On the day that Britain goes back to the shops, Beer Today is supporting independent breweries, pubs, and bars. Yes, today is about non-essential stores, but the principle of buying independent is right, surely, whatever the commodity?
And what better day than Beer Day Britain? It’s the national day when we say ‘Cheers to Beer’ annually, an event devised by beer sommelier and educator Jane Peyton. I’ll be doing so later in a tasting with St Austell Brewery’s Rob Orton.
At Beer Today, I don’t care whether you like cask beer or keg beer. There are good and bad examples — and beers that I can appreciate the skill in, but which aren’t for me — in each genre. What I do try to do is give prominent coverage to — and drink — independent beer.
And on the day that Britain goes shopping again, independent business need to be at the front of our minds. Amid the gloom there’s a golden opportunity to reset the button on independent business. To spend more time in great local shops and to resist the lure of the internet.
On this site, and on social media, I aim to actively promote independent beer. There will be mentions of non-indies because, well, this is a news site and we need to cover as much as possible in the beer world. But the indies will get our backing as we rebuild the British brewing, and pubs and bars sectors, in the weeks, months, and years to come. That means we’re backing SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) members, of course, but also those indie brewers who are not in that group for whatever reason. And the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), even without its important beer festivals — such a vital part of its armoury — continues to push forward in promoting our brewers and that other prong of great British drinking culture…
Let’s not forget our pubs.
There’s an opportunity here, too, to reset the norm, to create a new normal, and this is what the new Campaign for Pubs is tapping into. This group launched last week and the name says it all: it’s promoting, supporting and protecting pubs.
And by heck, our pubs are going to need all the support they can get. They’re a key part of our heritage, they’re where so many tourists want to go when they step off a jumbo at Heathrow (presumably more so if they’ve been in quarantine for 14 days).
There are two fronts in the pub campaign, as I see it. Firstly, we have to help them weather this particular storm. We still have uncertainty about an actual opening date, and there’s still the position on social distancing to resolve. A reduction in distancing to see two metres become one (whoever thought a Spice Girls reference could get so much airing in 2020 news bulletins?) would make a huge diffference to the immediate viability of pubs and bars, and in many cases swing whether they re-open at all. We want our pubs open again, but we want everybody’s safety, on both sides of the bar, at the forefront.
Then there is the long term. How many times have we been told that the problems with the big pubcos are being sorted out? How many false dawns? We were told the appointment of the Pubs Code Adjudicator would be a big step forward, yet we still hear tenants’ horror stories. It would be simple for us to all vote with our feet and boycott pub groups operating, if not outside the Pubs Code, then not observing its spirit. But that would make certain licensees’ already precarious incomes at risk even more. No, a properly targeted campaign, with experienced industry experts leading debate, is the way to go, so the Campaign for Pubs gets our backing.
Let’s celebrate Beer Day Britain as best we can. Grab a glass later today (we don’t want you peaking early) of your favourite brew, whether that’s a traditional bitter or a hazy juicy banger (did I really just write that?) and let’s toast our great British brewing industry and our brilliant British pubs and their hard-working licensees.