Beer styles The Session

Session #124: Late, Lamented Loves

A man melodramatically lamenting his lost love.

David Bardallis (@allthebrews) at All The Brews Fit to Pint is hosting this month and the topic is ‘favourite beers that are no longer in production but you still pine for’.

This was a fun subject to chew over in the pub last night. The first beer that came to mind was local brewery St Austell’s short-lived 1913 stout. Strong by cask ale standards and historically-inspired it unfortunately didn’t sell and slowly morphed into Mena Dhu — still great but a much tamer product. We’d go out of our way for a pint of 1913 which isn’t something we can say of many beers.

Another one that we always loved is Chiswick, Fuller’s light, bracing ordinary bitter. It’s become a seasonal which probably means it will disappear altogether before long, like Hock, the same brewery’s lesser-spotted mild, which we did get to try once or twice but haven’t seen since 2009.

The label for Meantime/Sainsbury's Munich Festbier.
From 2004. SOURCE: Justin Mason (@1970sBOY)

We also thought fondly of the bottled beers Meantime brewed for Sainsbury’s in the early 2000s. Were they great beers? It’s hard for us to say with all these years passed. We certainly enjoyed them, though, a lot, time and again. When we were just feeling our way into becoming beer geeks they made it cheap and easy to try examples of obscure European styles such as Vienna lager and Kölsch. They were fun, too — 330ml bottles designed for pouring into fancy glassware but also perfect for taking to barbecues and parties, when we still did that kind of thing.

Another Meantime brew we pine for is Golden Beer which we first tried in about 2003 and loved so much we went back to the brewery’s pub in Greenwich multiple times just to drink it. We didn’t know enough about beer then to really understand what we were drinking, and certainly didn’t take notes, but we think it must have been some kind of bock. When they stopped producing it, we were confused and dismayed — perhaps the first time we were ever made to feel emotions by a beer?

Overall, though, this was a surprisingly difficult exercise. Not many beers that we’ve loved have gone out of production. If anything, products like Goose Island IPA and BrewDog Punk — of enduring appeal rather than passing novelty — have headed the other way, towards mass production and household name status. The market seems to be doing a pretty good job on this front.

But the next five years could be interesting with the health of beers such as Harvey’s Mild looking distinctly fragile, and breweries selling up with alarming frequency. Let’s see how we feel in 2022.

7 replies on “Session #124: Late, Lamented Loves”

I loved that Meantime FestLager and also the North German Pils they did on draught; the example of the delicious Chiswick is interesting. I recall Richard Fuller saying to me about 10 years ago that it was going on the back burner because of slow sales, it is also one of John Keeling’s favourite beers, it’s just holding on though. One beer I recall that I loved and now lament is Adnams Extra, which was stopped in 2000 and then briefly returned as a one-off around about 2011. It was just lovely.

Here’s a blog post from several years ago about my most lamented lost pint:

I might add Tetley’s Bitter to the list; arguably it’s not lost, but it’s certainly not the same these days. Tetley Imperial, Marston’s Merrie Monk, Timothy Taylor’s Porter, and Higson’s Bitter, a beer that I think would do very nicely these days. Nothing particularly obscure, but interesting beers, the passing of which made the beer scene a little poorer.

Agree with you about Tetley’s Bitter – now not even a shadow of its former self. The same applies in spades to Boddington’s Bitter, the modern insipid version of which can be found in keg form all over the country. When it was available on hand pump in Lancashire it was the most distinctive bitter in the country and definitely worth going out of your way for. An absolute joy to drink.

Then Whitbread acquired the brand, and the rest is misery.

We were fans of 1913 ourselves and actually had out last bottle only last weekend, only 3 years after the best before date. DIPA it isn’t!
Still, it was great!

I too miss those “Taste the Difference” beers which Meantime brewed for Sainsbury’s. I wonder why they were discontinued?

I also agree with Adrian with regard to Adnams Extra. It was a far better beer than Broadside, with a distinctive bitterness and real hop character. To this day, I can’t understand why the brewery axed it.

The beer whose loss I most lament though, is Fremlin’s Bitter; as brewed by Whitbread at their Faversham plant (formerly George Beer & Rigden). The beer had a wonderful hop character, set off against a background of rich juicy malt, so it’s hard to believe it was only 3.5% in strength.

This was the beer I grew up with, and the beer I consumed umpteen pints of in the village pub, which was just 10 minutes walk from my parent’s house. A true Kentish bitter, served with virtually no head, straight from the cask at the aforementioned pub, but a beer bursting with flavour and full of condition. Definitely a “Desert Island” beer.

Other half says St Austell ‘Cornish Cream’ . Lovely smooth mild that was a great thirst quencher. Think it shows up now and again as XXXX mild,was also Black Prince (?) I think.

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