Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pubs About Pubs, and Buzz About Buzz.

I have this fancy-pants idea that this blog caters to travelers who like to drink. I get sidetracked sometimes. But I do like to point out new, drinks-oriented guidebooks whenever I can. (Have you written one? Drop me a line.) Or at least, I say that I do.

Anyway, here's one that's bound to be useful: Des de Moor's CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer Pubs and Bars. Des says it should be out around July 4. Yes, American Independence Day. If you're a thirsty Yank traveler, what better way to celebrate our independence from the crown than storming its capital and drinking it dry?

In the most recent British Guild of Beer Writers newsletter, Des tells a story very familiar to me from the Brussels research days:

When I tell people that between November 13 and February 8 I visited 297 pubs, bars and other beer outlets in Greater London ... they just think it sounds like the ultimate glorious riproaring pub crawl. Consider the reality, I feebly argue, of visiting 21 pubs in a 14-hour day with no more than a few sips of a half in any of them. In fact I spent more time travelling than in the pubs themselves — by every mode other than my own car, including bus, tube, train, tram, Boris bike and, just once, a taxi to extricate me from the rural extremities of the London Borough of Bromley. I’m grateful for being a keen and fast walker as this provided the most convenient mode for most of the trips.
I also used to explain to deaf ears how it was real work. Funny how I never got any sympathy. Explaining how very little we make on these books doesn't seem to help either. Boo hoo. It's enough to drive a man to... well, you know. Keep his day job.

More Buzz, Still No Substance. Thanks to all who have vetted, which is a nice way to say dismantled, my conclusions in Tuesday's post. I still think there's something there--one piece of evidence that there is not yet a session-beer trend--but I see that it falls short of convincing.

Meanwhile: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's blog picks up on the Advertising Age session-beer thing, thanks to the Redhook angle. The headline asks, "Low alcohol content: The next great thing in beer?" Of course there is no more evidence of it than in the Ad Age article. The post does have this gem: "But one thing’s for sure: You’d have to work a lot harder to get drunk drinking a beer with 5.3 percent alcohol by volume – and that might mean Redhook will sell more in the long run."

So here we are trying to get folks to try genuinely gulpable, all-night-long beers, and the buzz is growing, but... Anyone get the feeling we're going to end up in a year or two with boat loads of beers between 5% and 6%, and not much else? Would you sessionistas be content with that as a minor victory, or is more militancy needed for the 4.5% or lower mark?


  1. 5.3 is not a session beer!

    Something like Ilkley Mary Jane (Pale Ale) at 3.5%, THAT'S a session beer. At leats in the UK anyway

  2. Ha, still trying to rile us up, eh?

    First, thanks again for the post on the numbers. Even though I disagree with the strength of the evidence, it's good fodder.

    On this question, I tend to be a gradualist, but on this issue I don't know how that would work. 6% is not a session beer, not because of an arbitrary definition but because you can't session it. 5.5% is the same way; you can't have four or five and drive home (at least, I do not want you to).

    I don't know that having many more mid-range beers (we have a bunch already) will occur, simply because it fails to appeal to either market. It lacks the subtlety and quaffability of sessions, and the taste bud decimation of extreme beers.

  3. Greg, I like to rile now and then, but that wasn't my goal this time. I really do wonder if we should be meaner or maybe just louder about 4.5% or lower. If breweries keep telling media and customers that 5-point-something is sessionable, it will be no more true than it is today... but would the truth matter in the end?

  4. I remember the research for my book, it was quite hard work and quite a lot of drinking and I already knew which pubs I would include, or at least most of them.