Happy Talk at the Eden Project

The tent where we gave our talks at the Eden Project.

For a second year running, we were invited to speak at the Eden Project’s harvest food festival.

Quite apart from the fact that it makes us feel all pro­fes­sion­al and ‘beer writery’, it is an inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to talk to peo­ple who are inter­est­ed in beer, with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly being obsessed.

We tast­ed St Austell 1913 Stout while dis­cussing the his­to­ry of porter; and Orval and St Austell Prop­er Job while talk­ing about India Pale Ale. We chose the two St Austell beers because we know them well and like them, and to avoid any trou­ble get­ting suf­fi­cient sup­ply; with Orval to add a bit of vari­ety, and to illus­trate rough­ly what an ear­ly nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry IPA might have been like after mat­u­ra­tion.

The audi­ences, were, gen­er­al­ly, indif­fer­ent to the stout, either because they were Guin­ness drinkers and found it too dif­fer­ent; or because they were Guin­ness haters who found it too sim­i­lar. Either way, Guin­ness’s dom­i­nance of what ‘stout’ means to peo­ple was under­lined.

We expect­ed Orval, which took us a long time to ‘get’, to pro­voke some dis­gust and amuse­ment. To our sur­prise, it was gen­er­al­ly very pop­u­lar, with peo­ple not­ing  a gin­gery flavour we had­n’t pre­vi­ous­ly picked up. (‘Spicy’ yeast?) A Bel­gian cou­ple in the audi­ence helped us out by explain­ing that, back home, Orval is regard­ed as a Tripel, despite it’s scant resem­blance to, say, West­malle’s.

Prop­er Job divid­ed the audi­ence. Younger mem­bers and a cou­ple of vet­er­an CAMRA mem­bers loved it, and espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed its big, flow­ery aro­ma. Many oth­ers found it too boozy (at 5.5%), and rather over-the-top in its aro­ma: air-fresh­en­er was men­tioned.

A use­ful real­i­ty check all round.

1. Why don’t people drink more mild?

With suit­able dis­claimers (we had­n’t researched this in advance) we answered that we thought it was down to (a) the age and back­ground of beer enthu­si­asts at the height of the ‘real ale rev­o­lu­tion’ in the nine­teen-sev­en­ties and eight­ies; (b) a vicious cir­cle of qual­i­ty and demand, i.e. it was used as a repos­i­to­ry for ‘slops’, or was sim­ply bland bit­ter with caramel colour­ing; and © a vicious cir­cle of avail­abil­i­ty and demand – no one drinks it, so no one sells it, so no one drinks it.

(How did we do?)

2. If I held a gun to your head, what would you say would be your favourite beer in the world?

First, we asked the gen­tle­man in ques­tion to calm down and put his gun away: ‘There’s no need for any­body to get hurt – we can just talk and work this thing out.’

Beer writ­ers must be used to get­ting asked this but we weren’t ready for it. For­tu­nate­ly, we were able to refer to our ‘beer of the year’ for last year, but also reflect­ed that, after two weeks in Ger­many, we came back des­per­ate for a pint of Potion 9 at the Star Inn, so maybe that.

As last year, this was a pay­ing gig, and Eden pro­vid­ed the beers as per our shop­ping list. Books, hops and malt mod­el’s own.

16 thoughts on “Happy Talk at the Eden Project”

  1. That’s an inter­est­ing obser­va­tion about Prop­er Job and I think the main rea­son that Hawk­shead­’s Win­der­mere Pale did­n’t make it through to the Grand Final of the recent Sains­bury’s Great British Beer Hunt. I think that that kind of man­go­tas­tic flavour­ful beer, was maybe a touch too much for some of the more con­ser­v­a­tive beer buy­ing pub­lic. Hav­ing said that, if it had been in any oth­er region, it would have pro­gressed.

  2. When I made a mild for May it sold more slow­ly than new beers usu­al­ly did. Many pubs would­n’t touch mild at all, say­ing it just did­n’t sell, but in pubs that did take mild it sold well.

    The con­clu­sion I reached was peo­ple who like mild real­ly like it, but there aren’t many of them.

    1. I love a drop of mild, but not in May. In May I want to be on the wheat beers, the pale and hop­py beers and the like. Now, if it was March on the oth­er hand…

  3. A cou­ple that have real­ly sur­prised and impressed me this year have been milds. Con­se­quent­ly, I now buy a mild when­ev­er I see one on sale, which isn’t often

  4. I like mild as a style, but I’m some­times wary of tak­ing a punt on an unknown mild – a bland bit­ter is just bland, but a bland dark mild (last para­graph) is active­ly unpleas­ant.

    Some peo­ple – par­tic­u­lar­ly in the North­west – just real­ly like it pale. (Even mild – I’ve seen Tim­o­thy Tay­lor’s Gold­en Best in a lot more places than their dark mild.) I ordered a guest dark mild at the Mar­ble Beer­house once; the bar­man asked me when I want­ed to come back and drink the oth­er 71 pints.

  5. I have fond mem­o­ries of Banks’s Mild from my stu­dent days and would like to drink more mild, but you don’t see it as much as bit­ter, gold­en ales etc. Last pint I had was in poor con­di­tion, alas.

  6. You’re prob­a­bly ask­ing the wrong crowd (ie us) about Mild! For me, it’s prob­a­bly a mix of all of the above – the drab name (like ‘ordi­nary’ or ‘plain’ bit­ter – hard­ly sets the pulse rac­ing), lack of inter­est lead­ing to a lack of brew­ers actu­al­ly both­er­ing to make decent, wel-thought out, tasty milds. No doubt some­one will make one short­ly that might burst a bub­ble and get peo­ple think­ing about it again (see also sours)…but yeah, peo­ple don’t real­ly get it. I can’t even recall the last time I *saw* a mild on the bar.
    As for the favourite beer ques­tion – get ready to be asked it a lot more when you do inter­views and stuff for the book. I don’t mind it; it shows peo­ple are lis­ten­ing and if it leads them to go out and buy it- what­ev­er it may be – then that’s good.

      1. No, I haven’t. Odd­ly, I had this con­ver­sa­tion not so long ago. For a long, long time now, it’s remained quite high on my ‘must-try’ beers. That’s the kin­da guy I am.…

        1. Nor us, and for two years run­ning now, we’ve been cor­nered after our Eden talks by mid­lan­ders telling us we *must*. Maybe we should organ­ise a beer blog­gers’ expe­di­tion?

          1. I had it in Wolver­hamp­ton; I described it as a ses­sion-strength tripel. It’s unusu­al but very more-ish.

  7. Most of the pubs I go in in Cam­bridge, Lin­coln or Not­ting­ham have a reg­u­lar mild pump and it always seems extreme­ly pop­u­lar. Maybe not lik­ing mild is a north­ern thing?

    1. Holt’s, Lees’, Hyde’s, Robin­son’s and Tim­o­thy Tay­lor’s have eight reg­u­lar milds between them, so I don’t think that can be it. On the oth­er hand, only two or three* of those are actu­al­ly sold under the name of ‘mild’, so maybe it’s that that peo­ple don’t go for.

      *Holt’s Mild, TT’s Dark Mild and pos­si­bly Hyde’s Light Mild, although I’ve only seen it once.

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