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):
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.
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.
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.
Let’s pop in here for a pint.
Oh, is it good?
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.
The citizens of Craftonia, from Singapore to Stockholm, stand together in uniform opposition to homogeneity.
It is a land where the light comes from filament bulbs.
Where beer taps are on the back wall, brick is bare and wood is stripped.
Craftonian cuisine is ‘dirty’, but not really, and it is usually a burger.
There are no plain walls there: every surface has a caricature of a barman, a beer list, or a brief manifesto.
All the beers are IPAs, except the ones that are sour.
There are many breweries in Craftonia but most of them are Stone, BrewDog and Mikkeller.
We wrote this last autumn but decided against posting it, though we did include a version of it in our email newsletter (sign up here). We were moved to revive it by this post from Tandleman.
The sacred texts told us Brettanomyces had a ‘horse blanket’ or ‘barnyard’ aroma. It is, they said, ‘sweaty’, ‘leathery’, ‘mousy’.
But none of that worked for us and we couldn’t spot Brett unless we’d been cued to expect it.
We know what the experts are getting at with the animal comparisons — earthy, musky, funky, right? — but it’s like trying to describe the colour red by saying ‘Purplish, but also orangey.’ Brett is Brett, and nothing else.
We eventually cracked it by drinking a lot of Orval, and ‘Orval-like’ is the most useful descriptor for Brett character we’ve yet discovered.
Any other suggestions?
Main image from the BBC website.