Weird cider/beer hybrid

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The latest issue of Marketing magazine brings news of the launch of an appalling-sounding half-beer/half-cider chimera from one of the big international brewers. It’s made with cider, barley malt and “sparkling water”. I can’t be bothered to give this foul-sounding product any publicity by naming it… so I won’t.

The interesting thing is that they claim to have devised the product based on research which shows that a significant number of women “don’t like beer and distrust the quality of wine in bars”.

For one thing, I’m not sure that the logical conclusion from that research is: “I bet those same women would just love a weird cider-beer hybrid!”

But I’d also observe, paraphrasing their line, that there are many people of both genders who “don’t like wine, and distrust the quality of real ale in pubs”, which explains the popularity of bland lagers and Guinness in the UK. Too often, the choice is between a corporate product which is boring but consistent, and a “real” product which stinks, tastes bad and looks bad because it’s not been well looked after. You can’t blame people for going down the bland route when that’s the choice.

In both cases, the solution is probably campaigning to improve the quality of the wine, beer, cider, whisky or whatever, in bars and pubs.

One way to do that would be for CAMRA to make the criteria for getting into their Good Beer Guide slightly more strict. At the moment, as far as I can tell, it lists every pub with any kind of cask ale on offer, although they say “only pubs with a consistently high standard of real ale are considered for entry”. Sadly, my experience has been that quite a few unwelcoming, grotty, smelly pubs get in because they’ve got an old, rank cask of Greene King IPA on one pump at the bar.

Microbreweries in the south of france?

Boak is on tour in France and Spain. This is the first update from “our foreign correspondent”…

Does anyone know anything about breweries in the south of France?

I’d assumed there wouldn´t be a lot, but in the tourist office in Beziers I noticed an advert for Brasserie d’Oc, between Beziers and Montpellier. Anyone had anything from them? They even offer a brewery tour, so if they´re any good, I´m tempted to take a detour and go and see.

I´m told there are others too, although a quick internet search has not turned up any names or places.

Have I totally misjudged the brewing scene in Languedoc, home of the most militant wine manufacturers in France?

Boak

Subtle = bland?

What’s the difference between a beer that’s subtle and one that’s bland?

There are quite a few terms used in beer writing which are imprecise.

The one that I agonise over most is “subtle”. There are some beers which, to me, have little or no flavour — certainly not a flavour worth trumpeting. They’re bland.

And yet I read articles by well-known beer writers waxing poetical about the subtle brilliance of the very same brews. Sometimes, the fine flavours are apparently so subtle that they only emerge when accompanied by, say, a particular type of bread, or at a certain temperature.

So, I think Commercial Lager X is bland; Big Shot Beer Writer thinks it “beguiles with a clean, malty palate, and a subtle hint of spicy hop in the aftertaste”. Huh?

Is my palate at fault? Perhaps. You might recall that it took a concentrated effort for us to discern what was, to us, a subtle distinction between Koelsch and bog standard lager.

Another possibility — could it be that these writers feel obliged to be nice about certain beers for political/commercial reasons? Possibly.

Most often, though, it’s probably just that most of us know when we like or dislike a particular beer and set about using words to justify our judgement.

So, what’s the difference between a beer with low-carbonation, and a beer that’s flat? A beer that’s subtle and one that’s bland? Or one with “crisp hop bitterness” and one that “is dry and astringent”?

Maybe nothing except that the critic likes the first beer, but doesn’t like the second.

Sherlock Holmes and Beer

Sherlock Holmes didn’t much go for beer. I read today, in one of the millions of footnotes in William S Baring Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes, that in all of the 56 short stories and four novels, he drinks beer only a handful of times. On two occasions, it’s half-and-half, which he drinks when disguised as a working man.

But that didn’t stop him posing for this advertisement for Mann’s Brown Ale in the 1950s (click for bigger version).

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Although, to be fair, it’s Watson who’s the boozer in this case.

Picture taken from Peter Haining’s Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook.