Last week I mentioned the two questions posed by one of my fellow bloggers boakandbailey, which, to recap were 1) In a strange pub with well kept mainstream cask ales, but a distinctive range of keg beers, which would you choose and  2) In the same circumstances, if there were mainstream keg beers, but an interesting cask selection what would your choice be.

However last friday, a twist on this scenario occurred on a visit to a chain pub near Brighouse.  On ordering a pint of Black Sheep Special Bitter, I knew it wasn’t quite right, the slight hint of vinegar was creeping into the taste and it was frankly unpleasant.    The barman could find no issue with it personally, but having had the bottled variety only the night before, I knew it was off.  The only other ale was Marstons EPA, but that was unavailable.The other selection of beers were generic lagers or John Smiths Smooth.

The only choice I really had to consider was Guinness, a decent enough pint, but having recently having tried quite a few interesting stouts and porters as part of a conscious effort to get into that style of beer, I knew this would be a relatively uninteresting beer.

Normally in a situation where I was not driving I would have a second beer while my wife finishes her bottle of Magners. The first pint of Guinness passed my lips and had left no sign of its presence apart from the empty glass, no lingering aftertaste or flavours of note.  This is a rarity for me, I drink beers for just these elements, and it left me unsatisfied.  Just the night before I had drank an excellent Fullers Bengal Lancer or two, and liked the variety of flavours at the start, middle and end of each sip.  Was I willing to have another pint of no satisfaction from Dublin?

The answer was No, and instead took to my second love in drinks, good coffee, in this case decent filter coffee, but still far more interesting than the pint of Guinness would have been  If they had stocked Becks Vier, that would have become the second pint, as it is a beer I enjoy as I do most Becks products including their non alcoholic Blue for when I am not drinking, but still want that “beer” taste.  The same applies if they had stocked a continental beer.

I estimate I drink probably 100-150 different beers a year, and most rate half decent or better.  The pubs I visit generally will have a beer I haven’t tried before, and this contributes to the number.  Before, I would have settled for the John Smiths or Guinness just because its the beer that is on, but it is obvious to me that this has changed, I no longer drink beer for drinking beers sake, but drink for finding good beers which excite my pallet or give me satisfaction in their consumption.

There are obvious exceptions to this, when in company, at functions or dining at a restaurant with friends and especially when visiting a persons house when such an attitude would be considered rude and anti social, but here I am discussing day to day pub visits.  If I lived in an area where the pubs and supermarkets did not offer such a variety of beer flavours across their ranges, my opinion would be different, but I do not, and Calderdale spoils us in regard to this, as do most areas of the three Yorkshire Ridings and south towards Sheffield.

My experience at that chain pub was the total opposite to that at The Works in Sowerby Bridge the following day where it was more which beer do I choose, and in the end, both the Works Wonder and Nick Hambletons Nightmare Stout hit the spot nicely, but in different ways, Works Wonder was a nicely balanced beer which would make my “session” list any day.  However the Nightmare stout was the best I have had since consciously moving into that genre of beer.  It is described as an “extra stout porter” and had a lot of warm flavours adding up to a wonderful mix, with what I think was a lovely “almondy” aroma, but don’t quote me on that.

You may notice in my writing, that I don’t go detailed descriptions of beer flavours and smells.  That is because I am rubbish at it, and why all you get is a summary of my experience with the pint in general terms. There are plenty of people out there who publish beer reviews, on and offline, who can do a far better job of it that I ever can, and I am happy to leave it to them, you can find them at CAMRGB and many other places.

  1. Bailey says:

    Entirely reasonable to drink only beers you enjoy or, as you put it, that give you satisfaction. Only you can tell if you find a beer satisfying or enjoyable, no-one else can dictate that to you. The idea that anyone would sit forcing down a beer they don’t enjoy, their face fixed in a stoical grimace, for the “good of beer” is crazy. (As you say, exceptions where to turn it down would cause offence, etc. etc.))

  2. […] drink due to the blandness and inconsistency of the beer.  Only a few months ago, I wrote about moving onto coffee when Greene King and Guinness were the only non lager alternatives. I have even spoken to landlords […]