Failure to be Outraged


Once again, we find ourselves struggling to summon what is apparently the appropriate level of outrage as the Champion Beer of Britain (CBOB) award is announced by the Campaign for Real Ale.

It’s an impor­tant com­pe­ti­tion which can tip a brew­ery over into the big time, sure, but it’s not the Word of God.

If you accept that, of the thou­sands in pro­duc­tion, it’s legit­i­mate to name a sin­gle beer The Best, then there’s no rea­son we can see to be angry that the award has gone to Tim­o­thy Taylor’s Bolt­mak­er, aka Best Bit­ter.

Now, we get as bored as any­one of enter­ing pubs and find­ing three ubiq­ui­tous and under­whelm­ing bit­ters on offer, and we have to admit that we did hope some­thing a bit sex­i­er might win for once – the pale’n’hoppy Oakham Cit­ra, uni­ver­sal­ly loved in the Blo­goshire, which came in sec­ond place, for exam­ple.

But, like it or not, bit­ter is part of the land­scape of British beer – should it be banned from the com­pe­ti­tion because its char­ac­ter derives from some­thing oth­er than promi­nent aro­ma hop­ping?

We’ve not had Bolt­mak­er, as far as we can recall, but we sus­pect we’d prob­a­bly enjoy it. Two of our most fond­ly-remem­bered pub ses­sions have been on Tim­o­thy Tay­lor beer – one in Haworth, and anoth­er at the Bricklayer’s Arms in Put­ney – and it can be tran­scen­dent­ly won­der­ful, in that sub­tle, inde­scrib­able way that region­al brew­ers some­times achieve. (See also: the Batham’s.)

Per­haps that’s how Bolt­mak­er tast­ed today? Enthu­si­asm on the part of the judges cer­tain­ly seems a more like­ly than a sin­is­ter con­spir­a­cy aimed at the sup­pres­sion of ‘craft’.

(Hav­ing said that, we’ll cer­tain­ly be fil­ing today’s result in the mem­o­ry banks for next time some­one claims tra­di­tion­al bit­ters are some kind of endan­gered species that don’t get enough atten­tion…)

The Great British Beer Fes­ti­val runs until Sat­ur­day 16 August.


On the same day we vis­it­ed the Dove, we also made it to anoth­er leg­endary west Lon­don pub, the  Brick­lay­ers in Put­ney. It’s beau­ti­ful­ly done out, being nei­ther trendy nor grot­ty, although it was bloody cold.

It was the week after their beer fes­ti­val and the gar­den was full of spent casks – “Beer Fail!” Noth­ing was going to waste, though and any­thing left in the gar­den was going at a pound a pint.

We were excit­ed to see a huge range of Tim­o­thy Taylor’s beers and didn’t even both­er try­ing any­thing from the guest pumps or the gar­den. We’ve heard a lot about the leg­endary Dark Mild, and it is indeed fab­u­lous: choco­late and vanil­la and at only 3.5%. Ram Tam is a won­der­ful­ly fruity dark beer, also very spe­cial, with black­cur­rant and clove notes. Why aren’t Tim Taylor’s oth­er beers as well known as Land­lord?