Researching, reading and writing about the history of beer can feel rather remote from the important business of actually drinking the stuff but, nonetheless, it has made us crave some very specific beers.
We want to drink Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the California sun, ripe with Cascades, with yeast ‘an inch thick in the bottom of the bottle’, and flavour so powerful we can ‘taste it on the bus home’.
We’d like pints of Marston’s Pedigree in Burton on Trent, bursting with orange aroma, and so profoundly brilliant that they seem to make time stand still.
Or how about a shared four pint stoneware jug of the local brew on a village green in Cheshire?
Timothy Taylor Landlord, tasting of grapefruit and tangerine, without having been near a ‘New World’ hop, would hit the spot.
Actually, what would be perfect is several jars of palate-stripping, bone-dry Young’s Bitter — too much for most people to handle — or of a similarly grown-up-tasting Boddington’s.
The problem is, few of these beers exist any more. Yeast strains have been ‘cleaned up’, bitterness levels have been reduced, and breweries have closed, moved or been refitted. All that remains, in most cases, is the name, and whispers of the flavours and aromas which once inspired people. Some of these beers are, today, embalmed corpses.
Fortunately, there are living, exciting beers — descendents of those listed above — which we can drink. You can’t, after all, get much flavour from a trademark, but the spirit lives on.