Drink is an integral part of a meal, so it is a pity when a restaurant lets itself down with a poor beer selection. They can have a rack of good quality spirits and a good wine list, but then disappoint with a bland draught beer. The family meal at Chimichangas last weekend at the Broad Street Plaza didn’t disappoint, with them passing my acid test when it comes to a restaurant, can they make a good burger? The burger in question was good, well seasoned, cooked until slightly pink in the middle just like I want it, with the extra pulled pork, chorizo, jack cheese and jalapenos helping to top it off.
Then came the beer, the Brazilian brand Bramha, possibly the one of blandest beers I have tasted, down there with Carling and Carlsberg, but it is classed as a premium beer in bars in the UK. The bottle selection was Modelo Especial, Budweiser and Corona (strangely all of these are products from the AB-InBev Brewing Group), not exactly inspiring and at nearly £4 for just over ½ pint, I ended up taking the £4.40 pint of draught bland option. It was the antithesis of the food and took the edge off the experience which was otherwise good. How much effort would it be to source a good quality UK kegged pale ale to add to the Latin America themed choice. Whilst on this theme, they only offered a tequila flavoured cider, again a bottled proper cider such as Thatcher Gold or Stowford press would not have gone amiss, whilst keeping mainstream recognition.
Beer (and cider) is still overlooked in too many places with many a restaurant having the the stock Carling, Stella, John Smiths, Strongbow on single T bar, with the fridge dominated by a few premium big brand beers and Magners / Bulmers / Kopparberg as the second cider offering. Most chains are guilt of the same laziness, sticking to a beer from their “brand homeland”. These are not tied businesses, so the owners of these chains have choice and even if they are tied to buying from AB-InBev, there are 200 brands to choose from and most of them are better than Bramha.
Talking about making beer bland, how do you make an average beer even less interesting, that’s right you cool it down even more. Take Guinness Extra Cold, for people who want to drink Guinness, but want the flavour chilled out it. With Carling Cold and Carlsberg Cold, you are diluting negligible flavour to trace flavour. However the Japanese brand Kirin (brewed by Youngers in the UK) are taking this one step further adding a frozen whipped top at -5c apparently keeping the beer cooler for an extra 30 minutes. Every sip of beer will come through this cold layer killing any taste from lower in the glass. Beer is reduced to alcoholic liquid, which without the taste is nothing really.
In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, drugs and beer have been replaced by Soma, a drug which gives feelings of wellbeing and taking the user away from the real world in a simple pill. These cold beers are the soma of the beer world, getting you to where you want to go without any memory of the journey there, rather pointless in my opinion.
Moving on to local news, I talk mainly about the on trade element of the beer business, but the off trade is used by most of us for our beer when we are not at the pub. Over the last few years the two Beer and Wine Direct (aka OWLS) in Halifax and Brighouse have enabled me to sample some excellent bottled Yorkshire beers I’d not seen elsewhere in Calderdale including Summer Wine, Bad Seed and Great Heck as well as offering a range of the less common beers from people like Ilkley brewery. These two shops closed down over the last 2 weeks, leaving a big gap for those of us who want to easily access products you won’t find in the big 4 supermarkets. When a business puts the effort in to give a wide range of quality local beer at a good price, they deserve better than to close down and sadly it appears from their tweets this may have been beyond their control.