It's all my own fault of course. I went to Belgium. After that, very shortly afterwards, I went to Oregon. Despite the belief that many American high streets are full of nothing more than homogeneous outlets, I was lead, kicking and screaming of course, to many quality beer retailing businesses. In these places I consumed a healthy amount of various beers, some more tasty than perhaps I wished, but others quite delicious and, to contribute to the word's overuse, complex. Most, of course, were 6% or 7% or 8% or possibly even more.
My problem, then, is that I find regular session ales a little watery, which is fine if I'm thirsty. When it's hot, as it has been, a nice cool 3.8% golden ale with a nice level of hopping is a joy to consume. I am however finding these beers bland and uninteresting after 2 or 3 pints and a chaser of something more complex floats my boat much higher in the water.
This train of thought is provoked by a post written by our favourite Mr Tandleman. He claims to not like extreme beers. Although I do agree that a feta cask matured beer might just be taking things too far. However, the thought that beer cannot be drunk in half pints, because it is stronger, does confuse me.
In the comments, James from BrewDog unfortunately scores home goals through a gallant attempt to make some very valid points. Driving the ball very firmly into the back of his own net by saying that a pint glass is a "terrible and unflattering way to serve any beer" I do wish he had made the word "any" into "stronger". I'd have agreed with him if he'd done that. Good quality session ale at 3.6% is flattered to hell in a pint pot, especially if it has a pint line on it, with room for a head above that line, of course. A stronger beer at say 7% is much better enjoyed in a smaller stemmed glass, much like a wine glass. In this case the complexities, sorry, using that word again, of the aromas, can fully develop.
The reactions though, in general, confuse me. Why can we not drink a beer in a glass that is not a pint? The comments seemed a little along the lines of too much objection from drinkers stuck in a rut. These seem to me to be discerning beer connoisseurs who have yet to be open minded enough to drink less than a pint in a pub.
There is one view that perhaps answers all of this. Tandleman does not drink at home. He likes to drink in the pub and from the sounds of it does it with respectable regularity. Drinking beer is a social thing. How much, really, do we want to be spending our time considering the complexity of the beer we have in the glass sat on our beer mat? How much time would we prefer to be spending sorting out the worlds many other troubles, with the aid of suitable brain annealing fluid? Of course, this would be with the considerable benefit of our peers thoughtful consideration, just to straighten out the irregularities in our world view, or possibly theirs.
Those of us that want to enjoy a beer for it's complexity can sit in a dark corner, wax lyrical to ourselves, or any other sad beer geeks close by, and leave the proper pint drinking to the big boys. Better still, hide away at home, like the sad people we are, where we are hurting nobody.
I'm lucky, I live in a pub, I can do all of these things. Often I enjoy session beer in it's unflattering pint glass, to the line and served with a sparkler, of course. Sometimes I like something stronger, but then, I am in my own home, really.
Well that should have just about upset everybody. Now, I've got some 6.6% complex beer on the handpulls I think.....oh and some stemmed half pint glasses.