Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Peak Murky?

We started off, quite a while ago now, with the odd opaque pint being presented to drinkers. These were usually from new breweries in London and the south, following the then American tradition of cask conditioned beers being presented with what was termed "opalescence". As explained to me by a brewing friend of some substance, Jaime Jurado, this was how American brewers and the American public, back in these relatively uninformed days, perceived as the way that sort of beer was meant to be.  (You could probably take the meaning to be a sort of milky/hazy sheen.)  Then though - and I'm talking early noughties, most American beer was presented in the usual crystal clear way. West Coast IPA was a clear beer then as were most American "craft" beers.

I think it was Robbie Pickering who first coined the term "London Murky" and then it was rather unusual to see deliberately hazy beers, championed by a few and regarded with a mixture of indifference and horror by most of us "traditionalists", but the beer itself was well enough brewed, with my main objection being that it - pun intended - muddied the cask conditioned waters and undermined the convention built up over many years, that a problem pint was identified by sight first of all, if it was presented as less than clear.  There was more or less a nationwide acceptance on both sides of the bar that this was a starting point about a case to answer on a beer's saleability. In short the increase in hazy beers eroded the customer's position and allowed barstaff to say something that had largely been eliminated; "It's meant to be like that."  My own view was that this was the thin end of the wedge and that sooner or later there would be no line that could confidently be drawn.

Fast forward a few years. Small breweries have multiplied and tastes and fashions in beer have changed. Craft has pushed the perception envelope to the extent that anything goes, with some beers being indistinguishable from fruit juice in appearance.  Indeed many have fruit juice added to them.  This was always going to be a problem in so much as experimental beers are chucked out to trade and nobody has any real idea of what they really were drinking in terms of what the beer should actually taste like. This is of course very convenient to the brewer, but not for the customer, who often has to pay a premium price for something that may not be to his or her liking, or, more importantly one that he or she suspects is faulty. Now there is little recourse to changing such a beer for something more acceptable. The answer is likely to be "It's meant to be like that!"

Yesterday this was raised on Twitter by a peeved customer, Seth Bradley, who had received over the bar the samples shown in the photo.  I leave them to speak for themselves.  Follow up tweets  such as this illustrate my point:

Are these really well designed, properly brewed beers with a profile and recipe that is planned and brewed for?  You'd kind of doubt it wouldn't you?

What's the answer to these colloidal solutions when the rule book has been thrown away? I don't know for you, but for me? Avoid them like the plague.

You can read Jaime's credentials here.

I once asked Charlie Bamforth about cases less bad than this. He said the line has to be drawn before a beer looks like chicken soup. Too late.


madtom said...

Your excellent second paragraph sums up my thoughts on these cloudy cask beers. In my perfect world, if a cask beer is meant to be hazy/cloudy it should be clearly stated on the pump clip, otherwise the consumer should expect a clear pint.

Curmudgeon said...

But how do you know when a deliberately hazy/cloudy beer is *too* cloudy?

Tandleman said...

I guess that's up to the individual, but if it is full of chunks.....

Cooking Lager said...

Ha Ha.

People that drink craft beer in micro pubs get what they deserve.

I'll stick with well made 1.99 spoons beer, ta

Cirque le Soir Table said...

AMAZING blog with so tempting images. Keep sharing :)

RedNev said...

"It's meant to be like that" is poor customer service. If the customer doesn't like what he gets, a shrug of the shoulders isn't a good response. The pumpclip should emphasise that the beer is meant to be hazy or even murky, and not in tiny letters either. Nearly all beer (cask and keg) is sold clear, so that's what most customers expect, me included. At £3+ per pint, beer isn't cheap, and I can't think of any other area of retail where customer dissatisfaction is just dismissed out of hand.

The licensee of my local, the Guest House, changes any beer that a customer isn't happy with, regardless of whether or not there's a quality problem. "I'd rather lose one pint rather than one customer," she told me.

Paul Bailey said...

"Colloidal solutions" sums up these abominations perfectly.

The photos remind me of the live demonstrations sometimes given at "meet the brewer" evenings, which are used to illustrate the way finings work to clarify beer.

The horrors in those pictures could certainly do with an addition of isinglass!

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Barm said...

What do you do when you have a market that thinks it is sophisticated, but cannot tell a good beer from a bad one? When drinkers actually want to pay good money to try brewers’ experiments?

I used to think that all beers are best as unprocessed as possible, and that is still my general approach, but it’s not a dogma for me any more. There are some beers that benefit from filtration and there are some that benefit from fining. And these days, there are quite a few that would benefit from not being made at all.

Ironically enough, the beer I first dubbed London Murky, Five Points Pale, has over the last six years metamorphosed into what I would now describe as a fairly straightforward Yorkshire-style bitter (very nice it is too) and it is pretty bright. I wonder if the Leeds/Whitelocks connection has anything to do with that.

Jaime Jurado said...

Months later...I join the party. A couple (maybe 3) New England breweries started making IPAs that had a bit of a haze to them to leave more aroma and hop flavour which they decided to leave unfiltered. They got attention, and a trend started, spreading like fire across the USA and then beyond her shores. This is way beyond any opalescence in which you good still see your fingers faintly at the other side of the glass. And being American, we just seemed to have kept pushing it. A nice perspective on where we are today in the States: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/06/hazy-juicy-ipas.html

Barm said...

I should add that when I call a beer murky, it is not intended to be derogatory. When I call it sludge, it is.

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