Three men move quickly down a dark, rain-slicked side street. Heading away from the teeming crowds, they know exactly where they are going, and move with purpose. Anonymously dressed, they keep arms by their sides, and remain quiet. After numerous changes of direction, backtracking, and false trails, they swiftly head down a set of stairs, passing reeking, sulphurous piles of discarded new world hops. The man in front stops suddenly, causing the others to almost collide; a figure lies prone to the side of the alley, face unseeing, lost in a familiar, orange glow from his iphone 16c. An unTappdian.
The men quietly pick their way past, as he lies there, continually sliding his index finger from left to right, left to right. Five stars. Five stars. Five stars. Eventually, the trio reach an isolated, unassuming door. They share quick, furtive, glances. The leader wraps his knuckles on the metal, four times. After an eternity, a small slot flays back, and a grubby face looks at them. A red light shines out, into the faces of the three men, as they stand there in the rain. More waiting. Then, suddenly, silently, the door slides open a fraction, and they enter. Inside, a bar. A lone tap. Heineken. The three men smile, and get the lagers in.
The year is 2034. The place, Huddersfield. How did humanity get to this point?
2033: Non-CRAFT beer is finally outlawed. Drinking macro-beer is punishable by death, or banishment to the Trappist re-education centre of Stalagluftvleteren
2032: Random street checks are stepped up in the republic of Ciceronia, as armed guards assess the public’s hop knowledge via the dreaded ‘rub and sniff’
2031: Backstreet laser eye surgeons offer implants for lager drinkers – ‘Coroneas’
2030: Retinal scans added to pump clips, instantly checking drinkers’ CRAFT history for signs of macro contamination
2029: First instance of dawn raids, searching houses for pint glasses
2027: Ciceronia distributes individual glassware to each citizen, matched to their DNA profile. Only CRAFT allowed inside each, or the glass instantly heats to 500ºC
2026: Nationwide roadblocks appear, each with CRAFT tasting panel. Pedestrians must identify an off-flavour to proceed with their journey
2025: Ciceronians crush the SommALEiers in the ABVII war
2024: Hop cannon declared instrument of lethal force
2023: Two-thirds becomes mandated largest measure (the hated Schooners’ Law)
2022: Scotland leads the world in hop production, most popular varietal being Nelson Sturgeon
2021: Cicerones self-appointed as Guardians Of The CRAFT; attain powers of arrest
2020: Daily Mail rails against ‘this new era of prohibition’
2017: Craft beer is officially upper-cased, for all eternity
2016: British Guild of Craft Beer Writers formed
2015: Cicerones are given uniforms
2014: New app Craft Check tells you if a beer is craft, just by scanning the barcode
The three men smile, for the first time in a long time, as they begin to relax. The green-fronted tap pours out their forbidden elixir, and they thump each other on the shoulders; two white men and one black, perfectly groomed and casually dressed. They each take a pint of the banned beer, and turn away from the bar in unison to enjoy a refreshing sip of their outlawed Heineken. It is the last action they ever take. In an instant, the door explodes inwards, and a fierce light streams into the lagereasy; it is the High Alphas, the feared Ciceronia death squad. As they blaze away with their hop cannons, the men are torn asunder, their precious, illegal, lager swirling into the street, run through with blood. Time, Gentlemen, please.