Condition, condition, condition

I never used to care about condition in cask beer. I think this is because I never used to get served beer in poor condition; occasionally you’d get a pint that was downright sour and have an interesting conversation with the barman, but flabby, lifeless, borderline-flat beer has always been a rarity in my experience. (At least, for beer out of a pump; with beers on gravity you take your chances.)

As noted a couple of posts ago, I had a pint of Dark Star‘s eponymous Dark Star a couple of weekends ago which looked like flat Coke; some vigorous pump-jockeying produced a bit of a head, but the effect was cosmetic – there was little if any carbonation left in the beer. And now this (a record of a weekend’s drinking):

Sedge Lynn (JDW)
Wicked Weed Sir Ryan the Pounder. Nice APA, in good nick.
Adnam’s Broadside. Big heavy dark bitter. Tired and flabby.

Beagle
Milestone Welsh Dragon. Decent best bitter. Very tired, almost flat.

Milson Rhodes (JDW)
Kelham Island Zombies of the Stratosphere. Hoppy pale ale. Tasted fine, but almost completely flat – no condition at all. Seriously considered taking it back.
Adnam’s Broadside. In good nick (about time!).

Gaslamp
Blackjack The River. Weird-tasting brown ale; will give benefit of doubt (brown ale). In good nick.
Coastal Hopmonster. Pleasant light golden ale (not a hopmonster!). In good nick.

This may not mean anything – apart from suggesting that the Gaslamp’s policy of only having two cask ales on (at most) isn’t entirely a bad thing. I may just have been unlucky in those three beers (or four, if we count the Dark Star the other week). But if condition problems are surfacing in outlets as diverse as the Font and the Beagle, on one hand, and two separate Spoons’ on the other, I do wonder if it’s a sign of something else – the most obvious candidate being over-supply, meaning that pubs can’t shift all the beer they have on before it gets tired. Just as ‘craft’ (or the idea of ‘craft’) goes mainstream, are we hitting Peak Beer – or Peak Bar?

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4 Comments

  1. pubcurmudgeon
    Posted 17 March, 2014 at 11:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve actually written a column on this subject for next month’s “Opening Times”. Many pubs simply have too many beers on and it does seem to be getting more common to get a pint that, while not obviously “off” is very flat and tired.

    It’s almost par for the course to get beer in Spoons that is to some extent lacking in condition. I suspect given the size and design of their pubs they tend to have much longer lines than normal.

    • Phil
      Posted 18 March, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but that’s never really been my experience. I’ve taken sour pints back in my time – probably about as often in JDWs as in ‘normal’ pubs – but beer that’s hard to drink purely because of condition is something I’ve only really encountered at small beer festivals and 57 Thomas St (soon after it opened; it has got better since).

  2. Posted 18 March, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink | Reply

    It might be interesting to take this idea and have a cross-section of the beer community sample their local pubs to see if we are hitting “Peak Beer” as you suggest, or if you had an unlucky week. You know, apply science or something. What strikes me as interesting is the terminology applied, “good nick” and “tired/flabby” are words that seem universally applied to the condition of cask – I rarely use these words in general daily life, but when cask is mentioned, it’s all about the nick and how good it is.

  3. Posted 18 March, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink | Reply

    I believe ‘spoons have (certainly used to have) a standard venting/tapping procedure which was applied to any/all casks. Not sure how much scope there is for the cellar staff to vary this to suit.

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