Norwich pub is better off without the Camra beer snobs
PUBLISHED: 07:43 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 13 September 2019
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011
Breaking News: keg beer is often “good beer”, too. So is beer in a bottle or a can.
The latest Campaign for Real Ale Good Beer Guide is out, and it'll be a brew bible for those who are living just behind the times.
It's all about real ale and the pubs that serve a lot of it.
Which is fine if that's what you're after. But it is so narrow and snooty.
The Good Beer Guide apparently - inexplicably - still matters. Philip Birchall, landlord of the Eaton Cottage in Norwich, is so cross at missing out on a mention this year that he has posted a tremendously entertaining rant at thoise of his customers who didn't vote for his pub.
In a fresh twist on taking your ball home, he's going to gradually reduce the number of real ales he serves.
If nothing else, it will reduce the number of sandals in the pub.
To be honest, I can't see why he's so bothered.
For "good" beer is not confined to a cask. The drinking world has evolved, with countless amazing keg beers being produced and served in our pubs. The admirable Camra battle with the big brewers and pubcos has - at least on one level - been won.
So-called craft brewers have injected life into the at-times stodgy world of lower carbonation and puerile beer names (Big Willie, Beardtongue Ruby, Old Growler, Piddle in the Hole).
Colourful cans, big flavours, weird ingredients, quirky pubs - and a greater choice of beers than ever before (some with puerile names, though).
It is exciting.
So my soul sinks when I see people turning drinking into a tick-box exercise.
Groups of (mostly) men gather around a table with their iPads and their notebooks, plonk a little spitoon glass in the middle and proceed to taste and rate the ales.
Ratebeer.com has an exhaustive guide to the process, including:
■ Make sure the beer has as close as possible to the correct size head for the beer style.
■ Look at the beer and write down as many things as you can about its visual appeal, including the colour, clarity, carbonation, and head size and longevity. Mark it out of five.
■ Smell the beer. Move the glass away from you and breathe normal air and then try again. Swirling the glass can release some of the fainter more subtle aromas that are not evident the first time around. Mark it out of 10.
■ Now you can taste the beer (hallelujah - hopefully it hasn't evaporated).
Palate: This is basically the "feel" of the beer inside your mouth and as you swallow it. Is it velvety smooth or harsh, mouth filling like a stout or is it thin bodied like a watery lager? Sticky or cloying like a over sweet soft drink or does it strip your mouth out like vinegar?
You may also want to watch:
Flavour: How many different tastes and flavours can you identify?
Overall: Finally the beer is rated overall out of 20 marks.
So, now that you have turned the art of beer-drinking into a lifeless, loveless, fun-wilderness, proceed to the shop to buy a Black Sabbath t-shirt and toddle off to a steam gala.
Yes, I mock, but I think the following is a far better guide to beer tasting:
■ Go into a pub.
■ Order a beer - perhaps after asking the bar staff for some advice.
■ Find a seat.
■ Pick up glass.
■ Drink beer.
■ Repeat to fade.
It doesn't need to be complicated. It's about being with friends, enjoying a chat and a laugh, and sinking some beers that taste nice.
Finding a pub is also not a big deal: despite plenty of closures there are loads of good ones (particularly if - like me - you are lucky enough to live in north Norwich).
You don't need a Good Beer Guide to help you - not least because it is compiled on the basis of ratings from a load of Camra members who like ticking and marking.
It is based on real ale, which is like selecting a cricketer who can only play one shot.
The big picture should include the keg beers, the cans, the bottles...everything.
They all complement what Camra insists on labelling "good beer". Together, they show the depth and range of a pub.
Embracing them would also help Camra shake off the (false?) idea that their members wear combat shorts and have crumbs in their untrimmed beards.
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