Every time you drink it you’re punching your 18-year-old self in the face
We live in an uncertain world. In Ukraine, Putin’s ghost armies creep westwards. Islamic State regularly churns out snuff movies with production values to put Hollywood to shame. Deadly viruses like Ebola develop, erupt and then disappear. And every other celebrity you grew up watching on the television is an unrepentant sex offender.
When you take some time to actually think away from all this terrible excitement and distraction you find yourself feeling quite lost. It’s a world where nothing is true and anything is possible.
It’s a world where, on occasion, you’d like to just sit down with your mates and have a pint and not think too much about anything at all.
Which brings us to Bristol where there used to be a pub called The Hill. It wasn’t perfect but if you wanted to walk in there, drink five pints of Becks and abuse moving images of Joey Barton a little bit too loudly, you could.
Recently The Hill became the Brewhouse & Kitchen. And that was when I realised the quiet pint I mentioned earlier, the one you have with your mates, is under threat.
Inside the Brewhouse it’s a steampunk mess, a poorly designed TARDIS interior: menacing copper vats in the corner, light bulbs in jam jars hanging randomly from the ceiling, the kind of black and white tiling you’d expect to see in a Victorian sanatorium.
At the bar (yes, there’s still a bar in a place like this) there’s not a single beer you’ve ever heard of. You don’t need to drink these craft beers to know how evil they are. Simply read the names off the taps: Papa Darth, Hannover Cure, Ribeera, Charlatan.
On their slick, smug website, one of the Brewhouse team promises something more than the usual pub and beer experience.
They say: “In the last few years when I looked to go to a traditional pub there were very few I wanted to go to, so I wanted to build something interesting that people like me would want to go to.
“At B&K we share a passion for hospitality that’s infectious and we use this to give each of our customers an enjoyable experience.”
They won’t let you have a beer anymore. It has to be an experience. An experience that will set you back upwards of £6 a pint.
The craft beers and real ales served by places like Brewhouse are part of a fuck-classic-lager bandwagon rolling up and down the country. There is a widely-held belief out there that they’re more authentic than other beers and somehow more independent. To drink a bottle of Brooklyn Lager reinforces your own claims to authenticity and independent mindedness.
But look at the Brewhouse. It’s hardly independent or authentic. It’s part of a chain of pubs, with other Brewhouses in places like Dorchester, Highbury and Gloucester Quays. And who could honestly say they’d be opposed to the bulldozers eradicating these Keep Calm and Carry On heartlands of twee middle England?
Even your local Spoons is trying to pour craft beer down your throat. Spoons isn’t just two jägerbombs for a fiver and a few jugs of that weird blue shit anymore. It’s also a place to sup a Devil’s Backbone or knock back a few cans of Sweet Action.
Craft beer is an unstoppable juggernaut. It’s booming popularity has seen it added along with e-cigarettes to the basket of goods used to calculate the rate of inflation. It’s part of the furniture now. One in five British adults has drunk craft beer in the last six months. Who are these people and why are they ruining everything?
A good fifty percent of the crowd in a place like Brewhouse will remind you of Jeremy Clarkson. They wear bad flared jeans or three-quarter length shorts with fleeces all year round. They have sunglasses on. They’re slagging off Ed Miliband loudly in the beer garden and you suspect they haven’t seen their children since they got caught banging the au pair.
The younger ones, men and women over the age of thirty-five who’ve managed to escape the crushing debts and live-with-your-parents-forever fate of our generation sit there thinking if they’ve paid this much money for a pint of beer then they must be real grown-ups now.
But none of these people remember the first time they got wasted on Ribeera or Papa Darth. Nobody does.
What you can remember, before your first love, before your first heartbreak and before your first pill was buying a crate of Stella from Tesco Metro. Or a crate of Kronenbourg. Or Fosters. Or Carlsberg.
Before Putin, ISIS and craft beer, you were young and free and stupid, without foresight or hindsight. You simply wanted to get as pissed as possible as quickly as possible and you didn’t care where or who you had to throw up on to get there.
I’m not saying these aren’t terrible drinks. In fact they’re absolutely awful: filtered, pasteurised, artificially fizzy. But however shit they may be, they’re ours, they’re how we grew up, they’re how we threw up.
Every sip of craft beer takes you further away from this innocence, from the person who you used to be and further along the road to the twat you’ll end up as: a guy who uses the word “chillax” unironically, who wears a beard and a beanie. A sod who prides himself on drinking a slightly better tasting beer.