Pub life: at the craft beer bar

Keg taps.

Do you mind if we sit here? Guys! Guys! There’s room here! What do you want to drink? Uh, there’s like, one hundred different beers. I don’t… I’m not… Do you..? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, man, that sounds good, I might have the same. Same for you too? Same all round? Cool, cool, three gin-and-tonics, cool, cool…

* * *

Is it OK if we, er… Oh, ta.

Four pound odd for two-thirds of a bloody pint? You’re having me on, aren’t you? Two thirds!

And they’ve a list in there of about fifty bloody beers – do you know how many of them are bitters? None. Not bloody one.

There’s not even a red ale – nothing but pales and IPAs.

And not much under five per cent either, mind you. Ooh, gah, taste that… No, go on, taste it!



It’s not bloody grumble mutter nice grumble slurp…

* * *


I’m a princess.


* * *

Is this OK for you, Dad? Not too cold? It’s OK, is it? If Mum goes… And I’ll sit… Are you sure it’s not too cold? Because we can swap seats if…? No? You’re sure?

Fine, OK, so, who’s having… Sorry, Dad?

Yes, that’s why I asked.

Yes, I know, that’s why I…

Right, fine, everybody up, we’re going inside. Because Dad’s cold. Dad’s cold. No, I wasn’t talking to you, I was telling Mum that you’re cold. No, she’s not cold…

* * *

Are you going to talk to me or just look at your phone? Because if you’re just going to look at your phone I’ll have to start bringing a book with me.

8 replies on “Pub life: at the craft beer bar”

Just here to ask a kind of dumb question… is there a distinction between a bitter and a pale ale? I had never thought there was, but then bitters aren’t something you ever really see in the United States.

Historically ‘pale ale’ meant pretty much the same as ‘bitter’ – which is to say, the name didn’t give you much information about what the beer was actually like, other than it was paler than black coffee, almost certainly between 3% and 5%, and what most people mostly drank most of the time. What you’d actually get when you ordered bitter – or ‘pale ale’, or even ‘IPA’ – depended very much on where you were in the country.

What we now call ‘pale ale’ is the descendant of one regional sub-style of ‘bitter’ – the yellow, sharp, heavily hopped, intensely bitter style found in Sheffield and Manchester, and in west Yorkshire and south Lancashire more broadly. But for most people, in most of the country, that’s not what ‘bitter’ meant (means?); ‘bitter’ is much more typically mid- to darkish brown, with a dense malty body backed by tannic bitterness or caramel sweetness – or sometimes both – and not much in the way of aroma.

I was interested to see the (overheard?) reference to red ale as a possible synonym for bitter. I’d never heard of ‘red ale’ before about ten years ago, and I’m still not quite sure what it’s meant to be – the few examples I’ve had have been red-brown to look at but aromatic hop-bombs to taste.

Thanks Phil, very helpful! The more I learn about beer styles the more reductive and harmful the BJCP approach seems. (If you don’t know, that’s a U.S. organization that publishes style guidelines for purposes of homebrewing competitions.)

I think the main distinction between bitter and pale ale to the average drinker these days is that the latter contains American hops.

Think I read that, traditionally, some brewers simply used the term ‘pale ale’ for bottled bitter beer. These were often a very similar brew to what they sold as ‘bitter’ in cask.

Phil – we guess what he had in mind was something like Yakima Red from Meantime which sometimes pops up in pubs that don’t otherwise have anything even remotely brownish.

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