Showing posts with label tetley's bitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tetley's bitter. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Happened?

Later this year I will be 37 years old, which means that for more than half my life I will have been drinking legally. Ever since that first, legal, pint of Guinness in the Dark Island Hotel back home on Benbecula, I have had a taste for beer. Oh alright then, I was known before I turned 18 to enjoy the occasional can of whatever muck was available, Tennent's Lager most often, though also the odd Budweiser. I was never one of the "sit in the bus shelter on a Friday night drinking whatever we could persuade the older kids to buy for us" set, but I had a beer from time to time.

Bit of a digression there, but anyway, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post listing five beers that changed what I drink and how I think about beer. Another slight digression, but one thing that hasn't changed is the kind of place I enjoy drinking in, pubs, proper pubs, not bars or clubs or glorified restaurants, but pubs, even if they are something of a hen's tooth over here. Without wanting to sound like a complete curmudgeon, here are a few beers that I once loved, which now leave me disappointed...

In 1999 when I moved to Prague, Velkopopovicky Kozel was something of a minor beer celebrity. I had heard so much about this pale lager which was so unlike the Carling and Fosters most pubs served in Britain, it had a real hop bite to it. My first pint was at the sports bar I went to every weekend for ten seasons and I loved it. Eventually the brewery was bought by Pilsner Urquell and in turn Pilsner Urquell was bought by SABMiller, and so began the desecration of a once lovely beer. When I left in 2009 I found a Kozel bar whilst out walking and popped in to sample the wares, and while the 12° was ok, the rest of the range was thin, insipid and a mere shadow of its former self.

The other beer I drank a lot of back in my early Prague years was Gambrinus, the picture here is their 11° Excelent. While Gambá? was available as both a 10° and a 12° beer, it was the 10° that you saw most often - most pubs would have three taps, Gambrinus 10° on one, with Kozel ?erny and Pilsner Urquell taking up the other two. Again Gambrinus was something of a sad story, perfectly drinkable for many a year and then around 2006 strange things started happening, it became thin and noticeably watery. I am not sure when they started watering down a 13° beer, post fermentation, to create the 10° and 12° but they should never have started.

Once upon a time I drank smoothflow ales, I liked them and then I moved away from Britain and didn't have the option. Perhaps they were always bland, watery messes, but I have a sense that in the 13 years between leaving Blighty and sitting in my Charlottesville living room this morning, they have got worse.

Over to you then, what beers did you once love and now find disappointing?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stepping Back

I am fairly certain that were you to scratch the surface of even the most die hard of beer aficionado you will find a person who once upon a time drank stuff that they now deride and rail against. My particular skeleton in the cupboard is that before moving to the Czech Republic I drank the likes of John Smith's Extra Smooth, Tetley's Smoothflow and my favourite, Caffrey's. I loved the adverts, and could often be found propping up the bar of the O'Neill's pub on Broad Street in Birmingham when I was a student.

Having attended to the weekend chores on Saturday, I dragged Mrs V round to Wine Warehouse here in Charlottesville in order to completely ignore all the cases of wine and instead have a gander at the shelves of beer. I like Wine Warehouse's selection of beer, largely because they have decent British stuff, including Fuller's 1845 and a selection of Willams Brothers ales. As I perused the selection a thought occurred, I should try some of my old favourites in cans, and so I picked up these three, erm, delights.

As I said above, Tetley's was a fairly regular tipple in the misguided days of my youth, Old Speckled Hen and Bombardier were likewise something I enjoyed and bought plenty of in Prague when Robertson's would get some in, though I hadn't tried them in cans. Yesterday I set about them.

First up was Tetley's, mainly because at 3.6% it was the lightest of the bunch in terms of alcohol and, as it turned out, pretty much everything else. Any aroma that was there was basically that of a digestive biscuit dunked in week old black tea, and the flavours were a touch of toffee sweetness, a dab of crisp hop bite and sod all else. My overwhelming reaction was one of "I used to drink this?" confusion and disappointment, though only a little, in keeping with the beer. Four mouthfuls and it was gone, mind you it looked pretty in the glass, clear amber and a classic nitro can creamy white head.

I love the story of Old Speckled Hen, named for a rusty old MG in the brewery courtyard, and for a while in Prague it was a special treat, go to ale. In the can though it is another nitro abomination (sorry I really have issues with nitro, both for cans and draught, and it pains me to see "craft" brewers that make great stouts wandering down the nitro path to flavourless crap), so it poured a rich dark copper with that iconic shaving foam head. You know, I think they might actually have put hops in this beer, classic British spicy earthy ones at that. Big dollops of caramel and toast were the main features in the tasting department, and it was actually not that bad. Still, the bottles I remember were better, could that be a sign of entering one's dotage, thinking beers used to better in the old days?

Bombardier was the only non-nitro beer, as you can see from the huge voluminous head in the picture, which was topping off a nice red ale. Other than the looks though, Bombardier was just plain dull, kind of a souped up version of the Tetley's but without the nitro and a touch more malt. In my experience though the more loud and obnoxious the advert the worse the product, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised then given the puerile cack of their latest Rik Mayall adverts?

So, yes Old Speckled Hen was the best of a decidedly mediocre bunch. Thankfully I also had in the fridge a few bottles of Williams Brothers beers, including one I had not tried before, the 3.9% Scottish Session - a magnificent delight of a beer, packed with bite, flavour and all round drinking happiness which reminded me again that the truly great brewers are those that don't have to hide behind insane volumes of alcohol, hops, random flavourings and gimmicks.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...