Jane Peyton gets ready for British Food Fortnight

For a small island Britain has earned a number of superlatives when it comes to beer and cider. Britain is the number one cider producer with 56 per cent of apples grown in the UK destined to be fermented. Thanks to its temperate maritime climate and soils the UK is one of the world’s leading producers of malt, with the same climate and soils bestowing delicacy but complexity to British hops that make them so perfect for the session beers that Britain’s brewers excel in. Beer, cider and pubs contribute billions to the British economy and provide untold value to the Gross Happiness Index. The latter alone is reason to celebrate. Land of hops and glory.

Love British Food, the organisation that advocates for British food and drink recently appointed me to be its drinks ambassador. As an ambassador my mission is to encourage people to choose British by highlighting Britain’s marvellous drinks sector. I will also be advocating for hospitality venues to give customers a diversity of British beer and cider styles – not just the bitters and medium dry ciders that currently dominate the bar. Look at the extensive lists of (usually imported) wine in most venues. Don’t our home-grown libations deserve the respect given to wine? 

Love British Food’s also runs the annual British Food Fortnight which happens this year between 21 September  and 6 October  when food and drink events take place around the country and prominent establishments such as Wembley Stadium, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and National Trust showcase Britain’s magnificent food and drink.

Pubs have a special role to play in Love British Food/British Food Fortnight as they are purveyors of food and drink and are in the ineffable position of being essential to the social health of the nation. The majority of beer and cider sold in pubs is produced in the UK and British grown food features on menus across the land. British Food Fortnight is an opportunity for the pubs who do not already focus on the local provenance of their offering to start to do so. Choosing to stock beer and cider from a nearby brewery or cidery and emphasizing that localism on the pump or blackboards is a prominent way of doing this. CAMRA has championed the LocAle initiative since 2007 to encourage pubs to reduce the beer miles of deliveries and support nearby brewing companies. It is good for pub business as it gives a point of difference in the beer and cider array. It is good for customers too as they have a wider choice, it is good for the local economy, and it is good for the environment with shorter delivery routes.

We have so much to be proud of with Britain’s drinks sector. But often when something is so familiar it is easy to take it for granted and not to see it as people outside Britain do. Part of my day-to-day job entails me producing and hosting drinks tasting corporate events in the private rooms of pubs for global businesses that send their employees to London for meetings. Without fail the visitors rhapsodise about the pubs and the beer. Many are unfamiliar with cider but when they taste it, the joy is evident. I explain to them what real ale is and we laugh about the widely held presumption that British beer is warm and flat. Once they have tasted it, they confirm that it is anything but warm and flat. When I describe the talent and dedication required by the publican to keep cask conditioned ale at its best and make sure customers have a perfect and fresh glass of beer it is obvious that they are impressed. Many yearn for their beer at home to be served the way it so often is in British pubs, uncarbonated and not heavily chilled. They appreciate the complex flavours, the softer texture and the lack of artificial carbonation in a cask conditioned beer. They say they wish UK cider was more widely available in their countries. They enthuse about what a wonderful egalitarian institution the pub is. Those overseas visitors should be appointed as official ambassadors for British pubs, beer and cider because they enthusiastically voice what is not acknowledged enough by UK natives – that so much British beer and cider is world-class and worthy of national pride.

Let’s translate that pride into encouragement for Love British Food and British Food Fortnight. For pub customers it is easy. Ask your favourite pub to support British Food Fortnight and then spend some money there. Pubs and brand-owners can also easily participate.  Contact Love British Food and proclaim your backing – it’s free to do so.  Then plan some delicious events that focus on Britain’s peerless cask beer and cider, matched of course with the best home-grown produce. And don’t forget your Union Jack – British Food Fortnight is literally a chance to fly the flag.

Jane Peyton is drinks ambassador to Love British Food/British Food Fortnight 2019 Campaign. She is  an award winning drinks educator and founder of the School of Booze.

British Food Fortnight 21 September – 6 October.

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