A glossy celebration of real ale? Blog off...

By Pete Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Real ale, Beer

Pete Brown, beer expert and blogger
Pete Brown, beer expert and blogger
Pete Brown: "How our video blogs were shunned not just by the national media, but pubs too".

Big anniversaries can make you reflective — and there are few as symbolic as a 25th.

In January 2010 Herefordshire's Wye Valley Brewery celebrated its silver anniversary, and chairman Peter Amor found himself growing sentimental about the industry in which he'd spent his entire working life thus far.

This uncharacteristic sentimentality didn't wear off with the hangover. He'd done well out of the industry, and he wondered if he could give something back.

A few months later I received a call from Ian Hudson, a former barman at Amor's pub, the Barrels, and now an independent film-maker. Amor wanted to invest money in getting a programme about British beer onto television, something that would celebrate its flavour, diversity, sociability, and contribution to the economy.

Having been down that road many times without success, Hudson and I agreed that unless we wanted to make 'I'm a Brewer Get Me Out of Here' or 'Three Celebrities in a Brewery', the chances were slim.

Instead, why not make a series of video blogs (or vlogs)? These were increasing in popularity, but no-one had yet funded one to the tune of a proper crew and serious production values.

We would do a series of 12, one a month for a year, touring Britain and celebrating its beer. They would constitute a calling card that might one day help get that TV series made.

Amor approached various industry bodies to co-fund the project. When each of these declined, he decided to fund the whole thing out of his own pocket.

We started in September, Amor and I co-presenting, Hudson producing and directing, with a professional cameraman, sound man and editor in tow. Each month we chose a region, and visited pubs and breweries that stood out as beacons of cask-beer excellence. Amor covered the brewing process and the business end, while I reviewed the beers.

The resulting vlogs have been beautifully shot and produced. And over time, as Peter and I have learned the skill of not looking wooden on camera, I'd like to think they've been quite well presented too.

Of course, the TV showed no interest at all. We then offered the content free to national press. With the exception of The Independent, which agreed to link to it, no-one else even replied to Hudson's approach.

We all know the mainstream press is indifferent — if not actively opposed to — giving extensive coverage to beer. But before we tut and shake our heads, maybe we should look closer to home too.

Hudson and Amor also offered these vlogs around the industry, and in many quarters have been met with the same indifference and apathy. The Society of Independent Brewers links to the vlogs from its website.

But the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), with the notable exception of the one shot at the Manchester Winter Ales Festival, do not.

When planning a shoot, Hudson would approach the local CAMRA branch in the region we were visiting. Some were very helpful.

Others were openly hostile, demanding to know how Hudson had got their email addresses (er… from the contact details listed publicly on your branch website) and asking never to be contacted again. When sent the links to finished films, many of CAMRA's branches told Hudson to go away and stop bothering them.

This indifference spread even to some of the breweries and pubs we visited. I must stress just how much every single brewer and pub was delighted to have us, looked after us, and did as much as they possibly could to help.

Some, such as Castle Rock, have linked not just to their own, but to the whole series. But often, emails with links to finished films have gone unanswered.

Of course, it's always possible that the finished results were embarrassingly bad. But the online feedback they've received suggests this is not the case. It simply seems that, even when given a glossy celebration of real ale and pubs for free, many who regard themselves as advocates of real ale can't really be bothered to use it.

While that's disappointing, it's not how I'll remember this experience. We'll have just filmed the final one at the Great British Beer Festival by the time you read this, and it's been a year of witnessing passion about Britain's national drink in very different parts of the country.

We've seen ambition from Moorhouse's and Castle Rock, incredible success in places like St Austell, and pubs that are doing a roaring trade in real ale across the UK, even in these difficult times. We've looked at a range of British beer styles, Amor's done a multi-part, beautiful examination of the brewing process, and I've drunk a great number of wonderful beers.

All of this exists as a free resource to anyone who wants to use it, embed it, link to it, or simply just watch it, at my blog and at britishbeervideoblog.blogspot.com​.

If you watch them and don't enjoy them I apologise. But if you think they're any good, and you think of yourself as an advocate of good cask ale, I hope you find them useful.

Related topics: Beer

Property of the week

The Hazeldene Hotel

- Tenancy

The Hazeldene Hotel is opposite the Famous Blacksmiths Shop in Gretna Green. With 11 letting rooms, it is in a prime location to offer fantastic...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more