Not being an anthropologist or an ad-man, this thesis* will probably seem clogged with more holes than a colander that has been drilled by an over-enthusiast colander driller who has drank too many double espressos from Café Nero, but here goes anyway (additionally, I have always regarded beer blogging as a way of playing with beer writing, of diverting from the norm that shapes my work when I am writing for a paper or magazine — I’m saying this as a first strike defence against inevitable criticisms of my thoughts on the beer tribes of Britain, it’s just a bit of fun!). This is just a loose attempt at trying to classify the various groupings of beer lovers who live in this green and pleasant land as I have noted out and about. One extra caveat — I might use the word tribe, but there are no territorial groupings, no borders or frontiers, the beer tribes of Britain are asymetrical in their places, shifting, restless, forming, disbanding and reforming elsewhere, tribal groups that might not be seen for months in any one place, but as soon as a beer festival comes to town out they come. So here goes.
1 The I don’t care what beer I drink tribe. Cheap is the word, cold and careless when it comes to considering the beer in the glass. See them trailing around cash and carries up and down the land or hot-footing to some dive where knock-off is king.
2 The I have been drinking the same beer for donkeys’ years and I am not about to change now tribe. There they stand at the same place in the bar night after night, fundamental in their assertion that the glass of Best or Premium that they always order is the only beer worth swilling. You could also call them the if it ain’t broke don’t fix it crowd.
3 One word — the ticker tribe. Beer is the code of honour with which they live their life, but beer as a badge, a collection of comic books or stamps, a notch on the bedpost, rather than something they celebrate their lives with in the company of friend(s). Do they usually live at home with their mothers? Well that’s not for me to say.
4 The I’m a woman, hey look I’m drinking beer tribe. A relatively new tribal grouping (though isolated members have been seen roaming through the saloon bars of Britain for eons), brought together and cared for by concerned fellow beer-lovers (think Sting bringing Amazonian tribes into the spotlight of modernity and you have it).
5 The I saw the Inspector Morse episode where he turned down a can of cheap lager and waited until he could go to the pub for cask beer tribe. Mind you it doesn’t have to be cask beer, it’s all about drinking beer that is perceived to have quality. I’ve been guilty at times of donning the war-paint of said tribe
6 The I used to drink wine but now I drink good beer tribe. Converts to the cause, but not zealots; beer at the table is nothing astonishing to these good folk. A lot aspire to this and what’s wrong with that?
7 The good lord is that an English beer I have just tasted and praised? I think I might faint tribe. These folk major on foreign (especially American) beers, usually from small producers, hard to get or expensive to buy. Cask beer is so passe isn’t it they will say, until they tuck into a crafty one at a pub that marries the best gastro and bibulous traditions and howl with so much ecstasy that Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally springs to mind.
8 The deniers tribe. These are those who sit quietly in pubs sipping away night after night (could be ale, could be lager) and justify their fun to strangers (‘I never get aggressive’) before growling about the wife or girlfriend who left them; then there are those who need a weigh bridge off the A38, or somewhere similar, to find out how much they weigh — kept well out of sight when the likes of CAMRA issue forth writs that ale isn’t fattening.
9 The indie kids tribe. Seek out beers like those that seek out rare grooves from whatever collection of musicians are making the pace on any particular day. Claim beer offers transcendental moments (ie before they get too drunk to notice).
10 The I never drink more than a half crowd. To be avoided with rigorous due and care. Never trust anyone who doesn’t trust themselves drunk.
As I said this is hardly the eye of a professional psychologist, but just a few observations and I suspect I have ran through the woods with most of these tribesmen at some time in my life (though certainly not all).
I expect to encounter more tribes as I carry on Livingstone-like on my way through the beer maze of life. Are there any that I have missed?
* Inspired (if that is the word) by a document issued a few years ago by either S&N or In-Bev that I discovered in my filing cabinet the other night; terms such as repertoire drinkers etc are sprayed about with tomcat-like abundance. And lord help me I have used such terms in trade press articles in the past.