Monday, March 14, 2011

Keeping it Simple

I think I am about to utter the most disgustingly unutterably awful phrase you could imagine as a tippler. So abhorrent is this phrase that I fear I will be cast out into eternal darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. So, having taken a mouthful of Coke Zero for courage (it being too early for beer), here goes. I prefer simple beer.

I often find myself agreeing most heartily with Martyn Cornell over at Zythophile, and his recent post "Why extremophiles are a danger to us all" was read with many a nod and waving of papers whilst mumbling "hear, hear". That post came to mind again this weekend as I sat on the patio of Devils Backbone enjoying some spring sunshine and beers with Mrs V, Eric from Relentless Thirst and Steve, who works for a local beer distributor.  New on the beer menu at Devils Backbone is a beer called Ein Kolsch, an excellent example of the style and exceedingly drinkable, but I had to reign myself in and only have 4.

Having indulged in a further pint of Vienna Lager, and a half of Kilt Flasher Wee Heavy to drown my sorrows in preparation for the inevitable theft of the Calcutta Cup by perfidious Albion, we headed down the road to Blue Mountain Brewery. Their take on an altbier, Evan Altmighty, was very drinkable and named after brewer's son, and the film which was made in the area. As ever, the Classic Lager was most enjoyable. 

Classic beers, well made, are, in my ever so unhumble opinion, the height of the brewers craft. Sure, your imperial IPAs might be interesting to sample at a beer festival, but to drink several pints of on a night out? Sat with our pints of Ein Kolsch, or the Styrian Blonde in Steve's case, the sum total of geekery was as follows:
  1. observe colour and clarity of the beer
  2. take a mouthful
  3. nod appreciatively and say "that's good"
  4. continue discussing Steely Dan/Liverpool/homebrew/insert theme here
I don't want beer to be an existential experience, I am not looking for the next big hop high, I just want to drink several pints of something tasty, in the company of fine people and still be able to function the next morning. I am fairly sure that I am not in the minority on that front, and so Fuggled will continue to celebrate the session beer, the classic beer and the pubs in which to enjoy them.


  1. I could ramble on and on about the taste of many beers, but your 4 step process is how we drink out beer. To us, beer has one of two characteristics, I either want it again, or not.

  2. There's room for both "levels", but even though I moan a bit about how boring most beer in Germany seems to be, that's more about the saminess than anything. Germany does simple pleasure very well, and I think its beers are one of those. I most certainly like full flavoured, strong beers, but if I'm out in the Kneipe, I don't want to have think about it too much ;)

  3. Greetings from Perfidious Albion.

    I'm with on this one. It actually pretty easy to make a good imperial stout or a big butch sock-you-in-the-mouth-with-a-hop-pocket IPA. It is much harder to make a good Koelsch. There is nowhere to hide in such a simple, delicate, beer.

    Of course I am more than happy that all these, and others, exist but sometimes I just want "a beer".

  4. Barry M,

    It is true that a lot of German beer is boring. Just how many 5% pils does the world need? Even if they a technically perfect.

    If course there are a couple of good German beers too...

  5. There's nothing better than drinking a simple, delicious pint and not thinking about it but enjoying the company of friends. As much as I love a wide variety of beers, sometimes I don't want the beer to be the centre of the attention and I want it to be about the people and the moment.

    Far from being in the minority, I think the vast majority would agree with you on this one, it's just sometimes easier to shout louder about bigger beers than it is to talk about subtlety (I've been trying to write a post about simplicity and subtlety but it's not quite working yet - it's hard to describe, which is the point of my piece, but it often makes for the most drinkable beers).

  6. Despite at times drinking beers that really give the tastebuds a wallop, more and more I find myself seeking out the low alcohol, well-balanced beer as opposed to the hop rocket or booze bomb. Also, number 4 on your list is incredibly important, as there are times when you want to be able to enjoy the conversation without feeling like your palate has just been assaulted.

    In the case of Ein Kolsch (and the Styrian Blonde), it was the perfect accompaniment to the afternoon. Not obtrusive, but still quite flavorful. Sometimes simple is best, and I often find myself seeking out simplicity which in turn can display craftsmanship when it comes to a beer. Tells you a lot about the brewer and their practices.

    At any rate, I had a great time with you pub-centric folk! Must do it again soon.

  7. Alba is the Gaelic name for Scotland but let's not forget that Scots is as much a native language of Scotland as Gaelic.

    In antiquity the Greek "Albion" was used as a term for the island which was visible from mainland Europe and identifiable by its white cliffs.

  8. I do seem to remember Alba was a very good beer from Williams Bros — flavoured with pine tips or something, tasted like liquid Bakewell tart and got a real thumbs in this household; not sure if they still make it. One of my desert island beers is Adnams Best Bitter — enough said.


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