My quiz league travels take me occasionally to places where there is no cask beer. Usually when that happens I'll adapt by drinking smooth mild as I find that, if not exactly enjoyable, reasonably tolerable. Last night, though there was nitro mild, I noted while waiting to be served, that it didn't have the usual Guinness like appearance, so suspecting (maybe wrongly) a gas problem, I opted for Hydes Bitter. Now you can't really accuse Hydes of making extreme beer. Their range is firmly in the middle of the road and has what brewers would call "balance", though with a much bigger nod to malt than hops. Still, it was the best thing on offer, so we all ordered it and despite all our team being cask men, we swept bravely on to victory, while sipping our tasteless fluids.
Going back to the bar at half time, I spotted bottled Guinness on sale. Not the old half pint ones, but the supermarket Guinness Original in 500ml bottles. Now I haven't had bottled Guinness Original for years, so I ordered one. It looked the part, though noticeably more brown than black. It smelled stale, but this bottle wasn't even near its best by date. The nose was caramel and cardboard. It tasted bloody awful. Instead of robust roasted barley there was an unmistakeable gravy browning taste, almost overshadowed by incessant cardboard and huge carbonation. Maybe it was a bad bottle, but somehow I doubt it. More like a cheapened recipe and heavy pasteurisation. It bore no resemblance whatever to the complex beer I remembered. Where was the roast barley? Where were the hops? Nowhere, that's where.
Possibly a clue is to be found on the back label. It mentions the classic taste and a "hint of roast barley". A hint? It used to be its signature. While the demeaned taste of Draught Guinness is hidden by nitrogenation, this beer, with only a heavy jolt of CO2 to lift it zombie like from its grave, was exposed as a poor shadow of its former self.
I hate to see a great beer ruined like this. Shame on them.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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