The Beer Nut set me thinking a little while ago, when he asked how I knew in advance that Mallinsons Chinook was any good. My answer was along the lines of since I trusted them, it was likely to be good.
You may have read me saying over the years about a black list of breweries that I have in my mind. I mentally check through this list when looking at the wickets and add to it from time to time. Far too often actually. It is my way of avoiding chucking my money down the drain and of limiting my chances of getting a really bad beer. It isn't written down though and I'm not anal enough to trawl through the GBG to produce one. But it is there in my mind's eye. It changes sometimes. Breweries go in and out of the list and of course there are breweries that I simply don't like because of a house style or flavour that just doesn't appeal to me. Your mileage may therefore vary. To add to that there are of course breweries that I don't know at all. I don't always try unknown breweries, but will usually have a taste if offered. It all contributes to the mix and that's how discoveries are made. Good or bad.
To go along with this mental list, there is a list of those breweries that will never reach the heights, either though intention to appeal to the mainstream, or the simple fact that they produce beers that while they will rarely delight, will equally be unlikely to offend. These are the sort of beers you drink when you seek familiarity or comfort. They may not make you swoon, but you enjoy them if the circumstances and the company is right. It includes most of the Family Brewers and the Regionals. It also includes that frustrating group, the breweries that produce great stuff and not such great stuff, or have consistency problems. Even within these, there are beers I am happy to drink depending on circumstance. I think that list though is much more personal and you probably have your own.
For every down, there is an up. The list here is fortunately reasonably large and in the best traditions of cheery beeriness, I'll share some with you. It doesn't mean they are always brilliant, just a lot more likely to be so. Mallinsons, Phoenix, Ossett, Pictish, Hawkshead, Castle Rock, Ilkley, Fyne, Acorn, Brodies, Buxton, Liverpool Organic, Thornbridge, Crouch Vale, Magic Rock, Dark Star, Stringers, Oakham and quite a few others if I could manage to think of them. For the avoidance of doubt, I am talking here about cask beer - beer you can only buy in the pub.
Some of this is personal taste, but these all operate pretty well across a variety of styles and in my view can be bought with a fair degree of confidence. Trust me on that one?
Of course many breweries do mainly non cask well and I wouldn't find Kernel or Camden a great hardship in most circumstances.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, 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 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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.
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