Saturday, 22 May 2010

Drinking a Pint of Cask is Like Making Love to a Beautiful Woman*

There is a fair degree of agreement that when cask beer is served at its best, that it is an unbeatable way of serving draught beer. Cool, but not cold, bursting with condition, clear, a tight creamy head - and yes it is better that way - full bodied, clean in aroma and so easy to drink. Of course your first mouthful in any beer is so important. It sets all your senses on red alert. "Is this going to be good?" is the silent question. In cask beer it tends to tell you so much more than keg beers. It is a is a much more nuanced product. Having done the visual inspection and the nose test, you are already forming an opinion, building up the anticipation, getting ready for that first mouthful that will confirm whether it is as good as it looks. Or, unfortunately as bad. Sometimes it isn't that good. Too often you can tell by that visual and olfactory inspection that things just aren't going to be as good as you'd like. Here's where the making love analogy starts. I think you'll be getting my drift by now.

Any cask ale drinker knows one simple fact of life. You aren't always going to get a good pint. Unlike the lager or smooth drinker, who knows what to expect and is delivered with it every time, the cask drinker is an uncertain soul. He is hopeful that the heights that only cask can reach will be in that pint. He knows one thing though. He will sometimes - quite often actually - get a duff pint. It is the the elephant in the public bar. Like death and taxes, the dodgy pint is always with us. Too often cask beer isn't served as it should be. It is ordinary or it is bad. It is middling or damned by that phrase, " It was OK". That usually means it was poor, but you could just about choke it down without real enjoyment and for this writer, not to enjoy beer defeats its purpose. Making love analogy again!

There is a way to mitigate this of course. You drink in pubs you trust. You drink beer from breweries you trust. (There is a long list of breweries whose beer I wouldn't touch with a bargepole and they are almost all micros). You use the GBG. You check for Cask Marque signs. You ask ahead (of fellow customers) "What's the beer like today?" This doesn't help the casual drinker of course. He or she is as likely to be a loser in the lottery as a winner. I don't believe many will disagree that the possibility of bad beer is the biggest enemy of cask . It puts more people off than anything else. Nor should you expect redress at the bar. You will be told in all probability that "Everyone else is drinking it", "it is just new on today", "that's the way it's meant to taste" etc. etc. And this won't just happen in dodgy pubs either. It will happen with a straight face in pubs that are considered the best of breed and about beer from breweries that are worshipped here in the blogosphere and in the real world. In short, over your drinking career, you will be taken for a mug time after time. An inconvenient truth if ever there was one.

What's prompted this introspection? After all I'm a cask man through and through. The other day a trip to the edge of my CAMRA Branch area, gave me some poor beer. Poor beer in Good Beer Guide pubs is irritating enough, but poor beer in pubs that usually sell it in tip top condition, is both puzzling and annoying. But sadly this isn't atypical. When some in the trade call for cask beer to be sold at a premium price, my response is along the lines of "Bugger off, I already pay a premium in that at least one in five of the pints I buy, will be poor and quite a number of them won't be as good as the brewer intended."

Why drink cask beer then? Simply because when it is right, when you hit that cask in peak of condition, when you have the taste experience which has you mentally cancelling the next few hours as the first pint slides down, it is the best beer experience you are likely to get. So when that perfect pint caresses your lips and sets your senses all aglow, do savour it, but then get stuck right in, get it down and get yourself back up to the bar, because then you really do have the beautiful woman in your arms and a night (or day) of true passion ahead of you. No unsatisfying bonk against the wall with the pub slapper round the back of the pub for you. You have the real thing. She is yours for the night and she may not come along again any time soon. Fill your boots!

So there you have it. Flirtation can be fun, but ultimately true love gives you what you really need. And one more thing. The memory of good and bad will each remain in your mind for a long time. If you are a publican, please make these memories good.

* If you are gay or a female, feel free to substitute gender as required.


Sat In A Pub said...

"Drinking a Pint of Cask is Like Making Love to a Beautiful Woman"

I know what you mean. You want to savour it and make it last forever...However, it's usually over quicker than you'd like!

Perhaps it really should be "Drinking a Pint of Good Cask is Like Making Love to a Beautiful Woman"?

Curmudgeon said...

Excellent post - and that is the point, the quality of the good ones is worth it for enduring the mediocre ones.

"There is a long list of breweries whose beer I wouldn't touch with a bargepole and they are almost all micros"

Indeed, while micros brew a lot of the best cask beer in Britain, some of them undoubtedly brew the worst.

Neville Grundy said...

You've reminded me of a Tetley Bitter advert in the 70s, I think it was. A man is standing in a pub with a pint and a beautiful blonde enters the pub; they exchange meaningful glances, he looks at his beer and decides to stick with that instead. Completely implausible for any beer, but especially for a pint of Tetley's.

NAM said...

Completely true. The wonderful pints make up for the mediocre and downright bad. There's probably a life lesson in there somewhere.

I'd also add that beer is one of the few products where you don't have to pay over the odds for the best there is. About three quid a pint can get you beer the equal of any.

Bailey said...

I like your use of the word 'middling'. The middling pints are are the really annoying ones.

If it's actually off, you get it changed.

If it's good, you drink it.

If it's just boring or a bit out of sorts, these days, I tend to abandon it on the bar, and sulk about the money I've wasted. I can't be bothered to force down mediocre beer.

Mark Dredge said...

Bailey said "I can't be bothered to force down mediocre beer." I'm the same and I've got to the stage where I leave beer if it isn't good and order another.

As for the analogy... I get it, but don't you sometimes want to take a feisty Belgian girl home? A dark-skinned and cool Italian, a free-spirited Dutch girl, a tattoos and piercings punk from the US? A little variety, perhaps? I like the flirtation bit (at least in my drinking) for now, maybe I'll settle down in a few years.

A good pint of cask ale is a wonderful thing. No denying that. Average pints are just so disappointing though, especially if they are from good breweries.

jefffrane said...

I don't know whether I'm thirsty or horny after reading this. Right now, the odds of having either are nil, unfortunately.

Tandleman said...

Best comment (so far) Jeffy.

jmrtavern said...

Given the choice, I think I would prefer the woman.

Tandleman said...

@jmrtavern: Who wouldn't?

@mark:well yes, but the point I was making wasn't as wide as that and anyway, to continue my analogy, that would be wanton promiscuity. Which indeed has its place, but ultimately does not satisfy.

@Bailey: that's what I tend to do too, but while I hope by leaving my unfinished pint on the bar I'm making some kind of statement, I doubt if it is taken on board.

Cooking Lager said...

So if well kept cask is akin to a night in the sack with Collien Fernandes what represents a nasty pint of pong? A handjob off Ann Widdecome?

Tandleman said...

That's it Cookie. Air your fantasies here!

delcatto said...

So the bottle of Brakspear Triple is like a full bodied, ripe and fruity middle-aged woman out on a hen weekend?

delcatto said...

If so...I'm certainly enjoying her company right now. I hope my wife doesn't find out!

Reanna said...

Mmmm. What a lovely analogy. I like mine zesty, with a good body, and able to satisfy me all night. The same goes for beer.

Tandleman said...

And you can't say fairer than that!