Monday, 22 June 2015


Notice the absence of "brewed by"

So, the alleged best selling cask ale turns out to have it's bottle equivalent brewed far, far away from where drinkers assumed? Colour me surprised, as they say.

Doom Bar, as any person with even reasonable discernment knows, is crap. But it has traded on being "Cornish", so those places that have flogged the bottles on this premise are a bit miffed.  It's really no different from what Thwaites have done with Wainwright, but Blackburn (a less romantic location than Rock, it has to be said) isn't plastered over the packaging in a similar way.

There's a long history of such duplicity in the drinks industry. Whisky is the drink with the most notorious reputation for it. Now, Scotch is always distilled and matured (for 3 years in an oak cask) in Scotland. By law it has to be. But with every other aspect, anything goes.

Take the whisky in front of me at this minute, Black Bottle. Now, this is a mid-range blend. It proclaims it's made to an old family recipe on the bottle. Now, I know that it uses a lot less peated malt in the blend than it did 5 years ago (their source of sufficiently cheap Islay has been cut off, presumably) . How old is this family recipe, I wonder?

The whisky industry is run on myth and legend, and it tries it's damnedest to hide the truth about itself in it's marketing material. The truth is that it's made industrially, by a very small workforce compared to even 40 years ago.  I went on the Aberlour tour in 2011, and there were more tour guides and shop staff than whisky makers (as I recall, it was one bloke next to the washbacks sat at a computer). One Islay distillery, Caol Ila, can apparently be run without a single person onsite.
Caution : Pay no attention to the industry behind this image

The whisky industry is 75% owned by 2 companies, Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Even those distileries that are not, and proclaim their independence are owned by companies based in places like Trinidad (Bunnahabhain), Japan (Bowmore) or Thailand (Old Pulteney).  One hitherto furiously independent Islay distillery, Bruichladdich, soon accepted a big enough offer from the French drinks giant Remy-Cointreau.

All the stuff about tradition, age old methods and heritage is bullshit. The reason the truth is never mentioned is because it destroys the image the Scotch industry has spent decades promoting.

That such things have reached the beer industry is no surprise. The only thing that's odd is that it's taken 2 years for Molson Coors/Sharp's antics to be made public.  Even the truth behind whisky is easily discovered if you care to look.  Beer, with it's more diverse locations and history of names being shuttled about between brewers, finds these things easier to hide it seems.

Enjoy your drinks, or even dislike them if appropriate. But don't think too hard about the actual provenance of the marketing behind them. You will, more than likely, be disappointed.


  1. I'd say the people most concerned about the provenance of Doom Bar are those least likely to drink it.

  2. Not my favourite beer, but in my nearest pub, the Mount Pleasant, it replaced the lone Tetley handpump - a significant improvement. Sales were soon three times those of Tetley, which encouraged Jo the licensee to put in two more handpumps for a couple of changing guest beers, so Doom Bar was a stepping stone to better things.