Eight alternatives to ‘boring’

Pint of ordinary bitter in an English pub.

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?

2. Bland
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.

3. Vanil­la
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?

4. Stan­dard
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.

5. Straight­for­ward
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?

6. Clean
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.

7. Clas­si­cal
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.

8. Sub­tle
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?

24 thoughts on “Eight alternatives to ‘boring’”

  1. THAT’S IT!

    After yoinks of kick­ing around words like “exper­i­men­tal” to describe my dis­sat­is­fac­tion with short-run, over-priced, kitchen sinked beers you have put your fin­ger on the right word –> pre­ten­tious.

  2. Limpid, slug­gish, slow-mov­ing, whis­pers of (what­ev­er taste you want to men­tion), del­i­cate, does what it says on the tin, ‘and why not?’

  3. Per­haps we might also explore adjec­tives that extrap­o­late on pre­ten­tious. I might sug­gest “quadra­phon­ic” as it relates to an unnec­es­sar­i­ly tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion­ary dead end dinosaur that lever­ages sen­so­ry over­load.

    BTW, I watched a few craft brew­ers and writ­ers share a bot­tle of that par­tic­u­lar prod­uct with a very sim­i­lar reac­tion – plus the sur­prised look of “oh, Good Lord, that is it?” Are we scared to admit what stands before us all?

  4. Pro­gres­sive? (That is, not nec­es­sar­i­ly an improve­ment; ripe to be demol­ished by the re-emer­gence of the melod­ic three-minute pop song; an acquired taste; and, real­ly, three trucks full of syn­the­sis­ers.…?)

  5. Spot on. Absolute­ly spot on.

    I get so sick to death of hav­ing my taste­buds chal­lenged, abused and down­right raped. Some­times a nice pint of bit­ter is all I want to drink.

    an unnec­es­sar­i­ly tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion­ary dead end dinosaur that lever­ages sen­so­ry over­load” – Black IPA?

  6. Hear, hear. I’m all for easy-drink­ing, uncom­pli­cat­ed, well-bal­anced beer.

    Sub­tle will be the new extreme with­in a few years. When geeks realise they’ve been cheat­ed by poor­ly-made, over-hyped beer that’s been over-hopped and/or over-adjunct­ed to dis­guise a fatal flaw in the basic brew­ing provess.

  7. But how many IBUs does it have?

    You know what I like? When a beer sur­pris­es you in a good way. When you order some­thing ‘just to try it’ and you fin­ish that pint and then order anoth­er straight away. When you can tell how well made it is. When you just want more of it. If it’s ‘bor­ing’ then so be it. And I’ve made more friends with ele­gant, sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion than shout­ing at them across the bar and punch­ing them in the throat, even if they do grab the atten­tion.

    And I’m with Tan­dle­man – ‘clean’ is one of the most impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics, whether a lager or a DIPA. If it’s got a clear flavour pro­file which does­n’t taste mud­died or con­fused then I’m hap­py.

  8. And I’m with Tan­dle­man – ‘clean’ is one of the most impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics, whether a lager or a DIPA. If it’s got a clear flavour pro­file which doesn’t taste mud­died or con­fused then I’m hap­py.”

    I’m with Dredgie.

  9. Great read, and I could­n’t agree more. I like to have a lot to choose from at pubs, and I’m glad that there are more and more that offer a wide vari­ety of beers, but there are times that all I want to do is to go to a pub and order not much more than “pivo” with­out hav­ing to think about it, and know­ing very well what I will get…

  10. Well, a very inter­est­ing set of respons­es to what was, real­ly, just an attempt on our part to chal­lenge our­selves over our use of the word ‘bor­ing’.

    We still think it’s impor­tant to work out where the line lies between *real­ly* char­ac­ter­less beer (there’s anoth­er one…) and beer which is straight­for­ward, polite, etc. etc..

    We don’t want to sug­gest that brew­eries can pro­duce any old rub­bish and it’s up to us to find a way to like it!

    And we still like drink­ing mad, strong, weird beers from time to time…

  11. Great post. Have noth­ing to add to the sen­ti­ments of Dredge, Tand and the rest above, but for once, I think we are all in agree­ment.

    had a pint of Rudgate Ruby Mild at the week­end, in fact, I had three, because it was tast­ing so damn good. Plus you need at least two pints of a mild to get the best of its flavour.

    Not bor­ing, not lack­ing flavour. Just sub­tle and reward­ing.

  12. The orig­i­nal Mrs Par­doe’s home-brewed ale real­ly defined the word “sub­tle” as applied to beer. Batham’s Best Bit­ter is a clas­sic cur­rent exam­ple of the style – and its depth and com­plex­i­ty slow­ly creep up on you.

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  14. I agree with Tan­dle­man’s first com­ment:

    Good stuff. For what it’s worth, “clean” to me is almost a pre­req­ui­site in beer.”

    For me, even a 7% plus hop bomb has to clear away clean­ly – if a beer cloys, with the body itself seem­ing to linger in the mouth, any beer is hard work. To this end, I’d even describe cer­tain bar­ley wines as clean (I’d even say Rochefort 10 is clean – though clear­ly not as lips­mack­ing­ly clean as a gueuze).

    Dif­fi­cult to explain what I mean, but you know it when you see it.

  15. I had a cou­ple of pints of Adnam’s Bit­ter the oth­er night – as stan­dard a vanil­la clas­sic as you could want: polite, mod­er­ate, total­ly unsur­pris­ing and a very nice pint. After that I thought I should branch out & went for a pint of Spit­fire. It was dull as dish­wa­ter (which the head strong­ly resem­bled). I take it all back: there is such a thing as bor­ing brown bit­ter!

  16. Phil – those two beers illus­trate the point real­ly well, I think. Adnams Bit­ter can be bor­ing too, in the wrong pub, but looked after well is the per­fect exam­ple of a brown bit­ter which has char­ac­ter.

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