Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Everything changes

Yesterday I asked a brewer what was the reason for the apparent decline of a type of beer that remained comparatively popular but seemed to have been in decline over the past 20 years. This was a beer that also has a history going back over a century.

Was it changing trends, younger people drinking this or drinking that? Was it the onset of clever advertising for rival brands, for beers that maybe made people feel better about themselves or maybe convinced them that their beers had less calories/units/whatever?

His answer was simple: fashions change and styles change with them. When he was in college my brewer drank one kind of beer that was drunk by everyone around him; then another kind of beer became popular and the beer from his college days declined until it rose again. Now the style of beer we spoke about was in apparent decline but it would come back again my brewer opined. Everything changes.

Before anyone mutters mild or builds a barricade for Black IPA/India Dark Ale, the brewer doesn’t make his beer in the UK and the beers he drunk aren’t made in the UK, either. Where the beer is made is irrelevant — though I have always said that there are reasons why some beer styles die on their feet: they’re horrible, but then again that’s my opinion, which hasn’t stopped mild from being the, er, comeback kid of the past 30 years.

However, what is relevant to me is that with his comment a secondary point seemed to be worth thinking about. Throughout the 70s/80s/90s and beyond for all I know, the rise of faux-lager and nitrogenated smoothies was seen as the consequence of the wool being pulled over drinkers’ eyes; of them (mainly men) being seduced by clever adverts, flash posters and the promise of a lifestyle beyond their dreams.

Really? People aren’t children (unless they’re children of course and some of them are pretty smart), they know how to make choices; they are conscious of why they drink this over that (those of us who suggest these lager/smoothie/good-knows-what drinkers are swayed by advertising can go away and give ourselves a pathetic illusory superiority pat on the back). There were a lot of reasons why these beers took off, but people weren’t stupid. 

So the next time, you hear someone rant about ‘stupid’ people drinking beers that this person doesn’t like, remind them that life changes in the most random of ways (not too forcefully I hope, I’m not advocating a barney in the pub). But it does change, which in some ways is the reason why I, for one, continue to be swayed and somersaulted over and over again by beer, its varying moods and its continual surprises.


  1. Marketing will go only as far as the first bottle or glass. If you dislike the beer, chances are you won't buy again, no matter how clever the ads are.

  2. I disagree. Thinking back to the early teen years when most of us probably started on beer, you went for something that was a) cheap and b) that you'd heard of, right?

    It's not an admission that we're stupid, just that the marketing of the conglomerates are clever, visible, and backed by vast amounts of money.

  3. I agree it's annoying when people assume that only they are intelligent enough to see through marketing/propaganda while everyone else is sheep-like and obedient.

    Years ago, during my A Levels, I had a particularly inspiring teacher who challenged this attitude (particularly prevalent among 17-year-olds who reckon they're a bit clever...) with reference to studies which showed, for example, that even 7-year-old kids were able to identify bias in reports in the The Sun newspaper and adjust their reading accordingly.