You walk into a pub or bar and are faced with, say, eight or more beers. Which do you go for, and why?
We were trying to work out if we have a system, subconscious or otherwise, and here’s what we reckon our order of preference is.
- Anything that’s on our wish list.
- Something new by a favourite brewery.
- An old favourite we don’t see often.
- A beer we’ve tried but want to give more thought to.
- Something from a new brewery we’ve heard is interesting.
- Anything new that doesn’t ring alarm bells.
- An old favourite we have all the time.
- Whatever vaguely OK but boring cask ale or ‘craft beer’ they’ve got.
- Guinness, or gin and tonic.
Alcoholic strength also comes into it but we tend to deal with that by ordering halves or thirds where appropriate — it doesn’t usually influence our choice. And we might skip our choice if the bar staff warn us it’s insanely expensive. It’s probably fair to say we default to cask but that’s kind of built in to what’s on our wish list, what counts as an old favourite, and so on. We wouldn’t be swayed either way by fined/unfined although a few muted and muddy pints of Moor in recent months means they’ve slipped from ‘favourite brewery’ status.
The alarm bells mentioned in point 6 are hard to pin down but they’re probably fairly superficial: an awful pump-clip, grim-sounding ingredients, the word on the street.
Let’s test that order of preference against a few real-world line-ups.
Tuesdays beer list for you fine folk! pic.twitter.com/lQ46hg0FEG
— Fuggles Beer Cafe (@FugglesBeerCafe) July 26, 2016
Here, we reckon we’d go for a half of Siren Caribbean Chocolate Cake (because 4 — unfinished business) and a pint of Rooster’s Yankee (3).
Today's belated beer board pic.twitter.com/1pPFLdSXGB
— Salt Horse Beer (@salthorsebeer) July 25, 2016
This is a really easy decision: a pint of Thornbridge Lukas and a half of the Thornbridge/Magic Rock Altbier (1 and 2, in both cases).
Did we mention we poured 1132 pint of real ale last week? Included is everything we currently have on the pumps. pic.twitter.com/vDKr2aWBiy
— The Hengler's Circus (@HenglersAles) July 13, 2016
Again, easy: a pint of Salopian Oracle and a half of Oakham Green Devil — both favourites that we get to drink maybe once every few months (3).
In practice, we probably override these ‘rules’ on gut instinct all the time — if it’s a bit hot, we might not fancy a stout even though it obviously fits category 2, for example, or we might just be craving something bonkers.
The fact that we tend to conservatism is one reason we’ve been asking other people to choose beer for us — left to our own devices, we miss out on new and interesting things, and thus miss out on things that might become old favourites once we get to know them. In certain pubs, like Hand Bar in Falmouth, we will take the advice of people behind the bar. (That’s especially true at Tap East in Stratford where the person behind the bar is often Boak’s little brother.)
One thing’s for certain: looking at beer lists and deciding what you’d order if you were there when you’re actually hundreds of miles away is one way to make yourself both frustrated and thirsty. We’ll probably pop out tonight for a couple of Number 7s by way of consolation.