More on tastebuds

On a recent programme on the Beeb, mad scientist chef Heston Blumenthal, most famous for his bacon and egg ice cream, carried out an interesting experiment on his tastebuds.

He dried them out with a tampon.

Yes, that’s right. He put a ladies’ sanitary product on his tongue, on TV.

It absorbed saliva and, more importantly, a mucus that builds up on the tongue when we eat certain foods, and which interferes with our tastebuds.

He found custard creamier afterward, and other flavours more pronounced.

Now, me and Boak didn’t want to replicate that exactly, but we did try eating some dry white bread when we were tasting a beer that night. And, do you know what? The beer tasted much more intense and we thought we could detect more hop flavour.

Michael Jackson suggested this years ago, but I scoffed, preferring to, er, scoff pork scratchings. Now I know. For “serious” tastings, dry bread (or tampons) it is.

Bailey

D'oh! Stupid tastebuds…

tongue.jpg Yesterday, the BBC reported that wine drinkers tested by scientists thought a wine tasted better when they were told it cost $45 rather than its actual cost of $5.

I thought this was really interesting.

I really don’t think price has ever affected my judgement — it certainly didn’t in the case of pricey Belgian ‘champagne beer’ DEUS.

But I am happy to admit that beers sometimes seem to taste better or worse to me depending on context, presentation and my own expectations.

I suspect that I might be sucker enough to favourably review, say, UK-brewed Fosters, if it was presented to me in a big German stein and I was told it was traditionally brewed in Augsburg.

I’m a marketing man’s dream.

Bailey

More Bottled Beer in Pubs, Please

goose_island_again.jpg We’re lucky in that we can get to the Pembury Tavern from our house in 20 minutes, and two of our nearest pubs serve real ales in good condition (including a regular mild). But last night, that just wasn’t enough for me — I wanted to go to the pub, but I also had a powerful craving for a strong, hoppy IPA1. That’s one of the few styles the Pembury doesn’t stock. Nor does any pub in our area.

Which made me wish that all pubs had as a minimum:

1. A small selection of cask ale in good condition — as much as they can turn over at a reasonable rate, but no more — ideally including a stout other than bloody Guinness.

2. A German or Czech lager on tap.

3. A German or Belgian wheat beer on tap2.

4. A rotating selection of bottled beer in every style not represented on the pumps.

It’s not reasonable to expect every pub to have ten different ales on tap, but bottles are surely the best way for landlords to offer choice without bankrupting themselves. Bottles last a long time; they don’t cost much to store; and they allow pubs to offer oddities which might only appeal to a small section of the market.

It would be nice if I could drink rauchbier, strong IPA, imperial stout, lambic and other ‘acquired-taste’ beers without getting on a train or bus, when one of these uncontrollable cravings overtakes me.

Yes, I guess I’m spoiled. I should just get off my arse, or drink what’s on offer. But I can dream, can’t I?

Bailey

—————-

1 We’d been brewing a strong, hoppy IPA all day — I always want to drink what we’ve been brewing.

2 We were in a pub on New Year’s Eve that had Franziskaner, Paulaner, Schneider and Erdinger wheat beers on tap. Seriously, one brand is enough!

Blog round-up

A couple of things from other blogs that have caught our eye recently.

Wilson at Brewvana has organised a “tasting session to engage women in brewvana”, with six beers tested on women from six decades. It’s a thoroughly good read, with Wilson being slightly surprised by the favourite beer. He then challenges us to organise similar tastings.

I’m still sceptical about there being a difference between male and female tastebuds – I think a lot of the conclusions from tasting would apply to a group of men who didn’t like beer either. Still, quite up for organising some tastings at some point…

Image, and therefore, marketing does have a lot to do with it, a factor Wilson and his tasters discuss, and is discussed at more length in an article by Lew Bryson in Conde Naste.

I think in the UK, real ale is disliked by women for the same reason it’s disliked by men – it’s often too warm, too flat and off. And the sterotypical image of the real ale drinker is the old bearded sexist (rather than the young clean-shaven sexist for mainstream lager…). More on real ale marketing to come in a future post.

On the subject of beer warmth, this seems to be exercising British blogs, especially when it comes to real ale. Stonch plumps for 11 degrees* as does Tandleman. This is slightly cooler than CAMRA recommendations (12-14), and certainly cooler than it’s served in a lot of pubs, especially in the summer. This topic seems to attract a lot of interest, judging by the number of comments. Who said that real ale lovers were anal beer geeks?

I suppose the one thing conclusion that can be drawn is that temperature is a matter of personal taste rather than scientific truth. I’m generally pretty happy between about 8 deg and 12 deg for most ales. Too cold can be a problem, but I’d rather too cold than too warm (it can always warm up!) Except that last night I was drinking Orval in a pub, which was absolutely revolting straight out of the fridge but rather nice when it had warmed up a bit (they recommend 12-14 on the bottle, and who am I to argue with the monks?)

Finally, Tandleman is also plugging the Winter Ales festival in Manchester, ticking off other blogs for not mentioning it. Sorry for our typical southern bias, hope this makes up for it!

Talking of regions – I’ve been offered a job that may mean spending a lot of time in Birmingham. Can anyone advise me on the beer and pub situation there before I accept the offer?

Boak

*That’s in Celsius.  About 52F

Shepherd Neame Porter

shepherd_neame.jpg

The White Horse and Bower on Horseferry Road in London is a pretty decent pub. When I was there last night, I was very impressed by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff, the cosy atmosphere and the condition of the beer.

The main event for me, though, was drinking Shepherd Neame Porter for the first time in about three years.

It’s a completely different beast to Fuller’s London Porter*. SN’s Porter is lighter bodied and, despite the “Winter Hop Ale” tag, I was hardly aware of any hops at all. It’s distinctly mild-like, in fact, although at 4.8%, stronger than it tastes.

If I was feeling less charitable, I might say it was a little bland, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every sip, and wasn’t even remotely tempted to try anything else all night.

It’s great that there are now pubs in London where you can drink dark beer other than Guinness. Now it would just be great if all those Young’s pubs would get the Oatmeal stout on the pumps, or at least back in bottles behind the bar.

* We had Fuller’s London Porter at the Plough in Walthamstow on Monday night. It was supposed to disappear at the end of December, but the landlord has a bit left in his cellar and assured me that Fuller’s also have more in their warehouse, which he’s going to try to get his hands on. It’s tasting very nice now it’s matured a bit more!