Generalisations about beer culture pubs real ale

“It’s Been Like That All Day”

Cartoon: a man peers at a beer with a beady eye.

We were recently in a pub serving a range of beers we know well enough to realise that they’re never supposed to be hazy.

But, of course, the beer we ordered was served with a light haze, Moor-style, which we gently questioned.

“Oh, it’s been like that all day. It probably didn’t quite settle out right before we tapped the cask.”

It was said pleasantly enough, but dismissively — a variation on “Nobody else has complained” crossed with a watered down “It’s meant to be like that”.

Because we did know the beer, and wanted something particular from it — crispness, hop perfume — we pushed back: would it be OK, we wondered, to taste the beer, and if it had a noticeably different character than usual, or wasn’t at least as good despite the difference, have it replaced?

The manager was consulted and everyone agreed (after a bit more time and effort than one drink deserved) that this was a good idea.

Sure enough, it tasted fine — not sour or nasty — but noticeably muted, and rather dull, so we rejected it.

We — knowledgeable consumers, relatively speaking, and confident about speaking up — were able to navigate this situation to reach a satisfactory conclusion, but we can imagine others coming away thinking ill of that beer and brewery, and probably unimpressed with the pub.

But why would the manager make the choice to keep serving a beer they know isn’t right? Incompetence? Indifference? Our suspicion is that it was an unintended consequence of the corporate setup within which the pub operates prioritising the need to minimise wastage over quality.

Others, though, might argue that this is further evidence that increased acceptance of haze in certain beers is causing confusion and justifying shoddiness more generally. If that’s the case then complaining when possible (quietly, politely), making it more trouble than it is worth, might be part of the solution.

6 replies on ““It’s Been Like That All Day””

“this is further evidence that increased acceptance of haze in certain beers is causing confusion and justifying shoddiness more generally”.

Quite right – the point that people such as Tandleman and myself make is not that haze in beer is per se unacceptable, but where beers are intended to be clear (as the vast majority still are), any sign of haze is almost invariably a sign that there’s something wrong with it. Yes, it may be drinkable enough, but the edge has been knocked off it.

It’s a valid point, but it often gets lost in a load of shouting about cloudy beer being incompetently brewed / unappetizing / likely to give you the shits which then gets (justifiably) ignored as being probably wrong, a matter of taste and verifiably wrong respectively.

Who’s doing the shouting? If the beer is deliberately cloudy, is it really so difficult to design a pump clip that makes this clear? If the cloudiness is unintentional (as appears to have been the case in the example), why is the beer on sale?

One of my favorite bars will periodically have a mild line infection on one line. It’s mild enough the average drinker probably just thinks that beer isn’t for them but doesn’t think it’s awful. I’ve politely pointed it out to them every time I’ve noticed it, and they always gently dismiss my objection. I’m a Certified Cicerone, I work with them for beer pairing events, and I’ve done staff training for them, so they know I know what I’m talking about. Very frustrating.

The haze and sour effect have been around for a while now but are increasingly noticeable.

I recently gently pointed out that a beer I know well was slightly acetic (shouldn’t be). Staff member said it had come in like that. I said if I’d been sent it like that I’d send it back to the brewer and explained that I am in the trade myself. All perfectly amicable. The staff member later made a comment about how you never can tell with these unfined beers…

There’s some serious knowledge gap and staff training issues around at the moment. Unfortunately I think the often undeserved hype surrounding some of the genuine sours and murks combined with the poor showing of more traditional styles is making it gradually harder to sell genuinely good beer to people generally. Certainly not impossible, but harder.

It’s definitely muddied the water. I was recently at a craft beer bar when me and a friend got served two opaque pints of cask beer. The second one had bits in so the bar staff immediately took it back but as the first didn’t smell of vinegar they put up a bit of a fight before changing it.

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