This beer is murky I said to the barman— Cooking Lager (@CarpeZytha) November 20, 2017
It's meant to be like that he replied
I ain't drinking that muck I insisted
As the craft beer fad crumbled and died.
I've always had my worries about murky beer and even quite hazy beer, though slightly hazy beer doesn't bother me that much. What has though always concerned me, is that in the case of cask conditioned beer, it, pun intended, muddies the waters. Not so long ago, in the days of certainty, you knew where you stood. If a hand pulled pint had more than a slight haze, back to the bar it went. There was never much by way of argument. We all knew the rules and beer should be clear. Any haze had your radar twitching and murk would never be tolerated. Not so much now.
It kind of started for me in 2001 in Portland Oregon at Rock Bottom Brewery where to my horror the cask beer was cloudy and it was meant to be. My good friend Jaime Jurado, now Director of Brewing Operations at Abita Brewing Co. and then Director of Brewing for the company that owned Bridgeport in Portland explained to me that "opalescence" was rapidly being considered a desirable feature in cask beer within the US. In a subsequent private tour of Portland Brewing Co and a tasting, this was confirmed. Deliberate murk has a long history.
Fortunately this tendency lay dormant - more or less for years and when I served beer at the Chicago Real Ale Festival in 2007, I believe what beer that was murky was more by poor handling than deliberate intent. Arguments about taste abound - see Ed's blog here - and empirical evidence is hard to find - but where there is an absence of "yeast bite" I can live with it - pointless though it is - but my concern about "It's meant to be like that" being used an excuse certainly haven't gone away. I rather doubt if I'd be given an exchange in many places and frankly, with the norm having been altered and fudged, I could hardly expect it to be. A quick call to the brewer might well be an anwer, but I'm uncertain if that is the best way round it.
At the recent Rochdale Beer Festival we had about four beers where there was no indication on the cask that the beer should be hazy. So we left them, tasted them when they didn't clear and having found no obvious faults, put it on sale with a warning.
If you can't beat them, join them I suppose, but it doesn't leave me with a comfortable feeling.
Despite Cooking Lager's amusing ditty, I doubt if craft beer will crumble and die due to murkiness.
London brewers still seem to lead the way in deliberate murkiness. London Murk indeed, though I reckon the influx of American brewers into the UK a few years ago and American influences on brewing here in the aUK had a hand in it, both directly and indirectly.