The Decent Pint

Ansell's Mild beer mat (detail)

These days, it seems, every wed­ding has to be a fairy tale; every book a best-sell­ing tour de force; and every glass of beer a ten-out-often life-chang­ing expe­ri­ence.

This is anoth­er exam­ple of the infla­tion of expec­ta­tion that has tak­en place in the last fifty years: what ear­ly beer con­sumer cam­paign­ers want­ed was a ‘decent pint’, i.e. one that was­n’t ‘lousy’. That’s a pret­ty mod­est demand.

You might say it shows a lack of ambi­tion – why aim for mere­ly ‘decent’? What’s the point, when you could reach for the sky, chase your dreams, be all you can be, and so on?

With­out highs and lows, on a diet of con­stant mind-blow­ing bril­liance, it’s easy to lose per­spec­tive, and for a beer which is tru­ly excel­lent by any objec­tive stan­dard to elic­it from jad­ed palates only that mono­syl­lab­ic response which sums up the age: ‘Meh.’

20 thoughts on “The Decent Pint”

  1. when­ev­er I start think­ing like this, I bear in mind how my per­cep­tion of ‘beer cul­ture’ is warped a lit­tle by the micro­cosm of twit­ter and blogs. Peo­ple will gen­er­al­ly tweet about the interesting/crazy/limited edi­tion beer they tried because of the shiny new­ness of it all – and per­haps a lit­tle one-upman­ship (in a good way), too.
    They won’t men­tion the per­fect­ly enjoy­able, well-kept pint of some­thing well-known that they had at lunch or the crate of some­thing refresh­ing for a sum­mer bar­be­cue with friends. It has no appeal to cer­tain com­men­ta­tors, but doen­s’t mean that they don’t enjoy it. Same applies to food­ies, too. Per­son­al­ly, I like bal­ance, but that shows in my taste for what sites I read, if we’re talk­ing online. If you per­son­al­ly met every­one you read either on twit­ter or on blogs, I’m sure you’d have a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive (I hope so, any­way!)

    1. That’s true – we’ve made that very point our­selves, in fact, and don’t blog about the day-to-day pints of Trib­ute or Spin­go.

  2. For the vast major­i­ty of beer drinkers, of course, a decent, reli­able pint is exact­ly what they are after. The beer blog­gers who take a wider view (your­selves, obvi­ous­ly, and Tan­dle­man imme­di­ate­ly springs to mind too) recog­nise this. How­ev­er, in some quar­ters there is a ten­den­cy to sug­gest that noth­ing is worth drink­ing unless it is new, inno­v­a­tive, cut­ting edge, chal­leng­ing etc. which does tend to pro­mote the impres­sion of blog­gers being divorced from the ordi­nary drinker.

    Ah good, you’ve sort­ed out fol­low-up com­ments by e‑mail as well 🙂

    1. Yes, we worked out how to do sub­scrip­tions, fol­lows, com­ment noti­fi­ca­tion, etc. It’s tak­en long enough! We now await the first email from some­one telling us it does­n’t work on their device/browser…

      I sus­pect that the vast major­i­ty of drinkers don’t even want a decent pint – they want a refresh­ing one, per­haps, and one that isn’t too notice­ably bad. Or maybe that’s what ‘decent’ means? (No judge­ment implied: a view on how the mar­ket ‘seg­ments’ in rela­tion to ‘dis­cern­ment’ is form­ing, though.)

      1. Does­n’t work on my phone…

        It seems to me that the goal of CAMRA, all those years ago, was a Britain where you could go into any pub and get a decent pint – which I think they (and I) would define as a cask ale in good nick. (A good pint would be as above, but with a bit more flavour than Spit­fire, say.) We’re not there yet.

        1. Gah. It does­n’t work as in it screws every­thing up, or just that that func­tion isn’t avail­able to you? (Can live with the lat­ter.)

          1. Sor­ry, that’s “does­n’t work” as in “I’ve nev­er had the Inter­web in my pock­et and don’t intend to start now”. (It would­n’t be safe, sure­ly. It might go off.)

            The fun­ny thing is, I was a rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly adopter of Net-stuff – I remem­ber when busi­ness cards rou­tine­ly had at least two email address­es, because you’d pick up your Com­puserve mail by sign­ing on to Com­puserve, and so on. I was already doing social net­work­ing (or “going online and talk­ing bol­locks” as we used to call it) when John Major was in pow­er. But walk­ing talk­ing phones… no mate. Can’t be doing with that at all. If I can make calls and send texts, that’s plen­ty for me. (Also saves me ridicu­lous amounts of mon­ey. Is a mobile con­tract the new smok­ing habit?)

            Any­way, sor­ry to wor­ry you – noth­ing wrong with the site on the phone front. Prob­a­bly. I would­n’t know real­ly.

  3. I sus­pect that the vast major­i­ty of drinkers don’t even want a decent pint — they want a refresh­ing one, per­haps, and one that isn’t too notice­ably bad. Or maybe that’s what ‘decent’ means?”

    Do you want food that isn’t notice­ably bad? Or a new pair of shoes, or vac­u­um clean­er, or what­ev­er? I think that is an unlike­ly spec­u­la­tion about what decent might or might not mean, or what most drinkers actu­al­ly want. Decent, in most sens­es, giv­en British under­state­ment, will mean “good” to most peo­ple.

    1. Yes, it’s a spec­u­la­tion. (So is your guess at whether it’s unlike­ly or not, though…) I was think­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly about a pub in the vil­lage where we used to live where quite a few of the reg­u­lars drank Carls­berg. One night, I was real­ly hot and thirsty, and it looked so refresh­ing, that I ordered a pint. It was bad – as in, stale, quite apart from its intrin­sic qual­i­ties. But it was cold and effer­ves­cent, and no-one else seemed to have any prob­lem at all drink­ing it.

  4. Adnams Ghost Ship, 4 cans for £5 from Tescos.

    The prob­lem I have is that what a lot of peo­ple describe as a “decent pint” is actu­al­ly hor­ri­ble. A “decent pint” of Greene King IPA tastes like mud, there is noth­ing remote­ly decent about it. There are less pubs in this coun­try that sell an actu­al decent pint than the ones that do. Iron­i­cal­ly, sell­ing a decent pint is in itself an inno­v­a­tive and orig­i­nal step for a pub to take.

    1. A decent pint of Greene King IPA is actu­al­ly rea­son­ably drink­able – it’s just that find­ing a decent one is so rare. It’s quite appro­pri­ate in this con­text as I think part of the prob­lem is that it’s over-sold – it’s an (very) ordi­nary bit­ter heav­i­ly pro­mot­ed and try­ing to com­pete with pre­mi­um bit­ters.

  5. Yes, com­ment sub­scrip­tions at last! No longer will I miss any sarky/ inter­est­ing respons­es to my com­ments!

  6. Last Sat­ur­day I had a ses­sion in Don­cast­er drink­ing Acorn Barns­ley Bit­ter. A good hon­est well brewed pint that I’d be hap­py to drink all the time if it was avail­able in Wirral. Knocks spots off those fan­cy ‘grape­fruit’ IPAs.

    1. Ansel­l’s? The Yacht Inn, Pen­zance! Well, kind of – it’s on keg and kind of watery, but some­one, some­where is turn­ing out a litlte bit every now and then.

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