Saisons Pt 8: The Last Two

As we draw near the end of this series of posts reporting our experiences of tasting British-brewed saisons, we’ve abandoned any attempt at theming: the only thing these last two have in common is that we bought them both from Beer Ritz.

Before we get down to our brief tasting notes, here’s a reminder of what this is all about: we want to have a short list of three we can wholeheartedly recommend. So, while ‘Do we like it?’ is a good starting point, whether other people might like it is also important and, in practice, that means we’re not after madly left-field interpretations.

  • Durham Brewery Raspbeery [sic] Saison, 5.6% ABV, 500ml @ £4.20.
  • Weird Beard Saison 14, 6%, 500ml @ £3.52.

Continue reading Saisons Pt 8: The Last Two

News, Nuggets & Longreads 27/06/2015

Here’s your usual jumbo breakfast round-up of news and links. You want any sauce?

→ Dave Bailey of Hardknott Brewery explains why his view of bottle-conditioning has changed over the years:

I think the people want great beer, consistently and without bits. We have changed now to a process that drops the beer bright in tank, carbonates in tank and then we put through a rough (nominal 5 micron) filter just for security. There may well be traces of yeast get through, but we do not guarantee a cell count. What we are looking for is minimal secondary fermentation in bottle, as the carbonation levels are exactly as we want them at bottling.

(Interesting comments on this post, too.)

→ Bryan Roth has looked in detail at Zymurgy magazine’s 2015 readers’ ‘best beers’ list and noted that once much-loved and still perfectly decent beers such as Bear Republic Racer 5 have nonetheless dropped down the rankings every year since 2010:

Per usual, this information reinforces many of our general assumptions about the beer consumer: they’re looking for new, they value specific styles and ABVs and they most likely buy into hype surrounding more famous products.

→ In this piece on recreating pre-19th century historic medicinal beer recipes, Dr Annie Gray makes an observation that suggests a gap in the market: ‘No one seems to produce a proper replica ale (I.e. an unhopped beer) anymore.’

→ Hop broker Barth-Haas has published its Hop Market and Crop Development Report, summarised with commentary by Stan Hieronymus here:

As promised, German growers have planted more of the three new varieties with “New World” aroma character that so many brewers (and presumably drinkers) want. Mandarina Bavaria acreage is up 109%, Hallertau Blanc 127%, Huell Melon 82%.

→ There’s plenty to pick out of this long piece by Devin Leonard for Bloomberg Business about AB-InBev and its recent acquisition of several smaller US breweries. It focuses in particular on Andy Goeler, the firm’s ‘CEO of craft beer’, who, at one point, refers to AB’s ‘600 craft employees’. And this statement by Larry Bell is, we suspect, going to get quoted a lot: ‘We are in the middle of the end of the beginning of craft beer.’ (Via @totalcurtis.)

→ In the US on June 11 Senator Ron Wyden proposed ‘The Craft Beer Modernization and Tax Reform Act 2015′ which, if passed, will in effect legally define craft brewers as those producing less than 60,000 barrels of beer each year, much like the progressive beer duty (PBD) introduced in the UK in 2002. (Jason Notte for MarketWatch, via @allanpint.)

→ An interesting story in the wake of the story that bottled Sharp’s Doom Bar has been brewed not in Cornwall but in Burton-upon-Trent since 2013: American drinkers who bought American-brewed Becks lager thinking it was made in Bremen are now entitled to claim compensation up to $50 each.

→ Brülosophy has advice for home brewers on how to get finished beer more quickly, assuming they have the means to control fermentation temperature with some accuracy. The post is called ‘Pitch — Ramp — Crash’ which is a pretty good summary of the content.

→ And finally, offered without comment:

Beer Writing Clichés: Call for Submissions

Mr Naylor makes a good point, we think, and we thought it might be a good idea to compile a list of beer writing clichés as part of our very occasional series of posts on writing style.

Clichés are units of language that, however clever they seem the first time you hear them, have ceased to seem interesting or even meaningful because of endless repetition. They’re a sort of tic or habit — the opposite of careful writing.

We use clichés all the time, to our shame — The Beer Nut rightly picked us up on ‘wet their whistles‘, for example — but would really like to get out of the habit so this list is a reminder to ourselves as much as anything.

Here are the ones that popped into our heads — feel free to suggest more in the comments below. (But not just words are phrases that might annoy you — ‘real ale’ isn’t a cliché; ‘a foaming pint of ale’ is.)

