"The country's romance with craft beer is now moving on from a passionate fling into a serious and committed relationship."
Two brilliant bits of news hit the pub headlines today: underage drinking is on the decline and beer sales are on the up.
Pubs have played a massive part in both of these and they are clear indicators that, as good ole Bob said, the times they are a changing.
Now it is our job as pub lovers to make sure this message is spread because the national dialogue about the trade can still end up being around 'binge drinking' and 'pub closures'.
I've lost count at the number of taxi drivers I have chatted to about my job who have used the phrase 'dying trade' when referring to the 'pub game'. That said, maths was never my strongest subject...
But it isn't a dying trade. For my money it is starting to thrive again and we are seeing fascinating developments in terms of products and pub concepts.
It is partly why the British Beer & Pub Association was able to talk about pub beer sales going up by 2.6 per cent in the last quarter – the biggest growth this entire century. If that isn't a sign of success I don't know what is.
One of the reasons for the surge in beer sales (up 9.5 per cent when the off trade is taken into account) is the country's romance with craft beer. This is now moving on from a passionate fling into a serious and committed relationship.
The craft category is maturing before our eyes. We are still seeing the creation of zany, hoptastic beers that might dry your throat after a sip or two but we are also seeing the emergence of interesting beers that customers will return to the bar for.
Stoke's Titanic launched such a brew this week at the recently re-opened The Three Johns in Islington (that's another success story in its own right).
The beer has clearly been influenced by current trends. It looks cool on the bar and in its branded glassware and has a taste that packs a punch but, and this is the key, not so much of a punch that you get floored George Groves style and subsequently don't want to return to the bar for more.
It's a beer that people will stay on for a session, even if at 4.5 per cent ABV, you can't really call it a session beer.
This is perhaps where craft is heading next: remaining just outside of the mainstream but trying to get customers to stick around for more than one drink.
It was evident earlier in the week when wholesaler Matthew Clark took over a boat on the Thames for its Boutique Beers event. Hundreds of people packed the decks to check out beers from across the world as they look for products to stock in their pubs.
I was starting to feel slightly old and decidedly unhip at this event which shows that either I am seriously past it or that the market is continuing to attract bright young things. Or both. Either way there is definitely an element of cool attached to beer that wasn't there before craft came along.
To get back to the start, it is also very cool that underage drinking is seriously declining. Labelling the younger generation as a bunch of binge drinkers, as has often been the case in the national press, does them a huge disservice and government stats now back this up.
They are in fact, in very general terms, a sensible and considered bunch - perhaps the sort that might graduate to enjoying a craft beer or two once they are old enough to sample the joys of the pub.