Posts tagged ‘The Session’

December 7, 2012

Session #70: Don’t Believe the Hype


This month’s Session, hosted by Mr David J, touches on a theme of disappointment – when a much-anticipated beer fails to live up to its hype.  In this modern age of all-pervasive social media it is easier than ever to whip up a frenzy of excitement over just about anything you want, and beer is no exception.  But should we listen?

Well, actually I think yes we should.  But, and this is the important bit for me, we should listen carefully.  There is, as they say, no smoke without fire.  But smoke can cloud your vision.  So, if there is a lot of hype about a beer, there is probably a good reason.  OK, it may be all marketing, but that should be pretty obvious if you pay attention to the actual sources.  On the other hand, lots of different people saying how fantastic a beer is should be a pretty good indication that there is some substance behind that.  Apply a bit of perspective though.  Despite all the hype, the odds are that this isn’t (or at least, isn’t to you) actually the best beer in the world.  If you set your expectations too high you’re bound to be disappointed.  Other people have different experiences against which they compare something, so it might be the best beer they’ve had, or their tastes might be different.

I guess what I’m saying is, by all means let others guide you to what might be good, but don’t take it to seriously and judge what you try on its own merits.

Don’t believe the hype, but don’t ignore it!

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”.

July 6, 2012

The Session 65 – So lonely…

There are two ways to drink alone: by yourself, and with other people. I enjoy both but prefer the latter. The initial setup for this month’s Session, by NateDawg27, suggested that I’m not the only one, and this was backed up by some of the early comments on that post.

Maybe you’re wondering what I mean. Well, I often choose to sit in a pub by myself, enjoying a pint and maybe reading a book or newspaper. But although I’m on my own, I’m also not. There’s always something going on around you, a cross-section of human life passing through and bringing the place to life. I can rarely avoid a bit of people-watching while I’m there – if you haven’t tried it maybe you should. It can be fascinating. Other times you may end up chatting with staff or even other customers – there on your own, but not really alone.

Or you can shut off completely, lose yourself in your drink and anything else you’ve got to focus on, and then you’re much more by yourself. There are times when this suits me too, but I usually end up drifting back to observing what’s going on around me pretty soon. I generally prefer drinking alone with other people.

There is definitely a bit of a stigma with being out in the pub by yourself, and i think this is because it goes against the stereotypical drink with mates – that’s seen as the “normal” or even “correct” way to go for a drink by many and so those who are happy to break from that are seen as strange or sad.

But that leads me to my main point. The title for this Session was “so lonely”. I’ve not talked about being lonely, just about being on your own, which really isn’t the same thing. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you are lonely. And, conversely, just because you are with other people doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely.

Sometimes that drink with a group can be one of the loneliest drinking experiences. If you’re on the fringe of the group, maybe you don’t know everyone or don’t have the relationship that you can see others have, it can be very easy to feel excluded, or feel that you’re missing out on the rapport and relationship others have. It doesn’t even need to be a large group – three is quite sufficient on the basis that conversations tend to work between pairs and there’s always one person slightly left out.

So we should be careful not to confuse drinking alone with loneliness. Don’t assume that person over there drinking by themself is lonely. If they are taking up the only available table why not ask if you can share it – they’re not necessarily waiting for someone like you to turn up so they can latch onto a new best friend in order to fix their loneliness. They’re probably just enjoying their drink, their own company, the buzz around them – and will generally be quite happy to share the pub with you.

I shall carry on enjoying drinking by myself from time to time. I’d prefer not to be lonely though. And certainly not drinking because I’m lonely!

May 4, 2012

#TheSession63 – The Beer Moment

In this month’s session Pete Brown invites us to consider “The Beer Moment” and what it means to us.  In keeping with his appeal for us to switch off and float downstream, my mind immediately latched onto the word “moment” and it took me straight back to A-level physics.  In between setting things on fire, putting scary quantities of electrical current through them, and generally avoiding anything too mentally strenuous, there were actually a few things that stuck, and “moment” was one of them.  Rather than thinking about a moment as a point in time, my mind turned to its meaning as a force causing movement around a turning point.  Or, I suppose, a tipping point.

In the context of the beer scene in Birmingham (which is, by a small margin over Stoke, my nearest major city, and at least sometimes my work location too) much has been written already this year about how we lag behind other major (though generally smaller) cities in terms of the beer revolution.  There are glimmers of hope on the horizon, with the opening of the Post Office Vaults just before Christmas, and plans for Brewdog to open up in the city later in the year.  Interest in great beer is growing, or rather it is becoming more vocal, and surely there are exciting times ahead.

So, for me, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of Birmingham’s “moment”, both in the sense of it being a time where something is happening, and (back to the physics here) a powerful turning force, creating change in the drinking scene in the second city. 

As mentioned above, at the end of 2011 the Post Office Vaults came onto the scene, and that has been a breath of fresh air (figuratively at least, being a somewhat subterranean venue!) with a rapid expansion in the range of foreign bottled beers alongside a good selection of British ales.  Almost every time I go in the place is busy, and there is a buzz there that is great to see.  A buzz that is fuelled by the great beers that are available, and it is fantastic to see just how popular so much of the wide variety of styles and flavours is becoming.  Clearly the demand is there for exciting beers of all types.

Then a few weeks ago Twissup hit Birmingham, and a number of the more vocal enthusiasts for Birmingham’s beer scene got together and enjoyed a few hours of extremely responsible drinking, mostly meeting up for the first time with people with whom we’d all been communicating via Twitter for a while, and forming stronger relationships as a result.  It may have been the first of its kind here in Birmingham, but it certainly won’t be the last.  You can read more about that in recent posts on the subject, from both myself and Danny Brown.

And the future, well, it is fairly well known that Brewdog have been looking at a venue in central Birmingham to open up another in their rapidly expanded chain of bars, and word on the street is that all being well later this summer we’ll be seeing that venue opening up.  That can only be a good catalyst for further growth and expansion in the variety and quality of beer available in Birmingham.  I welcome their arrival and the challenges they will present to the local beer scene, although its location pretty much right on my direct walking route from the office to the station will be its own personal challenge to me, and a temptation I shall enjoy giving in to.

Three individual moments in time there, two past and one future, all contributing to the growing force for change that I think will finally see 2012 being Birmingham’s “Beer Moment”.  Returning once more to the physics, a moment is a force, and the more force applied the greater the change.  Come and be a part of that change; come and be a part of the moment. Let’s turn a moment into momentum.

And, of course I couldn’t leave this today without saying, may the fourth be with you…