I am currently in the process of trying to co-ordinate a beer festival around the pubs of Gloucester to coincide with the opening weekend of the History Festival at the beginning of September, as described in an earlier blog. I am working through the details of how this should be run with landlords, but I am fairly clear in my mind about the broad aims and objectives of the event. However, in trying to capture these broad aims and objectives for marketing purposes I have unexpectedly come upon a problem of language.
The purpose of the beer festival is to showcase the fascinating history of Gloucester’s pubs: the history is at least as important as the beer. I want to tempt people who are not usually pub regulars to give the pubs a try; attempting to coax people away from drinking cheap supermarket beer from the comfort of their armchair by showing them what they are missing.
So I am talking about history and heritage, which seems to suggest that I should be talking about drinking excellent real ale in fine historic inns.
The trouble is, of late, I have developed an aversion to the words ‘ale’ and ‘inns’. There is nothing inherently wrong with these words. If you wish to be pedantic they did once have specific meanings: ale referred to beer brewed without hops and an inn offered accommodation for travellers, the term being replaced by ‘hotel’. These distinctions are no longer relevant in common usage however.
No, my problem is that when I see the words written down, in my mind I hear them spoken in adenoidal tones through smug lips surrounded by luxuriant beardy growth by a man whose copious stomach is shrouded in a jumper so hideous that it would have Noel Edmonds blushing with embarrassment and which clashes alarmingly with the socks that adorn his sandaled feet. I fear that the words have become so imbued in the serious word of beer bores that they now sound pretentious and are off-putting to all but dyed in the wool (those jumpers again!) beer enthusiasts.
I don’t wish to be rude to these beer enthusiasts (though I fear I may be too late!). Clearly my description above is a shocking stereotype and as a CAMRA member and beer bore myself I should know better. Such ale enthusiasts are very important in keeping our pubs going and, indeed, without people like this we may now have neither decent ale nor the inns in which to drink them. I certainly would not wish to discourage them from attending the beer festival.
And, as has been pointed out to me, the word inn is used in many of the pubs that will be involved in the beer festival (Cross Keys Inn, Fountain Inn, Kingsholm Inn, New Inn, Pelican Inn).
But I still find myself favouring the words ‘pub’ and ‘beer’ as more inclusive and accessible to the man in the street. In my book ‘The Story of Gloucester’s Pubs’ I used the word ‘pub’ in the title and talked of real beer rather than real ale throughout for that very reason. My working title for the beer festival (interesting that this is the general term, not ale festival) is ‘The Gloucester Heritage Pubs Beer Festival’
So, should it be ‘ Gloucester Heritage Inns Beer Festival’?
Should I speak of beer or ale?
Does it really matter or am I just over-thinking things?