Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Refuse to Name This Post "Reflections on" Something or Other.

Love that tiled mirror ceiling. Excellent for peeping into glasses and shirts and taking not-so-clever photos.

Some of you U.K. folks will see the face on the right and know right away where I am in this photo. For the rest of you: That's Tom Cadden, manager and geek extraordinaire at the Craft Beer Company in Clerkenwell, London. It's an ideal visit for any tourist who wants to see what the evolving British version of the craft beer movement is all about, while still having the option of well-kept cask-conditioned ales.

There were 21 keg taps and 16 cask pumps, by my count. Tom told me that about 40 percent of what he sells is cask, versus 30 percent in keg. The fridges were full of real lambics and other fun bottles; those are another 20 percent of sales. The other 10 percent would be wine and spirits, i.e. "I don't think I like beer but my friends brought me." (Occasionally, they're the ones dragging their friends along next time.)

I drank Moor Top, a 3.6%-strength, aromatic deep-gold ale from Buxton. It is among that new-ish wave of citrus-hopped, session-strength ale that has become one of mankind's greater cultural achievements, the culmination of millenia of just messing around. It seemed to be in many places when I was there in August. Suited me well.

I asked Tom (and lots of other people) what "craft beer" means in Britain. He said it's an unanswerable question and then proceeded to answer it pretty well. More to come, including better but still not-so-clever photos, in an upcoming issue of Draft.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Caution: Overlords at Work.

Old Masters! I'm unsure of which way to go on that. It has two distinct connotations for me: dead Renaissance artists, or scary science-fiction-fantasy overlords. Right. I'm going with the second one.

You'll heed the Old Masters and drink this if you know what's good for ye! 

OK. That's a Palm Ongefilterd from the tap at Belga Queen in Brussels (please turn to p. 24 in your textbooks). The BQ is uppity Belgian cooking with impressive surroundings and magical toilets stalls, if you don't know. Beer list is Palm-Rodenbach-Boon-heavy. Mixed reviews on service but the food is usually good, they say. I can only vouch for the raw bar. You can do worse than a large, iced pile of various mollusks and a bottle of Mariage Parfait. (That was my birthday lunch one year. It was a good one.)

Back to the Old Masters. It is a label Palm has given to three its rare draft beers, which for years now have only been available to a small number of pubs. Among geeks the most coveted Old Master tick would be, I guess, the Rodenbach Foederbier, typically found only at the Zalm in Roeselaere (occasionally there are rumors of appearances elsewhere). The third member of the Old Masters is Boon lambic, three years of age. Besides Belga Queen and the Zalm, other cafés that get one or more of these beers include the Vosken in Gent, the brewery's own Brouwershuis in Steenhuffel, the Horta in Antwerp, and Engelbewaarder way up in Amsterdam. That's about it, as far as I know.

Actually Boon Oude Lambiek is available on draught in several places around Brussels and Payottenland, but only in those few pubs does it get the "Old Masters" treatment.

Are you ready for the strangeness?

The Palm website has a page devoted to the Old Masters. (Caution: Marketeers at work.) As the special glassware suggests, there is a CONCEPT at work here. So let's see what one of Belgium's largest breweries does with what are arguably its three most interesting (noting that interesting ≠ best) beers.

oh boy.
Appearances are important too!

Flat beers are very digestible and moreover they spare you that bloated feeling in your stomach. However, a nice head looks good, which is why OLD MASTERS are served through a nozzle spraying fine jets of beer that absorb nitrogen from the air.
Really? And did you know... 
The consumption of carbonated drinks is dropping globally:
Flat water sells better than sparkling water
Lemonades are being replaced by fruit juices
This why the “Old Masters” are trendier than ever!
Maybe I should say that I'm just poking fun and don't really have any great point to make. But promoting three beers of pedigree and mystique as "flat," and comparing them to water just before serving them via sparkler, is a head-scratching decision.

Or maybe it's best if we not question the overlords and just drink the stuff.