Disappearing beers

This isn’t a lockdown post, except in the sense that lockdown has reacquainted me with The Bathams’ – which turns out to be a lot easier to get hold of in bottle than Pete suggested a few years ago. And Bathams’ bitter is a rare beast: it’s a disappearing beer. Not in the sense that it’s getting harder to find (see links above), but in the sense that it disappears; it goes beyond being drinkable, into a zone where the beer seems to drink itself. Essentially, if you buy a pint, take it back to your table, sit down, then look round a minute later to find the first half’s gone – that’s a disappearing beer.

Not all good beers are disappearing beers, by any means. I grew up on darkish, chewy bitters – sweet and fruity (Buckley’s) or dry and tannic (Harvey’s) – and I’m a huge fan of old ales and big stouts; some of my favourite beers are beers that you can’t knock back, or not without a conscious effort.

Come to that, being ‘smashable’ isn’t really the point either. Boak and Bailey wrote the other day in praise of Fyne Ales Jarl:

For us, it has the perfect balance of bitterness (high), aroma (also high) and booziness (low) so that one more pint always feels both desirable and justified.

I’d agree with that; Jarl’s a properly sessionable beer, and there are other beers I’d put alongside it – Marble Pint, Redemption Trinity, Magic Rock Ringmaster (although in its heyday (as Curious) it was arguably a bit too hoppy to be really sessionable). But even Pint doesn’t quite soak itself up the way that a true disappearing beer does.

If I’m not talking about style or flavour, and I’m not talking about sessionability, what am I on about? Is there really such a thing as an über-drinkable beer? Am I perhaps over-generalising from a beer that I happened to drink when I was thirsty? Yes, there is, and no, I’m not. Evidence: my 2018 visit to Prague, where the bars serve very little else: světlý ležák is the epitome of the disappearing beer. I had some interestingly diverse beers while I was in Prague, but I also had four pale lagers at 11 or 12°, from four different breweries, all of which threw themselves down my throat at a slightly alarming rate. “I sat down, I looked at the food menu, I looked at my glass – 2/3 empty.”

To sum up: my list of disappearing beers doesn’t include any sessionable hoppy bangers – even they require a bit too much effort to qualify as disappearing of their own accord – but does include

  1. Many (most?) Czech světlý ležák in the 10-12° range
  2. The Bathams’
  3. er, that’s it

On which note I’ll throw it open to the floor. What do you think? Am I right about the Bathams’… what kind of question is that, of course I am… How about the světlý ležák – was I just thirsty all the time I was in Prague? And what beers have taken you by surprise, by apparently drinking themselves and confronting you with a half-empty glass?

“Time in lockdown behaves slowly”, I wrote at the top of my last post. Evidence: this post, which (at the time) I was planning on writing the following day or maybe the one after that. Nine days later, here we are.

9 Comments

  1. Posted 26 May, 2020 at 10:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Lovely piece, Phil.

    Agree entirely on the Bathams. Plough and Harrow, Kinver, before a curry for me.

    Whar constitutes a session, though? 😉

    • Phil
      Posted 29 May, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink | Reply

      Three pints minimum. Of the same beer, of course – although having something similar for the second pint & switching back for the third is allowable. Four rounds is preferable – i.e. four pints, or else three pints & a half of something stronger to finish off with. Or, in the case of my session with Ed, three pints, a half of something stronger, and a fourth pint to finish off with (and I think Ed could have carried on after that).

      Unless you’re in lockdown, in which case it’s a bottle, another bottle, and actually that’ll do me. The first few pub sessions after lockdown are going to be cheap.

  2. pubcurmudgeon
    Posted 27 May, 2020 at 6:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    People say that the classic 1970s Boddingtons was like that.

    • Phil
      Posted 29 May, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink | Reply

      Ah, if only we knew anyone who’d drunk it, or knew somebody who had…

  3. John Clarke
    Posted 27 May, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    You are absolutely on the nail there with Bathams – it must be one of the most drinkable beers in the country. Apparently some pubs still take hogsheads – and you can see why.

  4. Posted 28 May, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    I tend to find the first pint of an evening disappears at an alarming rate.

    • Phil
      Posted 29 May, 2020 at 8:32 am | Permalink | Reply

      Maybe you should start on an imperial stout.

      Or maybe not.

  5. Paul Bailey
    Posted 29 May, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Does 1974 Boddingtons count? because that’s when I first became acquainted with it.

    A couple of years later, I enjoyed my first pint of Bathams.

  6. sheffield hatter
    Posted 4 June, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    I can confirm that 1970s Boddingtons drank itself. I remember two sessions in particular. Once, when I was at Lancaster University: an afternoon kickabout was followed by the bar opening at 5pm and I was in bed by 6 after drinking four pints of Boddies. OK, it was a warm day and I was thirsty, but those four pints disappeared quicker than almost any I can remember.

    A few years later I was working in Preston and got a lift back to Lancaster with a colleague who was a heavy drinker and another Boddies fan. We stopped at a pub midway home. OK, so I was trying to keep pace with him, but those beers went down at a ferocious rate. Lord only knows how he drove home, as I can remember nothing of the journey.

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