real ale

Brown and boring?

View of a motorway from a van.

After he’d driven a 7.5 ton box van from Somerset to Cornwall, via London, while helping us move in, we felt Bailey’s Dad deserved a pint or two and took him to one of our local pubs.

He sank a pint of proper job fairly quickly but didn’t seem 100 per cent convinced. We had a hunch that St Austell’s very popular HSD might be more to his taste, and it seems we were right.

We’ve always been a bit disparaging of HSD — it’s what we’d call St Austell’s brown, boring bitter and, even by the standards of that type of beer, it lacks hop character. A surprising number of people are very loyal to it, however, and a pub landlord here told us us there would be a riot if he were to replace it with the similarly brown but much more flavoursome Admiral’s Ale. “They find it too light,” he said, referring to something other than the colour.

For many drinkers in the west country (and, from observation, south Wales, too) hops are not where it’s at.

Maybe we need to let our lupulin-ravaged tastebuds recover and learn to appreciate these types of beers for what they are.

8 replies on “Brown and boring?”

Damn right! I learned to drink on dark, malty bitters – Buckley’s (of Swansea), then Fuller’s – and it’s taken me years to get the taste for these hopmonsters everyone raves about. And all the while I’ve had to put up with people referring to proper beer that actually tastes nice as “boring brown beer”. Enough already! Let the malt backlash begin! (Seriously, you can do just as interesting things with malt as with hops – some Welsh brewers are doing some amazing things these days, and with any luck Skinners’ and Wooden Hand and St A. won’t be far behind.)

Well I recalibrate with malty Lees Bitter every Sunday. The rest of the time it has to be hoppy.

Of course though, I do understand that boring brown is a lot of people’s choice and that’s fine. I just like the option to buy something different on the same bar.

PS Thanks for the kind comments about my Beer article.

How about the dark and lovely Black Prince? I wish we had milds in the US.

I’ve always thought of HSD as a better-than-average boring brown but perhaps that’s due to my relative lack of exposure to it. How anyone could prefer it to a Proper Job though, God only knows!

HSD alternates with Otter Head on the third tap in my Exmoor local — fresh I enjoy HSD but it loses something after the first day, while I enjoy Head a lot. However, favourite has to be Proper Job, always wonderful — Proper Black was pretty superb as well. So where about in Cornwall are you guys now?

Adrian — I’ve emailed you but the official answer is “all over the place”.

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