Sunday, 29 July 2012

London: World's 10th Best Beer City?

London's beer scene has had some decent coverage Stateside recently, prompted, I imagine, by all this Olympic stuff. The New York Times and Washington Post have run features by, respectively, Evan Rail and our own Will Hawkes this month which covered some of the new rising stars of UK brewing, and some of the pubs and bars selling that beer (you may need to register to see the complete articles).

One smaller feature comes courtesy of the Boston Globe, where a character called Gary Dzen writes a beer column called 99 Bottles. He picked up on a 'Top 25 Beer Cities' series by Zane Lamprey.

Zane Lamprey? Who he? Gary Dzen notes Lamprey is... of television shows "Three Sheets”, “Drinking Made Easy”, and “Have Fork, Will Travel” [and] has made a career out of traveling and drinking. So he's more than qualified to come up with a list of the world's best beer-drinking cities.
My mate who sent me Dzen's piece sent an accompanying note along the lines that he wasn't sure about London being worth a Top Ten place. I decided to dig a bit further and went to Lamprey's site, where each of his 25 selections gets a couple of paragraphs.

His Top Ten goes like this:

10. London, England
9. Boston, Mass
8. Denver, Colo.
7. San Diego, Calif.
6. Asheville, N.C.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
4. Portland, Oregon
3. Dublin, Ireland
2. Brussels, Belgium
1. Munich, Germany

Now, I'm not much for top tens or lists. They're subjective, even when they're on aggregating ratings fora like RateBeer or Beer Advocate. Still, London as a Top Ten World Beer City sounds like somebody is paying attention. Then I read Lamprey's citation. It goes like this
Having a pint in a pub is just as much a part of the English lifestyle as much as caring about the goings on of the Royal Family. The city is home to some of the oldest pubs in the world, where beer has always been present. Finding a pub in London with ale on draft is easier than finding a a red phone booth. There are dozens of breweries in London too. At the turn of the millennia, there were not as many options for local beer, but in the last decade that has changed. But it’s not all about large companies like it has been in recent years.

The craft brewing scene has gotten a nice boost from CAMRA, a growing group of revolutionaries pushing their Campaign for Real Ales (beers that have not been filtered or pasteurized), who celebrate and educate along the way. Although they appreciate their imports as well, there is a growing beer community and some sizable beer festivals which have garnered more interest in local beers. In the city where Shakespeare would once write and drink, then write about drinking, the only thing that’s changed is the quill.
I have a theory about Americans and British Beer. I think that, generally speaking, they're fascinated by our pubs and traditions, less so by our beer, and have a bit of a sanitised Disney view of our beer culture. Lamprey's piece doesn't really disabuse that. It's curious. Little kernels of understanding mixed up with some Mary Poppins nostalgia about telephone boxes, the Royal Family (bless 'em) and Shakespeare, and I imagine some CAMRA die-hards would be spluttering into their mild over his view of their role in the craft brew scene, although he's not entirely wrong. Like I said, kernels of understanding.

Now, I suppose there's an argument that London isn't even the best beer city in the England, never mind tenth on the planet. I suppose we have to bear in mind this is for US consumption, and take some of Lamprey's views with a large pinch of salt. I posted a response on Lamprey's site about London (which was taken down). In it, I clarified some of his muddled history and suggested Dublin was hugely over-rated at Number 3. The Beer Nut would be better placed to comment on his views about that city, which contained this nugget...
It is the Dubliner’s love for beer, their strong culture around beer, and the sheer number of beer drinking songs that have come out of Dublin that have pushed it towards the top of this list.
So, London as a Top Ten World Beer City, eh? Good news? Right or wrong? Whaddaya think..?


The Beer Nut said...

The list is stoopid. But, more importantly, lists are stoopid.

This is an article in which a writer talks about his beery experiences around the world. Presenting it as a league table is just, frankly, irritating. There's no need.

Bryan the BeerViking said...

When you look at the placing of Dublin and Munich, neither of which offers anything especially interesting in the beer line, it's clear that calling this a top ten *beer* list is a joke. It's a top ten pubs (or "drinking experiences") list, at best.

Sid Boggle said...

But, BN - he seems to be getting a nice living off it... ;-)

Barm said...

Commissioning editors are often interested in lists of the 10 "best" whatever, presumably because the idiots who buy their publications are more likely to do so if the articles feature lists of 10 of the "best" of something. It makes the dim-witted reader feel important and like he has a good general overview.

The Beer Nut said...

Don't forget the linkbait potential!

Bryan, sounds like you're going to the wrong pubs. There's plenty of interest beerwise in Dublin.

Anonymous said...

Why not?
on the other hand, TBN is right. It's just a list, and totally subjective to the whims of a TV Host, whose probably had one great weekend there in a whistle-stop tour of the world. I've seen some of Lamprey's shows on Sky - they are fun, but more about getting drunk and drinking games/customs than anything too serious. He's a likeable host, but the shows are literally about getting drunk.

Saveur Bière said...

Ok. So now i must test every city !