Save the date! Beer Day Britain, the UK’s annual national beer day is on June 15th. For millennia beer has been the national drink in these islands and Britain is one of the top brewing nations with the beer factor in droves. Britain can claim the invention of more styles of beer currently brewed in countries around the world than any other brewing nation (Mild, Porter, Stout, Imperial Russian Stout, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, and Barley Wine). British malted barley is renowned as being the best for brewing (and distilling); the world's leading hop breeder, Dr Peter Darby, is an English man based in Kent. For its size, the British hop industry has the most diversity of varietals than any other country, and a dynamic research programme with new varietals in development. Beer is big business for Britain plc – contributing £22 billion annually to the Exchequer and employing 900,000 people directly and in the supply chain.
Let’s not forget the British pub scene. It's like no other and people who live overseas look with envy at British pubs. That's why a visit to a pub for beer and fish & chips is in the top 5 activities visitors to Britain want to do. Pubs are icons of this nation and the pub is one of the things that make Britain so special. Seven out of ten drinks sold in a pub are beer. Without beer, pubs would be wine bars!
With all these extraordinary facts beer deserves a national day and that is why I instigated (and am the driving force behind) Beer Day Britain. The date of June 15th is significant because this is also the date that Magna Carta was sealed in 1215 and ale is mentioned in clause 35 of the great charter.
This is arguably the most exciting time to be a beer drinker because the craft beer revolution has changed the drinking scene irrevocably by inspiring brewers to create vibrantly flavoured beers, experiment with hybrid styles and popularize niche brews such as sours to a voraciously thirsty market. The revolution started in the USA in the 1980s largely because generations of Americans had grown up with little choice other than flavourless mass-market pilsner lagers from brewing behemoths. When drinkers sampled the glorious tasting pale ales from start-up breweries such as Sierra Nevada and O’Dell’s there was no going back. The flavour genie was out of the beer bottle. Gradually the revolution spread around the world even to countries that are normally associated with wine such as Italy and Spain, and places such as Vietnam that one might not think of as being beery. In Britain there are now more breweries per capita than any other country (more than 1,700) with new ones being established every week. Speciality beer shops have opened across the land and supermarkets are improving their offering – Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are particularly noteworthy for beer.
Social media could have been made for beer and the enthusiasm that pubs, bars and drinkers have for Twitter, Instagram and beer rating apps such as Pint Please means a non-stop conversation about beer. Anyone who is surprised by the passion for beer may not know this amazing fact – beer is the third most often consumed drink in the world after water (number one) and tea (number two). Beer is a lingua franca that connects humans everywhere.
Good beer is good for business. Craft beer attracts a more affluent customer who is willing to pay for the experience, and often eager get hold of the latest brand from the sexy breweries such Cloudwater and Beavertown that make such an impact on social media. Drinkers of cask ale (beer in its natural state – unfiltered, unpasteurized that is hand-pumped into the glass) which by the special way it is served and maintained is only available in the pub, are also more affluent and they visit the pub more often than the drinkers who are content with mass-produced mass market carbonated beers. Something else about beer drinkers is that they have influence in choosing venues to go for a drink or a meal in. In a family or friend group of mixed drinkers the cider and wine drinkers will usually defer to the beer drinker to make sure they have the drink they want.
Beer is the world’s favourite alcoholic drink and it spreads joy and conviviality. I hope you will join in with Beer Day Britain and the National Cheers to Beer at 7pm when drinkers raise a glass, say Cheers To Beer and celebrate this incredible gift from nature.
Report by Jane Peyton
Jane Peyton is a beer sommelier, writer, author, and founder of the School of Booze. She was Britain’s first Beer Sommelier of the Year (2014-15) and Drinks Educator of the Year (2016-17). Jane’s website is: www.jane-peyton.com