A Night on the Black Stuff

It’s not exactly new news that Diageo wants a slice of the craft beer pie and their latest attempt is with a couple of new bottles that are interpretations of beers brewed by Guinness in the 1800s.

I was quite interested when I heared that there would be two new beers being added to the Guinness range, Dublin Porter at 3.8% and West Indies Porter at 6%. Especially as, at first glance, it looked like they might be historical recreations. It’s a shame then, that Diageo didn’t go the whole hog and give us a glimpse of what Guiness used to be like, but plumped for the safer, and dare I say more boring option, of mere interpretations. So we are still left to imagine what Guinness tasted like back in the day.

I’ve been meaning to write about these beers for over a month, but life sort of got in the way. They were on special offer in Morrisons at £1.50 a bottle, for a limited time period. The nearest Morrisons is a bit of a trek, and the first time I popped over, they were out of stock of the West Indies Porter (a bit unsurprising really given that you were getting 500ml of 6% ABV beer for £1.50). Guinness Original Going back the following week, I managed to procure bottles of both beers, but drank them with friends, so didn’t take any notes.

I finally managed to get back out to the local Morrisons the other week, only to find the promotion had finished and, again, there was no sign of any West Indies Porter and only a couple of bottles of the Dublin Porter left on the shelf, at an increased cost of £1.89. So I decided to buy some ordinary Guinness and as I had to swing by a Sainsbury a few days later, I also picked up a bottle of Foreign Extra Stout (FES) and decided to drink them all on one night (partially inspired by Boak and Bailey) to see how they differed.

I thought the Guinness Original was quite effervescent in the mouth, with the carbonation raking the insides of the cheeks. There wasn’t much in the way of body or flavour. I was expecting a touch more roasted malt, but it was all quite restrained and wishy washy. The aftertaste was initially sweet and watery, but started to dry out and leave a slightly sweet, roasted maltiness behind. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting, but I wouldn’t rush out and buy another.

It was interesting to sit down with a bottle of the Dublin Porter and actually think about what it was like. Guinness Dublin Porter The previous bottles had all been drunk in a social setting and we’d all thought that they weren’t bad. They had slipped down nicely and were relatively tasty, it’s interesting how the taste of a beer can change depending on what you’re doing when you drink it.

It felt pretty similar to the Guinness Original, but with less body and carbonation. It was slightly lighter in colour, with more of a red tinge to it. The flavour was milder, softer and longer lived. While it’s undoubtedly a brain off quaffing beer, it was much nicer to drink than the Original. The aftertaste had hints of treacle and wasn’t anywhere near as sweet or dry; it also lingered for longer.

  • RateBeer Diageo
  • Guinness Dublin Porter, 3.8%, 500ml

I was quite looking forward to trying the Foreign Extra Stout, as it has a good reputation. I’m not sure I’ve ever had it before, maybe I’ve had a bottle in the dim distant past, but it would have been so long ago that I’ve forgotten all about it.

It wasn’t as dark as I was expecting, you could see through it as it was being poured, I was expecting something pitch black. I was also expecting it to be thicker, more viscous, with legs that would coat the glass when it was swirled around to release the aromas. It was far more restrained than that, with not much on the nose, and only pleasant levels of treacle and molasses in the mouth. It did have a tickle of bitterness that was lacking in the other two though, which was nice.

The best thing about the Dublin Porter and the West Indies Porter was the price. You really couldn’t argue with £1.50 a bottle, especially for the West Indies Porter. According to the Morning Advertiser, they are going to retail at £3.65 for the Dublin Porter and £4.00 for the West Indies Porter, which is just bonkers. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout Neither were good enough to justify that kind of price, especially when you consider the cost of a bottle of something like The Kernel Export India Porter, or Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout.

I was also seriously disappointed by the FES, I was just expecting something bigger and better. Again, I’m not sure why you’d buy one over the two beers I’ve just mentioned, other than for the fact that you can buy FES in a supermarket. I’m not going to say much about the Original, other than I baked a Chocolate Guinness Cake the other day, and used Fuller’s London Porter, as I actually wanted to enjoy the half of the bottle that didn’t go into the cake.

