Why breweries need to be more like The Clash and less like The Sex Pistols

The Clash buying beer

Every generation rebels against the one before them, be it with the music they listen to, the clothes they wear or the values they have. Most recently musically this has been jazz, rock and roll, the hippy movement, heavy metal, punk. Every ten years or so young people sweep in and reject the old way of doing things. Blow out the cobwebs of the past and say ‘everything that has gone before is wrong, this is our time, and our way of doing things.’

The Sex Pistols individually were not good musicians. In fact I’d go so far as to say that they were pretty terrible. Three chords, a ragged 4:4 beat, simple, single note bass lines that directly mirror the chord changes. But, they were critically acclaimed, people sing their praises still and, for a generation they were the angry mouthpiece with the rabble rousing yell in a bad time to be young. Strikes, three day working weeks, power outages, pretentious, noodly prog rock and rampant unemployment are the backdrop to their sound. Their music wasn’t well put together, there was no willingness to progress, and their music has not stood the test of time well. Whilst relevant, irreverent and indeed shocking at the time, a real cultural hammer-blow, they look more like a one dimensional novelty band now.

The Clash on the other hand are a band who felt similarly to the Sex Pistols, they too were angry young men. Formed at the same time in the same city, they hung out with the Pistols as part of ‘Punk’s inner circle’. The Clash were more political if anything, than The Pistols, just as angry, just as loud. The thing was, the Clash were less of a circus. Less novelty shock value, more integrity. They embraced other sounds, other musical styles, ska and reggae in particular. They learned to play their instruments properly and they wrote intelligent songs about stuff that mattered to them. They sung about their lives as young blokes in West London. The Clash did way more to progress music than the Pistols ever did. The Clash were a cultural scalpel cutting sharply, accurately and to the bone, the Pistols were a fired up yobbo smashing you in the face with a sledgehammer.

In the last ten years in the UK and probably the last 20 years in the US we have seen a rejection of the old ways of doing things in the beer industry. Young people have come into the industry and have shaken things up, brought new, innovative ways of doing things. They have questioned, challenged and generally made a nuisance of themselves amongst the old guard. This is good, authority must be challenged. However we have to make sure it is not just challenge for the sake of challenge.

A lot of new ‘craft’ brewers make a lot of noise whilst making edgy, extreme, alienating beer. They have their fans for sure, but the beer often isn’t well put together- it is rough round the edges, the knowledge isn’t there. They are have a go heroes. Image comes before quality, repeatability and longevity. Others are much more willing to learn from others including (gasp!) the older generation, look abroad to other styles for inspiration and to improve their knowledge. They want to improve as they realise it will have a wider, longer lasting, more sustainable effects on the industry.

New breweries: innovate. Be angry about the shit that went before, it wasn’t good enough. Sing about what you are doing, and sing it loudly but remember to be like the Clash, not The Sex Pistols.

Picture credit goes to: http://focusonthebeer.com/2013/01/the-clash-buying-beer.html/

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