Tuesday, 3 January 2017

My 2017 hopes and dreams for beer in North and East Lancashire

I think we've all read enough internet news by now to know that in the first waking days of 2017, craft beer is booming/slumping and cask beer is doing well/shite and that people are really starting to love/hate beer in all it's interesting/unnecessarily complex forms.

Where I am however, it's a little different. Speaking to Boak and Bailey the other day, it was pretty apparent that there are a lot of beer-scene bubbles out there, that entire cities live in 24/7. It's easy to get into a bubble - if you're in a place with lots of stuff relevant to your own interests, the natural assumption is that many (if not most) people enjoy the same stuff you do, and think the same things about them too. It's not a problem on the whole, in fact it must be bloody great to live somewhere that's so relevant. That's what I miss the most about living in Leeds. It was like my brain had invented a town for me to live in, and everyone agreed with me all the time.

Which brings me to my first hope and dream for beer in North and East Lancashire: I really hope that in 2017, craft beer seeps into the less au-fait areas of the country so that brewers can benefit from wider demand, fans/lamewads can find it easier to find the type of beers they're excited about and your regular punters can get a taste of super exciting beers and start to understand what it's all about. One year probably won't make a massive difference in the grand scheme of things, but if popularity can not just continue increasing in the cities but also inflitrating the - trust me- popular pubs, bars and clubs of the smalltown, everyone will surely be a winner. I've done research. The demand is already starting to grow within my bumpkin brethrin.

My second hope and dream: For brewers in the North and East of Lancashire to start taking some risks. A land of rain, intensely beautiful landscapes and ubiquitous English Pale Ale, I'd be over the moon to see some local brewers who I've always had soft spots for to realise that all they're doing is putting out three variations on a theme plus a dark one. Sorry. This is just how I feel. And I'll name names if you want - I'm from Lancaster so people always buy me Lancaster beers. They send me to sleep. Let's have some energy, guys! Let's make something special! Let's put our vast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the map for excellent beers as well as the historical relevance of its rivers and wildlife. Create the demand by converting your loyal drinkers - you've got thousands. Help everybody out.

My third hope and dream is that the RV, or Ribble Valley to you, takes hold of it's smoulderings of a scene and cultivates them into a big blazing firework display. Currently, the beer scene in this part of the world is small and interesting, with a few individuals helping to push it along. We have The Ale House, doing its bit to teach local drinkers about the unnecessary idiocy of finings and the taste of exotic hops, bacteria and non-traditional ingredients, hosting beers from Vocation, Beavertown, Magic Rock, Fourpure and Blackjack - still strange and enticing names to most customers. We have Holmes Mill, a huge new development including the new site for Bowland Brewery, which brings hundreds of different brews from across the UK (all cask, some cans) to the area. We have our traditional locals doing their bit for interesting, CAMRA-approved breweries (all cask, again). We have American-style bars selling bottles of Sierra Nevada and pints of Blue Moon. Not bad for an area closer to the Dales than to the Northern Quarter, but there's definitely still room to do better. I feel like Clitheroe is on the cusp of becoming a destination. Maybe I'm biased. Maybe it's because I have my own designs on the area. Whatever it is, I hope I start seeing movement in the right direction soon or I'll have to move to Ilkley.

My fourth and final hope is that the larger towns in the area start taking the lead of exciting little places like Hebden Bridge and building their own beer scenes. Lancaster, I'm looking at you. What are you doing right now? You're a student town with a stale nightlife looking for something new - surely you can cobble together a couple of home-grown craft beer pubs before Brewdog move in? Draw a circle between Burnley, Barnoldswick to Lancaster back to Blackburn. Look at that bubble, my bubble. There's barely any craft beer in that bubble. See my point?

My weird bubble


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