Last week, my flat mate solemnly informed me of the piercing news that the price of beer in our local pub had increased and the student discount on our favourite ale had gone completely. A common retort to this plight from older generations is “You’re a student. Enjoy the £4+ ales when you start earning an income.” But this entirely misses the mark and illustrates a wider point that the meaning of beer appears to have somewhere been lost. A beer was never designed to cost half a working man’s hourly wage. It was once the drink to provide a cheap alternative to brandy and wine for those that couldn’t afford the more luxurious alternatives.
Of course, today’s woeful economic conditions have contributed to the worrying state of beer prices. But there are other more deep rooted themes which have shifted attitudes towards the drink. Take the governments priggish policy towards beer. UK brewers currently pay over 40 per cent of their turnover in taxes, whereas online gambling companies only pay 7 per cent. It appears the government considers throwing money needlessly away on football matches less harmful to you than a calming and sociable drink with your friends at the pub. They should note that some blame the Russian Revolution in 1917 on the Tsar banning alcohol 3 years earlier as a wartime measure. It is unlikely the masses will respond well as pesky taxes make drinking the golden nectar increasingly untenable.
The changing nature of pub life has also contributed to the beer problem. In the 1980s the introduction of music and fruit machines spooked many pub goers who believed the increase in needless noise was “destroying the conversation and conviviality that has made the British pub the envy of the world,” to quote a woman from Cumbria. In our age, where many pubs resemble prosaic furniture show rooms or flimsy film sets, natural, rustic charm doesn’t appear to be cared for very much anymore.
Many hail the advent of craft beer as a victory for human progress, but I challenge the most seasoned of beer drinkers to taste the difference between one craft beer and the many other overly fruity alternatives. Along with tasting average, craft beer has annoyingly contributed drastically to the changing attitudes towards the drink. Craft drinkers feel it important that they philosophise on the taste of their fancy beer and therefore see it as acceptable and even a self-promoting sign of prestige to pay £5+ for a pint. But beer isn’t meant to be drank as an expensive bottle of claret is. Wine bars are already saturated with such snobbish behaviour and there is no need for it to spread to pubs. But the craft revolution attitude has sadly affected the wider market, contributing to the upwards price trend.
Where to go from here? Many are deciding to give up on the pub altogether and simply opt for cheap supermarket stuff at home. This is a depressing prospect and one shouldn’t give up just yet. I propose the creation of new bars entirely for those craft drinkers acting as parasites on the beer experience, leaving traditional pubs to serve beer as it should be. This may encourage an economic miracle, and a return to amiable prices. Alternatively, there has never been a more adequate reason for the overthrow of the government in this country.
Image “Half Way House, Pub in Edinburgh, Scotland” by Zugrocker is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.