If you’re going to build a rant, the foundation needs to be dug out of solid, properly researched facts. Which is why Tony Naylor is being a prat.
I’m very sorry to diss a fellow beer writer and freelance journalist, especially when he was writing on the Guardian‘s drinks blog with such excellent intentions – to promote good, properly brewed lager.
However, while plugging the pleasures of pils, Tony attempted a big dump all over real ale, insisting, with no evidence at all:
For years now, perries, ciders, real ales and stouts (and many other things which hardly anybody in the real world actually drinks) have received acres of press and undue prominence in gastropubs and good restaurants. If food literate folk enjoy a pint at all, it is a pint of real ale and not lager.
Tony – that’s just crap, I’m sorry. For years now, people in this country who have talked about beer and food pairings have talked about lager on an equal footing with ale. To pull one example off my shelves, Roger Protz’s The Taste of Beer, from 1998, has a section on food and beer pairings which includes Munich Dunkel, Viennese amber lager, Czech Pilsener, Bock beer and wheat beer. Indeed, you can go back to 1956 – long before Mr Naylor was born, when lager was less than two per cent of beer sales in Britain – and Andrew Campbell’s The Book of Beer, and find lager given as a suitable pairing with dishes such as roast pork, veal and chicken, and creamier, sweeter cheeses.
Tony then goes on to insist:
no-one … stands up for the joys of lager. Is it snobbery? Plain ignorance? Or some kind of evil, beardy, bitter-drinking conspiracy?
Well, no one stands up for lager except Pete Brown or Roger Protz or Ron Pattinson or me, among a horde of others, some bearded, all bitter drinkers as well as lager drinkers. Indeed, the latest edition of the Guild of Beer Writers’ newsletter has just hit my doormat, and on the back page is a piece about how Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire is going to be distributing the highly regarded unpasteurised lagers made by its near-neighbour, the Taddington brewery: beardy bitter drinkers promote real lager horror..
Mr Naylor followed his attack on the bitter-drinkers’ conspiracy with the declaration that real ale is only drunk by “old, grey-haired ramblers in rural pubs” – oh yawn, please. When commenters savaged the arris out of his trousers for this unoriginal observation, his sniffy response was:
Out there in the real world, outside of Camra meetings, lager is ‘cool’ in a way real ale never will be. That’s not opinion, that’s fact”.
Tony, Tony – “cool” is never a matter of fact, it’s always a matter of opinion. Proper appreciation is never driven by what’s “cool” anyway. And the only thing “cool” about 90 per cent of the lager drunk in this country is its temperature. Is Stella Artois “cool”? Is Carling “cool”? Do they have a T-bar in the Met Bar serving Foster’s? (Answers at the foot of the page*.).
To continue with Mr Naylor’s fact-free rantings:
I don’t want real ale to die, it’s great it’s there and thriving. But why, as a sector of the drinks market, does it get such press when it’s very much a minority interest.
Well, Tony, if true, that would be for the same reason that fine dining gets such a huge amount of press in papers like the Guardian when it’s very much a minority interest compared to McDonald’s, or even Pizza Express. That is: real ale represents the potential to deliver an experience that mass-produced lager never can. But what is this “gets such press” phenomenon of which you speak? It appears that Mr Naylor thinks there’s a conspiracy between the real ale mafia and broadsheet commissioning editors:
I’m forever reading articles about real ale in the press, but rarely, if ever, read anything about great lagers, least of all British ones. Why is that? My intuition would be it’s because real ale appeals to the generally middle-class, middle-aged commissioning editors in the food and drink press, in a way that (in their minds: yobbish, cheap, populist, downmarket etc.) lager never will. If you like, the real ale world and the broadsheet press are in cosy cahoots, to not let anything as rough ‘n’ ready and as youth orientated as lager get a look in.
I don’t know where Tony is “forever” reading articles about real ale in the press, because I’m not seeing them. Nor do I hear from my fellow members of the zythographers’ union that commissioning editors are banging on their doors demanding more pieces about real ale. In fact, if you substituted the word “wine” for “real ale” in Tony’s rant there, and put “beer” where he has written “lager”, you’ll have the most common complaint from most beer writers: that, in fact, the media are obsessed with writing about wine, to the extraordinary detriment of Britain’s national drink, beer.
It’s very sad: Tony wasted an opportunity to plug properly made lager with an unnecessary and unfounded attack on ale and people who write about real ale, without recognising that the people who write about real ale also write enthusiastically about real lager, when they get a chance, which is indeed not often enough: not because there’s a conspiracy against decent lager, but because beer in total doesn’t get enough media space. Tony, mate, stop being a prat – we’re on your side.
*No, no and no.