Will Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter survive more than a few months on the supermarket shelves at that price? Will new interpretations be forthcoming from this Guinness Brewers Project, or will it be swiftly and quietly discontinued? It will be interesting to see where Diageo take this.

Un-Human Dreams

There’s no point hiding the fact that I’m a massive Magic Rock fan boy. I love what they do and just wish I could get hold of more of their stuff on cask, keg and bottles locally. So I was in raptures (my least favorite of theirs) when I heard they were going to be releasing Un-Human Cannonball, a massive Triple India Pale Ale and yes, I was there at 09:00 with my debit card in hand to buy some the moment it became available on their online shop.

I did intend to to do the full review type gubbings, but since you can’t buy it in bottles anymore and I don’t know how much is still around in keg, it didn’t feel right to gloat about having some, more on that later. So instead, I’d like to share with you how it influenced my dreams last night, as I had some seriously weird stuff floating through my head.

I’m not sure how it all started, but I found myself working, I sue the word loosely, at Thornbridge, but instead of their nice shiney new brewery, this was in some post apocalyptic ex-powerstation type location; quite steam punkish. I think I was there for a brew day or something like that, but I was just wandering around looking at stuff and getting more and more sloshed.

Then things go really weird as the brewery seemed to transform into a much smaller and more modern affair. Then there was a Magic Rock Stu type character wearing a powered exoskeleton that allowed them to pick up full barrels and run around the place like they were some sort of superhuman. It was all a bit weird and then I woke up. So just like consuming vast quantities of pongy cheese just before bed, it looks like Magic Rock’s Un-Human Cannonball can also disturb your nights sleep.

Anyway, back to that bit about the gloating. Magic Rock are heavily influenced by what’s going on in the States, that much is obvious from reading their tweets from earlier in the year when Rich and Stu when on a road trip.

You could say that Un-Human Cannonball is their attempt at what Russian River do with Pliny the Younger, a once a year limited release and distribution triple IPA. This is no bad thing in my book, it’s nice to see one of my favorite breweries producing this kind of beer and doing it well. You could say that the flavour of Un-Human Cannonball didn’t quite live up to the immense mangotastic aroma and people would probably agree with you, but at least you know it’s not a bad batch that’s been thrown in a barrel with some fruit for a bit and then sold as if that’s what was intended…

I read with interest BeerCast Rich’s blog, Will annual beer releases be the next big thing? I don’t really mind if a few new wave and progressive breweries join Fuller’s in doing a limited run annual release, but I’m not about to start camping out in front of the brewery or a pub, for a chance to buy it. Like Rich, I’m also surprised that BrewDog haven’t done something similar; I might have to ask him if I can use Simcoe Asteroid Smashdown as a name for one of my homebrews!

I hope we don’t end up going down the route of scratch cards and lotteries, just so we can have a taste of a beer. If the late Simon Johnson taught us one thing, it was that beer is supposed to be fun, it’s just beer after all. Am I glad I was sat there at nine o’clock in the morning hitting F5? Part of me thinks yes, but part of me also thinks that I’m a sucker. At the end of the day, it’s just a beer, a very nice one, granted, but just a beer.

You Can’t Take It With You

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was going to spread my wings a bit and start trying more beer, rather than always going for the perceived best that a brewery makes. That would have been a smashing idea, if I actually had any money. Gone are the days where I could walk into the Bacchanalia and blow £70 – £100 a week on rare and expensive beer. I blame building an expensive extension to the house, the financial meltdown and the fact that everything seems to have got all expensive all of a sudden. Either way, I’m totally skint and the beer fridge is empty.

One thing I have done though, is lay down a load of bottles for a rainy day. As you can see from the photo, there’s quite a collection from various breweries. I’ve never really had a plan when it’s come to ageing stuff though, I’ve just chucked it in the cupboard and tried to forget about it. I’ve not really thought about how long things should be aged for and when they’ll be at their peak and ready for drinking. Some are pure experiments, like the Orval Project (more on that in a future blog post), but most have just been set aside for some unspecified point in the future.

