My looooords!! Get into that seminar!The scooper's trusty sidekick, the Head Bag.  Until they went crap in the 90's.The Prince Albert, Stow cum Quy.  RIP.A scooping book.  Well thumbed too.Seminars - even better at 09:00 in the morning!Handpumps ready and waiting to dispense winners - well, one is.A trayload of winners, fresh from Sal's cellar!The "Vital Spark", Para handy's famous puffer.A jug waiting for a scoop.


Last Updated : 02/01/07

n this section, Gazza tries to explain his vision of a new "Ethical" scooping philosophy by means of a pretty tacky "Q&A" session with himself.

"So, what's this all about then?"

As Tony Blair would say, it's the "new way" of scooping; it's about taking your beer ticking into your own hands and out of those of the greedy corporatist scum who are set to ruin it by exploiting us in any way possible (as he wouldn't say).

"Steady on, that's a bit strong!"

Hmmmm, maybe... OK then, it's about not having to drink everything.  It's about choosing the beers, breweries and festivals you want to go to rather than feeling you have to do all of them all of the time.  It's about freedom of choice and enjoyment not obsession - and having the time to do what you want without feeling scooping is a millstone around your neck or a full-time job; after all it's a hobby, not a career!

"Sounds like common sense to me"

It is. The problem has been that people have been desperate to get to that magic 10,000 and have, let's say, been a bit keen to get there even if this means drinking everything going and visiting 16 festivals a weekend.  I'm as guilty as anyone of this in the past, but I now see the error of my ways and would encourage anyone who is still desperate to ease off a bit and enjoy the beer more - even when I was really desperate I still wrote tasting notes but I know I didn't take enough time to enjoy the beers; I do now. 

Easing off the gas a little enables you to concentrate more on what the beer you're scooping is like, not how many you've had that particular day; the treadmill of having to achieve 1,500 ticks a year is easy enough to achieve these days, but it's still a big thing to do and means you don't have the time to fully appreciate the quality beers you're drinking.

"So, what's changed?"

A lot of the old guard (and some of the new, thankfully) are now comfortably over the 10,000 mark, so have had time to reappraise their scooping habits and rules.  Some of them have decided that they have other interests and now they have achieved the "holy grail" of scooping they don't really need to be chasing beers all the time.  Myself, well I've realised that there's more to life than British beer and began to seriously explore European beer styles and, more importantly, travel around Europe sampling the beers at source.  Trying the ludicrously rare style of Gose, for example, in Leipzig was quite a moment, but trying it in it's home town of Goslar was even better; there are some fantastic beers around the world, get out and try them - the beer world doesn't end at our shores!

"So, do the old guard make the rules then?"

Scooping has no fixed rules; everyone has their own individual do's and don'ts, although there is considerable synergy with regards to certain things - unpasteurised beer, minimum quantities, rebadges and the like.  That's one of scooping's beauties; no rules, do what you want - it's quite anarchic in places, is scooping!  However, if you decide to follow some controversial rules, then expect some arguments from other scoopers as to why their way is right and yours is wrong - usually good natured though!  Most scoopers have a bit of personality and aren't afraid to have, and voice, opinions so there would be no real point in trying to have a controlling body - most scoopers would just ignore it!

"What brought all this "less desperation" on?"

As well as a lot of scoopers achieving the 10K mark and reappraising their rules, it seems that recently a growing number of brewers and some pubs have been, shall we say, taking the piss. In the last few years, we have had the growth of "brewers" who commission beers but won't say where from, some who say where from but we're not convinced are unique, brewers suddenly producing 2-3 beers a week that all look and taste similar and pubs holding festivals where the much-touted "winners" have turned out to be the same beer with different additives. 

A growing number of scoopers have had enough of being taken as a convenient cash cow by certain people and have decided to only drink the beers they think will be "real", unadulterated and - more importantly - actually new beers!  This isn't easy to achieve and so a lot of us now simply boycott those producers / pubs who we don't trust; it's as simple as that!

"So, what are you doing about it?"

