Hops, sausages, sugar

This is one of those posts where a certain amount of anonymity is called for. Not on my part, obviously, but I should probably draw a veil over the establishment involved.

So there’s this bar quite near where I live – which narrows it down to about 20 – and they’ve recently shaken up their draught beer range, which for a long time centred on some not very exciting beers from Bolton. These days they’ve got a wider and more interesting range, looking more to Cheshire than Lancashire, and including frequent appearances by my current favourite brewery.

Which is all good, except… There was a beer from my favourite brewery which I had there a few weeks back, and which had flavours I couldn’t quite get my head around; it was an American-style amber ale (at least according to the pump clip), but there was just too much sweetness there for me; sweetness and an odd sort of heaviness in the mouth. A different Favourite-Brewery beer today confirmed the impression; sweetish and heavyish – far more than the style would suggest – and with almost meaty, gravyish overtones.

I was mulling it over this evening and wondering if I needed to educate my palate to Favourite Brewery’s new direction, when I remembered why I’d originally stopped trying those beers from Bolton: they tasted like they hadn’t been terribly well kept. Specifically, there was a sweetish, heavyish, gravyish quality to them…

What to do? Naming and shaming would be wildly irresponsible – apart from anything else, I haven’t really got any evidence that they aren’t supposed to taste like that. (This is a problem with high-rotation guest beers – up to a point, how do you know whether they taste right or not? It makes me realise what a tricky position small brewers are in – a guest ale in a popular bar is a good way to make people remember your name, and a guest ale that tastes weird is a good way to make sure they avoid it.)

In terms of lodging a protest – and/or being a ‘responsible consumer’ – simply voting with my feet by not going back is probably my best bet. I don’t think that losing my custom would have much influence on them, though – I only ever drop in there after work when it’s quiet; later on it’s always packed out. Besides, I probably won’t even do that; it’s a nice enough bar, that particular brewery is a big draw for me, and who knows, the next one I try might be fine. Or maybe they are meant to taste like that, who knows.

All I’m saying is, if anyone from that particular bar is reading, and if you know who you are, then I think the cellaring side of things might need looking at.

Update: after reading the comments below, I hereby take it all back: the Macclesfield beers really were meant to taste like that, and the Bolton ones presumably were too. (At least, whatever they tasted like was what they tasted like, if you see what I mean.) Most importantly, I’m happy to put the record straight with regard to the beer quality at the bar in question, and will be heading back there for a swift one after work some day soon.

(Title: B&B.)

(And my Favourite Brewery is… newish, innovative, and based in Cheshire. Which narrows it down to about six. RedWillow, obviously. Really not sure about the sweet edge to those last two, but I’m still looking forward to the next one I try.)


  1. John
    Posted 25 February, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Had the RedWillow Sleepless in the bar in question and didn’t think it tasted right – a little too sweet and not quite balanced right. Had it again last night in another very good bar in Manchester and it was the same – so it’s the beer not the bar.

    • Phil
      Posted 25 February, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      John – you cracked my code!

      Interesting – good news where the bar is concerned, slightly disappointing news wrt the brewery. It could be that I was imagining the similarity between the RW beers and the dull and flabby Bank Top beers I remember having there several months ago.

      The second RW beer I had there was Feckless – I’d be interested to know what you think of that when youc come across it.

  2. Andy
    Posted 27 February, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    And I know the bar as well.

    I think I can help you with your quandary. Bank Top Flat Cap used to be one of the best session beers in the region, but it started to go a little, in my opinion, “sickly sweet vanilla with bacon” flavour. I think this fits with your description. We actually sent some back when this flavour stated pervading. This is now the taste of Flat Cap as I’ve tried it recently in their Tap. It is for this reason it was replaced.

    Red Willow I would say they are one of the most exciting breweries operating in this region. They are brewing beers packed with flavour and really pushing the boundaries. They are going a storm in both Liverpool and Manchester. They have produced a couple that haven’t been to my tastes, and the odd one that may have not been 100%, but this is the way and charm of micro brewing, especially when you’re brewing such a range and diversity of ales.

    As for Pi, I can report that the condition of the beer is of upmost importance to us. We have recently re piped the run to the cellar and added a fifth pump. I accept the criticism that maybe beers turnover a little quick. This is a good thing from a freshness point of view, but occasionally I do worry that some beers don’t sit for as long as they maybe should. We propose to use our fifth pump to take darker and/or stronger beers. These may need to sit for a little longer to fully develop. I’ll be keeping a very close eye on this in the future.

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