Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Circle of Trust

The Beer Nut set me thinking a little while ago, when he asked how I knew in advance that Mallinsons Chinook was any good. My answer was along the lines of since I trusted them, it was likely to be good.

You may have read me saying over the years about a black list of breweries that I have in my mind.  I mentally check through this list when looking at the wickets and add to it from time to time. Far too often actually. It is my way of avoiding chucking my money down the drain and of limiting my chances of getting a really bad beer.  It isn't written down though and I'm not anal enough to trawl through the GBG to produce one. But it is there in my mind's eye. It changes sometimes. Breweries go in and out of the list and of course there are breweries that I simply don't like because of a house style or flavour that just doesn't appeal to me.  Your mileage may therefore vary. To add to that there are of course breweries that I don't know at all. I don't always try unknown breweries, but will usually have a taste if offered. It all contributes to the mix and that's how discoveries are made. Good or bad.

To go along with this mental list, there is a list of those breweries that will never reach the heights, either though intention to appeal to the mainstream, or the simple fact that they produce beers that while they will rarely delight, will equally be unlikely to offend. These are the sort of beers you drink when you seek familiarity or comfort.  They may not make you swoon, but you enjoy them if the circumstances and the company is right. It includes most of the Family Brewers and the Regionals.  It also includes that frustrating group, the breweries that produce great stuff and not such great stuff, or have consistency problems. Even within these, there are beers I am happy to drink depending on circumstance. I think that list though is much more personal and you probably have your own.

For every down, there is an up. The list here is fortunately reasonably large and in the best traditions of cheery beeriness, I'll share some with you. It doesn't mean they are always brilliant, just a lot more likely to be so. Mallinsons, Phoenix, Ossett, Pictish, Hawkshead, Castle Rock, Ilkley, Fyne, Acorn, Brodies, Buxton, Liverpool Organic, Thornbridge, Crouch Vale, Magic Rock, Dark Star, Stringers, Oakham and quite a few others if I could manage to think of  them. For the avoidance of doubt, I am talking here about cask beer - beer you can only buy in the pub.

Some of this is personal taste, but these all operate pretty well across a variety of styles and in my view can be bought with a fair degree of confidence.  Trust me on that one?

Of course many breweries do mainly non cask well and I wouldn't find Kernel or Camden a great hardship in most circumstances.


Phil said...

Can't argue with that list, apart from... two words, rhymes with "Ted Pillow". Just saying. Also, Conwy and Evan Evans, if you like Welsh beer (some people apparently don't).

Really hankering for a pint of Harvey's since not managing to get one when I was in Brighton the other week, but I guess that comes in the "comfort drinking" bracket.

I think Thornbridge may have lost it, sadly, although I'll always look at something pale from them.

I'll always try something new from Marble, but I won't necessarily expect to like it - this is still the case since my conversion to pale hoppy beers, so I think it's a quality/consistency problem. They've lost some good people in the last year or so, too.

Cooking Lager said...

Such things brands are made of.

Tandleman said...

Phil: Ah Marble. It is that old consistency thing, probably for the reasons you state.

Cookie: In way, yes.

Paul C said...

Wouldn't argue with any of your selections on the whole, especially as you say it's all a matter of personal taste. The only one I might disagree with would be Castle Rock, they do make some good stuff but their range is a bit limited (no regular stout or porter!?) and they tend to play it safe when looking at new brews or one offs.

Tandleman said...

Paul C: Fair points on both counts. Maybe I've been a bit generous to CR. Guess that's where the personal taste comes in.

Paul C said...

Their beers are consistent and of a good quality and their pubs are cracking,just think that the other breweries you named are a bit more progressive. If it was my list I would probably substitute them for Blue Monkey (again personal taste coming in to play maybe).

Bailey said...

It's entering a pub and your gut reaction at the sight of the pumpclips being "Oh, great!", rather than "Aw, crap."

The breweries that trigger the former reaction have earned your respect. Sometimes, that will linger even after their beer goes off the boil, so to speak.

Leigh said...

Fully agree with the sentiment on the post, Tand. We all have respect, and total trust for, a clutch of breweries that we enjoy consistently good beer from. There's a lot to be said for that, and it's something I try and hammer home as much as I can. Bailey's point is spot on - you allow the odd one or two to slip under the radar, because you've built up a relationship with the brewery as a drinker.

Birkonian said...

Here in Wirral we've got Brimstage which isn't quite in the class of Hawkshead or Acorn but can give most of the others a run for their money. Often found in same pubs as Liverpool Organic the presence of beers from both breweries seems to drive up trade.

AndyR said...

Good to see you mention Crouch Vale. They don't seem to get many mentions in the blogging world but they do, in my opinion, produce some lovely beers. My favourite one off beer drunk last year was a few pints of their Brewers Gold in the Fat Cat in Ipswich. Straight from the barrel in perfect condition.

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