Boycotting the culprits!  A surprising number of scoopers now boycott breweries for various reasons such as them allowing rebadging or brewing rancid beer, some boycott beer festivals that don't open sensible hours, whilst some boycott pubs that sell too many dodgy beers.  We "militants" are trying to make other scoopers take notice and reappraise their attitudes to being taken for a ride.  Of course, we don't think a few of us can make a huge difference, but it's surprising how much influence scoopers have; we'll see. 

Mainly though, after all, it's a personal ethics thing; I won't drink Greene King beer as I don't like the taste of them and because of their predatory attitude towards other brewers, but other people may have different views and drink their products - it's each scooper's individual choice as to what (if anything) he's militant towards; It's like eating "dolphin-friendly" tuna - your perogative entirely, although we all know what's best, but some people's desperation gets the better of them.

"Has it improved your scooping?"

If you class this as number of ticks a year, definitely not.  I used to score 1600+ a year; it dropped below 1000 in 2002 and I'm now on around 400 beers a year for 2006!  If you class it in enjoyment stakes, however, the answer is a massive "Yes"; I now have more free time to do other things like travelling and scooping European beers, and when I do choose to attend a festival it's of my choosing and I drink what I want.  It's a lot more relaxing and a huge amount more satisfying to know you're your own boss again.  It's also revived the camaraderie between scoopers who now have time to socialise rather than just get as many beers in as fast as they can before storming off to the next festival, although there's still a way to go with some people yet - naming no names!

"So have you given up then and become a normal?"

I've not actually given up yet, but I have considered it - that would have been unthinkable 5 years ago when I thought I'd be a scooper until I died of liver failure at 40.  No, I'm not going to give up as I've got the "gene" too bad, but I now only drink what I want to - if I want to try out a new brewery I will, but if I don't, then I don't have to - and, more importantly, I don't feel guilty about it either! 

I gave up bottling after drinking some really rancid beers which shouldn't have been on sale and now I can't believe I used to bottle up in pubs - what a strange thing to do!  Giving up bottling has really let me enjoy tasting the beers more and not worrying about being taken for a customs and excise officer or similar - it has happened, one particular incident in a dodgy pub in Manchester sticks in my mind!

I have also left Camra - not without some regrets.  I agree with most of what they say, it's just that I'm not willing to be part of an organisation that doesn't like what I do for a hobby and doesn't represent my feelings about supporting micros and letting regionals get on with withering away.  On the positive side, i'm up on my money as I don't go to many festivals anymore, so I've probably saved a few quid from the 20 or so it would cost me to join each year!

"Plans for the future?"

To do even less beers and festivals, and to travel more - maybe I'll get over to America and try some of their excellent micro beers one day.  In the meantime, there's loads more places in Europe I want to visit, and with the continued cheap flights available (we're doing Krakow in February 2007 for 27 return) I hope there will be many more years of popping over to the continent in search of quality brews.

Having been to Argentina in 2006 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I want to return in 2007 and sample even more of the excellent beers brewed there; Argentina must be the hotspot of brewing in the world at the moment and I want to try as many as possible!

"Any final thoughts?"

Having your own ethics is the way forward; when all scoopers stop drinking dodgy beers then the brewers will have to wake up and change their ideas.  As more of us reach 10K, more of us decide to "take it easy", so I've defined this "taking it easy" as my ethical charter which should be a good starting point for most scoopers. 

Enjoy your beer - it's a sociable drink, after all, not a job!

The Ethical Scooper's Charter

1) Only attend pubs and festivals that you want to, not those you feel obliged to.

2) Only drink beers you genuinely want to scoop; don't feel you have to drink the 15th Dodgybrew beer this week just because it's there.  If it tastes good, drink it, unless you have an overriding reason for boycotting the brewery.

3) Boycott producers that exploit scoopers, congratulate those that are open with us.

4) Share information about rebadges and other dodgy practices with everyone so they can make up their own mind what to do about it.

5) Use the time you free up to be more sociable with fellow scoopers.

6) Explore Foreign beer more - there are some great beers out there!

2005 Gazza v1.2.  02/01/2007.


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