You know how it is. The pint you have just ordered doesn't seem quite the same, or as good as your previous one from the same handpump. You'd enjoyed the last one and this purchase somehow doesn't seem to measure up. It isn't as clean or satisfying. It's flatter and just, well, just inferior. You can't quite put your finger on it, but it leapt out at you on your first sip. What could have gone wrong?
Now of course I am talking about cask beer here. Real Ale if you like. The live stuff. Because it is live, you need a little more care in both serving and drinking it. So hopefully this will help when you get the experience desribed above. There are a few possible causes: you may have got a dirty glass. Not so common and it usually doesn't get as far as taste. Usually you can smell a dirty glass, but in bad cases it can taint the beer in some way. Most often it just smells bad. A much more likely cause is that the beer is reaching the bottom of the cask. After all, all good things come to an end and it is a living product. Now my experience tells me that with some beers, particularly if they are fast moving, you can squeeze almost every last drop out of a cask with little loss of condition, though there will always be some. Some beers pick up taint from the sediment (aka trub or lees - deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate in cask conditioned beer at the bottom of the cask) more quickly than others too and some sediment is just heavier and stronger tasting and more likely to affect the last few pints of liquid.
In the case of the "not quite the same" pint there are one or two tell tale signs to look for. The first is that the pint will take a bit longer to clear and secondly, it will not have the same condition. It may well have a cloudiness or haze that was not apparent before. In the worst case you will get a tell tale sign of "bottoms" - the sediment at the bottom of the cask, which will often taste very yeasty, but not in a good way. A faint (or not so faint) whiff of vinegar will sometimes be evident. These are signs that you should hot foot it to the bar and say in your best apologetic manner "I think this might be getting near the bottom."
Good luck with that. Perhaps I'll do a tutorial on that too.
The apologetic bit is most important. You are British for God's sake, so it is your fault.
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. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
Read my information and links and then decide for yourself. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes.
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