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?