"Death twitches my ear;
 'Live,' he says... 
 'I'm coming."
               ― Virgil

We’ve all seen Dead Poets Society and the numerous motivational quotes extolling us to Carpe diem, Seize the Day. So I’ve decided that it’s time to drink some of the stash, what rainy day am I waiting for? All those BrewDog Abstrakt bottles, why am I holding on to them when most of them are shite? I could drop dead tomorrow from an aneurysm, never knowing what that bottle of Marble Special 2009 tasted like. Unless I’m holding onto a beer for a very particular reason (that 750ml bottle of the original Hel & Verdoemenis 666 is for my 50th birthday for instance), it’s going to either get drunk, or have a date put on it for when it will be drunk.

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, 
 find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their 
 island of opportunities and look toward another land. There
 is no other land; there is no other life but this."
                                             ― Henry David Thoreau

Why wait for a rainy day that might never come…? You can’t take it with you.

Bath Ales

I often wander into Waitrose or Sainsbury’s to see if they have any new and interesting beers on the shelves. After looking around, I normally pause over the Bath Ales bottles thinking that this time I should buy some, but I always end up buying some Thornbridge Jaipur or Fuller’s 1845 instead. It’s the same story when I go into Cambridge Wine Merchants on Bridge Street in town, they have a really good selection of Bath Ales, but I always end up buying some Moor instead.

I’m not sure why I pass over Bath Ales so much, I suppose it’s my love of all things Thornbridge and Moor that often means other beers don’t get a look in. There may also be some preconceived notion that they’ll be a bit on the traditional side and I’ll thus be disappointed. After all, it’s easier to spend your hard earned cash on something you know you’ll like, rather than take a chance of something you’re not sure you’ll enjoy. Nothing worse than knowing you passed up on some Jaipur or Revival while drinking an average beer.

While life’s too short to drink crap beer, it’s also too short to drink the same stuff week in week out, no matter how good it is; variety being the spice of life and all that. So a few weeks back I decided to take the plunge and bought all the different Bath Ales bottles I could get my hands on, here’s what I thought of them:

Ginger Hare, 3.9%

Poured a pleasing light amber colour, with a rocky white head. The head didn’t last and while wasn’t too hard to get going, you just knew it would fade quickly. The nose was full of sticky stem ginger in syrup notes. In the mouth it was just a tadge on the too light of body for my tastes, with just a hint of wateriness creeping in round the edges. The flavours were pretty subdued, with the ginger being subtle, rather than burn your mouth off, but not too subtle that you were left wondering how much they’d actually put in. That coupled with the pleasant initial malt flavours and the lightly bitter lingering aftertaste, made for a seriously quaffable beer. One of the nicer ginger ales I’ve had.

Golden Hare, 4.4%

Poured a crystal clear golden colour, with a good fluffy white head. The head took a while to get going, but formed quickly there after. Although it hung around for a bit, it did eventually disappear completely. I didn’t get a whole lot on the nose, just some malty cereal notes. In the mouth it was pretty full bodied, and nicely balanced. There was a definite subtle cereal quality to the malt flavours, which were then replaced by a juicy mouth prickle and a soft fruity and slightly bitter aftertaste. A nice solid beer.

Gem, 4.8%

Poured a chestnut brown colour with a large rocky, slightly off white head. The head dropped fairly quickly, and settled at a thin skin over the top. Not much on the nose, except for some dark cerealish malt notes. In the mouth it was sort of full bodied, but I thought it didn’t feel as full bodied as it was, due to all the mouth watering juiciness. It was certainly a malt driven beer, with the slightly dark malty flavours running all the way through to the finish. Even the slight bitterness couldn’t quite get through the malt, even at the end. Pretty nice though.

