This week, a colleague asked me in the pub whether London Pride is better than Carlsberg and what the difference is between them. I wasn’t quite sure what the most helpful answer would be.
I’ve seen a perfect demonstration of the wrong approach, in a well-known beer geek pub in London. A young woman at the bar asked her boyfriend what ale was, exactly, and how it differed from beer. She was overheard by a huge, bearded man with bona fide piss stains on his trousers. He ran the length of the bar, pint in hand, to crowingly deliver a complex explanation about different yeasts and top and bottom fermentation. He also threw in a bit about exceptions to the basic rule like koelsch, alt, dark lager and so on. As well as making him look like a total tosser, it wasn’t a terribly helpful answer for someone with a very limited understanding of beer and a passing interest in finding out more.
I’ve been asked this question by Spanish friends in the UK, and my answer is usually something like: “Lager’s what you usually drink in Spain. It’s generally light in colour and fizzy. In Spain (and usually in Britain), it doesn’t have a strong flavour, although you can get lagers that are more bitter or aromatic. Ale is a traditional British drink, and is less fizzy, fruitier and usually more bitter. It is often brown, but can be lighter or darker. Personally, I think the flavour of ale is much more interesting and varied than the lagers you usually get in pubs in Spain or the UK.”
But that also looks quite patronising when I write it down.
So what is the best answer, particularly if you want to encourage people to try the ale and give the Carlsberg a miss?