Imagined Richness

A half of mild ale.

Why is it that our mouths water at the mention of a XXX mild from 1959 even when it is accompanied by notes underlining its sweet, watery weakness?

What power of nostalgia is it that makes us imagine a beer from 60 years ago will taste more exciting than the same kind of beers today?

We suppose it’s because, being unattainable, it stands in for every pint of mild in history, or rather the ideal pint of mild, in ideal condition, served in the ideal pub, in ideal company.

The imagination tends towards perfection, constructing composites from only happy memories.

In reality, if we had the wherewithal to travel back to Suffolk at the dawn of the 1960s, there’s every chance we’d find ourselves confronted with mediocre pints, or even a nasty ones.

And, underwhelmed, we’d yearn for the good old days.

11 thoughts on “Imagined Richness”

  1. Why is it that our mouths water at the mention of a XXX mild from 1959? Nostalgia. If we had a TARDIS, I expect that we would dislike nearly all the beer in 1959. As I wrote on my own blog, unlike other facets of life, for real ale there is no Golden Age to look back upon nostalgically – it is now.

  2. Ah, the beer back then might be thin and watery, but it was the only beer in the pub and everyone was drinking it. And you know what? They were fine with it.

    It’s not the beer you’re nostalgic for, it’s the contentment.

  3. Lot of truth that Phil but within limits we were discerning. If someone suggested a Whitbread pub folks bristled at it.
    I was often content with a few pints of Greenalls and the company of pub men and women. Happier days in many ways. Beer without angst.

    1. We used to call Greenall’s bitter gnat’s pee, when I worked in Chester in the 80s, but we got through enough of it.

      For a long time – even into the 00s – I thought the taste of a beer was something you picked up gradually, so that you didn’t really appreciate the beer you were drinking until you were into the second pint. The unintended consequence of this approach, of course, is that by the time you’re into the second pint of anything it will probably have started tasting good, and even if it hasn’t the world will have started looking like a nicer place. So tasting in volume isn’t the way to a discerning palate – but it does give you a chance to appreciate beers that are made for downing in pints, which is not a bad thing.

  4. Could an element of it be that very common phenomenon I find amongst beer aficionados that it’s another white whale to chase? And even more difficult than say your Westvleterens or Plinies, given no-one even brews such beer anymore.

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