I’ll have what Big Daddy Cameron is having (not)…

IT’S a little early but let’s pull a pint. I’ll have what he’s having.

This morning The Guardian reports that sales of Greene King IPA are on the rise in China, thanks to David Cameron taking the Chinese president to a pub. One drinker at a Chinese bar reportedly demanded: ‘Bring me another glass of IPA beer – the one that Big Daddy Xi drank!’

Perhaps there is a cultural difference here. Can you imagine a British drinker asking for the beer that Big Daddy Cameron drank? The dedicated ale man is more likely to grumble over the rim of his glass and order a different brand out of contrariness. Or wonder out loud why on earth the prime minister was drinking that stuff (more of which in a moment).

You may recall that when Mr Cameron was putting on a show for China, there was a bizarre moment when he took President Xi Jingping along to his ‘local’ pub, The Plough, which is near Chequers, his official country retreat. The news footage showed Mr Cameron at the bar saying: ‘Good evening, good evening – how are you? I think we’re going to have two pints of IPA…’

Is this is really Mr Cameron’s local or just the place he takes visiting dignitaries? The landlord, Steve Hollings, should know and he is quoted as saying that the Camerons do pop into his pub – ‘When they come here it’s just Mr and Mrs Cameron, not the prime minister. He’s not working. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer person.’

So anyone not wishing to meet the Prime Minister knows which pub to avoid. Again according to Mr Hollings, Mr Cameron usually drinks IPA, which is why Xi also tried it. The president ‘absolutely loved it, really, really enjoyed it’ and wanted another, ‘but was told they didn’t have time’.

Sales of Greene King IPA are said to be soaring in China following that one pint – and I do like the suggestion that Xi fancied more of a session, just imagine the truths that would have tumbled out if they’d got blathered.

That would have sealed the deal for the Communist Party spin doctors who wished to portray Xi as a man of the people. ‘Look he is still standing after five pints – more of a man than his friend Dave.’

Our leaders have often called on a pint as a populist prop. But this sort of spin is hardly new. Labour PM Harold Wilson was generally photographed with his jaws clamped round a pipe, but was said in private to have preferred cigars.

In The Guardian report, Peter Bloxham, who imports Greene King beers into China, says that ‘within two days of the great bar scene… people from all over China were ringing: agents, restaurants, bars, hotels. They wanted this beer.’

Behind this story lies another tale in which dedicated beer drinkers have for years disparaged Greene King IPA, condemning the beer as too bland and too weak and not really an IPA at all.

Members of Camra dislike the beer, and as long ago as 2004 the leading beer writer Roger Protz was having to defend Greene King IPA winning gold in the bitter class of the Champion Beer of Britain Competition. Protz explained that the beers in the final were tasted blind, so there was no fix, as had been alleged or at least grumbled about.

In a telling aside at the time, Protz pointed out that the big brewers often complained that Camra favoured craft beer, with one regional brewer snarling at a win for a small brewer: ‘If a micro brewed a beer from castor oil and glycerine, Camra would give it a prize.’

Ah the beer world can be, well, a bitter place. Not that Greene King IPA is very bitter or very anything if you ask me.

None of this will bother the Suffolk brewer, which has been brewing cask ales since 1799, and looks to be even busier thanks to that well known beer salesman David Cameron. And you can’t get publicity like that for all the beer in China.

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