When I say “all of them” I mean that I seem to have overdosed on flavour-intense Hazy IPAs, Pastry Stouts, Sours, Lambics and other often alcohol-heavy beers.
I’d managed to accrue a collection of big beers in the months leading up to Christmas and had a small tasting party with some friends and colleagues to empty the fridge. It was like a beer festival, 12 or more beers and a couple of ciders in the course of a single evening. It was a great night. But in the lead up to it, and the days after, I was convinced this would be the end of the beer purchases and an end to being drawn in to the latest special limited run offerings.
I found myself looking at shelves full of all the beers wondering “what is the point — what could it offer me”.
Was I over beer? Put it this way, my enthusiasm for new beers was at a low point. I found myself looking at shelves full of all the beers wondering “what is the point — what could it offer me”.
What I needed was a beer that would gently guide me back to a new beginning. Clearly it wasn’t going to be a Hazy IPA or Pastry Stout. I just wanted a good honest beer. I still wanted a craft beer, but I wanted a new experience.
Which is where the journey back to a start begins.
The answer, perhaps surprisingly or not, came in the form of Pale Ale, and Pilsners. For me, and I could be wrong, there’s not an awful lot you can do to a traditional style like a Pale Ale or Pilsner. They are, and I use the word loosely, simple beers, but done properly they can be amazing.
By happenstance and luck there appear to be a few brewers who are making very hoppy Pilsners, and IPL styles. Kereru, Mythica, Bach, Whistling Sisters are just some I came across in the last few weeks.
There are some properly nice and solid Pale Ales too, from (for example) McLeod’s, Rhyme X Reason, and old favorites Liberty and Epic.
What these have done for me is bring a new perspective, an expectation in my beer drinking, one which I think will be useful to my future continued appreciation of all the beer styles.
Pale Ales can be both hoppy and malty, and come with a long profile, fuller mouthfeel and some bitterness. They tend to be very even drinking and don’t change profile as they warm.
Lagers and Pilsners offer up happiness and that little bite of bitterness and don’t tend to challenge you to identify the individual flavours or combinations.
Pilsners and Pale Ales are proper gateway beers, platform beers, springboard beers. In essence they are pure beers, and you don’t have to wander too far away from them to know if you’re going in the right direction when it comes to re-discovering what ‘taste’ or’ craft’ really means.
What my own beer festival did for me was to sharply bring into focus that I’d been collecting beers for a special occasion that didn’t arrive. Beers that I thought were so precious that I had to have them, but then found that I could never bring myself to drink alone. I could easily have had them alone but that would have been somewhat selfish. What the mini-festival highlighted for me was that bigger is not always better. As we found, there were a couple of beers (that I’d rather not mention) which, despite their best and more earnest attempts, were not good.
As it transpires, I didn’t manage to empty the fridge, and there are some lovely beers still to have, perhaps in a few weeks, including from Kereru, Craftwork, North End and Shining Peak
I’d be surprised if I was alone in how I feel about beer, and how it can be the most rewarding and the most disappointing thing, how easy it is to fall out of love with something and then be totally infatuated with the next thing.
That said, I’m prepared to arm-wrestle anyone over just how good IPL and hyper-hoppy lagers can be.