1. Well-mannered, polite
Ron Pattinson prefers polite beers to arrogant ones. Is a polite beer one which, although it doesn’t seem the life of the party, perhaps impresses you over time with its integrity and good qualities?
Nowadays, bland is a pejorative term absolutely synonymous with boring, but it hasn’t always been. Somerset cheese used to be advertised as bland and digestible; a woman in the nineteenth century might have been described as bland if she was pretty. It derives from a latin word meaning soft or smooth.
There’s bad vanilla ice-cream – bright yellow, basically whipped margarine, with artificial flavourings – and there’s the good stuff, where a flavour we take for granted is made once again the star of the show. Is that beer boring or does it make a virtue of good old English hops, instead of easier-to-spot varieties?
Almost every British brewery makes a standard brown bitter, which conforms to punters’ expectation of this type of beer, being within a certain range of colour and strength. Not brewing a standard bitter would be commercial suicide in many cases: these beers are the foundations on which breweries are built.
Yes, you can buy a pair of jeans with green stitching and butterflies embroidered on the knees, but maybe you just want a pair of bloody trousers. By the same token, aren’t all these bells and whistles on big beers a little pretentious? Don’t you sometimes just want a beer which quenches your thirst, bites at the back of your throat, and knocks the edges off a bad day? Does every beer have to be profound and eye-opening?
Precision engineered lagers are sometimes put together with the intention of making the experience of drinking them only slightly removed from that of drinking sparkling water. Let’s not sneer: these beers can be refreshing, and they’re technically marvellous.
Having regard to established principles of form and composition in the pursuit of harmony and balance, rather than seeking to innovate. Disciplined and respectful of tradition.
After two pints, you start to notice flavours which are hard to pin down, and even harder to describe. This beer makes you work for your tasting notes and doesn’t pander to your lazy, hop-shocked palate. Perhaps you’re not up to it? Perhaps you need something brasher and simpler?