Nostalgia sells beer — doesn’t it? Stella Artois harkened back to pre-World War I rural France (and last year summoned up the ghosts of Sixties Cannes as Jean-Paul Belmondo once again pulled a good-looking bird); various IPAs evoke the Victorian age; porter sometimes goes back further — while post-modernist pranksters BrewDog look to punk and an 1980s art school aesthetic (Zeitgiest was a word a lot of us toyed with back then, and who knows maybe we’ll have Bauhaus one day — hopefully not, once was enough for that sorry band). They all look back, even though the packaging can be contemporary (‘with a twist’ is a word flayed and featured over and over again in gastro-publand and sometimes in beer).
Can beer escape its past or is it irrevocably linked to yesteryear? And why? Does it matter if it tastes good and takes us to another place.
I asked several brewers and commentators the question. Here’s Meantime’s Alastair Hook, with more to follow — what do you think?
"Beer is as irrevocably linked to yesteryear as organized society is….Humans look back if they want to learn, and consumers like the validation of history. Contemporary twists, cutting edge production methods, or modern presentation are the human manifestations of the desire to change and improve, and that is what separates Man from Beast. At Meantime we have the epic shadow of the history of brewing in London checking our every move, but we recognize a consumer, who typical in any modern urban metropolis demands more. They want vision and creativity, and what life has taught us all is that you can have neither without a conscious or sub-conscious respect for the past. Anarchy is ugly in beer, whereas in more complex life forms such as Music, or Art, anarchy can find a home. Beer is after all the nation’s favorite drink and is at the end of the day not a comfortable home for radical revolutionaries. Its simplicity is its beauty and its strength. So I am afraid your nostalgia factor with a contemporary twist is a hard one to escape from!"