The Britons are about to tip the scale. Not break a camel's back with a straw. And not move past a tipping point where everything immediately flops and flows from here to there. Just one more little incremental shift that makes assumptions more of the "ass, you and me" sort:
Back in the 1970s more than 90pc of all beer drunk in Britain was bought from the "on trade" – pubs and clubs, with less than 10pc brought from the "off trade" of supermarkets and off-licences. According to the British Beer & Pub Association this ratio had fallen to 50.9pc from pubs and 49.1pc from supermarkets at the end of last year. "It will cross over in the near future," said a spokesman, possibly as soon as this Christmas.
Five years ago, the claim was that the smoking ban was behind the move away from the pub. The article today blames cheap supermarket prices. We have seen it before in other countries. Ken Wells noted in his book "Travels with Barley" that bar bought beer in the US has gone from 75% of all sales to 25% over the 20 years following the mid-80s. I am sure the same is here in Canada.
Me? I blame modernity. Money is tight. People are healthier and like to get less tight. Average homes have all a level complex entertainment functions that was unfathomable just ten years ago let alone could be found in the pub. Neighbourhoods are being less and less designed without the car in mind. And it is not like beer has disappeared. The article says that there are half as many pubs now in Britain as their were before WWII but, as Ron shows, UK beer production almost doubles from 1939 to 2004.
Like the church, the pub is just a focal point that is losing its centrality through society becoming more varied. Must we praise the pub generically until the last congregant passes away? Or do we save just the ones that serve good beer? Which is the best option for good beer?