Not every beer has to be special : in defence of average pints

My local sells real ale. They have two pumps, one is perpetually Doom Bar and the other alternates between a number of Golden ales and IPAs from the Robinson’s brewery. At the moment they have on Hoppy Wan Kenobi which is packed with Cascade and Sovereign hops. Regular readers will know my feelings about American floral hops ie when I am Queen they will be launched into the sun, and even the good old British Sovereign (the hop, not Liz) doesn’t rescue this beer. For me every sip was like being hit in the face with a bunch of gladioli.

And so when I visit my local my current drink of choice is a Coors Light with a shot of lime cordial in the top. And it’s fantastic. I can neck four or five pints of that with glee whilst watching football. It’s refreshing, it’s got flavour, and I don’t have to log the damn thing on untappd or worry that it’s getting near to the bottom of the barrel, or do any other kind of thinking which is liable to distract me from more important matters like who they’re putting out at centre back for Iran.

I hesitate to jump on the Anthony Bourdain train but a quotation of his was floating around twitter last week when his death was announced. The gist was that in most brew pubs he visits no-one is really drinking, they are lining up flights going from dark to light, getting out their apps or making notes in a little book about flavour profiles. His drink of choice was ‘what’s coldest’. And there are plenty of great American bars that I’ve visited where your choices are restricted to Coors, Bud, and their ‘light’ counterparts. They are great bars because they have character, and atmosphere, and you feel at home there. Would they be improved by ‘better’ beers? Yes maybe, or maybe it’s nice to have an oasis of averageness in a world where everyone is competing to be the newest, the best, the coolest. Why go out for hamburgers when you’ve got steak at home, asked Paul Newman? Because hamburgers are just fucking good sometimes aren’t they? The cheaper and the greasier the better.

It’s become standard practice at beer festivals to always be searching out something new, never drinking the same beer twice at one session and not drinking any beer you’ve tried before, even if you like it. I remember some dismay when I stated last October that I drank Chapter Brewing’s Roadside Picnic at IMBC – because I’d had it before. I had it before and I liked it so I drank it again. “But there are so many other beers there that you hadn’t tried!” came the reply. Yes, we’re now living in a ‘beer culture’ where a celery sour can be considered achingly pedestrian within weeks.

worthys
A pint of Worthingtons in the wild

I’ve found myself recently suffering from ‘choice fatigue’. In the Euston Tap a week or so ago I was presented with a list of over thirty beers to choose from, scrawled in tiny letters on blackboards a thousand feet up, as per. I saw someone with a tall, thin glass of something vaguely orange and just pointed at it – it was a 2.5% grapefruit radler by Schofferhofer and it was superb. But still someone commented that I had made an error by choosing something so readily available when there was a limited edition Russian Imperial Stout which I could have been enjoying in the 28 degree weather. Sometimes when you walk into a pub you just want a flipping drink, not the final exam on a sommelier course. And that grapefruit radler would have blown people’s minds had it shown up in virtually any ‘normal’ out of town pub in this country. In the minds of some though, it was barely above dishwater on the drinking scale.

Boak and Bailey recently posed a question on their twitter feed asking what was the biggest threat to beer and pub culture. My answer to this every time is classism. The idea that the only way to enjoy beer and pubs is by constantly aiming to make them palatable to the upper middle class and hipsters with large disposable incomes. Every recent discourse about inclusion and diversity in beer has gradually swung towards this end. There was very little room in the recent Dea Latis report for working class women who consume BOGOF cocktails and prosecco bottle deals, and how they might be invited into the beer market. At a recent conference the focus was on food pairing and Jane Peyton issued the missive “It’s not enough to have a pickled egg and pint of bitter”.

Now Jane and other sommeliers have that agenda, and that’s fine, all power to them. But it takes what is traditionally a working class drink, and a working class institution, and  tries to wrestle them away and into the hands of those who are able to pump more money into the industry. There are good drinkers and bad drinkers in this Brave New World, the good will be feted with schooners and cheese pairings, whilst the bad will be battered with minimum pricing and the closure of more local pubs. Why can’t there be a place at the table for the old boy who drinks two pints of the same mild at the same spot in the pub every day and has done for fifty years? Why should he be traded in for someone who will abandon that same pub if they can’t afford to offer a brand new and exciting craft ale every time they deign to walk in?

If you spend all your time seeking out the best and the newest, you never actually appreciate it when you find it. Nobody, apart from Roy Wood, wants it to be Christmas every day. Let it be a Monday afternoon in October. Let it be Coors Light with a shot of lime. Let it be a pickled egg and a pint of bitter, if that’s what you want. If every beer has to be special, that’s the same as saying none of them are.

 

Cheers!

