Archive for August, 2012

August 21, 2012

Finding pub perfection?

It was a beautiful warm and sunny evening last Friday when a friend and I popped into the cool dark interior of a London pub that was a much awaited first for me.  The beer options were immense and the first pint was hugely refreshing after the rather warm wander from the station.  It wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t so busy there was a problem finding a seat and no huge queue at the bar.  An old-fashioned grand street corner pub, it was pretty much perfect.  At least, it was, right at that moment, and that got me thinking.  FOrtunately for my drinking companion, I did my thinking out loud so he could join in rather than be completely ignored!

The perfect pub, like that immortalised in Orwell’s Moon Under Water, oft sought and rarely, if ever, found.  Was this it?  Was it at least *my* Moon?  Fleetingly, yes.  But then I realised that at least for me, the problem with finding the perfect one is that it is only perfect at a given moment in time.  That moment might be repeatable, might be due to various other conditions coming together such as weather, company, beers available and chosen, the size of the crowd filling the place, all sorts of reasons.  Or it might be more specific, that particular pub just at that exact moment in time, in those precise circumstances.  Either way, I realised that the reason that perfect pub is so elusive is that the target keeps moving.  What makes it perfect at a given time just isn’t the right think at another.

As I write this on the train I’ve not long departed what was, briefly, another perfect pub – a fairly regular and familiar haunt, practically on the station where I found myself with just enough time before my train, not too busy inside to get served quickly, and with a beer list of which the only fault was its role in creating indecision thanks to the excess of quality choices.  The right place at the right time.  There’ll be other times when it doesn’t quite cut it for me, and I couldn’t have substituted many other pubs for it at that time either, but while I waited for that train it was unbeatable.

It could have been quite disappointing to come to the concusion that there isn’t going to be a single one perfect pub for me, but on the other hand, I now know that there are lots of them, I just need to be there at the right time.  That’ll be worth a drink when I get to my next perfect pub…

August 3, 2012

The Session #66 – The One Beer to Rule Them All

This month, Craig Gravina at Drink Drank is host for The Session #66 and invites us to consider “The One Beer to Rule Them All”.  The gauntlet is thrown down with the challenge to design, and describe in whatever style we choose to, our own personal perfect beer. Well I reckon that should be easy enough.

For starters it’s just a matter of settling on a favourite style.  That’s easy.  Its an… No wait, maybe an… Erm, or how about… No, that won’t do.  Try again.  Forget pigeonholing styles, how about just a description.  So, hoppy.  Malty.  Dark.  Bitter.  Light.  Hints of coffee.  Strong.  Citrusy. Mellow.  Sour.  Piney.  Slightly spiced.  Fruity.  Modern.  High gravity.  Sessionable.  Traditional.  Yes.  All of them.  And a bit more.

Maybe its me being fickle, but I’d rather think that it is an essential part of the appeal of beer that I can’t pin down a specific style or a group of non-conflicting characteristics that would all be present in my perfect beer.  The sheer variety of styles and interpretations is part of what I love.  Maybe I can’t contribute to this session after all.  On the other hand, there’s a get-out clause. Craig’s introduction to the topic said that it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is – so maybe I can be a bit creative…

So, in my mind’s eye there’s a large tulip glass containing about a goodly volume of a golden beer with a crisp clean head.  The aromas are fresh and hoppy, but not excessively so, and the taste matches – gently bitter, cool and refreshing, slightly citrusy hops that tantalise rather than assault the taste buds.  Another sip, and the taste is now richer, more biscuity with an earthy, sour but refreshing tang developing.  A quick glance at the glass reveals the beer to be darker than first impressions, appearing a deeper golden brown now and then the taste seems somehow stronger.  The smell of hops intensifies with a slight pine edge, and that hoppy taste cuts deeper through the flavour, before mellowing away on the tongue, almost melting into a rounded richness, darker malt flavours pushing forward ahead of a vague hint of hedgerow fruit.

A pause to reflect on the experience so far, and on picking up the glass once more the beer is darker again, and tastes richer, smoother, with delicate roasty tones and a hint of first chocolate then coffee intensifying from cappuccino to espresso.  An increasing sense of strength, the hop bitterness building but always in balance with the body of this now near-black beast of a beer.  Rich, lush, with dark fruits, rum, burnt orange, all hinted at then just as quickly gone as the taste develops. 

A moment of disappointment on finding the glass is empty is quickly displaced by the joy of finding that, somehow, there’s just enough left in the bottle for another one.  Another journey through the tapestry of beer flavours begins…

Ok.  So the chances of really brewing something that catalogues all the infinite variety of beer and is served from a bottomless bottle is perhaps just a tiny bit fanciful.  But with all that exciting beer out there to choose from, I could never settle for just one style let alone a single beer.

There was one last piece to the challenge.  We have to name our beer.  I think I’ll call it “kaleidoscope”.