Confession Time — Which Beers Are You Embarrassed to Like?

Text: CRUSH ON YOU.

Why do people feel uncomfortable admitting to liking (or disliking) certain beers? And which beers do you have a secret soft spot for?

We were prompted to ponder this subject by this Tweet from Rhys Daltrey:

Twitter screenshot: "Embarrassing​ revelation: I have a weakness for Tanglefoot. I keep it quiet, so as not to spoil my 'craft' pretensions..."

As it happens, we too have more time for certain Badger beers than you might expect. They were among the earliest ales we really got to know at Hall & Woodhouse outposts in London, as well as during a series of holidays in Dorset and around. We don’t talk about them much these days because the bottles don’t excite us — they seem to taste particularly stewed even by the standards of supermarket ales — and we don’t get much chance to drink the cask incarnations, but we’re certainly not embarrassed to mention them.

Perhaps it’s a result of having blogged about beer for 9.99999 years but we’re not much ashamed to admit to liking, or disliking anything. We’ve paid our dues and if we say we do or don’t like a beer, it’s an honest reaction. (Which is not to say it might not be stupid, misinformed or confused — that’s a whole separate issue.)

Even now, though, we know we’ll draw a bit of fire if we express a liking for, or even tolerance of, certain beers. That’s why we so often resort to the language of extreme subjectivity, such as ‘soft spot’ above — like Rhys, we couch it almost as a failing on our part.

Another approach is to go on the offensive: unlike you sheeple, I controversially like Budweiser/Bass/Special Brew, and if you’ve got a problem with that, you can see me outside in the car park. It’s the same thing though, really — an acknowledgement that The Community won’t approve.

Be Honest, Fess Up

What we’d like to see, more generally, is people stating plainly what they like, and what they don’t. There’s no wrong or right answer, and you don’t need special expertise or training to know whether a beer tastes good to you, right now. (Even if down the line you might be baffled by your own judgement.)

People holding back from expressing an honest view skews the whole conversation to a handful of consensus breweries and beers.

And, of course, for that to happen, others need to respect the preferences of others. (Last year, someone told us they were disappointed in us for naming Duvel as a great Belgian beer. Weird, right?)

With all that in mind, let’s have an amnesty: which beers do you have a secret crush on that you don’t want the kids at school to know about?

And you can also tell us which beers you know you ‘ought’ to like but don’t, although we actually had a pretty good round-out on a related topic a couple of months back.

Here are some beers we feel slightly naughty liking — but nonetheless publicly admitted to liking — in recent months, to get the ball rolling: Guinness (Bailey, every now and then); Hoegaarden (not what it used to be, apparently); Bass (NWIUTB); Marston’s Pedigree (NWIUTB); LIDL’s own-brand Bière de Garde; Ringwood Forty-Niner (cask, at The Farmer’s).

56 thoughts on “Confession Time — Which Beers Are You Embarrassed to Like?”

  1. McEwan’s Champion – sometimes you do want a bit of bang for your buck. Punk. Sol with a wedge of lime. Vocation in Tesco – I think they’re still good beers even if they have ‘sold out’.

    1. I think liking or hating vocation is the shibboleth that tells you whether someone is into craft beer because they like the taste of the beer, or whether they like the associated hipster image.

      1. We found the cans from Tesco pretty rough but we’re not annoyed that they’re *in* Tesco.

        1. When I’ve had it on draught it’s been great, a lot of the Tesco cans seem to have been sitting in storage way too long.

    2. Champion is a decent beer – perhaps better than decent. I tried all three of the Vocation cans when they appeared in Tesco & found them good, so-so and disappointingly ‘hot’; never bought the ‘good’ one again, though, mainly because I can’t remember which of the two less strong ones it was. Vocation are very reliable on cask, though.

  2. I agree with you re Lidl biere de garde, bloody good stuff, also fond of Titanic plum porter, about which I have seen sniffy comments. And when its as hot as a dockers armpit, unusual in this country I know. I will happily quaff a cold Kronenbourg.

  3. Much like yourselves, still got a soft spot for Guinness, and perhaps even more controversially, quite enjoy Guinness Extra Cold. In bottled form, my partner’s mum tends to have 1698 by Shepherd Neame in the house for me, which I’ve grown to really enjoy over the past year or so (and is bottle conditioned). Tribute in bottle is fine, and I don’t put my nose up to it.