 

PS Food pairing for Coors Light with a shot of lime is cheese and onion Ringos.

lager
Rare photo of a now extinct beverage called the half of lager

 

 

 

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16 Comments Add yours

  1. Professor Pie-Tin says:

    I’m new to your blog but this post perfectly encapsulates,more than any other I’ve read,the sometimes ludicrous nature of the whole craft beer movement.
    You can tell which of the usual suspects among the well-known beer bloggers are going to cream their jeans over the latest turd-infused,aged in Chinese restaurant waste bucket new saison creation.
    Basically the same smuggerati who pour scorn on perfectly acceptable brown bitters that have served a willing and receptive market for decades.
    On a hot day a cold pint of Coors./Carling whatevs is a perfect thirst-quencher.
    Gazillions of regular drinkers in Britain certainly think so.
    You speak a lot of sense and write it wonderfully.
    Thanks you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pubcurmudgeon says:

    Yes, what the Prof said – excellent stuff. So many people who write about beer totally fail to get why normal people go to pubs and drink beer. Plus, as you say, they take a narrow view of what being inclusive actually means.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the best things I’ve ever read.

    Line such as “the good will be feted with schooners and cheese pairings, whilst the bad will be battered with minimum pricing and the closure of more local pubs” will be quoted in ten years time, when cask is as dead in Reigate (if not Reading) as it practically is in Runcorn now.

    Like

    1. kirstwalker says:

      As long as there’s a Spoons we’ll be alright for cask, every cloud…

      Like

      1. pubcurmudgeon says:

        If Spoons start dropping cask (well, at least south of the border) then it truly will be the end of days.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s a lot of truth in that. I know they supply 139% of the coffee drunk in this country (FACT); it’s probably an even higher percentage of cask. No sign of prices rising much above that critical £2.50 level anytime soon !

        Like

  4. pubcurmudgeon says:

    PS – Cheese and Onion Ringos are great 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cookie says:

    bang on.

    Like

  6. IslandMarmot says:

    In these parts, Pacific Northwest, Hipster heaven is buzzing with micro brew pubs, minced buffalo burgers and avocado toast… The chalkboards list dark ales, blondes, IPA’s etc. just as you would expect, and I find myself scanning the options looking for the “One”. Cumberland Brewing English Bitter is made for the two pint guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kirstwalker says:

      Drinking two pints of the same thing in a row will go the way of the Super Sized Meal, you mark my words

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Russtovich says:

    “and I don’t have to log the damn thing on untappd ”

    Thought Untappd was the bees knees at first but now for me it’s gone with way of Pokemon on the phone. 🙂

    “Let it be Coors Light with a shot of lime. Let it be a pickled egg and a pint of bitter, if that’s what you want. ”

    I said something similar on PubCurmudgeon’s blog earlier. To paraphrase, I’m at that age where peer pressure doesn’t work. I couldn’t give a flying rats arse whether someone likes what I drink or not (and, hopefully, I can do the same for their choice of beverage). Give me something light and refreshing when it’s hot and I’m thirsty; something dark and strong as a nightcap; and something exotic when I’m in the mood to walk on the wild side. 🙂

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Paul Bailey says:

    This is an excellent post, as others have already pointed out. I too walked out of the Euston Tap several years ago, for a similar reason to you; namely I couldn’t see a thing on those wretched chalk boards. That was my first, and only visit to the place. I was not impressed and fail to see what all the hype is about.

    Moving on, we need to remember that beer is first and foremost a drink for socialising and relaxing with. I’m not averse to trying new or different beers, but I prefer to do this in the context of visiting new or different places (countries, or towns and cities). I’m particularly interested in beers which are associated with the place I am visiting, and which form part of the local scene as it were.

    That used to be the joy of travelling around the UK, knowing that in the Cornwall , for example, you could look forward to a pint of St Austell, or could enjoy a drop of Batemans in Lincolnshire. Now, pubs seem to offer beers which have travelled far from their native origins, and they haven’t always travelled well.

    I’m not denying beer geekery has its place, but it is light years removed from the real world of pubs and bars.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. SJ Francis says:

    The best article about beer I’ve read in years. The plethora of choice is the biggest threat to ‘ordinary’ pubs today. That and the expectation of finding atleast 10 guest ales at every pub. I agree that the pub scene in the UK is very classist, there’s nothing wrong with ordering a pint of Ruddles Best instead of the trendy sphincter contracting latest super hopped IPA. The middle classes (and that certainly does not include me) need to remember where cask beer came from and who it originally served. Craft beer (whatever that is) serves a purpose but for me it’s simply style over substance. I remain to be convinced.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stephen O’Kane says:

    Always enjoy your articles, and this one really hit the spot. I rarely do this, but this one is being shared where I can!

    Like

    1. kirstwalker says:

      Thank you, that’s lovely!

      Like

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