Dark Side, 4%

Poured a near jet black, with just hints of brown round the edges. The light tan coloured head was slow to get going, but ended in a decent size. It didn’t last though and disappeared completely, fairly quickly. The nose was chock full of roasted notes, with maybe hints of coffee. In the mouth it was medium bodied, maybe a tadge on the thin side, but easy drinking because of it. It was smooth, with drying, subtle roasted flavours. It had a nice bitter tickle in the middle, which lingered in the complex roasted after taste. Very nice indeed.

Barnsley, 4.5%

Poured a lovely mahogany colour with an off white, slightly tan coloured head. The head was slow to form, but ended up quite large. Although it didn’t last long and dropped to a skin fairly quickly. The nose had some soft, subtle burnt toffee, treacle type notes. In the mouth it had a nice soft burnt toffee thing going on, which lead to a lingering stewed fruit juicy mouthwateringness (is that even a word…?). It didn’t feel particularly bitter, being mainly malt driven, but it felt like there was a bit just before the after taste cut in.

Wild Hare, 5%

Poured a deep straw colour, not quite a light amber, but getting there. The fluffy white head that formed slowly, wasn’t that big and didn’t last very long, before dropping to a ring round the edge of the glass. I didn’t get much on the nose to be honest, maybe a hint of some subtle marmalade type note, but nothing that stood out. In was initially pleasant in the mouth, but then I thought there was an odd cereal type flavour that I didn’t really like, that came to the fore. It didn’t dominate, but I found it detracted from my enjoyment of the rest too much, which was a shame. While It had quite an aggressive mouth feel, it was nicely balanced with some good bitterness that wafted down the after taste along with a load of juicy mouthwateringness. Sort of enjoyable, but disappointing at the same time.

I thought all but the Wild Hare were pretty decent, the Dark Side being my pick of the bunch; I thought it was really nice and would love to try it on cask. I didn’t get on with the Wild Hare, but I don’t believe you can judge a beer on one tasting, well in most cases you can’t, so I’ve bought another bottle to give it a second chance.

Was my money well spent though, or did I wish I’d rather bought some Jaipur or Revival? Overall I’m quite happy I tried them, I can’t say I was disappointed by any of them, other than the Wild Hare. I’d definitely give them a go if I ever saw them in a pub, especially the Dark Side. Wither I’ll be buying bottles regularly or not though, I can’t say, it will as ever depend on my mood and whim.

Advent Beer – Vintage Ale 2011

The more observant of you will notice that I’ve jumped straight from the 2009 Vintage Ale, to the 2011 Vintage Ale, completely bypassing the 2010 version. This wasn’t intentional, but I didn’t get my finger out last year and by the time I got to Waitrose, they only had one bottle left. I didn’t worry, as in the last few years they’ve had the old version in the shop a few weeks before the new vintage comes out. Except that this year they didn’t, so I’ve only got the one bottle and I’m not drinking it until I can find another two or three, so a trip to the brewery shop might be in order.

Anyway, I’m not sure there’s much I can add to what’s already out there about Fuller’s Vintage Ale, even this latest edition. Des de Moor has a fantastic article on his website from a recent vertical tasting of all the Vintage Ales. Definitely worth a read, especially if you’ve been storing bottles for a rainy day like I have.

My notes said it poured a burnished brown, with a slightly off white head. The head was initially quite sizeable, but dropped back fairly quickly. I didn’t really get much on the nose, but I was suffering with a cold, so your mileage may vary. You could tell it was a Fuller’s beer right from the initial taste, due to all that spicy, pithy orange character that is prevalent in a lot of their beers. I didn’t really get any hop character at all, it seemed to be all malt, but not in a bad way, as it wasn’t cloying and overly sweet.

To be honest, it’s just another classic Fuller’s Vintage Ale, all be it, a young one that needs time to mature and develop. Give it a few years and it’ll be even more gorgeous.

