Thursday 20 January 2011

All together now

Taking up an issue is a dangerous business these days. Express mild annoyance at some aspect of the world and next thing you know you're being kettled until past closing time. But someone's got to do it, which is why it's worth raising a hat to beer-enthusiast-about-town Rupert Ponsonby and restaurateur Mark Hix, who this week launched Britons Backing Beer, at a time when launching a campaign could easily see you married to an undercover copper without knowing it.

To be fair, "campaign" might be putting it a bit strongly. The initiators themselves describe it as "a coming-together" or even a "non-campaign", the general aim of which is to bring those involved or interested in beer together to create a kind of surge towards increasing awareness of its delights and countless styles. Whatever you call it, that's a noble cause, and the surge was launched in suitably classy style at Hix's basement bar in Soho, with a variety of beer-favouring celebs - such as Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, now a confirmed brewer, fello muso Alex James and TV chef Valentine Warner - and a jolly crowd of barley farmers, brewers, politicos and bloggerati.

There's been a wide and welcome rise in interest in and appreciation of good beer over the last decade or so. The days when pubs could happily feature just one tap of uncared-for ale appear to be receding, and any leading-edge restaurant that fails to offer at least the beginnings of a beer list will win few friends. But the  non-campaigners argue that there needs to be a push among those who care about beer to cement this broader understanding and put beer where it belongs in the national consciousness. As Ponsonby puts it, "Beer massively underplays its strengths. It so often adopts the meekness and humility of the Trappist monk, rather than the voluble style of the opera diva. And whereas wine has pride and verve and a language which adds value to its category, we expect the future of beer to grow of its own accord. Beer is often left to speak for itself."

It's a good point and a worthy (non-)campaign, deserving of attention and worth keeping an eye out for. I would point you to a website, but there isn't one. That should keep the authorities guessing.

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