Each month, a group of online writers are given a set topic and asked to write on it, this month the topic is ‘The Beer Moment’, something which means different things to different people. So after a sustained period of writing news pieces, it’s as good a time as any for a more philosophical piece.I don’t exclusively drink beer, few of us do. I love a good cider, whisky, rum or brandy when the mood takes me. However none of these come anywhere near my interest in a good beer.
I don’t go hunting out certain ciders or have a list of ones I want to try, as I do for beer. A nice spirit finishes the night off well, but isn’t for the session. Only beer meets that requirement for me.There is that moment, the “beer moment” when a fresh untouched pint sits before you, never tried before, with only the brewers description to pre-warn the taste buds. It doesn’t matter if someone else has tasted certain elements when they tried it, there is no guarantee that you will interpret them the same. Some flavours will develop over the life of the pint, while some will hit you from the start.
The first sip dictates a lot of what you will think about the pint, I’ve tasted McEwans Cold, it immediately shouted “that’s f**king nasty”, Fosters illicited “some taste would be nice”, Greene King IPA said “It’s still so bloody bland and I still don’t like it”. However when you get a good beer, it shouts out to the brain when it hits the tongue, when I first tried Brewdog Punk IPA soon after I seriously got into real and craft ales about 3 years ago it was like a hop flavoured popping candy, a sensation now blunted by years of tasting well hopped beer on a regular basis. When I tried their Hardcore IPA for the first time about 18 months later, I got the same response from the taste buds as the Punk IPA got on that first occasion.
For too long that “beer moment” was all about the hops, looking for the strong citrus, bitter and aroma mix that these wonderful plants ellicit. I admit I was a hop head for at least 18 months during this period, looking for the next hop experience where I could. It was only 9 months ago I started to make myself look for other elements in beer.
It should be noted at this point I also love my coffee, but it needs to be good else I’m not interested, I’d rather have tea than instant from a jar. I’m like a ex smoker in this aspect, I gave coffee up for 7 years from 2000-2007, but ended up coming back more dedicated than I originally was. While researching and photographing a pub walk, I happened upon a couple of pubs who were doing coffee based stouts, the first beer was Dark Star Espresso, the second at the end of the walk was Summer Wine Barista Espresso. Both beers very similar, but with differing tastes from the coffee infusion.
A new “beer moment” had been discovered. Previously my experience with stout had been entirely with mainstream products, so the interesting ales drove out bland commercial stout for a few years. However these beers had the pique from the coffee and the earthiness from the malt that you get from stout and the combination was a revelation to me. The first taste again was king and for the next few months I went on a mission to try as many good stouts and porters as I could find on my beer travels. I can’t deny it was fun, but thankfully a balanced approach came back over me and now drink what I fancy at the time rather than being on a hunting mission.
I still go through phases of certain styles of beer dominating my purchasing, but these periods are more for the purpose of research now, note the recent number of articles from me regarding hybrid beers, culminating in last weeks piece regarding Septimus Prime. It was a discussion with the landlord of the pub mentioned which started all this.
As I experience more beers, finding that moment takes more effort, as you inevitably compare it to another brew you have tried, when you reach that 80 or so beers I have already tried this year, it is hard for a beer to stand out, but when it does, the “moment” happens, and it is always welcome when it does.