Continue reading Beer Writing Clichés: Call for Submissions

The Story Behind That Photograph

You know the one: a hand wrapped around a grubby straight-sided pint glass, its contents (London Pride? John Smith’s?) being tipped into the mouth of an anonymous male drinker.

News editors love it, or at least rely on it — here, here, here and here, to point to just a few examples — for illustrating stories about alcohol, negative or positive, regardless of their specific content.

As a result, for some commentators, its repeated usage has become a symbol of  the problem with mass media’s approach to beer:

For our part, we’ve become more fascinated with each repetition. Are there really no other pictures of beer in the stock libraries? Or, as some have suggested, are editors now just using it to troll grumpy beer geeks? And — because we always ask this question eventually — what is the story behind the picture?

Continue reading The Story Behind That Photograph

Ask for it By Name!

These days, it would seem odd to go into a pub and simply ask for ‘a pint of lager’ or a ‘half of bitter’ but that, we think, is a fairly recent development.

Fortunately, people have been observing, recording and advising on the etiquette of ordering beer in pubs for decades so we can trace the change fairly easily.

1938: Avoid Brand Names

Assuming that you intend to star on beer the safest drink for you to demand is ‘bitter’… Or you might try a Burton (alias ‘old’) if you have a taste for something a little less acrid… Having become proficient at ordering in its simpler forms, you may proceed to the more complicated mixtures… There is no necessity for any instruction to be given on the ordering of bottled beer… You have only to be careful in a tied house that you do not ask for the product of a rival brewery, and that error is easily avoided by ordering a light or dark ale without mentioning names.

T.E.B. Clarke, What’s Yours? — the student’s guide to Publand

1990: Brand Names for Bottles

There are five different kinds of draught beer: [Lager, Bitter, Mild , Guinness and Non-alcholic or low-alcohol beer]… Non-alcoholic beer is usually sold by name… Most pub beer is sold on draught. You can see the names of each one available on the pumps at the bar. You order them by the pint of half-pint… ‘A [pint/half-pint] of [bitter/lager/mild] please’. There are also many beers which are sold in bottles. You ask for them by name.

Jimmie Hill and Michael Lewis, Welcome to Britain: language and information for the foreign visitor

1996: Ordering by Brand is a Northern Irish Peculiarity

At a basic level, the bar staff just need to know whether you want bitter, lager or another sort of beer, and whether you want a pint, a half, or one of the wide variety of imported and domestic beers sold by the bottle… When ordering,  you just say ‘A half of lager, please’ or ‘A half of bitter, please’…  In Northern Ireland, pubgoers tend to order beer by brand name: they will say ‘A pint of Harp’, rather than ‘A pint of lager’ and ‘A pint of Smithwicks’ rather than ‘A pint of bitter’.

Kate Fox, Passport to the Pub: a guide to British pub etiquette

2001: ‘A Pint of Bitter’ No Longer Sufficient

It used to be fairly simple for the beer drinker: a pint of bitter… This was in the days when pubs were owned by breweries and a pint of bitter was the normal draught ale made by that particular brewery. Nowadays, there is likely to be a choice of bitters, but there are worse things than choice.

Nicholas Pashley, Notes on a Beermat: drinking and why it’s necessary

2009: Order by Brand to Pass for Native

The easiest way to sound native in a pub is to order your beer by the brand name, rather than using the generic terms ‘lager’, ‘bitter’ and so on. If you like trying new thing, you could ask for a pint of ‘Old Speckled Hen’ or ‘Theakston’s Old Peculiar’, but don’t blame us if you don’t like them.

Gavin Dudeny and Nicky Hockly, Learning English as  Foreign Language for Dummies

* * *

Of course we’d like another 20 or 30 sources before we can be sure but, from that lot, we’d conclude that something happened in the 1990s that meant ordering just ‘a pint of bitter’ became passé. We reckon it was probably a combination of (a) the collapse of the brewery-tied-house pub model in the wake of the Beer Orders and (b) the sheer weight of brand-based advertising and designer culture. It might also be, however, that British consumers, after 20-odd-years of education from the Campaign for Real Ale and beer writers like Michael Jackson, had simply become more particular.

On a related note, what do you think you would get served if you went into your favourite pub and just asked for ‘A pint of bitter, please’? We put this question to someone behind the bar in a St Austell pub and they were stumped — ‘Tribute is our biggest seller, but it’s not exactly bitter, as such.’ (Although that was before the launch of Cornish Best.)

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Over-thinking beer, pubs and the meaning of craft since 2007