100 WORDS: A Warning to the Curious

Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

A busy pub in Sheffield on Saturday night, and a line of hand-pumps from here to the horizon.

We order a pint of this one, and a half of that one, then spot the oth­er one which we’ve been want­i­ng to try out of aca­d­e­m­ic curios­i­ty.

Oh, actu­al­ly, can you make it a half of [REDACTED].”

The per­son behind the bar hes­i­tates, glances, and says qui­et­ly (yet some­how audi­ble over the hub­bub):

Sure?”

Not good?”

A slight wrin­kle of the nose con­veys every­thing we need to know.

Ah, right, scratch that.”

A con­spir­a­to­r­i­al nod – good move, well done, smart choice.

100 Words: In Love With Tripel

Illustration: a Belgian tripel in the glass.

We keep thinking about Belgian Tripels.

We’ve said that West­malle Tripel is, with­out doubt or debate, so shut up, the best beer in the world.

But maybe Tripel is the best style.

A good Tripel demon­strates how a beer can be bal­anced with­out being bland or pal­try. Sweet­ness reined in by bit­ter­ness, rich­ness met by high car­bon­a­tion, with spice and spicy yeast pulling it all togeth­er.

Com­plex with­out dra­ma. Sub­tly lux­u­ri­ous. Afford­able art.

Yes, very afford­able: you can still buy some of the high­est-regard­ed exam­ples for less than three quid a bot­tle, and a suit­able glass for not much more.

100 Words: Beer Strictly for the Geophages

Illustration: mud texture.

We’ll take murky beer but not muddy.

Murk is usu­al­ly super­fi­cial, but some­times soft­en­ing, some­times silky. It leaves room for oth­er flavours. Light likes it.

Mud is taste and tex­ture. It is dirt, the riverbed stirred up – chew­able, unclean, silt between the teeth.

Mud is why you leave carp to swim in a clean bath before eat­ing it – one degree away from… Well, you know.

Beers that look murky are more like­ly to taste mud­dy, but don’t have to. Clear beers can be mud­dy, we think, but it’s a clever trick.

Murky was­n’t meant as an insult. Mud­dy always is.

100 Words: Fine is Fine

Ah, So Very British™ – saying things are Fine when you really mean they’re awful.

Except that’s not what we mean.

When we say Fine, we mean Fine – that is, ade­quate, the mildest form of Good.

Fine-not-fine scale with 'fine' on the positive side.

And you know what? We drink a fair bit of beer that isn’t Fine. It’s not Awful or Dread­ful – it’s just, like most stuff, float­ing around in the mid­dle, stir­ring lit­tle beyond a shrug, an appre­cia­tive nod or a momen­tary frown.

We like to keep some­thing back for the gold medal beers, and for the absolute stinkers.

The rest of the time, Fine is OK.

100 Words: Not an Endorsement

Let’s pop in here for a pint.

Oh, is it good?

Well…

Well what?

Not, good, exact­ly. Inter­est­ing.

What does inter­est­ing mean?

There’s always some­thing going on. Some sort of dra­ma.

Oh dear. Is the beer good, though?

Well.… Not good. I mean, it does­n’t taste that nice, but there is some­thing about it.

Sor­ry, but this sounds ter­ri­ble.

Oh, yeah, it is, in a way. But we should go in any­way, just for one. It’s bril­liant.

Oh, I see – iron­ic appre­ci­a­tion – ‘So bad it’s good!’.

No, we gen­uine­ly like it, we just can’t be sure any­one else will. It’s com­pli­cat­ed.