One of the ways that pubs can increase cask ale sales is to offer tasters. In the better pubs this is done as a matter of course and can be a way not to waste money on something that you may not like if you just take a punt. It is good for the pub and good for the customer. Few downsides then? Well yes and no. I have found that many tasters, small as they tend to be, don't give a complete picture of a beer once it is scaled up to a pint. In short, you can be fooled. Thus it was on Saturday.
I had a bit of time on my hands in Leeds while E had her hair done, so hopped on the bus into the centre. After being distracted for a good while by an Oxfam Bookshop and Clas Ohlson (one of these places where you want to buy lots of things you really don't need) which is distractingly just across the road from North Bar, I managed to drag myself away for a quick beer. A brief scan of the bar decided my choice. Crown Brewer Stu's Stannington Stout. Now I have to say I have limited experience of his beers, as the few times I've found them in Manchester, they've been in poor nick. This was different. Despite me probably being the first customer for it, it was cooled to the point of dispense and was bursting with condition. Well done North Bar. The beer was lovely too. Full bodied, bitter, coffeeish, roasty and soft. Everything a stout should be. Great stuff. I had a second half and if I'd had my crystal ball, I'd have stayed for more. Time was running out and after a quick canter round Leeds Market to procure a couple of butties, I headed to our meeting point, the Palace, my old drinking den when I worked in Leeds. This is an ever reliable stalwart, but Saturday was an off day. First that taster. It was chef Brian Turner's Golden Ale. It seemed fine, so a pint was ordered. It was pale, slightly flat, insipid and tasteless. I asked for most of it to be chucked away; I just couldn't finish it. Rooster's Special was the choice for redemption. Alas it was off the boil too. Tired and flabby. I sipped it disconsolately, thinking longingly back to the magnificent stout in North Bar.
Today I learn that Thornbridge brew Brian's beer. Well I never. It'll be worth another go then, with or without that misleading taster.
Kelly Ryan, Thornbridge’s Brewery Manager, describes the beer as “A lovely golden colour, with aromas crammed with rich tropical fruits, ripe berries and hints of fruity cheesecake. The mouth is clean and crisp with some subtle malt characters and more lovely hop, mostly in the form of passion fruit, grapefruit and gooseberry. The finish is quite dry."
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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