and it will never be the new wine . A lot of people, myself included, are on a long, slow crusade to get

consumers to take beer more seriously, and to ensure that it is given the same respect as wine


but we're not trying to change beer, we're trying to change people's perception of it. One isn't better than the other; they both have a place. It's like trying to decide if pork or beef is better, or who would win if Jesus and Superman had a fight.

Really good beer sells itself. If you can get hold of something unusual and really tasty, you really can charge what it's worth. It took a slight shift of mindset to sell Sam Smith's Yorkshire Stingo at £5.29 for a 55cl bottle, and more of a shift still to sell Goose Island Bourbon County Stout at £4.99 for a 35.5cl bottle. It's great beer, and I'm pretty sure that it's worth it, and the amount that we sell suggests that I'm right. In fact, the Bourbon County Stout sold out in about 10 days. I guess, I should have

ordered another case .

You need to give a damn about beer to sell it. You need to be obsessed, but you can't appear to be too obsessive . Or you

could just grow a beard like mine . Drink widely, force yourself to try beers

that you normally wouldn't like, even the cheap ones . Build up a mental map of how they all lock together, because believe me, they do. Be comfortable with saying phrases

such as "pleasurable austerity" and "a tart lick of acidity". Try not to blush saying them. And then accept that sometimes people just don't care anyway, and will just buy what they are familiar with.

Learn about beer and food matching. Look it up on the web, or even try it yourself. Belgian kriek (cherry) beer and chocolate will convert the sceptic, and it takes

very little preparation . Once you have their attention, follow it up with something equally dazzling: American IPA and spicy jerk chicken, or imperial stout with an ice-cream float. Research, and enjoy it - this homework is fun.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know