Alternative title: White Man’s Beerden


A few weeks ago this article in “Thrillist” was doing the rounds on twitter and whereas it is written from an American perspective it certainly got hands wringing over in the UK beer blogsphere.

Given the current furore over the Oscars maybe we should also go with #CraftBeerSoWhite

I’m not going to write from the perspective of either America or of race (I can if it were my prerogative but that isn’t the point of the piece), I can write from the perspective of England and beer drinking.

The craft beer movement at this current moment in time, is a micro-environment of the general middle-class chattering classes that dominate the air waves these days, at least at a social level.

Leave your left/right political paradigm at the door and we know that the UK is shaped more by class (and also class denial) than by most other factors in life.


The three original classes of Upper, Middle and Working have been split into seven categories

But this is neither here nor there, a main driver is the notion of egalitarianism – but it is not an equality of people but of thought.

Everyone knows that people are different, you can dare to dream and obviously if you have a lot of cash you are afford a lot more opportunity regardless of any semblance of brains, skill or drive but most of the time you won’t succeed because of a great, many factors.

We also know that not all beer is equal but what is glaringly obvious is that those that witter on about wanting more diversity in beer and brewing have clearly kicked a whole social group to the kerb.

There is a social group that does not want to drink certain stuff, nor does it want to go into places that don’t serve what they want at prices they are willing to pay.

Of course in the previous sentence I’m talking about the craft beer snob, who has the same mindset as the chattering classes; they’ll happily want to see you out of the gutter but not, in their opinion, if your mind is in there.  But if it is then thankfully you don’t have enough privilege to share the same drinking spaces as them.

Craft beer has an exclusivity about it, not only on price and where it is available but also in the minds of some that drink it, those same people conversely are the ones most likely to talk loudest about the need for inclusivity.

These same people who frequent over-priced IKEA bars will sometimes “slum it” in a pub and rave about the merits of its fixtures and fittings and maybe even the beer on sale but don’t even expect them to want to share it too long with the regulars.

The art of disassociated association (or associated disassociating) (or neither, I’m just making up oxymoronic phrases).

The same can be said for food too; where street food is sold at restaurant prices and as this has proved so successful that now you can indeed eat street food in a restaurant at even larger restaurant prices while disparaging those that go to chains, because your “dirty food” is acceptable because you mind is “clean”.

Some need to acknowledged is that before we start blubbing about diversity in beer; about more equal gender and racial representation, that like much the rest of the UK is heading socially; the drive for “equality” has shunned anything to do with merit and is merely viewed as tokenism.

And that is about as far from equality as you can get.


6 thoughts on “#CraftBeerSoElitist

  1. Very thought-provoking post. I do wonder at times whether people tend to over-intellectualise what is ultimately just another consumer product, but on the other hand it does show they care about the wider implications.

    You could draw a comparison between the craft beer movement and the Guardian-reader/Islington tendency in the Labour Party, who sincerely believe themselves to be committed to equality and diversity, but have been widely accused of losing touch with the concerns of the actual working classes.

    This of course started long ago with CAMRA – it’s just that craft beer has taken it on to a new level. Forty years ago, working-class people overwhelmingly drank mild and bitter, but over the years they’ve progressively switched to lager, while real ale has become increasingly a middle-class preserve. There are still pockets of working-class real ale drinking, the North-West being one of them, but I’d be amazed to hear any working-class person say that they liked craft beer.

    There was a time when plenty of real ale could be found in working-class pubs, and a good time could be had exploring them, as in this pub crawl of Oldham by Alan Winfield.You couldn’t do it now – most of the pubs will have gone, and many of those that remain will be keg-only. And most of the punters at IndyManBeerCon would struggle to comprehend why anyone should ever have wanted to.

  2. Interesting stuff but I wonder, wasn’t it ever thus?

    Beer for most is a social hobby, not a life or a job. In those circumstances people do like to socialize with people of their own social class & age. Not something I see changing. The market will provide pubs you like and ones designed for others, that you may not like.

    A conversation with a barmaid in a craft beer / CAMRA pubs revealed an interesting insight. She liked working there because it was less rough than her last barmaid job. The brands on sale and what was not availible, rather than the prices kept a certain type of person out she associated with trouble, fights and behaviour she preferred not dealing with. The middle class customers did not sex pest her. She preferred the job of pouring beer she had no personal interest in to the punters of the CAMRA pub.

    We can note how middle class beer geekery is, but does it exclude those that are interested from different backgrounds? I would say not but there can be only one dominant culture, and that is middle class. Working class people in Britain have to adopt the external mannerisms of the middle classes when they enter a middle class domain. Whether that is a work environment or a middle class pub or a middle class social group like CAMRA. I willingly do this because I earn more in a middle class job than a working class one. I don’t resent it but it allows me a perspective of being detached enough to occasionally mock it. A safe gentrified middle class pub is nice.

    When middle class people enter a working class domain, they tend to be respectful but they don’t adopt working class behaviour. That’s the difference. Not exclusivity, but who’s values are the respectable ones.

  3. “Forty years ago, working-class people overwhelmingly drank mild and bitter” – to be exact, in 1975 sales of mild were plunging like a shot duck, as they had been for 15 years, and were down to less than 20% of the total for all draught beer, having been passed by sales of draught lager. Sales of draught bitter were peaking, at a little over 60% of sales, having been risingsince the 1950s. Bitter had always been a middle-class drink, increasingly drunk by the aspirational working class after the Second World War, while lager’s growth after 1965 was mostly among the young working class. So while I don’t have specific figures, it would be my informed guess that in 1975 the working class were split between the elderly, who drank mild, the middle-aged, who drank bitter, and the young, who drank lager.

  4. Its almost impossible to talk about class without offending someone and being accused of snobbery or anti-snobbery.

    Beer is a drink with a lot of additional baggage, probably more than any other. The type of beer you drink signifies the type of person you see yourself as, consciously or otherwise.

    Confusingly, the same beer may signify different things to different people, depending on their perspective. To someone brought up in a culture of commodity lager, drinking peroni may be seen as a sign of sophistication, to someone whose friends drink craft beer, it may be a sign of working class solidarity.

    but as a general rule:

    commodity beer = no nonsense, working class solidarity, unpretentious, studiously uninterested,

    real ale = old-fashioned, traditional, English, authentic.

    craft beer = progressive, internationalist, sophisticated. These people might have drank wine in the 80s and spirits in the 90s.

    The middle classes probably have more interest in proving their “authentic english” or “sophisticated internationalist” credentials than the working classes, because having the time to worry about things like that is a defining characteristic of the middle classes.

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