January is a problem.
You’ve spunked all your money on overpriced tat that you panic bought because even though the Mail would have you believe that Christmas starts in early September now, you somehow were still shopping on December the 24th. It’s cold and miserable outside and you have to go back to getting up and going home in the dark. There’s bugger all on the horizon to look forward to unless you ‘cleverly’ booked a trip to cheer you up after Christmas which you now don’t know how you’re going to fucking pay for. You feel like staying indoors for the entire month.
Unfortunately this is also the time of the year that we are beset with nauseating positivity about ‘new starts’. Everyone’s on a diet, or doing Park Run or eating vegan or not using any plastic. And then there are the twin horrors of Dryanuary and Tryanuary.
If I muted those two hashtags on every social media platform I used, all that remained would be one picture of a puppy wearing a sock as a hat, and Donald Trump. Everyone is either not drinking, or drinking more, and both are equally irritating. Dryanuary I’m sure only became a thing once the Guardian started begging for think pieces about it in around 2016. Then there was the inevitable backlash from the brewing industry who have just experienced one of their two annual cash dumps (don’t forget there’s a World Cup this year lads, it’s not all doom and gloom!) Then there was a back-backlash from those who thought it was insensitive to stop people who might have genuine alcohol dependencies from trying to give up, in the interests of swelling the coffers of poor desperate struggling businesses like Brewdog and Wetherspoons.
All in all I’ve become sick of hearing about beer in the last 12 days. Beer is my thing. I love beer, and I love pubs, but one of the many things I like about them is that they are simple, easy, and stress free. However just as some beer lovers seem to avoid pubs during the Christmas period because of the influx of ‘amateur drinkers’, I have felt compelled to avoid them so far this year for the opposite reason. I don’t want to have to brush off the attempts of some single issue consumer group to get me to drink a shit pale ale every time I go out. I want some peace and quiet and a distinct lack of enthusiasm and gusto. (Please note I am not talking about normal pubs like my local triumverate The Lion, The Union and The Grapes, who probably think that Tryanuary is something to do with Rugby League).
In principle, Tryanuary is a great idea. A opportunity for small breweries to make some money in a traditionally slow month, and a concerted national grass-roots effort to support this. But I am sceptical that it actually achieves a great deal for those businesses which are most at risk of closure, ie local pubs outside of town or city centres. The number of breweries, microbreweries, and taproom style bars is increasing, and these are the businesses that will benefit most from Tryanuary, making it a bit of a circle jerk which if anything will damage the trade of the local. The reason that many pubs cannot stock a wide variety of styles and consistently rotate their cask selection is that the product we now refer to as ‘craft beer’ costs more. Is a normal local pub with two cask pumps going to risk buying in an untested beer in January? Of course not. So how do they participate in Tryanuary? The answer is they don’t. And no-one really seems to care about that. There’s a cursory mention of ‘going to the pub’ on the official website’s ‘ways to get involved’, but the majority of actions are around trying a new local beer, which won’t help pubs which can’t afford to stock it in the first place.
So how do we help struggling pubs in January? How about trying to find a way to make the products more affordable in the first place, encouraging co-ops, talking to licensees honestly about why they can’t afford to pay a premium for local beer? How about encouraging people to blog about why their local is so special? That’s something I’d get off the settee for. Even in the dark.