One of the potential downsides to York as a drinking destination is the universal use of sparklers. I say potential, as the sparkler has its vociferous defenders as well as its opponents.
A sparkler is a little plastic device that sits on the end of the pump and has lots of little holes, to create tiny little gas bubbles as your pint is dispensed. You end up with a creamy head that takes ages to settle.
We’ve read lots of theories on this – that it alters the taste as well as the mouthfeel; that “northern” beers are formulated to be served like this and therefore alway should be; that sparkled beers are quicker to drink. So we thought we’d try a quasi-scientific test and compare the same beer with the two different methods.
The test brew was “Old Boy” from the Oldershaw brewery in Grantham, the place was the Yorkshire Terrier on Stonegate. We asked for a half with a sparkler and a half without. The barmaid was perfectly happy to do this, by the way.
Well, the two looked totally different, as we hope can be seen from the photo. That’s not particularly surprising. The taste was also different. The sparkled version had a creamier mouthfeel and a more “muffled” flavour. The unsparkled version was rawer — you could say less balanced — but the malt and hop mix hit you quicker.
We both preferred the non-sparkled version, hands down — it just seemed a lot more exciting. And as a result, it got drunk quicker…
That said, it wasn’t so convincing a test as to make us ask for the sparkler to be removed every time. And I have to say that late that day I had a lovely sparkled half of Theakston’s Old Peculiar, which I’ve never really enjoyed before in its “raw” state. So, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to say that non-sparkled beer was “better” than sparkled beer across the board.
It’s probably partly a question of what you’re used to, as much as anything else.