How do you maintain a good beer culture?

En Español

La Ronda (the Spanish speaking version of the Session) takes on a weighty philosophical topic, with Jorge Mario of Columbia asking:

How do you construct, consolidate and maintain a good beer culture?

I’m going to define a good beer culture as one where there are lots of different breweries, and where there is a good range of beers available. In other words, there should be choice for the consumer. Spain has a great bar culture, but I would be being kind if I said there was a great beer culture there.

The question of creating a beer culture from scratch is a fascinating one, but I don’t feel I know enough to comment. (Perhaps some US bloggers could help?). But here’s a few suggestions for what you need to maintain a good beer culture.

Pride is good, but palate is better

It’s good to be proud of your brewing heritage. But it’s important to be proud for the right reasons — does it taste good? The Germans are very proud of their beer, but this usually translates to being proud of drinking your local beer, just because it’s local. When the big corporations take over local Germany breweries, they almost always keep the names and the brand identity.

Whereas I get the impression in Belgium that people are proud of the fact that Belgium produces such a weird and wonderful range of beer, and this must surely help maintain the hundreds of breweries that you find in this tiny country.

Get organised — grass-roots campaigning

You can’t really talk about the British beer scene without mentioning CAMRA. We have our little moans from time to time, but there’s no denying that CAMRA saved cask ale. In doing this, they have promoted a culture of supporting small breweries and offering choice to the consumer.

The focus of CAMRA on real ale can make for a “four-legs-good, two-legs-bad” mentality at times — all real ale must be good, and all “unreal” ale is bad. Then again, a narrow, well-defined focus makes for an effective campaign.

Support your local decent pub

This one is obvious really, but the easiest to put into action – if you have a good pub that is committed to offering a range of beers, support it! The UK would not be able to support the hundreds of breweries it does without all those pubs creating the demand, so get down to your local and start boozing!


¿Cómo mantener una verdadera cultura cervecera?

English version

Jorge Mario, de Columbia, ha preguntado:

¿Cómo construir, consolidar y mantener una verdadera cultura cervecera?

Voy a definir una verdadera cultura cervecera como una, donde hay un montón de diferentes fábricas de cerveza, y donde hay una buena variedad de cervezas disponibles. En otras palabras, debe haber elección para el consumidor. España tiene una gran cultura de cervecerias y bares, pero no es decir que hay una verdadera cultura cervecera allí.

Continue reading “¿Cómo mantener una verdadera cultura cervecera?”

A real ale pub that doesn’t feel weird

Dark Star Espresso Stout
Dark Star Espresso Stout

On a recent business trip to Cheshire, I got billetted in Frodsham. My taxi driver volunteered the information that the pubs in town were decent and recommended the Helter Skelter.

Good call.

It’s pointedly a “real ale pub” but with an extremely mixed clientele and a genuinely relaxed atmosphere. There were lots of lads and ladies drinking lager, some middle-aged couples on a double date, a few old ladies on a night out and, of course, a huddle of men with beards having an earnest conversation over a notebook.

The beer was in astoundingly good condition. Phoenix’s West Coast IPA offered a late taste of summer and lived up to its marketing (a weaker Liberty Ale?) and Dark Star Espresso Stout was sweeter and chewier than from the bottle.

The beer was served with a sparkler, as you’d expect in that part of the world, but here it just seemed to give the head some body without turning it into shaving foam. I’m coming round to the idea.

What is this pub getting right? Friendly staff, for one thing. Lots of information, for another — a board behind the bar with a guide to the colour of the beers on offer is a stroke of genius. It helps that they’re not trying to beervangelise to anyone: there are no scary signs telling people off for not liking real ale, for example, and you can get a pint of Stella if that’s what you want.

And a bit of quiet background music doesn’t hurt, either.


La Ronda #3 – Una cata de cervezas virtual

English version.

Delirium ha organizado esta Ronda, en la que tenemos que proponer una cata de cervezas virtual.

“Suponed que lo que queréis es dar a conocer esta bebida a gente que por lo general no es bebedora habitual de cerveza….tiene que haber un mínimo de 5 y un máximo de 8 cervezas…Mejor no escoger cervezas elaboradas tan sólo en una microcervecería, accesibles tan sólo a unos pocos”

Como nos gusta beer-vangelizar de vez en cuando, hemos hablado mucho de este tema. Después de mucha consideración, optamos por la siguiente seis cervezas. Continue reading “La Ronda #3 – Una cata de cervezas virtual”

Hogs Back brewery — some of it our cup of T.E.A

Various Hogsback Brewery beers
Various Hogsback Brewery beers

Lots of people seem to rate T.E.A. (Traditional English Ale) by the Hogs Back* brewery. We’ve had it on a number of occasions (on cask and in bottle) and never really liked it. There’s just something a bit acrid about it. So we’ve never made much of a point about seeking their stuff out.

However, the other night we were in Stonch‘s pub, and he got out some of their OTT, a 6% old ale. As he says in his post, it had a “surprisingly sour, funky character”, tasting almost like an Oud Bruin. It worked extremely well and was very tasty, but we did wonder whether it was supposed to taste like that.

We’ve just drunk a bottle we’ve had stashed away for a while, and it’s a very different beer. There are elements of a dark Belgian beer like Ciney Brune in the nose and mouth. I suppose there’s a hint of sourness right at the end, but you would not call this a sour beer. It’s much more fruity. It’s very pleasant. I don’t know which I prefer — this version, or the potentially “off” bottle we had the other night!

Anyway, this made us keen to try the rest of the Hogs Back stash we’d accumulated over the years. Burma Star Ale is 4.2%, and a percentage of the revenue goes to the Burma Star Association. It’s a well-rounded, red ale, with spicy, fruity aroma. An almost creamy maltiness gives way to a nutty, dry finish. Nice.

Then came Wobble in a Bottle, which packs a powerful punch at 7.5%. It didn’t look all that great — the head vanished almost instantly — but this tasted like a good Belgian abbey brew. Similar sugary-fruity-chewiness. I really enjoyed this one.

Finally, we had to try T.E.A. again. I would love to say that the conversion process was complete, but it still didn’t work for us. But it made wonderful beer-rye bread.


*And there’s another lack of apostrophe to wind the Beer Nut up.