I was drinking in the local, the other day. Always surprising, I know. But this time I was actually in Preston sampling our local brews.
This is more dangerous than it sounds, as our local brewery is Hart of Preston. Yes, the infamous brewers of Dishy Debbie and other beers advertised by Rowan Molyneux-infuriating pumpclips. Though in recent times they have turned away from the sexist imagery, sadly the actual beer is no better.
They were trying a new lager recipe, and my local had received a cask of it. Ever dubious about Hart's products, I ordered a half to be on the safe side. The barman warned me about its somewhat unusual taste. "Tastes of almonds, Matt" he said. And bugger me, was he right. Asking around on Twitter, a brewer told me it was probably a fault. Benzaldehyde, I think he said.
Thing is, there are so many microbreweries around these days. You go into your local Free House and again and again you're confronted with a beer you've never even heard of, let alone tasted. If you didn't know the obvious "off-flavours", how would you ever know the beer was dodgy? Whatever you say about stuff like Thwaites Original, it's dishwater taste is so well known, you can tell if there was anything wrong with it.
But for an obscure Craft ale, it really could just be supposed to taste like that. How would you ever know?
The above Hart Cask Lager could have been badged as "Marzipan Ale" and nobody would have been any the wiser. In fact some breweries I've heard of are indeed rumoured to indulge in such a practice.
What's the solution? Complete tasting notes on the pumpclip for those unaware of what the brewer intended it to taste like? Or maybe a team of Cask Marque-approved beer inspectors trained to recognise obvious faults? No idea, myself.
In the meantime, if you're overly concerned about this it's best to stick with what you know. Another Windy Pale, please Jeremy.