Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 26 July 2014

I smell a rat

The Quiet Man this week spotted yet another manifestation of aggressive puritanism masquerading as public concern:
A Lancashire school has been slammed for commissioning and selling a beer for two extra-curricular events as part of its centenary celebrations.
The plan - to market a local beer labelled with the school crest - was squarely aimed at selling to former pupils a perfect marriage of personal and regional nostalgia. Brewing is, after all, a fine old British tradition that has long combined aesthetic pleasure with hydration and B-vitamin intake (with the added bonus of helping to avoid some of the nastier water-borne diseases of bygone days) and Lancashire is home to some excellent practitioners of the art.

This, however, was of no concern to the lone dissenter trying single-handedly to bring this worthy enterprise to a halt:
A concerned resident lodged a complaint to the Portman Group, Britain's independent body in charge of promoting responsible drinking regulations.
One single unsupported objection to a beer intended for consumers over the age of 18? Surely the recipient would be wise to consider the possibility that it could be the work of a disgruntled employee or the result of personal animosity towards the school or the brewery.
To the disbelief of the school, the Portman Group then upheld the resident's complaint.
The objection centred on the use of the school crest on the label and the implied association of alcohol with school-age children, though I think it's fair to say that the majority of today's teenagers aspire to more heady concoctions than a bottle or two of real ale.

In any case, this matter seems, if you'll forgive the term, rather small beer compared to the myriad injustices with which our society and the world in general abounds. Where is this Utopia in which a 'concerned resident' can find no more pressing cause for protest?
The BRGS centenary ale was brewed by the Irwell Works Brewery, in Ramsbottom, Lancashire.
Wait a minute - that rings a bell...
A bar in the House of Commons refused to serve beer featuring the black faces of the Britannia Coconut Dancers.
Following hot on the heels of the twitter storm caused by Will Straw's photo opportunity with the same black-faced dancers, this recently publicised tale of a label which 'may have caused offence' opened the door for knee-jerk vilification and possible harassment of those responsible.

And who were those potentially racist brewers?
Irwell Works Brewery in Ramsbottom dropped the image of the Coconutters from the beer pump and replaced it with the Bacup crest, which will accompany the ale in the Strangers Bar.
An interesting coincidence, I'm sure you will agree.


  1. Worse still there may have been Health and Safety issues with the skittles. Who knows where a skittle might go, it might even fall over.

  2. I can't find - anywhere - just what this 'censure' actually amounts to. I'm therefore guessing 'a whole lot of nothing'...

  3. Demetrius, I have a horrible feeling that we live in a society where today's jokes are becoming tomorrow's headlines - watch out for H&S rulings on bar games in the near future.

    I'm amazed that pubs are still allowed to play Aunt Sally - presumably all those metropolitan jobsworths don't venture outside the M25.

    Julia, following a link from Leg-Iron today, I found a separate case in which the Portman Group issued a 'Retailer Alert Bulletin' which 'instructs' retailers and licensees not to buy the beer in question in its current packaging after a certain date, though it doesn't say how it would be enforced.

    If this is the extent of their powers, it's hard to see how it could affect a one-off edition sold exclusively through the commissioning organisation.

    The whole thing smacks of just the sort of petty trouble-making we were encouraged to visit on non-PC organisations during my Labour Student days. The end, we were told, would justify the means if the target deserved it; a selective grammar school doing business with an allegedly racist brewery would doubtless push all the right buttons.

    Do follow LI's link to BrewDog's response if you haven't already - it will warm the cockles of your heart!

  4. It's true, this particular fake-charity-come-meddling-prodnose outfit actually has no powers at all.

    I believe the headmaster of the school in question has (politely) told them to ram it.

    And indeed you should check out the BrewDog link: http://www.brewdog.com/blog-article/sorrynotsorry for an example of the way we should all behave towards these parasites.

  5. WY, the most chilling aspect of this, perhaps, is in the article to which the BrewDog piece links.

    No complaints were received from the public. The beer was investigated as part of an 'independent audit of drinks' carried out by a research firm commissioned by - guess who! - the Portman Group.

    As a tactic, it's straight out of the 'Witchfinder's Handbook'.