Monday, 30 January 2012

The Quality Thing

So now that beer festivalitis has temporarily left me, I can return to the normal world of beer. Saturday saw a pub crawl of Manchester, though unfortunately I missed out on the start at the Port St Beer House, which I like. It was a change from the usual haunts and I was delighted to note excellent beer quality in the Crown and Kettle, the Castle, the Soup Kitchen, the Piccadilly and the Bank. Not every beer was to my taste, but I certainly couldn't complain about the condition or temperature of any. That's a good thing and I will return to this theme of quality much more in the future. Top beer of the day? Well a half of Old Tom was sublime in the Castle. I'm not a fan of Robinson's beers, as I consider the house yeast far too dominant, but a beer such as Old Tom can push that into the background readily enough. On cask and 8.5%, it was probably the pick of a decent day's supping and certainly debunked the myth that you can't put strong beers on cask.

One issue did come up. Jaipur was on in the Bank and once again it failed to hit the mark. Overly sweet and sticky, it just didn't appeal to me or any of my drinking companions and while it may be hitting the spot still for some, I'll be approaching it with much more scepticism than previously as I just don't seem to get a good pint of it and haven't for well over a year.

Returning to the issue of quality, I have become aware of - or rather, been reacquainted with - a fairly widespread problem of pubs that aren't thriving, buying beer in cash as they go along, with many resulting quality problems, such as green beer, hazy beer and beer that has dropped bright, but has not yet conditioned. This affects many pubs and I was advised at NWAF that Adnams are countering this problem by conditioning their beer for longer in the brewery before releasing it. Other brewers may be doing this too or thinking about it, but it is a widespread problem, often affecting tenanted pubs of small regional brewers and is a hidden but pernicious aspect to the doubtful viability of some pubs.  The brewery knows a pub is in trouble when the dray order is dropped and the beer is being bought for cash. Alarm bells clang loudly. 

Next time you get a duff pint in a brewery owned tenanted pub, consider if you can, that it may not have been presented as the brewer intends for reasons other than cellar incompetence.


NeilC said...

I am sure you are right in many cases but appearances can be misleading sometimes. The Buck & Union for example pays cash for a substantial weekly delivery but keeps it untouched in the cellar for a week.

Tandleman said...

Neil - Of course not all cash deals mean bad news.

The Beer Nut said...

the myth that you can't put strong beers on cask
There is such a myth? Link?

Tandleman said...

BN.Look it up yourself. What am I? A librarian?

The Beer Nut said...

I'm a-looking, but I'm not a-finding.

I've seen the argument that some strong beers and some hop-forward beers work better on keg than cask, but that's a long way from "you can't put strong beers on cask".

Did anyone actually say this?

Does anyone reading these comments believe this?

Tandleman said...

OK BN. I'm happy with "some".

John West said...

I don't think Tandie has to back up the 'can't-sell-very-strong-cask' myth with a source. It's a myth - that's the point. I've certainly come across it - most usually in the context of 'one of the reasons craft keg/cask breathers is/are such a good idea is that it'll stop strong cask beers that have lower throughput from spoiling.'

Interestingly, I asked Duncan Sambrook (of Wandle fame) what he did that ensure his beer was always in such excellent condition - save the dodgiest of pubs on their last legs, his beer has a tight, lasting head without fail. He was very open about the fact that he conditions his casks before delivery. I haven't seen his yard but I wonder (given the quality of the beer) how long it will be before he runs out of space and relies on his customers to get that right!

Alistair Reece said...


Go and read D_I_N_G's blog about cask ale:

While some of his points are true, others are just ridiculous, including his insistence that session beer in the US doesn't really exist because it doesn't conform to the British "definition".

The Beer Nut said...

Thanks Al. But I don't think he's saying what you're suggesting.

It's not that strong beers don't work on cask. It's that they don't show the specific advantages of cask. Of course, that's a whole other point to be argued with and I don't think I agree with it. But it's not at all saying "If you have a strong beer you had better serve it kegged."

Alistair Reece said...


I am referring to point 7 there.

The American definition of "session beer" is 4.5% and below rather than 4%, that extra 0.5% abv allows for quite a lot of session beer to be "regularly available".

The Beer Nut said...

OK, but what's that got to do with the dispense arrangements for strong beers?

Birkonian said...

It is not just brewery owned tenancies that pay cash. Some breweries are known to drive from pub to pub offering beer that is close to its sell by date for a knock-down cash price. Certain pubs obtain a fair proportion of their beers this way but of course quality suffers.

ennislaw said...

Not relevant to the overall discussion but in response to V.A.'s comment: "I am referring to point 7 there []. The American definition of "session beer" is 4.5% and below rather than 4%, that extra 0.5% abv allows for quite a lot of session beer to be "regularly available"."

The US is a vast geographic area and what is available in one locality doesn't generalize to the whole US. I'll bet money you'll not find a single beer below 4.7% within a 100 miles of my location (and there are two "craft" breweries within 4 miles); in fact, you'll be lucky to locate more than a handful of beers at 5% ABV, as most will exceed that.

I would agree 100% with Ding's points about myths of craft beer, it has certainly been my experience, perhaps because we both live in the same general geographic region.

Velky Al said...


"I'll bet money you'll not find a single beer below 4.7% within a 100 miles of my location"

Does that include Bud/Coors/Miller Light/Lite?

Can you get Sam Adams Light down that end of the country?

Dave said...

i would say quite a large segment of the industry operates on cash - not brickie-style cash-in-hand, but simply a non-credit system. many smaller brewers and indeed several wholesalers operate on a cash-on-delivery basis, as it saves worrying about credit control and chasing payments. similarly many pubs pay cash since they have tills full of the stuff, so it saves taking it to the bank to pay in (and possibly being charged for the privilege) only to pay it over to the brewer

we don't deal in cash much, purely because a lot of our beer is delivered by third parties, and even where we take it locally I prefer bank transfers as it saves me a trip to the bank!

ennislaw said...

In reply to V.A.'s "Does that include Bud/Coors/Miller Light/Lite? [... ] Sam Adams Light [... ]?"

Yes, but only if you want to drink it.

Alistair Reece said...


I actually quite like Sam Adams Light, probably the closest thing to a Czech desitka in the US.

Erlangernick said...

Czech desitka...never had any of this, but then I'm not up on Czech beer, having never been there despite having lived a 3 hour drive from the place for 7+ years. Wouldn't mind finding some good, flavourful low-gravity lager, since the Krauts can't seem to brew a decent one.

A road trip to fill up the boot with a few cases is in order --the missus's company car, mind, with free petrol-- but I'm having a hell of a time finding gen about good bottle shops between Nuremberg and Pilsen. If they ever get a smoking ban sorted, we might even visit a pub and stay the night.

StringersBeer said...

We generally hold our cask beer in the brewery until it's pretty much ready. Altho' stuff going out to a distributor will often be a little bit earlier than that - what with longer supply chain thingy. This means of course, that we've got (two, little) temperature controlled rooms stacked full of beer pretty much all the time. I'm sure many (micro) breweries operate such a system. It's part of the job. Or it should be.

Alistair Reece said...


"desitka" just means it is a 10 degree Plato lager, usually between 3.8% and 4%.

If you are looking for a day trip to Western Bohemia look out for Chodovar, they do both a pale and a dark desitka:

Their Skalny Lezak is a bit stronger but really good.