Monday 2 February 2015

Weirdo Craft

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.


  1. I can't help myself: I'm pretty sure that's a picture of 4-Methoxybenzaldehyde (p-Anisaldehyde) which also smells of almonds, apparently. I'll shut up now.

  2. Indeed - buying beers you don't recognise from breweries you've never heard of can be a complete lottery. Even if it's a new beer, it helps if it's from a brewery whose beers you've enjoyed previously.

    And "cask lager" is surely a contradiction in terms. In general, they're ales brewed with lager malt and hops.

  3. Golly, Mudgie, how would you ever try anything new, if you lived your life like that? Surely the problem here is that the pub didn't spot the beer was faulty and proceeded to sell defective goods.

  4. @Stringers - there's a world of difference between never trying anything new, and being cautious about trying new beers from breweries you've never heard of. When I do try a new beer, it's generally something from a brewery I'm already familiar with, or one that I have heard about through word of mouth and think I'd like to try.

    In the general sphere of consumer purchases, how often do you buy an unfamiliar product from a producer you've never heard of? Probably well under 1%.