A New Axis: Classic | Standard | New-Local

A pint of beer.

Where are we in the cycle? At the point where seeing Elland 1872 Porter, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Thornbridge Jaipur, Fyne Ales Jarl, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted and Bank Top Mild on offer in our local is tremendously exciting — that’s where.

Andy Hamilton, who writes about booze and foraging, and foraging for booze, is promoting a book and convinced the Drapers Arms to hold a mini festival featuring some of the beers it mentions.

The Drapers has a pretty serious commitment to local beers, listing distance travelled for each beer, and average distance for the entire list, on the menu blackboard.

In fact, that’s a trend reflected across Bristol: it’s not unusual to walk into a pub and find the whole beer list made up of beers from within the city boundaries.

The beer list at the Drapers Arms.

That can be great — we’ve discovered some impressive West Country breweries this way, and it’s certainly fuelling the Bristol brewery boom — but is also mildly frustrating.

Let’s consider Jaipur. It’s a beer that’s well into its second decade and has gained the status of a classic. In bottles, it’s reasonably easy to find in supermarkets. But how often do we get to drink it on cask? Twice, maybe three times a year? And that’s mostly in Wetherspoon pubs.

Old Peculier is another beer we’ve encountered on cask only a handful of times in more than a decade of beer blogging, and which we’re hoping will still be on when we pop round to the Drapers after posting this. We felt a genuine thrill when we saw the A-board outside the pub announcing its arrival last night.

All this has made us think that as well as our longstanding wish for more pubs to make a point of having one of each colour (brown, yellow, black) perhaps there ought to be another axis: big classic + standard + local/new.

We can imagine going into a pub with that kind of mix and starting on the classic, trying the newcomer, and then deciding where to stick for a third round depending on how the first two tasted.

In the meantime (this kind of thing is always fun) what’s your suggestion for a line-up which covers brown/yellow/black and classic/standard/local-new?

Old Peculier, London Pride and Bristol Beer Factory Nova would do us nicely, for example.

5 thoughts on “A New Axis: Classic | Standard | New-Local”

  1. Depends what’s “allowable” in each category. Can see much argument as to whether something is a ‘standard’ or a ‘classic’; or how long a beer has had to be around before it moves from ‘new’ to ‘classic’ :-).
    Skinners Betty Stogs or Harvey’s Sussex Best – standard / brown. Am lucky to have two reasonably local pubs, one with Betty Stogs, the other with Sussex Best, always on, and which keep them in great condition.
    Blue Monkey Infinity or Burning Sky Aurora – yellow / new.
    Elland 1872 Porter (or Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby if it sneaks in on the colour chart!) – classic / black.

    Local is a little more problematic. Have some good breweries in Hertfordshire, but (IMO) no great ones. Favourite go to beer brewed within the county is Mad Squirrel’s London Porter, but that would throw out the above listings – new / black.

  2. I’ve given up on my local (N London) craft place because of its fetishisation of the new & weird. They’ve dropped the one reliable local brewery they used to stock in favour of their own homebrew, which tastes as if it’s made by someone who’s never actually drunk or enjoyed real ale.

  3. Yeah, I’m always quite excited when I go into a pub and actually see something I think of as “classic” rather than the usual array of variably shonky local trad micros. And it happens depressingly seldom.

    I wonder how much of this is economics, though? The gossip I hear locally is that the SLTMs sell casks at seriously bargain basement prices and the local real ale crowd are happy enough with them to keep buying it, so why is a landlord going to pay a premium for something like Summer Lightning, Jaipur or Old Peculiar?

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