Wednesday, 22 July 2015

More Murky


I was out in Manchester on Saturday night. Unusual for me.  An American mate of mine was in town with his girlfriend, so I made my way across town to the Knott Bar, a place I know, but due to its distance from my bus route, not one I go to very often.

After a few pints, I changed my drink to Magic Rock Rapture. I like their beers but was surprised to find it opaque and muddy, almost like the last pint out of a cask.  A barman who hadn't served me noticed me examining it and said "Is that the Magic Rock?"  I replied in the affirmative. "Yes" he said, "they've stopped fining their beers and we are getting complaints. I'll change it if you like." I liked, adding that it just didn't taste right at all.  Now I don't know whether this change to no longer fining beers is true or not, but I have looked after Magic Rock beers before and they always dropped bright. Has this changed really happened or did I just get a bad pint?  Back to the same old problem. The certainty is being swept away. You just don't know any more. Either way, this murky thing has raised its head yet again.  The only saving grace was the barman handling the situation with skill and changing my pint happily.

That is by no means certain if we see more and more unfined beer served without a warning.

My Yankee chum also ordered a bottle of Rochefort 10.  It was my round and set me back £7!

28 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Magic Rock have an excellent reputation, but if this story is true they'll start losing business. Hopefully that will make them reconsider. And even unfined beer shouldn't look like soup.

As people have said in reply to the previous post, if I get a cloudy pint it goes straight back without tasting. If they say "it's meant to be like that", but there's no indication at point of sale, I will ask for an alternative beer or a refund. If that's not forthcoming, then it's left on the bar and I can go and expose them on Twitter.

A bit hazy, then I'll accept it unless the flavour is obviously off, but I'd say I've rarely had a hazy pint that rose above mediocre.

py said...

Surely there are more old-fashioned places like working men's clubs you can go to and still get a nice clear pint of smooth, or whatever it is you want?

Magic Rock aren't stupid, they know which way the wind's blowing.

Phil said...

I call bullshit. If they have stopped fining the beer it must have been very recent - I saw several pints of Rapture being pulled at a beer fest the other week (including the last pint out of the barrel) and it wasn't murky in the slightest. In any case, we do know what unfined beer looks like. When Marble first went vegan all their beers were unfined and consequently a bit cloudy; they made a feature of it, with beers called Cloudy Marble, Chorlton-cum-Hazy etc. The beer certainly wasn't clear as a bell - it looked a bit 'dull' in the glass - but you could always see through it.

Call me Cassandra, but I flagged this up eighteen months ago:

once you’ve told the world your beers are cloudy, you’ve made it next to impossible to catch the wrong kind of cloudiness. And if you also tell the world that your beer tastes ‘different’, it’s pretty hard to catch off flavours – more importantly, it’s pretty hard for customers to have any confidence that they can recognise off flavours.

And once you've told your bar staff that some beers are cloudy and that's OK, you've removed any incentive for them to make sure that beers are properly kept and served.

Phil said...

Incidentally, Tiny's Tipple in Chorlton are selling Rochefort 10 at £5.50, so if £7 was the cost of the round you got a bargain!

Tandleman said...

Mudgie: As I alluded to in my article, I kind of doubt this. On the other hand, the barman could just have said "That's how it is, like it or lump it". I tend to think Magic Rock aren't so daft as their beers are found widely outside the craft beer bars where anything goes.

I have referred to the issue before and you don't need to be Cassandra to forecast what you did. It is as light follows dark.

And the bloody bottle was 7 notes, not the round.

py: you have no credibility anywhere. You have an astonishing ability to miss the point which is so eloquently made by Phil and less so by me.

Stuart Ross said...

we have not stopped using finings. Rapture cask should be clear, barman should get their facts straight.
It does sound like it was the end of the barrel.

Tandleman said...

Stuart: Thanks for clearing it up. Looks like I was bullshitted!

Jeffrey Bell said...

If the brewers can work together to eradicate finings from their own craft circles they can form a united front against having to accept ullage returns when they release bad batches.

Jeffrey Bell said...

PS. Rochefort 10 at £7 is a touch excessive but to get a decent GP it needs to be over £6. Best thing is not to fill your pub's fridge with booby traps like that - beers like that are for home drinking anyway.

Erlangernick said...

Bloody Yanks.

AleingPaul said...

I had a pint of that very same beer at the Euston Tap on the last Saturday in June just before heading up north. It was in excellent condition and clear, a very enjoyable pint to precede a long train journey with.

Steven said...

Old man yells at cloud.

p.s. your comment form is bloody hopeless with its "which of these pictures contains steak" guff.

Tandleman said...

Steven: It isn't my Captcha you know. And what do you mean? I can call myself an old man. You can't. Unless you want a slap that is.

Phil said...

The thing about Cassandra is that she was ignored, however often she warned people. That's what I identify with! A year or so ago there were a bunch of conversations on blogs about murky beer, all of which without exception got stuck in a loop:

10 Murky beer is filth!
20 Murky beer is brilliant, grandad!
30 Murky beer isn't for me, but if people want it they should have it.
40 GOTO 10

I waded in - several times - and made the point about quality control. Then people carried on debating whether murky beer was (a) filth (b) brilliant or (c) all right if you like that sort of thing. Sigh...

