Friday, October 7, 2011
Like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, the stepmother in Cinderella or Captain Hook from Peter Pan, the multinational brewing companies have been cast as the pantomime villain in our little slice of all the world's a stage. In the finest traditions of the pantomime the blogosphere regale the stage with cries of "boo, hiss!" whenever the villains of the piece take centre stage, "he's behind you!" we cry when the evil doer approaches our hero. As good theatre goers we hope that, like pantomime, there will be a happy ending, with the villain vanquished and our dashing hero getting the girl.
Of course the world of commerce and business (and anyone who thinks making beer for a living, regardless of scale, is anything other than a business is naive in the extreme), things are never as clear cut as in pantomime. If we are honest with ourselves, we all have beers from the big boys that we like. Mine are Guinness, Murphy's, Boddington's, the occasional Michelob lager and of course Pilsner Urquell. Two of those are AB-InBev brands, one each for SABMiller and Heineken, and then there is Guinness, which belongs to Diageo.
Let me start with Guinness. I have said many a time on here that Guinness was my first legal beer, standing at the bar, having only drunk my dad's homebrew, Tennent's lager or cider, I really had no idea what I was doing. I ordered a pint of Guinness because that was what my eldest brother drank when I was a kid and he was still living at home. I also blame the same brother for my taste in music, but that is a different discussion. Still today, half a lifetime later, Guinness is a beer that I go to when my regular haunts have nothing else I feel like drinking. Guinness was also the fuel to the fire which is my love of stout, and one of my drinking highlights of life will always be standing in Garavan's in Galway, drinking pints of Guinness while watching Liverpool administer a clinical spanking to Bolton Wanderers.
Guinness was a treat for the decade I lived in Prague, simply because it was 4 or 5 times the price of a pint of insanely good Czech lager. It was though through the archetypal Bohemian lager that I overcame my ridiculous youthful prejudice that ale was better than lager, and that all lagers are gnat's piss. If you have only ever drunk Pilsner Urquell from a pasteurised bottle or keg, you really have no idea what you are missing. Unpasteurised and served from a "tankove" system, Pilsner Urquell is one of the great beers of the world, unpasteurised and kvasnicove it is quite possibly the greatest beer on the planet. Without wanting to sound like an old fogey, it was actually better in 1999 than it is in 2011, and yet it is still wonderful.
The big boys of the beer world can, and do, make magnificent beers, and even the beers that we deride as flavourless, boring and bland, are superb examples of consistency and process. Given that it is the beer in the bottle, or in the glass, which is a important rather than the manufacturer, a more honest appraisal of the brands from multinational brewers is in order instead of simply assuming any from AB-InBev and the like must be rubbish. Hopefully this will also lead to less comments along the lines of "it's not bad, for an 'insert multinational brewery here' product".
Today's Session is being hosted by my very good friend Reuben other at The Tale of the Ale.
*Picture Credit - the picture of the Pilsner Urquell was taken by Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography, during one of our research tours for the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague.