Generalisations about beer culture real ale

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 replies on “Perfect Pride and the fear of the shred”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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