If you cant be arsed reading it, i'll provide a synopsis at the end.
Britain is rediscovering, just in time, that some good things are not mass-produced, pre-packaged, hysterically advertised and celebrity-promoted. One of those things is real ale. The stereotype of the real ale drinker is laughably out of date. If you think of matted beards, mucky cardigans and huge bellies, you need to get out more.
Real ale is live beer which continues to develop in the cask. This further fermentation makes the beer naturally lively. It is either pulled from the cask by hand-pump or, even better, simply runs out by gravity. Its blasphemous caricature, keg beer, is dead, pasteurised and filtered. It undergoes no secondary fermentation, and often nestles under a protective blanket of inert gas. It fizzes with injected carbon dioxide.
Lager is a different style of beer, in which the fermentation happens at the top rather than the bottom of the vat. There is an honourable continental tradition of lager-making, and there are some magnificent cask-conditioned lagers to which all the real ale plaudits apply. But they are rarely seen here. The fair name of lager has been demeaned. The obscenely overpriced lad-fuel of Eng-er-land has as much in common with real lagers as keg beer does with real ale.
Here are ten reasons to reject what passes for beer in the licensed ale-houses of England, and to ask for the real thing for once.
1 - because real ale tastes of something
In a recent Hobgoblin advert for real ale, a grotesque figure in a pub, cradling a pint of beer, sneers over his shoulder at a group of callow drinkers: "What's the matter, Lager-Boy? Afraid you might taste something?" The gibe is just. Have you ever wondered why the lager mass-producers market their stuff as best drunk ice-cold? It is because cold anaesthetises your taste buds. To chill beer to near freezing point is like injecting lignocaine into your tongue. It stops the punter finding out the depressing truth - that there is nothing there to taste. Drink lager at a temperature at which nerves work, and the manufacturers would be rumbled.
Real ale, though, is more confident. Although the old obsession with warm beer is, thankfully, long gone, at physiological temperatures you can get an explosion of complex tastes. Of course you might not want that: you might want something which tastes of nothing, is more expensive than real ale, and eventually makes you fall over. If so, a simple intravenous injection of phenobarbitone would be more sensible.
2 - because real ale tastes good
Not always, of course. Since real ale, unlike dead, pasteurised keg beer, is a live substance, still developing in the cask, it needs to be kept properly so that it develops properly. This demands skill on the part of the cellarman. You can load keg beer straight off the lorry, connect it up, and drink it. Since it is dead, it keeps for ever. But real ale is temperamental. If it is badly treated it will not taste good.
Many a drinker has been put off real ale drinking after a visit to a pub which doesn't understand real ale. But to go back to keg beer is like opting for a lifetime of necrophilia because of one nasty experience with a living human being.
But when it is good, it can be very, very good. The most pretentious vocabulary of the most poetic wine-tasters fails when confronted with good real beer. There is some memorable stuff lying in England's beer engines.
One of the enduring caricatures of real ale drinkers is of the Reminiscer - the man who sits in the corner of the pub and tells you, sip by sip, of the pint of Old Scrotrot which he had in the Anencephalic's Head one June in 1972. The picture embodies and generates all the English prejudice against obsessive train-spotting types, but there's a reason for it. The reason is that there's something to remember.
No one has ever said: "You get a marvellous 500 ml of EuroPiss in the Happy Slapper. Amazing, it is. Can't think quite how to describe it."
The keg or lager drinker's Friday night diary reads: "Had 10 pints of the usual. Threw up. That left room for a Cat Vindaloo."
You need 10 pints of that to create some sort of sensation, even if that sensation is simply nausea and eventual oblivion. You only need one cc of well-kept real ale.
3 - because real ale is good for you
Strange but true. Since it is a live substance, each mouthful is a fecund soup of medically helpful micro organisms. I spend a lot of my life in fetid squats in hot, faraway places. The best possible training your gut can get for that is a regular diet of the real stuff. It will mean that you spend a lot less time squatting fetidly. Real ale is also heaving with B vitamins, iron and anti-oxidants. You will want to live longer in order to drink more beer, and are likely to be able to. Drink lager, and your quality of life will be miserable. Mercifully, since it is biochemically obnoxious and more often the drink of choice of violent people, you are likely to put out of your misery sooner.
