Category Archives: Generalisations about beer culture

Illustration: Sweet Tooth brand can sugar cube.

“I just find it too bitter.”

Discussing the relaunch of Let There Be Beer today reminded us of just how often we hear the statement above uttered by people who dislike beer.

We ought to bear in mind every time we catch ourselves complaining that mainstream beers are bland or that, say, Sharp’s Doom Bar is too sickly sweet, that, for some, those beers are probably still too bitter.

We’re quite cured of the desire to ‘convert people’ these days, but if a beer sceptic asked us for a suggestion, we might point them to a gentle-but-quirky, barely-bitter-at-all German or Belgian wheat beer.

Illustration: judges scores.

Those Who Rate

This Tweet triggered a conversation on which we eavesdropped with interest:

Follow up responses seemed to suggest that Ratebeerians as know enough to be dangerous without offering a useful opinion:

Now, we don’t rate beer ourselves, but we find it odd that people in the business of selling beer react so badly to those who do.

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Illustration: red coffee cup.

Bewildered by Coffee

Our experience in a smart independent coffee shop in Falmouth this weekend gave us a glimpse into how many people must feel when they enter a craft beer bar.

We like coffee, but (as with whisky, wine, cheese) we don’t know very much, having not chosen to expend any mental energy reading on the subject, or forcing ourselves to concentrate as we consume. We’ve picked up a few nuggets of folk knowledge here and there, and think we can spot a bad cup of coffee in the wild, but that’s about it.

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Keg taps.

Beer, Beer Everywhere…

Last week, we watched with interest as an American customer tried to buy a beer in a British pub.

The pub in question had a slightly larger than usual selection of bottles and (self-declared) ‘craft keg’ along with several cask-conditioned ales in very good condition.

Behind the bar was a twenty-something with a sleepy manner bordering on off-hand.

Enter the American, white-haired and friendly: “I gotta get a beer. What IPA’s have ya got?”

The twenty-something blinked, recalling staff training, and pointed at a keg font. “Uh… This one’s new in, from… uh… the US–”

“Oh, that’s a great beer, but I didn’t come all this way to drink something made 20 miles from where I live! What else have ya got?”

The twenty-something looked startled. “Well, on cask–”

“Oh, I can’t drink that flat beer! I need the carbonation, know what I mean?”

At this point, what we’d thought was a pretty decent selection started to look rather narrow, like a Guess Who? board in the final stages of a game.

The twenty-something was struggling and stretched out a hand, hesitantly, to the font for a kegged pale ale. “This is from London, it’s quite hoppy–”

“IBUs?”

“Er…”

“How bitter is it in international units? Yeah, gimme a taste,” he said, realising the twenty-something wouldn’t be able to answer. On sipping, he screwed up his face.

“What else have ya got?”

“We have another pale ale from a local brewery–”

“Lemme  taste it.” Clearly unimpressed by its flavour, he nonetheless shrugged in resignation. “Yeah, OK, I guess I’ll take a small glass of that — a half a pint.” (He didn’t drink it.)

* * *

There were several things about this exchange that interested us. First, by ruling out the cask-conditioned ales, the visitor was fatally limiting his own choice and missing out (in our opinion) on the best beer that particular pub had to offer.

At the same time, the fact that there wasn’t a single beer he could really get excited about out of a range of 12 or so draught products suggested to us that British craft beer (definition 2) in the mainstream still has plenty of catching up to do with the US equivalent.

And, finally, the poor twenty-something’s struggle shows that training is a good start but only goes so far without (sorry) ‘passion’ to back it up.

Sinclair C5.

100 WORDS: Yes, That Must Be It

We drank it on the wrong day, in the wrong way, in the wrong place.

We drank it too cool, too warm, too soon, too late. We got a bad bottle, from a bad batch, from a bad source. Our glasses were dirty, our palates fatigued. The moon was full, an east wind was blowing, and there was an R in the month.

We’re prejudiced, stupid, closed-minded, and probably liars, too.

Taste is subjective, anyway, and wouldn’t it be boring if we all liked the same things?

Yes, that must be it — that must be why we didn’t like your beer.