Eight alternatives to 'boring'

Pint of ordinary bitter in an English pub.

1. Well-mannered, polite
Ron Pattinson prefers polite beers to arrogant ones. Is a polite beer one which, although it doesn’t seem the life of the party, perhaps impresses you over time with its integrity and good qualities?

2. Bland
Nowadays, bland is a pejorative term absolutely synonymous with boring, but it hasn’t always been. Somerset cheese used to be advertised as bland and digestible; a woman in the nineteenth century might have been described as bland if she was pretty. It derives from a latin word meaning soft or smooth.

3. Vanilla
There’s bad vanilla ice-cream — bright yellow, basically whipped margarine, with artificial flavourings — and there’s the good stuff, where a flavour we take for granted is made once again the star of the show. Is that beer boring or does it make a virtue of good old English hops, instead of easier-to-spot varieties?

4. Standard
Almost every British brewery makes a standard brown bitter, which conforms to punters’ expectation of this type of beer, being within a certain range of colour and strength. Not brewing a standard bitter would be commercial suicide in many cases: these beers are the foundations on which breweries are built.

5. Straightforward
Yes, you can buy a pair of jeans with green stitching and butterflies embroidered on the knees, but maybe you just want a pair of bloody trousers. By the same token, aren’t all these bells and whistles on big beers a little pretentious? Don’t you sometimes just want a beer which quenches your thirst, bites at the back of your throat, and knocks the edges off a bad day? Does every beer have to be profound and eye-opening?

6. Clean
Precision engineered lagers are sometimes put together with the intention of making the experience of drinking them only slightly removed from that of drinking sparkling water. Let’s not sneer: these beers can be refreshing, and they’re technically marvellous.

7. Classical
Having regard to established principles of form and composition in the pursuit of harmony and balance, rather than seeking to innovate. Disciplined and respectful of tradition.

8. Subtle
After two pints, you start to notice flavours which are hard to pin down, and even harder to describe. This beer makes you work for your tasting notes and doesn’t pander to your lazy, hop-shocked palate. Perhaps you’re not up to it? Perhaps you need something brasher and simpler?

24 thoughts on “Eight alternatives to 'boring'”

  1. THAT’S IT!

    After yoinks of kicking around words like “experimental” to describe my dissatisfaction with short-run, over-priced, kitchen sinked beers you have put your finger on the right word –> pretentious.

  2. Limpid, sluggish, slow-moving, whispers of (whatever taste you want to mention), delicate, does what it says on the tin, ‘and why not?’

  3. Perhaps we might also explore adjectives that extrapolate on pretentious. I might suggest “quadraphonic” as it relates to an unnecessarily technological evolutionary dead end dinosaur that leverages sensory overload.

    BTW, I watched a few craft brewers and writers share a bottle of that particular product with a very similar reaction – plus the surprised look of “oh, Good Lord, that is it?” Are we scared to admit what stands before us all?

  4. Progressive? (That is, not necessarily an improvement; ripe to be demolished by the re-emergence of the melodic three-minute pop song; an acquired taste; and, really, three trucks full of synthesisers….?)

  5. Spot on. Absolutely spot on.

    I get so sick to death of having my tastebuds challenged, abused and downright raped. Sometimes a nice pint of bitter is all I want to drink.

    “an unnecessarily technological evolutionary dead end dinosaur that leverages sensory overload” – Black IPA?

  6. Hear, hear. I’m all for easy-drinking, uncomplicated, well-balanced beer.

    Subtle will be the new extreme within a few years. When geeks realise they’ve been cheated by poorly-made, over-hyped beer that’s been over-hopped and/or over-adjuncted to disguise a fatal flaw in the basic brewing provess.

  7. But how many IBUs does it have?

    You know what I like? When a beer surprises you in a good way. When you order something ‘just to try it’ and you finish that pint and then order another straight away. When you can tell how well made it is. When you just want more of it. If it’s ‘boring’ then so be it. And I’ve made more friends with elegant, simple conversation than shouting at them across the bar and punching them in the throat, even if they do grab the attention.

    And I’m with Tandleman – ‘clean’ is one of the most important characteristics, whether a lager or a DIPA. If it’s got a clear flavour profile which doesn’t taste muddied or confused then I’m happy.

  8. “And I’m with Tandleman – ‘clean’ is one of the most important characteristics, whether a lager or a DIPA. If it’s got a clear flavour profile which doesn’t taste muddied or confused then I’m happy.”

    I’m with Dredgie.

  9. Great read, and I couldn’t agree more. I like to have a lot to choose from at pubs, and I’m glad that there are more and more that offer a wide variety of beers, but there are times that all I want to do is to go to a pub and order not much more than “pivo” without having to think about it, and knowing very well what I will get…

  10. Well, a very interesting set of responses to what was, really, just an attempt on our part to challenge ourselves over our use of the word ‘boring’.

    We still think it’s important to work out where the line lies between *really* characterless beer (there’s another one…) and beer which is straightforward, polite, etc. etc..

    We don’t want to suggest that breweries can produce any old rubbish and it’s up to us to find a way to like it!

    And we still like drinking mad, strong, weird beers from time to time…

  11. Great post. Have nothing to add to the sentiments of Dredge, Tand and the rest above, but for once, I think we are all in agreement.

    had a pint of Rudgate Ruby Mild at the weekend, in fact, I had three, because it was tasting so damn good. Plus you need at least two pints of a mild to get the best of its flavour.

    Not boring, not lacking flavour. Just subtle and rewarding.

  12. The original Mrs Pardoe’s home-brewed ale really defined the word “subtle” as applied to beer. Batham’s Best Bitter is a classic current example of the style – and its depth and complexity slowly creep up on you.

  13. I agree with Tandleman’s first comment:

    “Good stuff. For what it’s worth, “clean” to me is almost a prerequisite in beer.”

    For me, even a 7% plus hop bomb has to clear away cleanly – if a beer cloys, with the body itself seeming to linger in the mouth, any beer is hard work. To this end, I’d even describe certain barley wines as clean (I’d even say Rochefort 10 is clean – though clearly not as lipsmackingly clean as a gueuze).

    Difficult to explain what I mean, but you know it when you see it.

  14. I had a couple of pints of Adnam’s Bitter the other night – as standard a vanilla classic as you could want: polite, moderate, totally unsurprising and a very nice pint. After that I thought I should branch out & went for a pint of Spitfire. It was dull as dishwater (which the head strongly resembled). I take it all back: there is such a thing as boring brown bitter!

  15. Phil — those two beers illustrate the point really well, I think. Adnams Bitter can be boring too, in the wrong pub, but looked after well is the perfect example of a brown bitter which has character.

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