When living in the UK, it inevitably means catching bits of the many, inexplicably popular, soap operas such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale or Eastenders. One common theme with all British soap operas is the pivotal role of the pub. The Rovers Return, The Woolpack or The Queen Vic are all central to the life of the drama. Even the teenage soap opera, Hollyoaks, had The Dog in the Pond as the show's meeting place.
When you investigate a little further, clearly some thought had gone into the fictional breweries, that provided the fictional local beer, to the fictional pub.
The Queen Victoria in Eastenders is run by the fictional 'Luxford and Copley' who are committed to cask conditioned ales, whilst in Yorkshire, Emmerdale's Woolpack is under the watchful eye of 'Ephraim Monk'. The freehold details of the public house in Radio 4's soap opera, The Archer's, are unknown but The Bull does boast a coffee cart and two computers. Clearly a must in radio land.
In the world's longest running soap opera, The Rovers Return, on Coronation Street, is supplied by 'Newton and Ridley' which is apparently based upon the real Salford brewery 'Groves and Whitnall'. A brewery that managed to survive a poisoning scandal in 1901 when deaths and illness from arsenic was eventually traced to the Groves and Whitnall's ales. With over 4000 reported cases, it was a real life drama indeed.
But, if the pub was the centre of all life in these small fictional microcosms, where was the beer?
The most puzzling thing to me when watching a soap was whenever the characters ordered a drink off the bar staff, they would say "Two pints please, love" - I remember thinking, how do they know what they want? I could see at least four hand pumps, many taps and it didn't fit into the character's outlook to be so blasé about their pint after a hard week of work. But maybe it fits into the narrative that it's just a pint. A beer is a beer. Don't fuss about it or ask questions. Maybe it would be over the top for the characters to specify that they wanted 'a hop forward pale ale please Betty' or 'a brown ale with a malty backbone please Marilyn, who used to be in Home and Away'. But it would seem that if other characters can order a Shiraz, a Chardonnay or a Gin and Tonic, that the beer drinking characters could have the luxury of specifying their tipple of choice. Beer choices could also add to the narrative. For example, drinking a half of Mild as opposed to a strong lager, clearly indicates the character's intentions and outlook without the need for clumsy script writing. Also, Mild would only be available in Northern pubs, further emphasising the cultural nuances of the soap opera's location.
Surprisingly, no major breweries have managed to get exclusivity on a British soap opera, with a product placement deal that would be of some significance. Given that tens of millions of Brits watch soaps every week, it is heartening that the fictional breweries have clearly become integral to the narrative and thus, fondness and affection towards them has perhaps made them untouchable to real life commercial interests. Well, maybe this isn't the main reason but, I am happy to suspend disbelief for now!
Pint of Best anyone?