Advent Beer – Past Masters XX Strong Ale

I’ve really not been going a good job of keeping up with the Advent Beer this year. I blame last weeks illness that saw me off work for three days, nothing to do with laziness… I’m still a beer behind, due to all the nights off I’ve had, but I should be caught up by tonight, just in time to slip back again, as I’m off down the pub with friends tomorrow. Anyway, onto the first of many updates today, Fuller’s Past Masters XX Strong Ale.

I had this beer last week and am writing this from some audio notes I took while drinking it, so I apologise in advance if it doesn’t make much sense. Evidently it poured a classic olde English marmalade colour, or a burnished copper brown if you preffer, with an slightly off white head. I thought it smelt like a Fuller’s beer, I think that just like 1845 and their Vintage Ale’s, the aroma has a certain quality about it that you don’t get from anyone else. There was a freshness about the nose as well, with subtle marmalade notes and hints of that yeasty, mustiness you sometimes get with bottle conditioned beers.

It didn’t look particularly lively in the glass, but it felt quite lively in the mouth. A good malty body gave way to that classic British hop juiciness and a lingering, slightly drying after taste. It was very complex, especially at the start and I was having trouble getting my thoughts out, that would have been the man flu. As I normally do, I jot down a few thoughts at the start and then again near the end of the glass, just to see if my opinion has changed. I didn’t get the chance with this beer though…

I had about a third of a glass left and was just having a quick conflab with my wife, when our kitten decided to knock my glass off the side table. Obviously it wasn’t intentional, the evil little git, but he broke my favourite Moor stemmed glass and wasted a third of a bottle of one of the best beers I’ve had this year. I wasn’t impressed. I’ve since been to Sainsbury’s, twice, to buy more and I’ll probably buy more next time I’m there.

I was seriously impressed. I know it would probably have tasted slightly different back in the day, but I can’t help feel a touch of jealousy for those alive at the time when this beer was around in it’s original incarnation. I really, really hope that Fuller’s do raid the archives and make more Past Masters beers.

https://twitter.com/#!/FullersJohn/status/146962041222078464

Advent Beer – Old Manchester

I was in my local on Thursday night, I was there because Greene King have put it up for sale and as it’s the last pub in the village, the village wants to keep it open. So they are formulating a Plan B to buy the pub, if no one else buys it first, which is obviously Plan A. I don’t really use the pub, I feel a blog coming on about why, but I volunteered to be on the steering committee that is formulating the plan. That’s why there was no Advent Beer post on Thursday night or yesterday, so yet more catch up. I need to start being careful, otherwise I’ll be having to neck two 750ml bottles of 11% De Molen a night to keep on track…

Thursday’s Advent Beer was Marble Old Manchester, which is a fascinating beer. It’s fascinating, as it was a collaboration brew between Marble and John Keeling the Fuller’s head brewer and was destined for export to the US. I’m not sure why some of it got released into the UK market and to be honest, I wish it hadn’t, as you’re not going to like it.

It’s terrible, horrifically bad* in fact. So bad, you’re not going to want to drink your bottle. You’d think it would have been wonderfully balanced, that it would have tasted utterly fabulous and drank no where near it’s ABV. But no, it wasn’t, so don’t open your bottles, just put them away somewhere safe, I’ll buy them off you.

As a service to other beer geeks, I’m willing to buy all of your bottles, just so you don’t have to experience how bad it is. I’ll even drive round the entire country and pick them up so you don’t have to pay postage sending them to me. Honestly, you don’t want to drink it, I’ll fall on my sword so you don’t have to be disappointed. See I’ve even tweeted the Bacchanalia so they don’t sell anymore and thus have disappointed customers…

https://twitter.com/#!/RecentlyDrunk/status/145257089374224384

* Obviously it’s not bad, it’s pretty spectacular, which is why I want it all for myself…

Advent Beer

I’m quite annoyed. On Tuesday a load of posts on this blog were missing, vanished, disappearing into the ether. I luckily managed to recreate them via Google cache and wrote a couple of new posts, one detailing what had happened and the other the list of my advent beers. So imagine my surprise this morning, to find that both the explanation and advent beer list posts were both missing. In their place, the original missing posts and their comments were back, but it meant that I had to recreate this list from scratch, as I couldn’t find a cached copy on line. My hosting company hasn’t responded to my query about why it’s happened yet, which is most unlike them, hence my annoyance.

