Bland is fine, homogeneous a problem

Three slices

In the past, we’ve been guilty of snip­ing at spe­cif­ic beers that annoy us with their bland­ness, but we now think that’s prob­a­bly the wrong thing to fret over.

In April 1972, con­sumer mag­a­zine Which? sur­veyed the most pop­u­lar keg bit­ters on the British mar­ket.

…none smelled very strong­ly in the glass – none was either unpleas­ant or very pleas­ant. As far as taste went, the over­whelm­ing impres­sion of our tasters was that none of the keg bit­ters had any very char­ac­ter­is­tic taste… we also car­ried out a stan­dard lab­o­ra­to­ry test for hop – bit­ter­ness. These results con­firmed how sim­i­lar the keg beers were.

The prob­lem here is the sim­i­lar­i­ty between the prod­ucts.

What we, as con­sumers, need to be wary of is a homo­ge­neous mar­ket which offers us no real choice. Bland keg bit­ters might not be to your taste, but it’s no bad thing that they exist as part of a var­ied land­scape which also includes stronger, dark­er, lighter, more flow­ery, lagered, Bel­gian, Amer­i­can and down­right wacky beers.

We haven’t yet seen an orig­i­nal copy of Which? from April 1972 but, for­tu­nate­ly, Christo­pher Hutt quotes from this arti­cle at length in his The Death of the Eng­lish Pub (1973).

Pic­ture from Flickr Cre­ative Com­mons: Three Slices by Nick Salt­marsh.

3 thoughts on “Bland is fine, homogeneous a problem”

  1. This is exact­ly right! Do you think this varies between Keg and Cask ale? I have found late­ly that the wider dis­trib­uted cask beers – out­side the extremes of huge flow­ery pale beers and pitch-black stouts – tend towards a sim­i­lar drink. Is this a coin­ci­dence?

    Also, could this have any­thing to do with the death of the Mild?

  2. I think it has quite a lot to do with the death of the Mild. It seems to me that when brew­eries moved to pro­mot­ing one of their pre­mi­um bit­ters as their flag­ship brand, that became the one that got the adver­tis­ing and the dis­tri­b­u­tion around the coun­try. Since most peo­ple don’t like their beer too bit­ter, these bit­ters then got dumb­ed down to match the palate of peo­ple who would have been hap­pi­er drink­ing Mild, had it been offered to them. That’s my the­o­ry.

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