Like many a cask beer drinker, I pride myself on knowing a good pint, knowing common faults in beer and perhaps most difficult of all, knowing when a cask is about to run out. That can be a bit of a harder one though, in that the pint will often look pin bright, have a decent head and will to the usually inexperienced server, look exactly the same as any other he or she has served. But it isn't. Despite its looks the beer is actually, while not exactly undrinkable, not in optimal condition. As a beer, it has more or less ceased to be, while zombie like it still purports to be alive and kicking.
In one of my local pubs last night after trying the Bitter and MPA which were excellent - they keep their beer brilliantly there - I thought I'd switch to the lovely Christmas special, Plum Pudding. It looked fine, but one sip told me it was getting to the bottom of the barrel. Dilemma. Was it bad enough to return? I debated it mentally. I know when the beer starts to lose its condition and pick up off tastes from the cask bottoms, it can still last two or three pints more, but sure as eggs is eggs, it won't last much longer and it won't be much good. An additional problem to add to my deliberations, is that they know me there and they know I'm the local CAMRA Chairman and because of that, my general rule in pubs I know, is if they know me and who I am, I don't tend to moan about the beer - unless of course it is vinegar or something equally indisputable.
So, I supped a bit of it slowly while keeping my eye on the handpump. It spluttered to an end a few minutes later. I watched and waited and as soon as the cask was changed ordered a new pint. It was gorgeous. My discarded half pint or so remained on the table.
Did I do the right thing in not presenting myself as some kind of beer soothsayer? I think so. In my position, you sometimes have to take one for the Campaign. Nobody likes a smartarse after all.
In my opinion too, which is ignored at Good Beer Guide Selection meetings, this pub should be in the Guide. Being an estate pub though very few of my members are likely to nominate it. Shows it isn't always a fix.
For my London readers, very little of this applies of course. Cask beer quality there usually precludes such beery predictions.
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.
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