Beer has been a staple product of the British diet and social scene for well over one thousand years (the precise beginnings of beer in Britain are hard to trace). Over this time the beer production has followed the same trajectory as production in general. From its simple beginnings as a home and locally produced product, it has gradually been manufactured and distributed on an ever greater scale, with small producers and traditional methods often being over-taken by national and international breweries.
The Issue About Beer Production
The production of beers by large-scale companies can contribute to increased productivity and a greater uniformity of taste. Successful large-scale manufacturers such as Guinness have managed to market their product worldwide without losing their traditional client base. However, for many reasons people are unhappy with the direction that the beer industry is heading in:
- Many beer lovers lament the closure of small and medium scale breweries, arguing that the domination of the beer industry by just a few key players may hamper the quality and variety of what’s on offer.
- Small producers often take personal pride in their products, aiming to stick to traditional brewing methods. It is felt that corporate take over of small scale breweries could harm local and national beer brewing heritage.
- Many people argue that intensive production of beer can destroy people’s sense of community and contribute to harmful industrial processes, such the mass transportation of goods, which can be harmful to the environment.
- Quality beer comes in a myriad of guises, all of which contain subtle and distinct flavours. The drinking of beer, for many people, deserves to be held in the same esteem as the consumption of wine. It could be argued that the mass production of bitters and lagers for an uninformed market has led to beer being perceived as a ‘binge’ drink, rather than being savoured for its unique qualities, mostly through marketing.
Beer for a Better Future!
A number of groups campaign for an increased awareness if issues surrounding quality beer production. Perhaps the most notable of these is CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale. Established in 1971, CAMRA are an independent consumer organisation committed to championing ‘real ale’ – ale stored with the yeast sediment intact, allowing for a fuller fresher pint. CAMRA’s marketing campaign to save characterful independent pubs, small-scale breweries and endangered beer varieties, as well as campaigning for an awareness of the potential for beer as a food accompaniment (see related article: ‘Serving Beer with Food). CAMRA oppose all brewery closures, through the distribution of literature promoting their aims and the lobbying of business, parliamentary and legal groups.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) launched a similar campaigning strategy in 2006, entitled ‘Beautiful Beer’. They aim to raise awareness of the wealth and variety of beer by targeting media, industry and the public.
It would appear that marketing campaigns such as these are successful, with a growing number of pubs, supermarkets and off-licences stocking beer from small scale breweries in Britain and abroad. European varieties of beer that were previously relatively hard to come by, such as white beers and wheat beers are increasingly common, whilst home produced real ales are enjoying a renaissance.