Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Waitrose Food Illustrated

The cover of this month's Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine states boldly Gordon Ramsey, "Help me save the British pub" and carries a two page emotive article about the continuing demise of the pub.

The editor is obliged to include the now essential headlines "Last orders at the bar" and "pubs are calling time" but this is a further celebrity endorsement to remind people that over 40 pubs are closing every week.

I am all in favour of celebrities promoting pubs and beer. It is easy to discount them as self-promotion but it is hard to deny that Oz and James, Morrisey-Fox and in this case, one of the world's leading chefs, Gordon Ramsey, have championed the pub in a forum that CAMRA, the BBPA or SIBA find it impossible to access.

The Ramsay article could easily have been written directly from a CAMRA press release, touching upon beer duty, good ale, community spirit, CAMRA research and the Axe the Beer Tax and Save the Pub campaigns. It is an article that could sit easily within a CAMRA magazine. Yet, this comes with a major celebrity endorsement and is a cover story in one of Britain's leading supermarkets house magazine with a massive distribution.

Of course, the writer does not touch on the fact that cheap beer in supermarkets is driving drinkers away from pubs into the comfort of their own home but Waitrose are hardly the worst culprits of stack-it-high and sell-it-cheap irresponsible beer promotions.

Furthermore, a few pages on in the magazine, one finds another beer related article as their correspondent, Katie Salter, visits Meantime Brewery to meet Alastair Hook and sample his excellent London Porter - a regular on the shelves at Waitrose. I have never seen an article outside of beer circles that includes the name Obadiah Poundage - obviously prompted by Alastair or Peter Haydon but this is adventurous stuff with which to impress the chattering classes.

Alas the three pages devoted to "drinking" in the magazine should really be headed "drinking wine" as if that is the only worthy drink. However, we are slowly starting to see more coverage of beer in such journals and those that are the most embracing of Britain's national drink should be applauded.

Waitrose Food Illustrated is published monthly and is free to Waitrose/John Lewis card-holders and has a cover price of £2.50.

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