Caroline Nodder: Over-indulgent niche brews will only interest beer geeks

By Caroline Nodder

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Brewers

I have spent my life in the pub trade trying to avoid beer geekery. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love beer. All types of beer. From mild to...

I have spent my life in the pub trade trying to avoid beer geekery.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love beer. All types of beer. From mild to summer ale, stout to - yes I say it proudly - lager. Always have, always will. And one of the reasons I love beer so much is the very fact that there is a beer for every occasion. With Sunday lunch, with a roaring log fire, under the stars on a summer night or just gathered in your local pub with your friends putting the world to rights. Beer is a vital ingredient.

Another reason I love beer is that it is unpretentious. It has none of the "freshly washed socks in a hailstorm notes" rubbish spoken about it that damaged my perception of the wine sector for so long. Until now.

I'm worried that the revival of the cask ale sector has gone to some people's heads. The growth in customer interest in all things local and crafted has been a fantastic shot in the arm for cask ale and indeed all beer. And it presents brewers with a really amazing opportunity to make money by giving consumers what they want. It also gives them the chance to build on the traditional with some new modern British brands. Ones with strong roots in their heritage but a new face reflecting the new beer-drinking consumer.

Unfortunately, however, I don't see many brewers stepping up to the mark. What we have instead is a wave of over-indulgent niche brews that are only going to be of interest to beer geeks. Most drinkers don't care what the gravity is, or the exact colour profile, or even, God forbid, what hop was used. They just care that the beer tastes good, is served well in top condition, and that its branding fits with their personal 'image'.

But I don't see anyone out there really working on building a portfolio of strong modern beers, instead I see brewers showing off by tinkering with aged beers or overly strong ABV products, or shock launches a la​ BrewDog, when they could be building something that can change the very culture of the beer drinker forever.

I'm not going to be overly popular with some of my fellow beer writers for saying this but they haven't helped the situation by indulging brewers in their shoe-gazing activities either. And I am sure I will be looked down upon my many as being unknowledgeable about the detail of brewing. But you know what? I don't care. I am passionate about beer, just as passionate as they are, but from a drinker's perspective. I'm not hung up on the technical detail. I don't want someone telling me there are "heady wafts of spice and floral notes" in my beer. That doesn't mean I don't know what I like.

A few niche products are not going to build a firm future for brewing, especially not when progressive beer duty is stopping many of the new brewers growing above a certain barrelage and becoming sustainable businesses.

We don't need a Jilly Goolden in the beer trade, we need a Jamie Oliver*.

(* I know he's annoying but you get the idea.)

Related topics: Beer

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