Sunday, 13 May 2012

Telling them straight?

Lunchtime greetings,

    I noticed a lot of "blog" has been uploaded about the thorny issue of naming and shaming brewers of crap beer. Boak and Bailey (for it is them) kindly recapped some of the responses from the blogosphere in this post and it seems everyone has their own approach. The impetus for this debate was some Bottle Conditioned Ales (BCA's) of vinegrous qualities.

I can assure you that waving goodbye to a foaming mass of BCA isn't unusual. I have been picking up BCA's in pubs or shops since about 1993 and I have yet to find a corner of the country that hasn't spawned a hideous swamp ale, with too many breweries to remember being involved. In terms of identifying them, I, almost always, name and shame. However that's not to say there isn't an alternative.

Lets just make it clear that I love good, well made BCA's. They bring a whole new angle to the taste of the beer as it matures and often refines its character in the bottle. Having been lucky enough to drink a few vintages of Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy Ale I can assure you that the wonder of in-bottle fermentation is quite real, and can be truly awe inspiring.

When its crap though, I am unhappy. I feel let down. And now I have a blog, I find myself bitching about it on here. Which is fine, blogs are after all solely the embodiment of the authors comment and opinion, but before I had this mouthpiece I used to write to the brewer and express my dismay.

Actually, this is wheat beer, very good wheat beer...

I wonder if, as I have commented on the Boak and Bailey post, doing so might remove the thorny question of whether one names or shames? I know that blogging, and more so Twatter, is meant to be up to date and virtually instantaneous, but if you correspond with said producer (this applies more to BCA's than cask) and they reply you can decide then whether or not to mention it. If they are unapologetic or indeed don't reply at all, you can present a fuller picture. Better still, if they take on board your comments, then I would suggest that is a full story with a positive ending. Positivity on blogs! Whatever next...

Well, perhaps this idea of consumer/producer interaction may already be underway. The Pub Curmudgeon has set an interesting challenge on his blog here. The BCA challenge is a request to brewers to send him a bottle of their BCA which he promises to nurture and look after properly in the prime of conditions and then open, drink (hopefully) and review. I haven't seen any reviews yet, so I must drop him an email to find out how things are going, but if we assume no or very few brewers are interested, this poses an interesting question.

Why are so few brewers willing to put their BCA's up for close inspection or review?

As I commented on Boak and Bailey before, there seems a deafening silence from the smaller producers (although some welcome comments on this post ) about BCA, so one wonders if this is a tacit acceptance that their products aren't up to scratch?

Perhaps the best solution is if producers and consumers are equally vocal - with each other. Then everyone knows where they stand.

Wee Beefy


  1. Nope, no response so far, although in view of posts like this and this people may be a bit wary.

    FWIW I have had some excellent BCAs, although almost without exception from well-established breweries. However, for ordinary quaffing beers I'm not convinced that any potential superiority in flavour outweighs the inconsistency factor.

    All I ask of a BCA is that:

    1. It will drop clear in the bottle within a few days of getting it home
    2. It doesn't fob excessively, but still exhibits signs of actually having undergone a secondary fermentation
    3. With reasonable care, I am able to pour it clear (which doesn't mean the yeast has to stick to the bottom of the bottom, but equally doesn't mean it occupies the bottom 1½ inches as soon as you take the cap off)

    Frankly, I struggle to think of any beer I've had from a recently-established micro that meets all three criteria.

    1. I totally agree. It was frustrating when I worked in the specialist off license to be regularly supplied with cack.

      Anything we tried and found to be dreadful was returned, fair game, but as with cask ale, we were always worried that we would get no feedback. Customers seemed happy to just assume a beer was crap, which is bad for the brewery, but also we assumed they would think we were crap for putting on or selling it.

      Me and the owner still have regular staff tastings and weedle out some rubbish, but thats a little skewed since we tend to favour the "potentially" better ones.

      My Brother steadfastly refuses to buy BCA's and it serves him well. How sad that the only guarantee of quality is for everyone else to do the same.

  2. I hadn't actually noticed The Pub Curmudgeon's BCA challenge til I searched his site after seeing the post here (was there a post about it?). Though to be honest, 'send me your beer and I'll tell you if it's shit' doesn't have me rushing to the post office!

    And I entered one of my bottle conditioned ales in the Sainsbury's beer challenge, and recently spent a day dishing out samples to the beer drinking public.

    I may have to post about BCAs myself as I've certainly had a few crap ones myself but it's certainly not true that all BCAs from micro breweries are.

    1. This is all good news. Two people have now mentioned them giving out samples (1 on Boak and Bailey). Since I don't know which brewery you are from, can I ask how the Sainsbury's thing went? I can see the allure of the Sainsbury's challenge as the line up last year had some great beers in it.

      As for Micro's, what I can offer is that Dunham Massey brewery BCA bottles are brillinat and I've never had a bad one. Blakemere/Northern and Durham are not far behind.

      My concern is, I don't know if I am finding less bad ones because I am refusing to buy from large numbers of breweries....