  4. I’ve always quite liked Doom Bar, and get a bit sad when people use it as a by-word for crap cask. Although I’ll admit it’s probably much more for nostalgic reasons than anything else.

  5. As a brewer by trade I’m not supposed to admit that after a long day it will not be uncommon for me to wander to the local corner shop near my house and obtain a cold can of kronenbourg 1664. Whether it’s down to not wanting to be challenged or nostalgia for years of French camping holidays I couldn’t tell you, only that I enjoy it.

  6. Hello,

    My name is Dina and I have no shame, sort of. While my favourite brews are high on the Whale Scale™, I still love Negro Modelo, Cheladas of all sorts, and Coors Light. I will drink any Pabst Blue Ribbon handed to me, and I’m not afraid of a bit of Hoegaarden.

    Thanks, I feel better just typing this out.

  7. ABInbev’s Flowers Original (if they still make it). Rather embarrassing, but it was the beer that first got me into real ale as a teenager and I have always held a soft spot for it…

  8. Very happy to have inspired this post. Part of my Tanglefoot shame is that it’s reasonably priced in my local supermarket (canned rather than bottle, I’ve never understood Badger’s clear bottle policy). There’s plenty of these beers on my list, probably for similar reasons, I don’t live in a ‘craft’ hotspot, or get to the pub often enough, so most of my session beers come from there.

    1. I have a “soft spot” for Hobgoblin too! Even in bottle.

      Fond of cask Tetley’s as well.

  9. I assume anyone who takes the time to correct or scold my taste in beer is a needy flaming eejit. While not embarrassed, I do love going to a sports bar near where my wife work on the odd Friday when I am off an hour earlier to drink their fresh house branded discount lager. Sweet, malty, simple and cheap. Goes with deep fried onion rings. As I am usually dressed for work in the black shoes, grey flannels, vest, bright silk tie and fusty tweed coat (attire being another source of non-embarrassment) most of the working guys in the place look at me with that mild loathing reserved for management. Which raises the question: who has such standing in a pop hobby tiny sub-culture like beer that one could feel embarrassment under their gaze? I can’t think of anyone who could wield such sway.

    1. When you say “vest”, I assume you mean “waistcoat” not “sleeveless item worn under shirt,” otherwise you might genuinely have something to be embarrassed about…

      1. Actually was meaning v-neck sweater vest but I have mustard yellow Claude Greengrass grade doeskin waistcoat so, conversely, you might now better appreciate my degree of not giving a rats ass.

  10. Abbot. Used to get sent to Great Yarmouth by work years ago and it was the only thing I found drinkable in the hotel (and I could stick it on the food bill for expenses). Another one that is probably more nostalgia than anything else.

  11. Kaltenberg genuine fake German lager (by Thwaites) on draught in my (no real ale, no craft) local. Also Perlanbacher pils (cans not bottles) from Lidl; and Hendry’s (fake Tennent’s!!) from Aldi. And Aldi’s fake craft fake Newkie Broon.

    (As an aside, whilst you may have noticed that some supermarket “German” beers have been made in France for a couple of years, did you spot that Sainsburys’ “French” beers are now brewed in Scotland?

  12. Don’t know if you can find it on your side of the pond but Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is my guilty pleasure. And no, I’m not embarrassed to admit that.

  13. You can only be embarrassed to like a particular beer if you see your visible choice of beer as defining your public image or lifestyle. Forget about appearing cool and drink what you enjoy – it’s much simpler and more honest.

    1. No man is an island, etc. etc. It’s quite natural and human to worry what others might think of you (or, more to the point, what they might *say*). But, yes, it shouldn’t stop people enjoying what they enjoy — it’s an instinct to be overcome rather than indulged.

      1. I think this statement might be more locally cultural than you expect:

        “It’s quite natural and human to worry what others might think of you (or, more to the point, what they might *say*). “

        1. Is it, though? I know people say “I don’t care what people think of me” but, almost invariably, what they actually mean is “I enjoy being perceived as the kind of person that doesn’t care what people think”.

          Truly not caring about other people’s opinions is pathological.