4 - because you drink real ale in good places
By which I don't just mean chocolate-boxy thatched pubs with real fires, and clay pipes, and steak and kidney pud, and parrots, and resident ghosts, and fiddlers, and farting wolfhounds, and skittles, and freezers full of wildlife, and huge-breasted bar maids with PhDs in Anglo-Saxon. But all these things are splendid, and you don't get any of them if the pub doesn't take its real ale seriously. What you can be sure of is that if a landlord can be bothered to nurture his real beer as he needs to do in order to keep it right, he can be bothered to nurture the other things in his pub, and is likely to nurture you too.
5 - because you don't drink real ale in foul places
Sadly, of course, if the landlord couldn't give a toss about his beer, he is unlikely to give a toss about the pub, except as a mechanism for extracting money from the pockets of the gullible and ignorant.
Real ale is like many rare and sensitive animals. It is driven out by noise and smoke and bright lights. It thinks that pubs are places in which to drink, talk, laugh, sing and play darts, rather than places for standing sullenly, fighting, and catching herpes from teenagers.
6 - because every pint of real ale is a blow for the little man against the huge multinationals
Real ale is political. The multinationals hate it, and can't produce it properly. They have persistently bought up real ale breweries and then shut down the real ale brewing. They buy real ale pubs, and smash them up, banishing the real ale and making them conduits for their own beer. The pub chains hate real ale too. It requires skill and time to keep it well, and it therefore demands managers who are take an individual pride in their product. That sort of anarchic, workmanlike character doesn't fit well into the culture of grey, corporate blandness which organisational bureaucrats love so much.
The profit margins on pasteurised beer and lager are always going to be bigger than on real ale. You never have to pour keg beer away: it emerged, tasting of nothing, from the vast chemical plant where it was manufactured, and, unless the pub is at the epicentre of a major nuclear catastrophe, will continue to taste of nothing whatever you do to it. Real ale goes against the trends. When the tendency is towards centralized mass production, generally abroad, real ale tends to be produced in small plants by eccentric individuals who talk anachronistically about "craft brewing". It is resolutely and distinctively local. The barley often comes from the farm next door, and the yeast was often swapped in a dark wood for a coracle. When the tendency is towards the production of absolutely uniform products, the real ale world glories in thousands of different brews, some of them only produced in volumes of a barrel or so. Drinking a pint of real ale from a micro-brewery is as effective a blow against globalisation as heaving a breeze-block through the window of the World Bank.
7 - because nice people drink real ale
I think this follows from everything above. It is certainly my experience. With one caveat. Quite a lot of people haven't heard the real ale gospel. Those who have not heard cannot be damned. Of those who have heard and drunk, there are no decent people who go back to the ways of keg and lager.
8 - because idiots don't drink it
Nobody, but nobody, really drinks keg beer or lager because, having investigated the matter fully and tried out real ale, they genuinely think that keg or lager tastes better. It objectively doesn't. But lots of things come into the decision about what to drink. If you are a philistine, you will like the things which go along with keg. You will like smoke and footballers' haircuts and fruit machines and big-screen TV and smelly toilets. If you are so lacking in conversational confidence that you need music thumping out in the pub to cover your embarrassing silences or stuttering ventures into speech, you are unlikely to want to, or to be able to, grapple with the complexity of real ale. If you are a sheep, you will, despite your basically decent urges, want to follow the people who opt for keg. Which brings me to my next point.
9 - because drinking real ale shows you're an individual
There is strong cultural pressure to pretend that keg and lager are good things and that real ale is the province of folksy, smock-wearing mediaevalists. Millions of dollars of advertising money scream that lager is cool and gets you laid. Real ale, which is made by people rather than balance sheets, can't compete. In a face to face battle based on taste, quality, interest and basic bloody integrity, keg and lager don't dare to mince out of the corner towards real ale. There's no contest. But there are few voices at the moment which point out that the Lager Emperor has no clothes. Let it be shouted from the rooftops: he hasn't. Until the crowd acknowledges it, though, listening to the evidence of their senses rather than the cynical voices of the advertising boys, real ale will be the secret drink of a resistance army.
10 - because it is real ale
The name says it all. It is real stuff for real people, drunk in real places for real reasons.
Larger is sh1t and makes you a communist. Real Ale makes you a nice guy.