Friday, 24 November 2017

The Colour of Murky

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.


Curmudgeon said...

If the view became widespread that craft beer=murky beer than it would run up against a barrier of consumer resistance. After all, the beers produced by Britain's most successful craft brewer (i.e. BrewDog) are in general notable for their clarity.

Cooking Lager said...

Last time I bought a kellerbier in a biergarten I asked for it German. A Spanish friend arrived ten minutes later and asked in English. He got the "this is a cloudy beer, you still want one?" whereas I didn't. The server presumed those asking in his native language knew what they were asking for, those asking in English might not know. A fair assumption & one that doubtless was based on experience and a desire not to pour a beer a punter baulked at. There was no rudeness or condescension, just a guy manning the beer tap that wanted to give the punter something they'd enjoy.

Never figured out why so many crafties are adverse to having the information at the point of purchase to make an informed choice on the basis that not every punter is a beer geek or expert. It's almost like they prefer an exclusive clique where you need specialist knowledge.

In a beer bar with several different styles & even more beers, A bit of information is useful to those that aren't geeks.

ElectricPics said...

"It's almost like they prefer an exclusive clique where you need specialist knowledge"

A pound shop version of Masters of Wine perhaps?

The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle, helpfully has small signs like those locale ones attached to keg founts and handpumps dispensing murk pointing out that its supposed to be murky.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

As with driverless cars I'm still not convinced about murky beer but I'm happy for others to do the experimenting for me.
In the former case the bottom could drop out of my world if I was wrong about them but in the latter the world would drop out of my bottom.
Wahaay !

I'll get my coat.

py said...

"Never figured out why so many crafties are adverse to having the information at the point of purchase "

Strawman, no? Who are these people who rail against information being given at point of service? I've heard disaparaging remarks about "jamjars of beer", but it hasn't been from the young craft crowd, more the old codger brigade.

Is warning people that a beer is hazy any more or less necessary than warning them that its dark, or strong, or brewed in Bury St Edmunds?

Tabitha said...

Those attempting a new beer for the first time may be concerned if they are presented with a hazy pint - what's the harm in putting people at ease to avoid discouraging experimentation?

Tandleman said...

None Tabitha. None.

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