          1. No, I actually don’t care and by that I mean it is very common in my nation to not give the rodent’s rump. What I was trying to say nicely is that this is a very English and perhaps southern English concern.

          2. Well, obviously I can’t discern your true motivations for doing anything but, I’d contend, it’s virtually impossible for you to do so either.

            I can presume, though, that (for instance) you wear clothes? For reasons other than warmth or personal safety? You might, perhaps, put a small amount of thought or effort into acquiring socially or culturally appropriate clothes. You might modulate your behaviour or speech depending on the social setting? You might make a point on an internet comment board very nicely, even though being blunt might serve your purposes better? Humans are social animals, and we’re constantly signalling to others information about ourselves. It’s rare for people to not try, on any level, to make that information positive.

            Trivial examples, obviously, but my (probably pedantic) point is that virtually everyone cares what people think _to some degree_ and that those who truly don’t are not healthy individuals.

          3. Fair enough but by taking this passing mention of understanding of myself to an absurd level to confirm something or other it sort of elevates and confirms my concern about being overly concerned with appearances.

            One of the things I have seen (over my decade and a half of beer writing) creep into good beer appreciation, especially over the last few years, is a form of faux professionalism and preciousness that needs and maybe even feeds on this sort of self-doubt about what is a very simple matter – enjoying beer. We are told we need to take “off-flavour” courses, style tutorials and input from our betters. We are losing the authority to make our own decisions. I put it down to the need for the faux professionals, the self-accredited consulto class that needs to affirm its special knowledge as a means to make a buck because they have sort of run out of options or run into their own limitations.

            So while this appears to be a simple matter, I see it as part of an insidious trend that results in folks being stripped and even stripping themselves of the very thing that lies at the heart of every pleasure hobby, the ability to enjoy oneself on one’s own terms. It is only beer. One should never be embarrassed by the joy in it.

            [PS: social settings encourage the heightening of point out this sort of thing, hopefully pleasantly and informatively without priggery.]

          4. “by taking this passing mention of understanding of myself to an absurd level to confirm something or other it sort of elevates and confirms my concern about being overly concerned with appearances.”

            Well put! 😀

            I also accept your point that an abundance of concern in this matter is common and, probably, more common in England… if you accept (and you don’t have to) that affecting disregard for people’s opinion is an attempt to influence people’s opinions then there’s really no end to the logical whirlpool that runs round and round your head.

            The obvious answer is, perhaps, just to be yourself and damn everyone else… but what if it’s been so long you’ve forgotten what that even is?

            Reminds me of this sketch by (obviously) an English comedian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iRN8iJDi_I

            Your other point is good… beer should be simple. Or at least straight-forward. Is it a male thing, that we try to make the things we enjoy over-complicated?

  14. I’ve got a soft spot for much of Shepherd Neame’s output – especially their always-hard-to-find-outside-Kent Master Brew.

    Far more controversially, I don’t find their beers in the slightest troubled by being in clear bottles. There, I said it.

    1. Masterbrew! Lovely when in perfect condition but relatively few pubs in Kent seem to keep it that way so seems to have a pretty poor reputation amongst most beer drinkers locally. One of the reasons micropubs have taken of in East Kent could be that they offer an attractive alternative to Shepherd Neame’s ubiquity.

    2. > Far more controversially, I don’t find their beers in the slightest troubled by being in clear bottles. There, I said it.

      I tested leaving a Spitfire in the sun all day, next to another bottle wrapped in black plastic as a control. Three people were totally unable to find any difference between the three. So I’m with you there.

  15. I find it very sad if people are embarrassed about liking a beer. It’s easy to be intimidated when there seems to be a consensus that Brewery X is awesome whereas anything that comes from Brewery Y is utterly undrinkable.

    But eventually I found the hive mind often got it terribly wrong, so often that it gave me the confidence to trust my own opinion, whether anyone else agrees or not. I’m sure it’s saved me forking out hundreds for shitty beer that other people raved about, too.

    Now I rather enjoy the chance to commend beers that others dismiss. It feels a bit more constructive than reviling the over-hyped garbage, too, though that is also fun and should be done more.

  16. Some macro lagers are ok – Peroni, 1664, even Carlsberg. I positively enjoy Czech pilsners (especially Budvar), which are not very trendy these days. Sam Smiths beers in general are also still a touchstone.

