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–”
“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.