Later this year I will be 37 years old, which means that for more than half my life I will have been drinking legally. Ever since that first, legal, pint of Guinness in the Dark Island Hotel back home on Benbecula, I have had a taste for beer. Oh alright then, I was known before I turned 18 to enjoy the occasional can of whatever muck was available, Tennent's Lager most often, though also the odd Budweiser. I was never one of the "sit in the bus shelter on a Friday night drinking whatever we could persuade the older kids to buy for us" set, but I had a beer from time to time.
Bit of a digression there, but anyway, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post listing five beers that changed what I drink and how I think about beer. Another slight digression, but one thing that hasn't changed is the kind of place I enjoy drinking in, pubs, proper pubs, not bars or clubs or glorified restaurants, but pubs, even if they are something of a hen's tooth over here. Without wanting to sound like a complete curmudgeon, here are a few beers that I once loved, which now leave me disappointed...
In 1999 when I moved to Prague, Velkopopovický Kozel was something of a minor beer celebrity. I had heard so much about this pale lager which was so unlike the Carling and Fosters most pubs served in Britain, it had a real hop bite to it. My first pint was at the sports bar I went to every weekend for ten seasons and I loved it. Eventually the brewery was bought by Pilsner Urquell and in turn Pilsner Urquell was bought by SABMiller, and so began the desecration of a once lovely beer. When I left in 2009 I found a Kozel bar whilst out walking and popped in to sample the wares, and while the 12° was ok, the rest of the range was thin, insipid and a mere shadow of its former self.
The other beer I drank a lot of back in my early Prague years was Gambrinus, the picture here is their 11° Excelent. While Gambáč was available as both a 10° and a 12° beer, it was the 10° that you saw most often - most pubs would have three taps, Gambrinus 10° on one, with Kozel Černý and Pilsner Urquell taking up the other two. Again Gambrinus was something of a sad story, perfectly drinkable for many a year and then around 2006 strange things started happening, it became thin and noticeably watery. I am not sure when they started watering down a 13° beer, post fermentation, to create the 10° and 12° but they should never have started.
Once upon a time I drank smoothflow ales, I liked them and then I moved away from Britain and didn't have the option. Perhaps they were always bland, watery messes, but I have a sense that in the 13 years between leaving Blighty and sitting in my Charlottesville living room this morning, they have got worse.
Over to you then, what beers did you once love and now find disappointing?