It is not an overestimation that there are too many cooking shows on TV now, it wouldn’t even be an exaggeration that there are too many food channels. When I was at university and into the mid nineties two shows ruled the roost, Ready Steady Cook and Food and Drink, with the second being the higher brow of the two shows by far, Ready Steady Cook being tea time fodder. Recognised names in Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke hosted as well as the more forgotten Chris Kelly and Michael Barry, along with the the late Russell Harty.
The show walked that line between accessible to the public, but having that slight aloofness about it. Wine was a big element of the show, as you would expect with two renowned wine critics anchoring for many years. Beer was mentioned very occasionally, but it wasn’t until Oz Clarke joined forces with James May a few years ago that the drink we all love got prime time airing in their very successful show “Oz and James Drink for Britain”.
When you watch Saturday Kitchen, after every dish cooked, you have some wine expert poncing about in a supermarket gushing superlatives and recommending some wine for around the six pound price level which matches the taste of the food cooked. Melissa Cole, a well known beer writer, has recently taken to recommending beers on the same taste basis for the shows food via Twitter. So the TV situation regarding beer is all or nothing, either we get a very good show like “Oz and James” or nothing at all.
If you are wondering where all this is going then the question is this, could beer and cider sustain a TV program of their own. Certainly on occasion, they could easily fill a weekly 28 (or 24 on commercial TV) minute slot, especially recently with the cask v keg and real ale v craft beer battles. But like any topic, there are quiet weeks, the fact that I am covering this topic indicates that there is no major story in the beer world as I write this, except obviously the beer duty escalator, but other people have covered that as well as I could already.
The range of beer and different brewers out there would give a lot of material for a regular feature looking at the different scale / methods of production within the industry, from the mega factory Heineken approach all the way down to more niche brewers such as Hardknott and Magic Rock, taking in the likes of Black Sheep, Fullers, Brewdog, St Peters and Halifax Steam on the way. There are more than enough beer types to enable a typical UK series of 6-8 shows to cover different genres regarding taste tests without fear of repeat.
The program could give regular air time to the issues affecting the industry like the beer duty escalator problem we currently face, the type of subject which could justify a show in its own right and we all know there are enough interesting characters in brewing and well respected beer writers to fill the guest slots, with people like Pete Brown and Melissa Cole being prime candidates as some of the most public faces of beer writing. It would have to be careful to avoid the “middle aged man with a beard” stereotype, and getting people like those mentioned above would help that.
Trade bodies would finally get a very visible platform to air their views, and I’m sure CAMRA and SIBA among others would make sure their views are heard as much as possible. This type of exposure could force the questions to be answered that people are asking of the bodies in a more timely manner, imagine James Watt of Brewdog v Colin Valentine of CAMRA in a live TV debate (post 11pm of course).
However the core presenters are what would attract the people who aren’t like myself, namely far too interested in the world of beer, the ordinary drinker so to say. There are obvious choices are several celebrities already associated with beer in the public way, James May more recently, but not forgetting Neil Morrisey, who is in the brewing industry via Morrisey Fox Brewing, featured on Channel 4 in 2008. There are other choices, the now normal side step in career for a comedian, or bringing people over from radio, but whether or not you are a fan of his, James May has the right combination of public awareness, a genuine love of the product and the correct tone for presenting the subject in an entertaining manner.
My worse fear would be that it is brought to you in association with Carling or Greene King when on commercial TV, something I’m sure people who like real beer would not want to see.