Last week, the Great British Beer Festival was held at London’s Olympia exhibition centre. Devotees of cask conditioned beer, more commonly known as “real ale”, were joined by the merely curious, the usual smattering of hacks, and this year, more women than before. Time was when real ale was a blokish pursuit, and more suited to those of generous girth and hirsute deportment. Not any more.
Basically, Ken, it's like this
And interest from women in this product is not confined to the UK: the craft beer revolution across the USA, precipitated by ever larger conglomerates pushing ever more insipid and bland product at the market, has also brought a following not restricted to male aficionados. In the UK, this may explain why, in a beer market that is shrinking overall, cask beer is building its share.
But, as Naomi McAuliffe has observed in a Comment Is Free piece for the deeply subversive Guardian, there is still a residual laddishness in naming beers, epitomised by Slaters of Stafford naming their summery blonde beer Top Totty, and moreover producing pump clip art of next to zero subtlety to boot. Small wonder the beer caused such controversy in its last appearance at the Strangers Bar.
Someone had a subtlety bypass
And, as I noted recently, the Slaters brew is not the only one of its kind with a name on the same theme: old established regional brewers Robinson’s of Stockport, showing their ability to adapt to new styles and get on the bandwagon, have also brought out a blonde beer, a pale and hoppy style not only targeted at the summer market, but also at tempting lager drinkers to move to cask.
And they weren't the only ones
The Robinson’s beer is called Dizzy Blonde, and yes, that was the design on the pump clip when I sampled the ale not long ago at the Sydney Arms in Crewe, as part of My Other Blog, which is reviewing all the town’s pubs along with doing some background posts and also reviewing pubs and beers encountered in other parts of the country.
Sample this product at the brewery very soon
Ms McAuliffe’s CiF post also alludes to women who are involved in the brewing industry, and in Crewe that means mainly the Offbeat Brewery, which I’ve mentioned previously and will no doubt do so again. Here, Michelle Kelsall runs the town’s only commercial brewery (although the Borough Arms, on occasion, brews its own beer). They are having an open evening the first Friday in September.
But excising the laddish beer names may be a harder task: Top Totty made its way into the Gaffers Row the other day – that’s the Crewe Wetherspoon’s – and in case Ms McAuliffe didn’t notice, both Robinson’s and Slaters sent just one representative of their portfolio to the Great British Beer Festival. No prizes for guessing which one it was – in both cases.
But it’s grand to see more folks enjoying cask beer. Pubs and bars please take note.