    On the other hand, I struggle to get very excited about some much-lauded US and Scandinavian beers, especially flavoured stouts which too often end up oily and chemical-tasting (there are exceptions of course, such as Lervig’s Three Bean Stout).

    1. I’m with you, particularly on the hyped, high ABV US stouts, they’re all far too sweet, and you can barely tasste anything of the actual beer for the adjuncts added.

      Three bean stout was great though, no argument here.

  17. In the 80s I must confess to a real liking for draught Long Life, available all too rarely in Ind Coope pubs.

  18. Beers I have soft spot for and in fairness ain’t scoring high on any review site 1)superbock Portuguese lager Sorry I started drinking on this stuff 2) anything I associate with my dad : copper dragon best and pippin black sheep best and ale, thwaites best and mild non bad beers but my soft spot is definitely bigger than deserved by the quality. 3) Heineken – if I have to drink a mainstream lager I’m picking this one. Is it best of a bad bunch or is this irrational favoritism? I can remember having a caffrey s phase twenty odd year back. Soft spot there hardened but would pick over say John Smiths still for nostalgia.

  19. I too like draught Bass when I find it. Co-op own brand bottled Czech pilsner is cheaper and nicer than Budvar. Hate Punk IPA, since the first time I tried it. Can’t get the hang of Camden Helles, despite all the column inches. Locally, we’re all supposed to dis Wye Valley beers because they are ubiquitous, but I am delighted when I see them. And for reasons of deep nostalgia, swigging Newcastle Brown from the bottle while listening to metal makes me feel very alive. If not my tastebuds

  20. I still like holts bitter on cask. The pub nearest to me has just been done up as a holts pub and it’s nice to go there for tea with my wife and daughter. It was the first ever pint i bought in a pub, 63p, nearly 30 years ago.

    On the other side, i don’t really like Camden beers, always found them underwhelming.

  21. Old Peculiar, bottle or local Cornish cask, Marston’s Pedigree, Erdinger, including the alcohol free version. Something I’m not keen on is the popular Proper Job, rather have almost anything else from StA

  22. I used to stand up for Doom Bar, having enjoyed it in Cornwall (on holiday), but having had it since it’s gone national I’ve fallen into line. Hobgoblin is fine, though, and I always enjoy Old Peculier. Sticky strong bitters in general are OK with me. Haven’t drunk Tanglefoot in years, though – Mark Dredge was so eloquent on the topic of clear glass bottles that I couldn’t look at them again, even though I’d never actually tasted ‘skunking’ myself (I still don’t think I’ve tasted it more than a couple of times, & they were pale beers). Also, +1 for Holt’s draught beers – the IPA in particular – although it’s rare I actually find myself drinking them.

  23. To be honest it isn’t disparaged that much but I do love both Fullers London Pride on cask and Frontier Lager on keg. The first is sherbet, the second is liquid copper coins.

  24. Thinking about it, I’m so critical of beer generally that I’m not sure there is anything I’m embarrassed to like, but there are definitely several beers that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I *dislike* – I just don’t ‘get’ them and feel I’m missing out somewhere.

    – virtually all Belgian Dubbel/Trippel/Quad/Trappist stuff, with the exception of Orval.
    – Tankova dispensed lagers like PU – can’t see what the fuss is about, but I do like the wooden cask version
    – Moor Old Freddy Walker, which I find grimacingly sweet and cloying, and similar beers
    – Really clovey, bananary wheat beers and saisons.

    I’m also embarrassed to admit that I sometimes put San Pellegrino lemonade in unpalatable pints. And if I’m really struggling, but need to finish a manky beer for the tick, I chew gum while drinking!

  25. I also have a fondness for Badger beers, largely because they were the go-to beer for my officemates in Basingstoke, and getting to go visit them was always fun; that, and there are vanishingly few beers like theirs in the US, so they were semi-exotic by American standards.

    More recently, I got a lot of side-eye for defending some of our local Pacific Northwest pale ales at a beer nerd meetup the other week; at least with this particular group, they are ‘boring’ and ‘awful’ (when really, they are just reasonably successful and so easy to find and often fresh, which makes them dubious to some). I was amused.

