Tuesday 4 March 2014

Sugar sugar

The Daily Mail recently ran a story about there being nine teaspoons of sugar in a pint of cask beer; the BBPA refuted this claim and said that there was less then a teaspoon. It’s a sensitive subject, especially given the recent declaration of war on sugar (I always think that the various special interests of the health profession are like planes taxiing above Heathrow, layer upon layer of them all waiting to land and deliver their message about what constitutes this week’s health threat: oh look a plane has landed with a warning about alcohol; the next one will feature sugar and the others might see Russian special forces tumbling out with warnings about fat, coffee, dairy, meat or carrots). However, sarcasm aside, there is too much sweetness in our food and drink (those fruit ciders for instance, when I tried one it had my teeth uttering a piercing scream that would not been out of place in Munch’s The Scream) — it’s a sign of the continuing infantilisation of our culture and probably helps to contribute to obesity. The point of all this? This morning I see on the PMA’s website a report on the Beer Innovation summit last week, which I have been told by a couple of those that took part went well. However, I’m not going to write about beer innovation (my piece about it was in last week’s PMA), but this story caught my attention, especially the bit about the sweet tooth generation, who are defined as Millennials and then further on how hybrid beer is the future and what seemed to me to be a call for brewers to produce sweeter beers. Given the fuss made about sugar I mentioned above I wonder if this is something the brewing industry really wants to go into and that if it does then sometime in the future the Daily Mail will get a story right about beer?

There’s another story that indirectly includes sugar, which I’ve long wanted to investigate: how much of Britain’s brewing heritage is tied up with the empire? I’m thinking of the sugar trade for starters and remembering how once when I was talking with Miles Jenner of Harvey’s that he said his brewery’s beers started to get sweeter in the 1950s. This was when sugar came off the ration. There’s a remarkable description of the effect of German bombing on the spice warehouses in the London docks during the Blitz in Richard Collier’s 1940: The World In Flames, but apart from the odd honey beer, British brewers in the late 19th century and 20th century didn’t seem to go spicy like they’d once done as you can read in Martyn Cornell’s Amber, Gold & Black. But that’s a story for another day (and lots of research). 

1 comment:

  1. We (CAMRA) also refuted the claim Adrian and got a retraction printed in the Daily Mail this monday (3rd March) upon advice of their legal team following a challenge from us, which read "An article about the hidden sugar content of alcoholic drinks on 5 February said that there were up to nine teaspoons of sugar in a pint of real ale. The Campaign for Real Ale has asked us to clarify that in fact it typically comntains less than one teaspoonful of sugar."

    Our full response to the article which was submitted to the Daily Mail legal team was as follows:

    "Sugar is generated from the malt in the earlier parts of the brewing process but most of it is used up during fermentation and the final product will typically have very little sugar in it – certainly a lot less than many alcoholic drinks which have large amounts of sugar added to sweeten them. This means that a standard pint of real ale will typically have less than one teaspoon of sugar in it."

    "Real ale actually contains lots of different types of carbohydrate, such as dietary fibre, which are actually very good for us and nothing to do with sugar (a simple carbohydrate)."

    Neil Walker, CAMRA National Press Manager