Anyway, it’s December, that means that it’s time to do some more advent beer. Last year I modified the list half way through, hopefully I wont be doing the same this year, but I am going to Paris this weekend, so some French beer might suddenly appear next week. So without further ado, here’s the beers on my advent beer list, they will be drank in some sort of random order, that days beer being pulled from a hat.

Sainsbury’s Stock Fuller’s Past Masters XX Strong Ale

I popped into my local Sainsbury’s yesterday lunch time, nothing to unusual about that. Unlike most visits though, which are to top up caffeine supplies, I was on the scent of some Fuller’s Past Masters XX Strong Ale. I can’t remember who it was now, but someone tweeted a photo of some in their local Sainsbury’s, so I had to go and check mine out, just on the off chance.

I got there and was initially disappointed, as I couldn’t see any, then my eye saw the familiar reddish Fuller’s Vintage Ale box and on the shelf below, Past Masters XX. They’re selling it for £2.79, which is an absolute steal, especially considering that they’re selling the marginally stronger Vintage Ale for £3.99.

I bought one bottle, which is going in my Advent Beer box, I may have to go back and buy some more though. I really hope that Fuller’s have enough of the second Past Masters beer, a Double Stout, that Sainsbury’s can stock it too.

Does Familiarity Breed Contempt, Or Is It A Safety Blanket?

Way back at the end of July, I won a Don’t Drink Hophead t-shirt from Dark Star via Twitter. The idea appeared to be to get people wearing the t-shirts at GBBF, as some sort of reverse psycology subversive stealth marketing. One thing I didn’t expect I’d get while wearing it was abuse from other GBBF punters. Most of which was good natured, I have to say, but there were a few people who made it be known, in no uncertain terms, that they thought Hophead was shite.

Their complaints seem to be along the lines of it’s not what it used to be and this got me thinking. I came up with three possible reasons for their complaints, one, the beer has actually changed for the worse over time. Two, they have drank so much of it, that they have now become so used to it and are thus ambivalent toward it. Three, they have under gone some level of Lupulin Threshold Shift and can’t taste the hops anymore.

Let’s look at each of these points, firstly, has the beer actually changed for the worse over time? I doubt it, but like all real ale, it’s susceptible to variations in malt and hops from year to year, so I would think the recipe gets tweaked every now and again to compensate. It’s also at the mercy of pub landlords and we all know they can fuck up a perfectly good beer and make it taste like shite. However, I really doubt Dark Star would deliberately modify one of their flagship beers to make it taste worse, as it just doesn’t make good business sense.

Secondly, have they become ambivalent to it? I know that I go through phases of drinking certain styles of beer or certain beers, but then I want a change and I don’t go back to those beer styles or beers for ages, if ever. Take BrewDog Punk IPA, I’ve drank loads of it, it’s still the beer I’ve checked into more than any other on Untappd. It’s not a bad beer, but I’m just so over it, it doesn’t excite me anymore, that coupled with their legendary consistency issues and knobend (IMHO) marketing and I’d rather spend my money on another brewers beer.

I’ve also drank loads of Thornbridge Jaipur and I now ration it, so that it doesn’t go the same way as Punk IPA. If I’m in Waitrose, which I’m not that often anymore, then I might buy one if I see it, but gone are the weeks of drinking it endlessly. So it’s perfectly possible that these people have drank so much Hophead, or had too many duff pints, that they’ve become ambivalent to it and in some cases quite anti the beer.

