Perfect Pride and the fear of the shred

Last night at our local, The Drapers Arms, we enjoyed perfect London Pride: solid foam, dry bitterness, a subtle note of leafy green, wrapped in marmalade, with a lantern glow.

Delight­ful as this was, it also trig­gered a sense of frus­tra­tion, because lots of peo­ple won’t believe us, because they don’t believe that Pride can be that good, because they’ve nev­er had a pint that isn’t half-dead.

The thing about beer, and cask ale espe­cial­ly, is that all the sub­tle vari­ables make rec­om­mend­ing or endors­ing any par­tic­u­lar prod­uct a risky busi­ness.

It’s as if you’ve told peo­ple about a great song…

…and then when they try to act on your advice and lis­ten to it they get, nine times out of ten, the shred:

Or like giv­ing a film five stars but the only ver­sion on the mar­ket is the stu­dio cut, pan-and-scan, VHS-trans­fer with burned in Dutch sub­ti­tles.

That’s why these days we tend to talk about spe­cif­ic pints or encoun­ters rather than say­ing “Pride is a great beer” or “Trib­ute is fan­tas­tic”.

Or, alter­na­tive­ly, give mild endorse­ments with mul­ti­ple caveats.

The best you can hope for, real­ly, is that a beer will more often be good than bad when peo­ple encounter it in the wild.

A foot­note: The Drap­ers had Pride’s beer miles list­ed as 6,120. It’s not as if it’s being brewed in Japan in the wake of the takeover, of course, but own­er­ship mat­ters.

8 thoughts on “Perfect Pride and the fear of the shred”

  1. Coun­ter­point: Sus­sex Best is almost always amaz­ing. I’ve nev­er had a less than stel­lar Trib­ute, for that mat­ter. I think some cask beers have an in-built robust­ness that helps off­set the vagaries of the dis­pense.

    1. I’ve cer­tain­ly had dull Trib­ute. In fact I can’t think of a pint of Trib­ute I’ve had out­side Corn­wall that has­n’t been at least rather dull – if you can have degrees of dull­ness. I don’t dis­agree about Sus­sex Best, though, and back on the St Austell front, can’t remem­ber a duff pint of Prop­er Job.
      Pride is a real­ly nice beer when at its best. We had a bar in town that only had Pride on on cask, and it was always very good. We had it on for some time at the rug­by club, and like­wise, it was always excel­lent. Oth­er local out­lets were a lot more hit and miss.

      1. Agree about Prop­er Job – one of most robust beers have come across at stand­ing up to and sur­viv­ing the some­times less than ten­der mer­cies of pubs which aren’t real­ly that inter­est­ed in cask ale.

  2. Every beer can be ruined by poor cel­lar­man­ship. Yes, some do seem more robust than oth­ers, Land­lord seem­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly del­i­cate, but to what extent is that sim­ply the out­lets stock­ing them? Warm, stale Sus­sex Best is hard­ly any bet­ter than warm, stale any­thing else.

    1. That’s plain­ly true, but I’ve nev­er found any­where sell­ing warm stale Sus­sex Best; strikes me that most places sell­ing it out of the heart­land do so because they care about beer.

      It’s true about Land­lord. For many years, I nev­er had a bad pint of it, large­ly because I was drink­ing it on home turf, and even when I moved to Edin­burgh, it was still well kept at my alter­na­tive local.
      But round here, it’s sel­dom great these days. Even the oth­er night, in a pub serv­ing excel­lent Prop­er Job, the pint of Land­lord I had was very aver­age. Not bad, but not at all what it’s sup­posed to be; very lack­ing in char­ac­ter. The Prop­er Job did make up for that, and that expe­ri­ence large­ly influ­enced my ear­li­er post.

  3. My intro­duc­tion to Har­vey’s was on the fringes of the home­land and I did­n’t real­ly get it, it just seemed anoth­er rather dull brown beer. Where­as now Best at the Harp is one of my stan­dard rec­om­men­da­tions to Lon­don tourists if they want to get what cask is all about – along with Old Peculi­er at the Muse­um Tav­ern. They’re both handy for where tourists tend to go, and you can rely on them being on the bar and being in decent nick. That’s a rare com­bi­na­tion.

    It’s a shame that eg the Euston Tap does­n’t have some­thing like Mar­ble Pint or Track Sono­ma on as a per­ma­nent beer, they have the through­put but some­times their beer choice can be a bit of a lot­tery and it would be nice to have a reli­able place to send peo­ple look­ing for a more mod­ern take on cask. Even the Harp did­n’t get Pint right when I last had it there, it was woe­ful­ly under­con­di­tioned.

    It’s tough though as the splin­ter­ing of the tie means that brew­eries lose some of the incen­tive to mon­i­tor qual­i­ty if they’re only going to sell the odd firkin to a pub. Par­tic­u­lar­ly for a brew­ery like Tim Tay­lor who are look­ing to grow, because you end up hav­ing to send your beer through third-par­ty dis­trib­u­tors and lose a lot of con­trol over where they end up – and Land­lord in par­tic­u­lar seems to end up in places that like the qual­i­ty box it ticks, but don’t always know how to look after it. But to be fair to them TT seem to delib­er­ate­ly mon­i­tor social media and fol­low up on crit­i­cism of cel­lar­work, and will send a BDM round to have a word if required – they’ve done it in response to my posts and I’ve seen them do it with oth­ers. Land­lord’s tough, inex­pe­ri­enced staff don’t realise how much time it needs in the cel­lar, but if you only get it in occa­sion­al­ly then it’s hard for them to know that.

  4. I find it iron­ic that two such tem­pera­men­tal beers (Pride & Land­lord) are so wide­ly avail­able across the UK and suf­fer from high­ly vari­able cel­lar­ing skills & cask turnover issues. I guess it’s the com­merce ver­sus art conun­drum in a nut­shell.

    A man­ag­er at a well known Fuller’s pub told me dur­ing an “open cel­lar” event there that he was allowed to throw away any Pride once a cask had been on for three days, though he rarely had to do this. Shame all pubs sell­ing it aren’t able to do this!

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