There was an interesting comment from Yvan on Stonch's blog recently, saying that the problem with unfined beer is that it needs longer to settle (which figures) - but that what people often seem to do is give it less time. "That one? That's never going to drop bright - might as well whack it on straight away."

Martin, Cambridge said...

Steven - it took me 3 months to work out which of the cakes were made of steak. Exclusive club Tabdleman runs.

Tandleman said...

I'm completely unaware of this. I'll remove the Captcha for a period and see how the spam goes.

RedNev said...

As a formerly very prolific home brewer who never used finings in any of the various styles of beers I produced, I can confirm that lack of finings does not prevent a beer clearing. All my beers were crystal clear. If I get a pint that looks like mud, it will go back. Accepting cloudy beer is tolerating overpriced mediocrity.

Rob said...

There's an article in the current issue of the Leeds CAMRA magazine from the brewer at Brass Castle having a massive go at clear beer, finings etc. Also doesn't like sparklers. I think you'd get on.

Paul Bailey said...

Nev is right about beer not needing finings in order to clear. I also never fined any of my home-brewed beers; I just used a good flocculent yeast, plus a bit of patience, and the resulting beers were a clear as a bell.

Phil said...

Interesting - I like Brass Castle beers rather a lot. Never noticed them being hazy, let alone cloudy.

Rob said...

Says they use seaweed in the kettle but no finings in cask.

His main point (other than loss of flavour) is that we're obsessed with clarity, and it's assumed to be OK if it is clear. But finings can mask the signs of infection (not sure whether an unfined infected beer looks any different??) and if you complain the barman will often say that it looks OK.

I sort of get the point, and have had trouble returning a pint that looks ok. But I don't think that greater acceptance of murky beer is the answer - as seen in this piece it just gives the barman another opportunity to say "it's meant to be like that". He does argue that we should use our tastebuds, and I'm sure we'd all agree with that, but the problem is that the people behind the bar don't taste the beer. (Incidentally the worst pint I can remember having was a porter in Essex somewhere. Was warm vinegar and made me gag. When I told the barman he said it may have been left in the lines for a while and got me another one. It was marginally better in that it was cooler, but was still vinegar. The guy didn't even try it himself, just grumbled at me and played up to the regulars (all of whom were drinking lager...) before finally getting me a new drink. This is the level of service which is all too common.)

Phil said...

Greater acceptance of murky beer will just mean that if you return cloudy beer the bar staff will tell you that looks OK too!

Certainly cloudiness is used by some bar staff as a proxy for whether a beer is off - or rather, clarity is used as a proxy for it not being off. I had a horrendous time returning a pint in one Chorlton pub, years ago (they're under new management now): the woman behind the bar looked at it, told me other people were drinking it, held it up to the light, sniffed it, tasted it, said it tasted fine to her (it was foul), and eventually agreed to give me a replacement. She left the beer on, naturally - it was fine, after all; nobody else was complaining. There's nothing like good customer service!

py said...

If you don't like the beer, don't order it again. IF you think its off, take it back. If the staff won't change it, don't go back there.

I don't see what any of this has got to do with cloudiness. I've had plenty of vinegary pints that have been clear as a bell.

Phil said...

What it has to do with cloudiness is, as I said above (and in 2014),

once you’ve told the world your beers are cloudy, you’ve made it next to impossible to catch the wrong kind of cloudiness. And if you also tell the world that your beer tastes ‘different’, it’s pretty hard to catch off flavours – more importantly, it’s pretty hard for customers to have any confidence that they can recognise off flavours.

Also see the OP.

py said...

All completely irrelevant biased nonsense. Plenty of cloudy beers are absolutely fine and plenty of clear beers are awful vinegary slop. The correlation between cloudy beer and off beer is extremely tenuous.

The taste is all that matters. Either you think the beer is acceptable or you don't, and if there is something wrong with it then you should be able to tell on your first sip.

End of story. There is no more reason for a bar to pre-warn you that the beer is hazy than there is to pre-warn you that the beer is clear.

Rob Nicholson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Nicholson said...

At aforementioned Bolly festival we had Magic Rock Dark Arts and Ringmaster. Neither were cloudy but the Ringmaster was a tidge hazy however that's equally a problem on our part with getting the conditioning perfect with this darn weather with temperatures up and down. Last year we worried about too hot. This year we worried about the coolers taking it down too cold ;-) And we don't have the luxury of waiting...

Mike McGuigan said...

"Finings mask the signs of infection"? New one on me, but only been pro-brewing for c19years...

Finings do remove some positive flavour from beer, but also remove the taste of yeast-bite, which I dislike intensely.

The design of many one-trip & standard kegs in my view precludes the serving of clear beer from them, if the beer is packaged unfiltered & with yeast, as the kegs draw from the bottom where the yeast will gradually settle, most likely dosing in murk to every pint!

For me, it's simple - unfiltered beer is great, unfined beer is fine (ho ho ho), but needs ideally not to have too much yeast in it (settled out at the brewery in FV / CT) & then allowed to settle out in the pub, so the beer tastes of beer not yeast.