Last week, I was in a well-known London ‘craft beer’ pub when the bore tending bar declared that they have ‘crappy stout’ Camden Ink on ‘for the peasants’. He was talking to two young beer enthusiasts who were sat at the bar hanging on his every word, having already regaled them with various other pearls of wisdom. These included how poor the majority of British beer is, how far behind the US beer scene the UK is, and how most people in this country don’t know a good beer from a bad one.
What a cunt.
Now, he’s not alone in his views on the standard of beer in the UK, but there’s a way to go about discussing it, and it’s not to pontificate. Regarding the ‘peasants’ comment, that’s another matter altogether. We modern beer drinkers regard ourselves as broadly progressive (at least those in my bubble do), having no truck with discriminatory views or behaviour. However, we’re less open to discussing or even acknowledging the fact that we’re active participants in the very gentrification that has pushed the ‘peasants’ to the periphery. With changing demographics, local pubs being rebranded as ‘craft beer’ bars and low supermarket prices, it’s not surprising that the pubs I drink in are patronised by a narrow social strata. That doesn’t mean that when someone who has lived in the area for 50 years decides to pop in and ‘see what they’ve done with the old place’ they should be made to feel unwelcome. Where is their ‘third space’? I’m not innocent here, and have had to work on my own supercilious views; I used to regard anyone ordering a San Miguel from Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington with derision given the presence of a permanent Kernel tap. Luckily I came to the belated realisation that I was being a dick, and I don’t want to be a dick.
Beer people are good people, right? Em, well…
If the bartender intended ‘peasant’ to denote someone who is ‘backward thinking’, that’s bad enough. However, the thought that someone in the (my) ‘beer community’ harbours such views about those of a lower socioeconomic status actually makes me feel queasy. I’m not one for vendettas so I’m not naming the pub, but I won’t be going back until I know this particular member of staff has moved on, and frankly he can thrust his Cicerone study guide where the sun doesn’t shine.
Image: ‘Peasants’, courtesy of Peter Van Lancker via Flickr under Creative Commons