Brewers deserve a bow too

By Roger Protz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Good beer guide Beer Brewing

Protz: good news for beer fans
Protz: good news for beer fans
The latest Good Beer Guide and the Bass Museum relaunch merit their own fanfare, says Roger Protz.

I've had a problem during the past two weeks with dignitaries in skirts. The first was the Pope, who chose to arrive on these shores just as I was launching the 2011 Good Beer Guide.

As Pope Benedict hails from Bavaria, one of the world's greatest beer-drinking regions, you might think he'd have delayed his visit for 24 hours while my peon of praise to the amber, gold and black liquid was given free rein. But it seemed he had non-beery matters on his mind — including meeting another man in a frock and funny hat at Lambeth Palace — and the launch passed him by.

No matter. It went well. I did back-to-back radio interviews all day long, including on Five Live and Radio 2's Simon Mayo programme. I also appeared on BBC television in the south and south-east, while newspaper coverage was plentiful.

And the press was universally positive. Nobody accused me of threatening the fabric of society by encouraging people to drink good beer. In particular, the media was fascinated by the news that Britain today has four times as many breweries as when CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, was founded in 1971.

The rise of craft brewing is down to consumer demand and the tireless work of CAMRA. And campaigning has been crucial to saving and reopening the former Bass Brewery Museum in Burton-on-Trent.

This is where the other person in a skirt comes in. What is now called the National Brewery Centre was officially opened last week by Princess Anne, otherwise known by the curious name of the Princess Royal. (Aren't all members of the monarch's family royal — or are some more royal than others?)

Princess Anne opened the original Bass Museum more than 20 years ago. It has struggled since Coors took over the former Bass interests in Burton, and the American brewer announced in 2008 that it planned to close the site.

The result was outrage and uproar. Burton is the home of pale ale brewing; it transformed brewing in the 19th century and became world-famous for its India Pale Ale. To close the museum was tantamount to tearing out an important page in the history of British brewing.


Led by Janet Dean, then the MP for Burton, a group of brewers, historians and beer writers formed a committee to save the museum. The resulting publicity, which included several hundred people marching through Burton town-centre, horrified Coors' executives in Colorado.

The Burton management was told in no uncertain terms to sort things out. A year ago, Molson Coors, as the group is now known, handed over the site to experienced company Leisure Solutions.

The revamped brewery centre reopened in May, but the formal event took place last week with Princess Anne cutting the ribbon. In advance of my trip to Burton, I received a small document — which should have been printed on vellum — advising the correct etiquette for meeting a member of the Royal Family. Depending on my gender, I was either to bow by keeping my shoulders back and inclining my head, or curtseying; the choice must be difficult if you're a bishop in a frock. The first greeting should be "Your Royal Highness"; subsequently the princess should be addressed as "ma'am".

I diligently practised my bowing in front of a mirror for several hours. But to no avail. When HRH arrived in a well-polished Daimler, she swept past low-lifes like me and headed straight for a man in a frock coat and knee britches who was, I believe, the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire. He was followed by the Chief Constable and the Mayor of Burton.

In the short time the Princess was in the centre, she met only the local nobbery. Her final act was to unveil a plaque commemorating her visit, with the great unwashed assembled above her in a kind of medieval minstrels' gallery. I know my place...

As the Daimler departed, we dashed for the bar. The brewery centre is attracting good crowds and the bar is proving so popular that one of the T-bar keg dispensers will shortly be replaced by another bank of handpumps serving cask beer. Last week I enjoyed such delights as draught Worthington White Shield, the new Red Shield and Worthington E. That's the real Worthington E, drawn from the cask — not the awful keg aberration of the 1970s and '80s.

Next month, the centre will house a new brewery where Steve Wellington and Jo White can weave their magic to produce even more fine ales for public consumption. The duo have been running the White Shield Brewery for several years, but will now have a bigger kit to play with.

Leaving aside all the flummery of a Royal visit, last week was a victory for all of us who love and revere British beer, and the crucial role Burton-on-Trent has played in developing a modern brewing industry.

Visit the centre and join the celebrations. Skirts are optional.

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