Finally, could these punters have suffered from the mythical Lupulin Threshold Shift? While this last point is slightly tongue in cheek, it’s certainly possible, as one of the most vocal abusers works in a Cambridge pub and I know he’s a bit of a beer geek and has tried all sorts of exotic beer. Maybe Hophead is now too subtle for him and he craves more bitterness, more ABV or more of something else. Having said that, he was highly critical, scathing and negative about practically everything, so you have to take these things with a pinch of salt…

For the record, I’ve only ever had a half of Hophead, it’s not a beer I’ve come across very often, in fact, I think I’ve only ever seen it for sale twice. I really liked it and I can see why lots of people hold it in such high esteem. I’d love to try some more, but I always feel that I’m missing out on something if I don’t try beers I haven’t had before. There’s something to be said for the familiarity of a certain beer though, a know quantity, especially with some of the shockers you end up trying in your quest for the next great beer.

Bailey, of Boak and Bailey fame, commented on my bemoaning of Free Houses that serve the same beer as tied pub in the same locale. He relates a tale of locals haranguing the Landlord:

And, a bit of insight – we were in the George Inn at Middlezoy in Somerset last year where the landlord had gone to a lot of trouble to get local beer from Moor, Butcombe and (I think) RCH, but was being harangued by his regulars: "Get London Pride on!"

He explained that it cost more for him to buy, had to travel a long way and that he liked local beer.

They didn’t care. "Get London Pride on!"

This got me thinking again, while familiarity can breed ambivalence and contempt, maybe it can also act as a safety blanket. Bailey’s comment reminded me of an incident at my wedding, I’d gone to the trouble of getting in a couple of polypins of beer from the local Milton Brewery and was quite chuffed to have some decent beer to offer the guests. I told my parent’s next door neighbour, who I’ve known since I was a child and so was a guest, as I know he likes his beer. I was shocked at the time by his reply, as he said he’d rather just have a few pints of John Smiths, as this is what he drinks down the pub on his weekly outing with his friends.

To him, the constant nature of John Smiths is a safety blanket. He goes out once a week and knows that the few pints he has, will all be the same and will all taste the same as they did last week and the week before that. If they choose to go to another pub and it serves John Smiths, he knows it will taste the same there, he has his safety blanket. He’s not interested in trying different styles of beer, chopping and changing between pale and hoppy, stouts, lambics and the like. Maybe he doesn’t want to run the risk of having a bad pint, he’s only out once a week after all, so just wants to enjoy himself with a known constant.

I used to have a regular beer too. When I was a student at Heriot-Watt, I lived just off Leith Walk for a year and we used to frequent Robbie’s. The round was two pints of Scrumpy Jack and a Harviestoun Ptarmigan and we were in there so often, we didn’t need to ask, just a nod and the drinks were poured. I couldn’t tell you what other beer they sold, I only had eyes for Ptarmigan 85/-, as it was called back then. I don’t go to the pub often enough to have a regular beer anymore and the pubs I like to frequent, don’t normally have a regular beer either, which suits me just fine.

I started this blog because I’d got stuck in a rut, I was drinking the same old beers at home, week in week out. I suppose drinking them week in and week out was a safety blanket of sorts, I knew what I was getting. However, I can’t remember the last time I had a bottle of Adnams Explorer, Fullers Discovery and Wychwood WychCraft at home. I wouldn’t say that familiarly bred contempt, I’ve just moved on, my tastes have since changed.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say with this blog, I feel like I’m rambling, so I think I’ll try and conclude.

Just because one person likes to drink John Smiths at the exclusion of everything else, doesn’t make them a bad person who has no taste, they just want something different from you and me. Also, just because a beer tastes different to how you remember it, doesn’t necessarily meant that beer has changed. Our tastes can change over time, the change can be quite subtle, or happen in a heart beat. Just because we no longer drink a certain beer due to our tastes changing, doesn’t suddenly make it inferior or bad, just different.

If I were to make a point though, I suppose it’s that everyone is different and wants different things from beer. Just because someone wants something different from you doesn’t mean their wrong, or that you’re wrong. I don’t think there is a right and wrong when it comes to beer, just a difference of opinion.

My opinion? I’ll be drinking Hophead at the next available opportunity. I’m a sucker for reverse psychology…