One of the themes of conversation on Saturday whilst sat with James and his wife was how one's taste in beer develops and changes as you get older. Perhaps it is better to say "as you try more types of beer" rather than "get older", although that is, in itself, irrefutable as it suggests changing beer taste is a sign of maturity, or getting old.
A common thread seemed to emerge, along the lines that after a while people get tired of the extreme beers and want something they can drink plenty of without having their tongue raped and a minging hangover for the rest of the weekend. Of course we still want our beers to have plenty of flavour, its just that we aren't looking for the next hoppy high or alcoholic buzz on a Friday night. The answer is of course session beer, and if you read this blog regularly you will know that session beers are my kind of beers.
Perhaps then, this development in palate leads to a greater appreciation for the role of malt? One phrase that, while I understand its use, I really don't like is describing malt as the "fermentables", it almost forgets that malt is the backbone of flavour in beer. When I am planning new beers, it is always the malt that I think about first, whether planning for colour or flavour. In recent dark beers I have started using Carafa II de-bittered rather than black malt as it has less of a harsh astringency, I have started mixing up Caramel malts so as to get a range of caramel and toffee flavours, instead of just using one for colour and sweetness. One malt I have enjoyed brewing with has been Special Roast, which gives an almost orange hue to a beer and distinctly nutty toffee taste which stands out from caramel malts.
I like hops, but I find myself appreciating the subtle nature of malt more and more, and so I find myself drinking more brown ales, porters and stouts, beers that have a complex set of flavours instead of a single defining characteristic.