Beer is the new sex…

Sex sells – so we’re told. Put the word ‘sex’ on the front of a book or magazine and it’ll sell more copies. Don’t even get me started on the objectification and exploitation of women and women’s sexuality to sell, sell, sell – this is my beer blog after all.

The reason I mention that sex sells is because marketers are well known for using it to sell products completely unrelated to sex, but now it seems they’ve turned to beer instead.

Does this mean beer is now desirable and influential within the mainstream? Or is it just a cynical ploy to get mostly female shoppers to buy apparently beer-related goods because the ‘menfolk will like them’ – thus adhering to the tired old stereotype that beer is a man’s drink (my lord!).

You may be thinking, ‘What about bierwurst?’ – that’s been in the supermarkets for ages! But it hasn’t actually got any beer in it. Rather, it’s a great example of beer and food matching as it’s said to taste best with a glass of beer.

For me, the whole thing began with a relatively innocuous packet of Morrison’s sausages. Part of their ‘M’ range these ‘thick pork and dark ale sausages’ took my fancy because of the dark ale part of the name. I bought them for Beer Husband (stereotype behaviour!) because I knew I’d be able to blag one without the risk I might scoff the lot in one sitting. They turned out to be pretty, rich and tasty – so they went on the shopping list again but I thought no more of it.

Then last week I was on the way back from visiting my best pal in Wales. I always call in at the Tesco next to Talbot Green – close to Junction 34 of the M4 – because it has a pretty impressive selection of beer. Plus it’s currently my only reliable source of Brains Dark (with the exception of buying online).

As I browsed the aisles for something with which to assemble a lunchtime roll I spotted this:

Cashing in on beer's reputation?

Cashing in on beer’s reputation?

Not long after my eyes alighted on this:

Think Ronseal...

Think Ronseal…

I was intrigued and bought a packet of each. Alas the results did not live up to intrigue.

The Kentish Ale Roast Ham purports to be, “Hand trimmed, cured and marinated in ale, then roasted in spiced sugar for a tender texture and delicious flavour.” Beer is clearly listed among the ingredients but it doesn’t specify what sort of beer.

This ham does taste of beer, but the flavour quickly disintegrates into a mish-mash of salty sweetness that led me to ‘accidentally’ drop most of it on the floor and request the dog take care of it. I imagine the decision to literally sugarcoat this ham might have been for fear that a hoppy Kentish ale could turn the meat quite bitter – but it backfired.

Next up the Belgian Beer Ham. This was a much better effort and had a much more genuine feel about it. Not so much beer is the new sex, more beer is cool let’s eat it as well as drinking it.

I would like to know exactly which Belgian beer was used to marinate this ham – which according to the packaging is actually produced in Belgium. If I had to take a punt I’d guess at some variety of brown ale. It tasted, well, satisfyingly hammy! It possessed a natural porky sweetness, (unlike the sugar coated horror of its Kent counterpart), a moist and juicy texture and was a delightful bacon substitute with my breakfast fried egg and a slither of cheese (Maasdam since you ask) I had with it in a vaguely Dutch style. The beer flavours come through in much the same way as tangy hops in a pint.

A quick search on some supermarket websites turned up the usual suspects in terms of steak and ale pies – which I appreciate have been around for donkey’s years – Tesco also offers ‘Lunch Club World Flavours Ale Ham’ and ‘Melton Red Ale’ sausages – another descriptor naming the type of beer used as per the Morrison’s sausages.

There’s also a collaboration between an award-winning butcher and the splendid Dorset-based Sixpenny Brewery to make IPA sausages (which I’ve yet to sample). These have a ring of authenticity and integrity about them though which the supermarket products lack – hence my assertion that beer is the new sex.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for further evidence to make my case – and am also interested to hear your examples to assist!

About sophieatherton

I'm a freelance journalist who writes about beer and feminism. I was also the first woman in the UK to be accredited as a Beer Sommelier. I write about beer for specialist publications, such as CAMRA's BEER magazine, and the national press and also appear on radio and television to talk about it.
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12 Responses to Beer is the new sex…

  1. Ed says:

    Kentish Ale is one of the few leaglly protected British regional beer styles. It was Sheps that got it registered so I suspect it’s their beer in the pork product.

  2. Yvan says:

    In the “homebrew” charcuterie world beer-brines have been around for a long time (perhaps down to “what can I do with this terrible homebrew?). I’ve yet to really find a beer brine that adds much unless you use something flavoured – like a “ginger beer” (did some very nice Cool Fusion (Hardknott) brined pork once). Closest I’ve come to a good result that reflects a “beeriness” is a BrewDog 5AM Saint brined hand of ham. So perhaps hoppy-reds are worth more investigation. I think it is important to use as much volume of beer in the brine as possible… otherwise it’s a token effort, with next to zero impact on flavour. Flavourful beers available at a good price are the key here (thus the BrewDog). I don’t get much time to experiment alas.

    I’ll have to see what I can find in the supermarket when next in one … I expect to be disappointed. Beer as a ham USP… well, maybe it’ll make people think of buying more actual beer at least. As sex? Not sure… when they’re selling me IT products using beer instead of inexplicable smiling tightly, or barely, dressed women then perhaps. That said, how often do we have pork pies shoved in our face in a similarly offensive manner? So I don’t think they’re quite comparable – but I do think this seems a good thing for the exposure of beers as more than mere intoxicating liquids to be matched with the current sport on TV.

    Now I’m going to spend the night dreaming of brining some pork. Butcher trip due in the morning I think…

    • Thanks Yvan. Something tells me your beer brined hams would be way better than these packet supermarket jobs. You’ve also got me thinking that I need to have a go at doing my own!

  3. Bailey says:

    Rowe’s have a new Doom Bar pasty on sale down here in Cornwall. We haven’t tasted it ourselves but we hear that it’s pretty good.

    • Top example! And marketing gold too – one of the UK’s bestselling beers combined with the famous Cornish lunch. Do report back once you get to try one…. ‘Looking forward to reading your book btw.

  4. Adam says:

    Hey Soph, interesting read – bit biased, but Fuller’s do some great HSB sausages, London Porter smoked salmon and lots of other delicious foodstuffs with great beers! shout if you want more info/contacts :)

    • Cheers Adam! I have had the London Porter smoked salmon – very tasty – but not the HSB sausages. I will put both on my list of ‘foods with beer in that have authenticity and integrity’.

  5. scott page says:

    The Pie Shop in Prague has one called the Sydney….advertised as follows….. Beef and black beer badness. An oldie, but a goodie, some things in life just work together, like beef and beer. A mouth-watering combination of tender beef and carrots in a stock of famous Czech black beer.

  6. arn says:

    I thought I’d give you a little Talbot Green beer news.
    Next time your going to the Tesco’ s you must head to The Wheatsheaf Rooms, it’s literally 2 minutes away and its the Celt Experience’ s new bar, I reviewed it here. http://tinyurl.com/ln87wd2

    Oh and Sainsbury are about to start building a new site almost next door to Tesco so your choice will have doubled!

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