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  Beer Miles 

Last Updated : 27/01/07

“Beer Miles” and Scooping – ne’er the two shall meet?


n the face of it this is a no-brainer; surely scoopers want beers from whatever brewery they can get their funnels on and, if this means the polar ice caps lose another few square kilometres, then so what?  After all, it’s bloody freezing in Swansea this week and maybe a bit of global warming would make the winters a bit more bearable – and a few centimetres extra of sea level wouldn’t do us any harm, would it?  Maybe the Dutch would lose half their country to the North Sea, but what have they ever brought to the beer party apart from Heineken and cheap supermarket lager?

Excuse the fatuousity of the above, but I have a suspicion that it’s essentially the opinion of the majority of scoopers – in general, we don’t seem to care that thousands of very heavy firkins of beers are being trucked thousands of miles around the country, burning precious resources in the process, and for what exactly?  To make comparatively few people happy at pubs and beer festivals when, to be brutally honest, these scoopers would benefit from getting of their lazy arses and back to the “old skool” scooping mentality when, to tick the beers from a brewery a long way away, you had to go there and drink them locally – they didn’t come to you as almost everything seems to these days.

Now before anyone accuses me of being a right hypocritical old bastard let me set out my stall on this one; I remember when scooping was just entering it’s second wave in the early 1990’s and beer festivals which sold beer from far and wide were still the exception rather than the norm as they are today.  When breweries opened in different parts of the country, for example Moulin near Perth, you didn’t just sit in your local scooper’s pub and wait for Ale of Atholl to arrive or even troll on down to the nearest scooper-friendly beer festival and tick it off there – no, you got on the train, went there, and drank it close to it’s point of origin – and felt a lot more fulfilled in the process.

These days, of course, it’s all very different.  Most beers eventually appear at the top scooper’s pubs or festivals and then, as everyone’s had them, there’s no need for crowds of social inadequates to go shuffling off to some quiet little village in the highlands and scare the locals with their strange language and mannerisms, is there?  Well, if the matter is simply about scoring beers, then there isn’t – but I think it’s about much more than that; scooping has lost a lot of it’s fun over the last ten years for various reasons but, in my opinion, one of the major factors has been the ease of which rare beers from all over the UK (and further afield nowadays) can be ticked in pubs and festivals miles from their point of origin which is great for the scoops total but not so great for the environment.

This means that scoopers no longer have to engage in the irksome business of meeting up, having a few beers, travelling somewhere, scooping some massive local winners to much appreciation, combing the surroundings for anything else tickable, then storming home again with big cheesy smiles upon their faces due to the jolly fine expedition which they’d enjoyed and arranging to do a similar thing the next weekend.  Contrast this with the current scooping norms and you see more scoopers than ever arriving at beer festivals, but rarely in populous “roadshows”; these days most are on their own, or in small groups, and rarely mingling or having a laugh as there are so many winners available to get in the book – after all, ticks are all that matters – then shooting off in random directions to the next festival with their shoulders straining under the weight of a hundred Panda-pop bottles. 

Compare the two different philosophies and you’ll see why I feel it’s time for festivals and pubs, for the sake of the environment, to start looking seriously at their carbon footprint and begin to limit their beer miles accordingly; subsequently scoopers might, with less winners around, discover (or rediscover, depending how old skool they are!) that beer scooping isn’t just about the numbers; it’s a social activity first and foremost and that having a good time, chasing around the UK drinking local beers at source, and not simply waiting for everything to come to them is what it should (and indeed, used) to be about.  I can dream, I suppose, but if CAMRA suddenly decide to limit beer miles at their festivals you can rest assured that I shan’t be lying down in front of the diggers in protest. 

It’s time to look at the bigger picture for the sake of the planet, and if this means less beers being hauled around the country then so be it; after all, there are now micros in most places and how many people know their local beers these days?  Think global, drink local, and if you’re still not convinced then next time you’re out scooping work out how far your beers have travelled to be where you are – it might just surprise you how many beer miles you’re drinking.


© Gazza 24/01/07.

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