Tuesday’s ad is for Mitchell & Butlers, a “Good Honest Beer” from the Cape Hill Brewery in Birmingham, England. It’s a curious ad, with a pair of full beer glasses, portrayed almost as if they’re a couple on a romantic date sitting on a bench surrounding an old tree overlooking a field. Or maybe it’s just a couple of mates hanging out by a field of wheat. Either way, it’s a funny little ad.
This is an interesting report from the British Parliament, specifically from the Health Committee. It’s a memorandum by Dr. Phil Withington and Dr. Angela McShane entitled Fluctuations in English Drinking Habits: An Historical Overview.
The overview includes a chronology beginning around 1550 and discusses increases and decreases in alcohol consumption in five periods since then, which they summarize as follows below.
In terms of consumption (inevitably crudely measured at times) it can be seen that England experienced a significant rise and consolidation of drinking levels during the “early modern period” (1550-1750). Between 1550 and 1650 there was a commercialisation of “old world” production and distribution plus the introduction of tobacco. The 100 years after 1650 were in turn characterised by the assimilation of, and moral panics about, new commodities, in particular coffee and gin. In the following two hundred years, which coincided with industrialisation and massive increase in population, there was a marked decline in the consumption of alcohol. The post-industrial or post-modern era (post-1960) seems to have returned to the kind of trends in the early modern period: increased consumption—especially conspicuous and public consumption among certain sections of the population—facilitated by powerful business organisations that are extremely competent at managing their relationship with political authority.
The dense information about continuities, discontinuities and gender is fascinating reading, but takes time to digest. It’s still marinating in my brain. I’m especially intrigued by this statement. “The medical industry now has the technology, knowledge, and incentives (especially commercial) to identify and treat many of the biological consequences of alcoholic consumption. This is in definite contrast to previous centuries, when medicine was more likely to use alcohol as a treatment rather than cure its related maladies, and when the primary impact of medical practitioners was, it seems, to create, legitimise and/or popularise new kinds of intoxicants.” The memorandum also notes that “[i]ncreased female consumption of alcohol may go some way to explaining the increases in general consumption since the 1960s since half the population was tacitly barred from drinking before then.” So that would suggest that per capita consumption is actually falling if one of the primary reasons for an increase is essentially a twofold increase in the number of people consuming alcohol.
As prohibitionists incessantly nip at the heels of drinkers, doing everything they can to curb consumption, I think it’s constructive look at the bigger picture. Patterns of consumption tend to ebb and flow, and are affected by a variety of factors: economic, social, legal, and others. So whenever some prohibitionist group claims their new law, or awareness campaign, or what have you, has caused consumption to go down — or more often claims whatever they’re proposing is necessary precisely to decrease peoples’ drinking — it’s important to remember that people have always enjoyed alcohol, and will continue to do so, and changing the laws merely changes those patterns, it doesn’t really effect much over the long haul. I wonder if anyone has taken a similar look at historical drinking patterns in America?
Friday’s ad is a third one for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the third of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.
Thursday’s ad is a second one for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the second of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.
Wednesday’s ad is for Wells Bombardier, from 2009. So this one’s not exactly old, but as I love heraldry, it has a retro feel to it. It’s the first of three ads that Kindred did for Wells & Young in an attempt to link the Bombardier beer with English pride and nationalism. I love the detail in the faux coat of arms. Everywhere you look, there are symbols of England, or at least things that might remind one of Great Britain.
Today is the 35th birthday of Jeff Bell, whose alter ego was, until a few years ago, Stonch, one of England’s best bloggers. He retired from blogging to concentrate on his new job as landlord of a London pub, The Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, a village in the heart of London. I stopped by to meet Jeff on my way back from a trip to Burton-on-Trent a few years ago. And four years back, I saw Jeff several times during GBBF week. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.
Jeff Bell, a.k.a. Stonch, at The Gunmakers Pub in central London.
Tuesday’s ad is another one for the English beer Double Diamond Burton Pale Ale, also from 1954. Part of a series called “Inn-Sign Rhymes,” this one shows the iconic Double Diamond dude toasting a sign for “The George & Dragon” pub. Below the illustration is the rhyme of the series and the tagline “A Double Diamond works wonders.”
Monday’s ad is for the English beer Double Diamond Burton Pale Ale, from 1954. Part of a series called “Inn-Sign Rhymes,” this one shows the iconic Double Diamond dude toasting a sign for “The Robin Hood” pub. Below the illustration is the rhyme of the series and the tagline “A Double Diamond works wonders.”
Given that craft beer on this side of the pond has seen double-digit growth almost every year for over ten years, the news that sales of beer in Great Britain has shown positive growth in two consecutive quarters may not not seem like something that’s newsworthy. But this is the first time it’s happened in more than ten years, as pub closures and other factors have had troubling consequences for British beer. The latest figures, released by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), show total beer sales up 0.8% in the 4th quarter of 2013, with off-trade (primarily retail) up 3.9%, although pub sales were down 2.2%.
The Morning Advertiser article also mentions the announcement concurrently that Marston’s will build a new £7 million bottling plant, which the BBPA believes translates to increased confidence on the part of British brewers. The credit for all this good news is thought to be the decision by the UK government’s Chancellor to “cut [the] Beer Duty in last year’s Budget,” meaning lower taxes on breweries. According to the BBPA’s Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds. “These figures demonstrate that cutting beer duty helps increase beer sales, stimulates industry investment and saves jobs. We hope the Chancellor takes note and freezes beer duty in his next Budget to give a further boost to British beer and pubs.”
This is important on our side of the world because there are currently two bills before Congress with the same goal, to lower the excise tax of beer to stimulate our economy and create jobs in the brewing industry and related support industries here, too. That it appears to have worked in Great Britain is a promising development that may make it more attractive to legislators in justifying the tax cut.
Thursday’s ad is for Cottage Brewing’s Norman’s Conquest Extra Strong Ale. It’s not really an ad, but how many times will I have #1066 to play around with? Exactly. I had this beer at the first CAMRA festival I attended, at Peterborough, in the mid-1990s.
The artwork resembles the tapestries so popular when William the Conquerer, a Norman, invaded England and conquered the Britons at the Battle of Hastings, one of the decisive battles in the Norman Conquest.