As I See It: Terry Murden
Growth in Scotland’s food and drink sector has been little short of remarkable and it’s only right that its success is marked by regular opportunities to celebrate. The Scottish Beer Awards held earlier this month mark the extraordinary revival of craft brewing.
Likewise, new events celebrate the re-emergence of gin and the more staple whisky sectors.
Quality beers and spirits are now fashionable, booming and contributing to the country’s GDP and exports, but there is also a little discomfort over the growth and promotion of alcohol at a time when healthy consumption is also high on the agenda.
The industry is aware of its responsibilities and with proper controls and regulation the alcohol industry should be free to grow and provide sensible drinkers with the products they demand. New data on the minimum pricing policy suggests alcohol consumption has fallen. With an ironic twist, we also report the launch of a new energy drink that bills itself as a hangover pick-me-up.
There is a further step that the industry can take, and that is to further embrace those who enjoy beer, but are concerned about the unhealthy, behavioural side-effects. It was disappointing that among the 300 brands represented at the Scottish Beer Awards, some with weird names such as Disco Forklift Truck, Panavision Pink and Green Monkey Wheat, not one was non-alcoholic, the only choice being a rather unoriginal Becks Blue from the bar.
Non or low alcohol alternatives are an increasing matter of choice and the quality has improved markedly. The days of low alcohol beers more akin to washing-up liquid are long gone. Nowadays there is a good range so that in many cases it is difficult to tell the difference.
Now we have a new entrant: Jump Ship, produced by former marketer Sonja Mitchell who has launched her own non-alcohol brewery – Scotland’s first – because she likes beer, but dislikes the hangovers. RBS is backing her and she’s now embarked on a crowdfunding campaign to scale up the business. She might just have timed it right.
Growth in low alcohol beers follows a rise in a new ‘temperance’ movement. Research by brewing giant ABInbev UK found that 41% of young people are pursuing a healthier lifestyle by actively cutting down on alcohol. This year also saw Sainsbury’s launch ‘The Clean Vic’, a pop-up pub in central London which exclusively serves no, or low, alcohol drinks.
It is great to see fine beers celebrated as they were at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange in a long list of categories for best pilsner, pale ale, stout, ‘amplified’ beer, and many others. Perhaps the time has come to add one more category.
A shorter version of this item appeared in a comment column earlier this week