Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In Praise of Workhorses

Last night I did something that I hadn't in a while. Having lost track of the time whilst pottering around in my garden and realised that I wouldn't have time to get cleaned up and out to the local homebrew club monthly meeting. So, with dinner cooking in the oven (a rather fabulous potatoes au gratin, to which I will add mustard powder next time), I wandered down in the beer cellar to pick something to drink.

My beer cellar, as I am sure is pretty common, is a mixture of my own homebrew, a bevvy of strong beers which are being aged (most of which are Fuller's Vintage Ales) and what I tend to think of as my 'drinking' beers - the ones which will be polished off well before their best before date. Looking at the collection of beer, which has been dwindling gently while I have been unemployed (thankfully I start my new job on Monday), the only beer that leapt at me was a beer I had not drunk at home in a very, very long time, Starr Hill's Amber Ale.

The Amber Ale at Starr Hill is one of those beers which gets labelled an 'Irish Red Ale', a style which according to some was originally just an Irish equivalent of keg bitter, the kind of beer to strike fear into the heart of any CAMRA member. Over here in the US it is kind of sweet, with a caramel element and a touch of earthy/spicy hops, some versions of the style are overwhelmingly cloying and as such it is not something I bother with very often, though on the rare occasions I get to have O'Hara's Red on tap then I fill my boots. Unlike many an Oirish Red Ale, Starr Hill's Amber is actually nicely balanced, with neither the malt nor the hop dominating, I polished off three bottles  in pretty short order - and it was at the right temperature, about 56° Fahrenheit.

This got me thinking about all the beers out there which don't get the love and praise they warrant, simply because they are not very hip, sexy or labelled as some form of IPA. Beers, like Starr Hill Amber Ale, which fulfil my very simple definition of a good beer, does it make me want another one? I like to term such beers 'workhorses', sure they might not prance around like Vienna's Spanish Riding School, but they are great at ploughing a field.

What are your local workhorse beers that deserve more praise and recognition?

The picture is from Starr Hill's website as I was too busy drinking the beer to even think about taking a photo.

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