The Decent Pint

Ansell's Mild beer mat (detail)

These days, it seems, every wedding has to be a fairy tale; every book a best-selling tour de force; and every glass of beer a ten-out-often life-changing experience.

This is another example of the inflation of expectation that has taken place in the last fifty years: what early beer consumer campaigners wanted was a ‘decent pint’, i.e. one that wasn’t ‘lousy’. That’s a pretty modest demand.

You might say it shows a lack of ambition — why aim for merely ‘decent’? What’s the point, when you could reach for the sky, chase your dreams, be all you can be, and so on?

Without highs and lows, on a diet of constant mind-blowing brilliance, it’s easy to lose perspective, and for a beer which is truly excellent by any objective standard to elicit from jaded palates only that monosyllabic response which sums up the age: ‘Meh.’

20 thoughts on “The Decent Pint”

  1. whenever I start thinking like this, I bear in mind how my perception of ‘beer culture’ is warped a little by the microcosm of twitter and blogs. People will generally tweet about the interesting/crazy/limited edition beer they tried because of the shiny newness of it all – and perhaps a little one-upmanship (in a good way), too.
    They won’t mention the perfectly enjoyable, well-kept pint of something well-known that they had at lunch or the crate of something refreshing for a summer barbecue with friends. It has no appeal to certain commentators, but doens’t mean that they don’t enjoy it. Same applies to foodies, too. Personally, I like balance, but that shows in my taste for what sites I read, if we’re talking online. If you personally met everyone you read either on twitter or on blogs, I’m sure you’d have a different perspective (I hope so, anyway!)

    1. That’s true — we’ve made that very point ourselves, in fact, and don’t blog about the day-to-day pints of Tribute or Spingo.

  2. For the vast majority of beer drinkers, of course, a decent, reliable pint is exactly what they are after. The beer bloggers who take a wider view (yourselves, obviously, and Tandleman immediately springs to mind too) recognise this. However, in some quarters there is a tendency to suggest that nothing is worth drinking unless it is new, innovative, cutting edge, challenging etc. which does tend to promote the impression of bloggers being divorced from the ordinary drinker.

    Ah good, you’ve sorted out follow-up comments by e-mail as well 🙂

    1. Yes, we worked out how to do subscriptions, follows, comment notification, etc. It’s taken long enough! We now await the first email from someone telling us it doesn’t work on their device/browser…

      I suspect that the vast majority of drinkers don’t even want a decent pint — they want a refreshing one, perhaps, and one that isn’t too noticeably bad. Or maybe that’s what ‘decent’ means? (No judgement implied: a view on how the market ‘segments’ in relation to ‘discernment’ is forming, though.)

      1. Doesn’t work on my phone…

        It seems to me that the goal of CAMRA, all those years ago, was a Britain where you could go into any pub and get a decent pint – which I think they (and I) would define as a cask ale in good nick. (A good pint would be as above, but with a bit more flavour than Spitfire, say.) We’re not there yet.

        1. Gah. It doesn’t work as in it screws everything up, or just that that function isn’t available to you? (Can live with the latter.)

          1. Sorry, that’s “doesn’t work” as in “I’ve never had the Interweb in my pocket and don’t intend to start now”. (It wouldn’t be safe, surely. It might go off.)

            The funny thing is, I was a relatively early adopter of Net-stuff – I remember when business cards routinely had at least two email addresses, because you’d pick up your Compuserve mail by signing on to Compuserve, and so on. I was already doing social networking (or “going online and talking bollocks” as we used to call it) when John Major was in power. But walking talking phones… no mate. Can’t be doing with that at all. If I can make calls and send texts, that’s plenty for me. (Also saves me ridiculous amounts of money. Is a mobile contract the new smoking habit?)

            Anyway, sorry to worry you – nothing wrong with the site on the phone front. Probably. I wouldn’t know really.

  3. “I suspect that the vast majority of drinkers don’t even want a decent pint — they want a refreshing one, perhaps, and one that isn’t too noticeably bad. Or maybe that’s what ‘decent’ means?”

    Do you want food that isn’t noticeably bad? Or a new pair of shoes, or vacuum cleaner, or whatever? I think that is an unlikely speculation about what decent might or might not mean, or what most drinkers actually want. Decent, in most senses, given British understatement, will mean “good” to most people.

    1. Yes, it’s a speculation. (So is your guess at whether it’s unlikely or not, though…) I was thinking particularly about a pub in the village where we used to live where quite a few of the regulars drank Carlsberg. One night, I was really hot and thirsty, and it looked so refreshing, that I ordered a pint. It was bad — as in, stale, quite apart from its intrinsic qualities. But it was cold and effervescent, and no-one else seemed to have any problem at all drinking it.

  4. Adnams Ghost Ship, 4 cans for £5 from Tescos.

    The problem I have is that what a lot of people describe as a “decent pint” is actually horrible. A “decent pint” of Greene King IPA tastes like mud, there is nothing remotely decent about it. There are less pubs in this country that sell an actual decent pint than the ones that do. Ironically, selling a decent pint is in itself an innovative and original step for a pub to take.

    1. A decent pint of Greene King IPA is actually reasonably drinkable – it’s just that finding a decent one is so rare. It’s quite appropriate in this context as I think part of the problem is that it’s over-sold – it’s an (very) ordinary bitter heavily promoted and trying to compete with premium bitters.

  5. Yes, comment subscriptions at last! No longer will I miss any sarky/ interesting responses to my comments!

  6. Last Saturday I had a session in Doncaster drinking Acorn Barnsley Bitter. A good honest well brewed pint that I’d be happy to drink all the time if it was available in Wirral. Knocks spots off those fancy ‘grapefruit’ IPAs.

    1. Ansell’s? The Yacht Inn, Penzance! Well, kind of — it’s on keg and kind of watery, but someone, somewhere is turning out a litlte bit every now and then.

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