Tuesday 20 September 2011

Same Beer. Four Different Pints.

I've recently been out and about doing some 'investigative research' and enjoying a few nice beer in some of Glasgow's better bars.

One beer that I've 'researched' more than others recently is a new offering from one of my favourite Scottish breweries, Fyne Ales. It's their West Highland Black IPA (WHBIPA) and for the past few weeks it's been making an appearance in The Three Judges, The Bon Accord, The State Bar and The Laurieston.

As you'd expect from Fyne Ales, it's a well made, tasty beer from a brewery with a reputation for crafting well made, tasty beers. However, what has struck me, imbibing this beer in four different establishments in just over a week, is that how much of a difference cellarmanship and correctly looking after the beer once it has hit the pub can make to the taste, aroma, flavour and overall enjoyment of the beer.

Some of WHBIPA I've sampled has been simply out of this world. The State Bar, for example, presented a stunning and well looked after, fantastic example of this beer. It was full of intense hop nose and creamy roast malt served at a temperature that allowed each of the flavours in the beer to be savoured and enjoyed in a beautifully balanced pint.

In another pub, the beer was served too warm and from the condition of the beer, I got the impression that it had not been cellared long enough for the beer to settle. In context, it was the first pint of the day poured in this pub and it may have not been pulled through the line thoroughly enough. In another, it was too cold and this masked some of the more subtle flavours of the beer.

It got me thinking.

How many times has beer left breweries in great nick only for it to be let down at the final hurdle in the pub due to it not sitting long enough, being poorly conditioned, badly poured or served as if it was a cold lager or tepid mug of bovril?

My favourite drink is getting too expensive these days to be playing beery Russian Roulette with my next pint not knowing whether it will be in awesome, awful or just alright condition. I know the Cask Marque system of accreditation exists as an indicator of a pub that serves well kept beer and the nature of beer as a living product means that it will change in the cask but sometimes there's no excuse for sloppy cellarcraft in some pubs.

Is it too much to ask that if pubs are selling Real Ale they concentrate on getting the basics right first?


  1. "playing beery Russian Roulette with my next pint not knowing whether it will be in awesome, awful or just alright condition"

    - This is it exactly. It's the source of such frustration as a beer drinker. Consistency in quality of pint (but allowing for occasional exceptions as it is a living product) is absolutely key to a pub being a 'good pub'. There are pubs I (would) love which offer a great selection of intersting micro beers, but if quality isn't consistently good, or has gone off over the past year - it means I just really don't want to go into them, even if that's where my chums drink.

    I dream constantly about being able to identify a few pubs I can get to easily that will generally always have:
    1. something I want to drink - interesting, tasty beers from interesting, quality breweries
    2. whatever beer they have, will generally be in good nick

    It's gotten so bad recently that there's very few pubs now I'd walk into and just order a pint of something tasty, without having an exploratory half or a small sample of first. So when I find a pub where you can just reliably order a pint & it will be tip-top, I get all emotional!

    The Bartons in Bham is generally a good one round me, and the Nicholsons pubs on the whole have generally been good, but apart from travelling to other cities, I don't get that 'reliable for a pint' feeling near me very often.

    So sad for the brewers too, when you think of how they've crafted the beer and some people will just think they don't like that beer/brewery, rather than realise it's just not a well kept pint.

    Sorry for long comment, it just touched a recent nerve with me!

  2. I think it's often underestimated to what extent your enjoyment of a pint derives from the standard of the cellarmanship as opposed to the inherent qualities of the beer.

    Some pubs succeed in coaxing hidden depths out of beers often dismissed as uninspiring.

  3. I agree! Cask beer really is a Russian Roulette. And it's a real shame to see a great beer served in bad condition. Cellarmanship is incredible important. So is actually having an understanding of beer and tasting it to know when it's good or now.