Monday, September 13, 2004

Dr Evil is from there for a reason

When the young men of Ireland and Britain went to the Continent in their hundreds of thousands in 1914 to fight for the rights of plucky little Belgium, one wonders if they would have reconsidered knowing how little their courage would count for a few generations later. Because ruthless Belgian beer conglomerate Interbrew (one of those names that has the same vibe as Omni Consumer Products) is consolidating its brewing operations in the Islands and in doing so is closing some landmark breweries.

On the block a month ago was the Belfast brewery that produces Bass Ale, and last week the crazed Belgian slashers announced that Boddington's historic operation in Manchester is also to close. The inevitable hastily organised public campaign to save the breweries seems doomed to fail. Interbrew is apparently undeterred by the prospect that its actions cut into key Oirish tastes, as personified by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, whose favourite pint is Bass and favourite football team is Manchester United. As we noted a while ago, Bertie was under pressure from Northern politicians to lobby to save the Belfast plant and his equally vital Man Utd consituency may look for similar help regarding the Boddington's brewery.

We also couldn't help but note that the Mancunian opposition made the following drinking allusion, presumably unintended, in their rallying cry:

Beer drinkers in Manchester are not going to take this lying down.

But anyway, underlying Interbrew's decisions is the simple fact that beer marketing has changed -- and whether the change in tastes or in marketing came first, we don't know. But with yuppies pushing each other out of the way in the rush to overpay for a pint of Stella Artois (Interbrew's own staple), and the proliferation of tasteful hard liquors named, for example, after mundane towns in Meath, why should the suits be bothered with stodgy old ales and their expensive-to-maintain historic buildings? We almost find ourselves with a little respect for the Irish Republic's primary beer landlord, Diageo, which has so far avoided similar ideas regarding the Guinness brewery in Dublin.