Beer Gets the Connoisseur Treatment’, 1968

For the Observer Magazine published on 7 July 1968, Cyril Ray (who we wrote about yesterday) assembled a crack team to taste beer.

Cover of The Observer Magazine, 7 July, 1968.The tone of the fea­ture as a whole is a lit­tle uncer­tain: Mr Ray’s text argues that beer is real­ly wor­thy of respect only to be under­cut by an illus­tra­tion (Wat­ney’s pale in a wine bas­ket) and sub-head­line (bor­rowed for this post) which sug­gest there is some­thing faint­ly ridicu­lous in the exer­cise.

Because he did­n’t think it would be fair to ask pro­fes­sion­al tasters from brew­ery qual­i­ty con­trol depart­ments to take part, he recruit­ed Michael Broad­bent, head of the wine depart­ment at Christie’s auc­tion­eers, and Dou­glas Young, a pro­fes­sion­al tea-taster.

Michal Broad­bent learned after a cou­ple of lagers… to taste in mouth­fuls rather than in his cus­tom­ary sips, real­is­ing that beer is meant to be quaffed, and that this is how it best shows its char­ac­ter. Dou­glas Young was soon iso­lat­ing spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics of each beer, and ask­ing the brew­er who looked after us, in Whit­bread­’s hos­pitable tast­ing-room, for the brew­ers’ phrase­ol­o­gy with which to define them.

Con­tin­ue read­ingBeer Gets the Con­nois­seur Treat­ment’, 1968”

Limited Edition Beer Madness, 1968

In 1968, the Observer’s wine critic Cyril Ray wrote about an exciting new limited edition beer, Eldridge Pope’s Thomas Hardy Ale.

The head­line was A POUND A PINT, with an excla­ma­tion mark implied:

[Its] high strength caused loss from exces­sive froth­ing dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion, and this, togeth­er with the extra duty and long matur­ing in oak, is why it costs £1 a pint. I have bought some myself to put away – it will pay for keep­ing – and there may still be some left, in pints, half-pints or nips, at pubs and off-licences in the Hardy coun­try.… Sup­plies, though, are lim­it­ed, and I do not sup­pose that this remark­able beer will be brewed again – not yet awhile, any­way.

Along with the Coro­na­tion beers we wrote about here, this has to be one of the ear­li­est exam­ples of this phe­nom­e­non, and that’s cer­tain­ly one of the ear­li­est instances we’ve come across of a wince-induc­ing­ly high price (about £16 in today’s mon­ey) being jus­ti­fied by ref­er­ence to the costs of man­u­fac­tur­ing, the dif­fi­cul­ties of a lim­it­ed run, and so on.

It would be inter­est­ing to know whether the board at Eldridge Pope ever con­sid­ered absorb­ing the costs and sell­ing at a more rea­son­able price giv­en that this was essen­tial­ly a one-off mar­ket­ing exer­cise.

In the same arti­cle, Mr Ray also made a rec­om­men­da­tion for ‘ama­teurs of strong beer’ with less cash to splash: Ten­nan­t’s Gold Label, which he says is ‘lighter in colour and crisper in style’ but

one must not be deceived: the under-taste is rich and full, and the six-ounce nip packs the punch of two and a half whiskies.

The arti­cle appeared in the 14 July edi­tion of the Observ­er if you want to read the whole thing, though it is only short.

Main image adapt­ed from ‘Thomas Hardy’s Ale’ by Bernt Ros­tad from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.