  26. A cheeky bottle or three of ice cold Corona on a hot Summer afternoon. Must be necked before it starts warming up though. And I recently discovered Nanny State (out of necessity) which was a bit weird – brown beer AND grapefruit – but refreshing enough so I’ll certainly have that again.

  27. I like what I like, and see no need to be ashamed of that. I back my taste against anybody else’s, so if they disagree, it’s them that’s wrong. 😉

    That said, there is one brewery whose products I just don’t like, but I think I should: Achel. Not impressed.

  28. Draught Bass and white lemon shandy, when I’m taking it easy now that can be hard to beat! There’s also a little bit of a stigma around some of the non alcoholic beers I would drink, though I find that can be dispelled a bit when you actually introduce someone to Krombacher NA, which I find to be a near perfect simulacrum of a proper full strength German lager.

  29. I love co-op own brand Czech stuff. For my money, you can’t get a bad own brand Cz beer as it’s all brewed over there. They remind me of the 4 trips I’ve had to Prague with my gf, her having to initially twist my arm to go on a “city break” and now me prompting her to go at any opportunity. Plan on driving down for my 30th next year.

    Also fond of Directors and the various knock offs you get in Aldi/Lidl.

  30. Adnams Ghost Ship

    Marble Pint

    Krusovice Pilsner (The dirty revelation that I can’t think of a single craft brewer that actually does the style well.)

      1. ‘Craft beer’ nerds can be just as bad as CAMRA ones.

        For me it’s the platonic ideal of a great modern bitter.

  31. I enjoy the occasional bottle of Hobgoblin or any other Wychwood beer. I don’t mind Champion, and some of Aldi’s ales are pretty good ( and cheap!). On occasion, I just throw all caution to the wind and grab a few bottles of average lager when I fancy something easy to drink. I honestly don’t care what anyone thinks of my choices (especially hipsters) which, let’s face it, before Brewdog started their worldwide campaign to turn the world ‘punk’ (giggle), were either drinking the same beers as above, or didn’t even know what beer was.

  32. Not so much a list of being embarrassed to like, more a list of ‘screw you cognoscenti for trying to make me feel bad about these beers’:

    – Guinness (there’s a theme here judging from the comments)
    – Actual Belgian Stella (I am convinced there’s something different when it comes from Leuven)
    – McEwan’s Export
    – Murphy’s
    – Boddington’s
    – Bitburger

  33. Greene King IPA, just think of it as a light Mild.

    Bud Light, 3.5% = 21st century Mild.

  34. Bass and Pedigree may not be what they used to be, but they are objectively great beers when properly on form. One of the best pints I had last year was Pedigree in a plastic at a big event sponsored by Marstons where the casks barely had time to settle before being emptied.

    Tetley has some of the same problem – when I lived in Leeds there seemed to be four levels of Tetley, student (probably out of date and then watered down), badly-kept cask, ordinary keg and in just a handful of pubs, properly-kept cask Tetley which was a glorious thing. Mind you this was when it was still brewed in the city – much the most depressing thing about a recent trip there was parking on the Brewery car park. Not the car park of the former brewery, but the car park where the brewery used to stand before it was demolished.

    I guess my real guilty pleasure is modern Boddies. In a can. With a widget. Blame Mel Sykes (apparently she’s doing something new with them) maybe, more likely it was just a taste of home that was readily available back in the day, but I still have a soft spot for it.

    Also stubbies of Carrefour own-brand lager from somewhere like Alsace, and Salva-Vida from Honduras – both a step up from standard Eurofizz lager but tarred with the same brush.

    Not sure either Pint or Plum Porter really count as contrarian choices – the latter was Speciality CBOB 2015 for flip’s sake. One has to move in pretty snobby circles (or in places which serve them badly) to think liking them is contrarian?

    As for not likes – I seem to be quite sensitive to certain acrid flavours so whilst I like smokiness I really don’t get on well with a lot of well-regarded smoked beers. I’m also quite sensitive to Brett flavours so I may find undrinkable something that others find has a welcome bit of complexity.

    Also extreme bitterness – I love a classic Yorkshire bitter, but I just don’t get the whole IBU arms race thing. I had a couple of US beers at GBBF which are very highly rated on the rating websites, but which I just couldn’t get on with.

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