Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Hot Stuff

I've been banging on about cask beer quality as long as I have been writing this blog.  It is a bit of an obsession of mine as I love great cask beer and feel frustrated enough to scream internally when it is not.  The lack of quality in cask beer played a huge part in the rise of keg in the 1960s and keg and smooth beer in the years beyond.  It may well have a place in the rise of craft keg, but that's not the theme of this post. Do however feel free to allege it or deny it in commenting.

The real focus of my ire though is temperature, as it is that above all which affects the condition of beer once it is in the cellar. I've been writing about that since Day One, so love the subject or hate it, I'm at least consistent and while I make many criticisms of too warm beer, I am equally keen to praise the good when I find it. So I'll remind you what I said on that fateful first day of blogging on 26 November 2007:

"Too warm a serving temperature and too little condition are the enemy of cask beer. The latter two statements are also beer FACTS as they have been proved to be true scientifically. Warm temperatures cause dissolved C02 to return to atmosphere and too little condition will have the same flattening effect on beer. Don't believe me? Read "Beer and the Science of Brewing by Charles Bamforth. I have a signed and dedicated copy. Another beer fact!"

Now I could have said that a little better, but the main point is that warm beer will always give you lack of condition and explains why, as it warms up even more after serving, the beer, which tasted reasonable at first sip, frankly, dies on its arse as you go along.  It is important that the drinker and more importantly, the vendor,understands and bears in mind that a warm beer will not only get warmer, but will much more quickly lose its condition. That my friends is basic physics and why getting the cellar temperature and, importantly, temperature at point of dispense, correct. This is a one way street. There is no way back as temperature rises.  Those of you who know me as a cellarman at beer festivals will know that I am equally obsessive there. My reputation is on the line and I don't have a temperature controlled cellar to rely on, which is the reason that many of you will have had to keep your coat on where I'm in charge of the beer. Sorry about that, but hopefully the beer was good.

Now why am I giving this background?  Well I have received a bit of outrage from some about the fact that I dare to challenge warm beer and name names. I've covered this subject before, so I urge you to read this piece from August 2011.  I'll also cover where complaining gets you in my next article.

You might also want to glance through this which is a search of my blog for the term warm beer and because reading my old stuff will be good for you!

I'll also be writing about a pub in London with great quality beer which, oddly is within a 5 minute (or less) walk of our London flat.


JM said...

Also, the longer the beer stays cool, the more you get to drink before the excessive levels of diacetyl and/or acetaldehyde (sadly all too common with many of our recently established breweries) becomes unbearably prominent…

beersiveknown said...

higher temperature in storage and dispense can also lead to faster spoilage through oxidation and other reactions (basic chemical theory...more heat=more collisions=more reactions). plus bacteria prefer warmer environments and will grow faster leading to off-flavours

Tandleman said...

Good points and thanks for picking them up. Staling is a particular problem, but I wanted to keep it simple as I have much more yet to come.

Wiggin Mon said...

In my locality at least (Wigan), I rarely come across warm ale. In fact the reverse is an issue with me - too cold. Also, whichever town I visit, all the JDWs seem to serve ale that is slightly on the colder side - anyone concur with this ?

Cooking Lager said...

Just drink that craft keg. That's lovely and cold. Not too pricey in spoons, too.

Stonch said...

This is all very good and I agree but what about the Tories and the NHS? If you don't address that it's a vacuous complaint.

Drank ale in two pubs in Clerkenwell last week. Both served beer at two high a temperature. Feel like giving up on the whole thing sometimes. Then after a long walk yesterday I had a brace of Harvey's Sussex Best at the pub by the station in Amberley, Sussex (Bridge Inn, I think) and they were perfectly cool and conditioned and didn't touch the sides.

What Pedro is talking about in this post is the new direction CAMRA should take and he should lead the charge.


Stonch said...

"too high a temperature", not two, obvs

Tandleman said...

Episode Two will take on the problems of the NHS destroying pubs. Or whatever it was.

KenP said...

What winds me up is the number of pubs in the Good Beer Guide who serve warm beer. ( They get marked down accordingly)

Nick Boley said...

100% correct Peter. I have been lobbying the CAMRA NE for a new Key Campaign on beer quality, and it might be gaining some traction. Poor cask beer plays into the hands of keg. lager and craft keg, and to those who question whether cask beer (i.e. beer which can oxidise and is left to the tender mercies of pub cellarmen) can ever be good. I am sure you know some of those I mean. I have always been totally fed up at being told at beer festivals where I am working how good the beer is and why the customer drinks lager in his local because their ale tastes nothing like the festival's. I have long been of the opinion that CAMRA must be more proactive - for example giving all licensees a free copy of Pat O'Neill's wonderful Cellarmanship book - Pat liked the idea too. There must be much more we can do, as supporting cask beer and then pulling back when it comes to poor cask beer just won't do.

Tandleman said...

It astonishes me that London CAMRA Branches are so tolerant of this. Frankly the GBG does not guarantee good beer.

The quality of cask beer determines its future. Why on earth isn't it a campaigning objective.

Gavin said...

I got called an argumentative tool on the CAMRA FB page, ok.I did suggest that people who liked warm beer were perverts but were free to do whatever they liked in the privacy of there own homes but there were people saying that ale should be served at room temperature. I have come across this in my local, where agsinst the landlords better judgement, some customers had requested that bottled beer be kept on the shelf, nice and warm. According to the guy who started the FB conversation it is down to personal preference, a statement that doesn't really mean anything other than people can like what like but warm beer goes flat and don't taste how it's supposed to, I think that's a fact. I was probably being an argumentative tool though.

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