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. I’m sure the beer in Suf­folk in 1959 was the nec­tar of the gods! Now, if we went to a pub in Nor­folk…

  5. Maybe in 1959 Suf­folk drinkers were han­ker­ing after that new-fan­gled keg beer because the tra­di­tion­al draught was so often poor…

  6. 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.

    1. That’s a good sug­ges­tion. There is def­i­nite­ly an ele­ment of that.

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