People like us…is pub and beer culture holding up a mirror to a divided society?

I had the pleasure of listening to the wisdom and knowledge of a bloke in the village local last night. That he’s nearly 25 years older than me seemed to be irrelevant. I felt lucky, reflecting on our conversation this morning. I’d learnt stuff over a couple of pints. However, a couple of this week’s social media comments made me think about the tribes in our wider world of beer and pub culture.

My local, like many of the best pubs, is a place to find mutual subjects for conversation but also to accept that others have different views and backgrounds.  A few years ago,  I was talking in the Tan Hill Inn to a retired London fireman. He was saying, that in his experience, it’s worth chatting to people you don’t know because 80% of folks have something worth hearing. In many ways, we seem to have lost that willingness to seek knowledge from others, search for common ground and accept others’ heartfelt views.

I wonder if our beer and pub culture is increasingly reflecting the political and social attitudes in our society. A world where John McDonnell tells us he could never be friends with a Conservative. Was it ever thus, or these days do many of us only want to be in pubs and bars with ‘people like us’ and therefore exclude others? We seem to have a social media world where real ale/craft beer and big beer/microbeer divides seem to move too easily from gentle teasing into personal vitriol.

On Twitter, Pete Brown expressed the exclusion he perceived in the Goose Island brewpub in Shoreditch.

“Absolutely love the beers at Goose Island brewpub in Shoreditch but on the basis of several visits, the braying clientele, pounding music in the middle of the afternoon and snotty, hostile attitude of the staff all make it clear that people like me are not welcome here.” (My highlighting)

Have such bars become the opposite end of the spectrum to those seemingly tough pubs where only the late great pubman Alan Winfield (and his latter day disciple BBM) would swing the doors open? These days are we all sticking to our personal pub exclusion zones?

And as I muttered about Brewhouse and Kitchen in the comments on a recent RetiredMartin blogpost, Stafford Mudgie quite rightly highlighted the similarities with the Firkin pubs of old.

“David Bruce had a similar idea with his Firkin pubs over thirty years ago – except that his beer was a sensible price and he didn’t bother with the Kitchens or smoking sheds.”

Surely not, would I have gone to Firkin pubs all that time ago on the basis of being with only people like me and my mates? Me elitist, a shocking thought. In the modern era, is my aversion to many micropubs and microbrewery taps to do with feeling excluded by endless focus by closed groups on obscure beers, or an illustration of my unwillingness to move on from my definition of a proper pub and a pint of Bass?

There are many tribes in the beer world. Perhaps it’s time for us all to dismantle the barricades and find common ground. Well, until my mate Clive tells me to put down my Ruby Mild and try a Sherbet Saison.

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6 Comments

  1. You’re quite right in that the beer tribe factions appear to be growing further apart, speaking for myself at the tender age of 58 and a half and a bit, I embrace very much the entire modern beer scene as well as being comfortable in more traditional circumstances, but am I accepted by others within the spectrum I’m not sure but to be fair I view that as their problem not mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant piece.

    I would say that Citra and the folk from the Beer & Pubs Forum who do Pub Crawls seem more happy than most at doing the full gamut of pub styles, even if there is a preference for the heritage pub.

    I really need to visit that Goose Island place now. Can’t say I’ve felt uncomfortable in any pub or bar ever.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. The pub trade has certainly become more fragmented over the years, especially since the liberalisation of the restrictions on opening new pubs and bars. There is a much higher proportion of pubs that I simply wouldn’t consider going in, not because they are in any sense threatening or unwelcoming, but because they’re simply not aimed at me.

    Having said that, all this CAMRAs vs Crafties business is a bit Judean People’s Front. They would be united in looking down their noses at family dining pubs with pictures of the food on the menus, and shunning loud keg-only sports bars.

    Liked by 2 people

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