Wednesday, 5 November 2008

In the search of good beer

My friend at Brewers Union 180 posed an interesting question, "is there such a think as bad beer?". Well for me, it is now the time of year I get out a little more. Tonight was the local branch CAMRA meeting and a chance to test the theory.

Oh, before I forget, it's the Whitehaven beer festival in a couple of weeks. 21-22 November. See West Cumbria Branch and Whitehaven Beer Festival sites. Tony Messado chose most of the beers, so it's worth going because there is bound to be a tick or two you haven't got. I'm also working on a plan to get Jamie Reed there, our M.P. so we can ask him to push for action on the Community Pub Inquiry recommendations as well.

Anyway, where was I .... oh yeh, looking for a nice pint. Tonight we were in the Sunny Hill in Whitehaven. Three pulls - Cumberland Ale, Theakstons Best Bitter and a new Ennerdale Autumn. What I have found is that when I am confronted with less than total exciting beers I fail to be able to describe the flavours with eloquence. But I am able to give enjoyment ratings.

I started with the Ennerdale - after all Shelagh is working hard to get this new brewery out there. I'm afraid that along with the Ennerdale Bitter it's just not quite getting there with me. The Ennerdale Blond is a better beer in my view, a bit more exciting. The Autumn and the Bitter are just more of the same "classic" bitters.

It strikes me that a bad beer is one that makes me wish I was in another pub. Ennerdale Autumn does just that for me. Sorry Shelagh, I would suggest a few more hops in the late drop would be a route forward.

Theakstons best. Well certainly better, cleaner somehow. A bit more zing, like a twist of lemon or lime or something. Third pint and back to the Ennerdale and yes, a hint of something not quite right - acetic I'd swear, rather than citric.

I know Cumberland Ale, I've said before. Tandleman, you might be right, it's just the same as always and better then either of the other two choices. Dry hopping, I must have a go at that.

So we had to end the night with something better. We called in to see my friend Rod at the Gosforth Hall on the way back. As always 3 handpulls running with something that starts at the "OK" end of the scale and then others that are better. Langdale Moonshine - Cumbria Legendary Ales. I've had that at my pub so skip that. (It's nice BTW) one that I forget - that memorable eh, probably his "OK" for the night, and Yates Fever Pitch.

I stopped buying Yates beers for my pub a little while ago, for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with beer quality, silly really. It is probably the beer I choose when not in my pub because ALL of Yates beers are really, really good. Fever Pitch has everything you really want. Good aroma, zingy sherbet mouthfeel flavour and fully satisfying. Yates have never done a dark beer, at least not that I'm aware of. I bet if they did it would be fantastic.

Anyway - don't forget the Whitehaven Beer Festival: 13 Cumbrain Beers are included in the list. 4 of which are new ticks for Tony - so they're bound to be for you too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Dave, it's always helpful to hear from one of the County's craft brewers, and I envy your being able to experiment with techniques and flavours. One of the problems I face running a larger brewery without our own outlet is the need to balance commercial considerations such as consistency and sales with the desire to play around with flavours and recipes. That's why we have a small but constantly improving product range and when we are unhappy with a brew we take it out of trade. The Autumn is selling faster than we can brew at the moment, in fact the landlord of the pub you visited told me that last night he sold 5 of the 9 gallons we delivered on Tuesday, so I guess that you all gave it a good hammering before putting finger to keyboard!

The Woolpack Inn said...

Hi Shelagh, Well you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to the problem of stand alone brewery's. We do have the advantage of being able to "test" our brews on the customers and to be frank, our brewery is just a toy compared to yours as there is no requirement to make money per se.

I much prefer your Ennerdale Blond and everybody must remember that my comments are only my own thoughts. I don't really care for Jennings Bitter, but half of West Cumbria think it's great, so perhaps you have it just right for your market. Your beers remind me of Jennings bitter. Certainly the others at the meeting were making a very gallent effort to empty the cask - and I did have two myself!

I'm really pleased you managed to make such positive comments to my critique. As I'm new to blogging it can be tempting, I've found, to "go off on one" because somebody upset me. The trick is to turn it to your advantage. You did that, good for you.

I'll look forward to next years brews, as I say, I'd have a go with a bit more aroma hops for my tastes.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

She questions still remains as to whether any of the beers you had were OBJECTIVELY bad; not whether you or anyone else liked them or not.

e.g. I have a so-called American Wheat from Speakeasy in San Francisco on one of the gas taps. We get a lot of call for wheat beer, because it is cold and fizzy and has almost no flavor, but is somehow brewed with actual ingredients and an apparent attempt at integrity. Now I have a place, not in my heart, but in my pub portfolio, for wheat beers. As a step up from mindlessly inane macrobrewed fizzy swill, it is OK. I won't drink it, but it is OK - not a BAD beer. It is true to its style - crisp, refreshing, arguable more of a summer pint.

When you remark about getting a hint of "something not quite right", then were starting to stir up the dialectic. "Acetic"? Hmmmm.... then I'd say it's likely either bad beer or beer gone bad.

And I'm also wishing that I myself could be trolling around Cumbria on investigative researcch, but I guess I have a pub to run and good beer to brew.

Tandleman said...

Nice exchange of views but it worries me that small breweries feel the need to conform. A few more late hops is rarely a bad idea!emonin