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Does your choice of a tipple depend on your political views?

The Bar Man column, by Jeff Hoyle (West Norfolk CAMRA), Friday, October 4, 2019

Keep Politics Out Of Beer! No chance. As with everything else in life, there is no escaping politics. Does your choice of a tipple depend on your political views? If so, here are the contenders.

In the Blue Corner we have Tim Martin, boss of the ubiquitous Wetherspoons, now boasting 877 pubs across the UK. He is an arch Brexiteer and anyone who has bothered to read the literature distributed about his pubs will be left in no doubt about his political views.

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, October 4, 2019
The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, October 4, 2019

He says “If we leave the customs union on October 31 Wetherspoon will bring the price of beer to down to an unbelievable low. That’s a guarantee – but we have to leave properly, Boris Johnson. No messing around with a customs union or any of that funny stuff.”

A one-day price cut across the chain demonstrated the potential benefits of leaving Europe, with 20p being slashed from a pint. He has already removed some products from his pubs which originate from Europe and replaced them with British sourced products.

Jägermeister has been ditched in favour of an alternative made in the beautiful Lancashire town of Chorley and champagne has given way to English sparkling wine.

If you are interested you can read about his irritation with the ‘elite remainers’ who went to Oxford University and his support for the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg (who went to Oxford University).

Strong stuff, and there is plenty more like it down your local Wetherspoons.

However, in the Red Corner we have BrewDog. They may not have as many pubs as Wetherspoons, but they are expanding and since their foundation in a small town near Aberdeen 12 years ago, they have grown into one of Britain’s leading companies now worth around £1.7 billion.

They describe themselves as ‘Beer Punks’ and some of the views expressed by Tim Martin may sit uncomfortably with them.

They have dabbled with political statements before, with their 0.5% low alcohol beer ‘Nanny State’ but like their rivals are not adverse to a headline-grabbing stunt.

In September they launched a bottled 5.2% IPA called ‘Hello My Name is (Unelected) Boris’.

They have also offered desks to MPs unable to use their office as part of their ‘DeskDog’ initiative which also provides them with a free pint at the end of the day.

Voters are not forgotten and their ‘Vote for Punk’ scheme is expected to offer a free Punk IPA in a BrewDog bar to anyone who casts a vote in the next General Election.

Unlike the old days, where candidates would take over pubs and ply their supporters with drink in order to secure their votes, the beer will be available with no restriction on who you choose on the ballot paper.

I am not sure how you prove that you have voted, but our nearest BrewDog bars are in Cambridge and Norwich.

All this leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Is it moral to drink the products of a brewery who promote a viewpoint opposite to one’s own?

Are boycotts a rational response or are they ineffective?

Without revealing my own political leanings, I can say that I did visit a bar owned by the group that I am more inclined to support and it reminded me of an old secondary school chemistry lab and it offered choice of beer that did not appeal to me in the slightest, while the side that I would tend to dismiss has furnished me with some excellent beer.

There are no easy answers in the world of politics.

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