Thursday, February 26, 2009

My gaff, my rules.

Bottled Landlord is described as 'strong' pale ale on the label which is a little curious because it is only 4.1% and far from strong in my book. A recent trip to Doncaster sheds some light on this somewhat unusual nomenclature because I had the pleasure of drinking with a group of bone fide northern English blokes who loved their bitter. All the bitter I drank while over there was around 3.5% abv and very malty, with an almost total lack of late kettle hops, except for the beer at hand this evening: Timothy Taylor's Landlord. This is set apart from other Northern English ales primarily because of the more aggressive hopping and slightly stronger alcoholic strength. I must also add that I enjoyed this beer more than the others I tried that weekend mainly because I am a fiend for hops and find malty bitters without the addition of richer malts to add a bit of compexity a little unsatisfying.

While in London last week I chanced upon a bottle of Landlord and jumped at the chance to try it because I was fascinated to compare this award winning cask ale with the bottled version, which is filtered and force carbonated. There can be no doubt that it is a very different beer, arguable less enjoyable but still very good as bottled ale goes. My admission that it is inferior to cask will be music to the ears of the CAMRA member who engaged with The Beer Nut recently in a debate on exactly why CAMRA exist. He sees no real value in force carbonated beer, even if it is excellent, and makes me wonder just what CAMRA are up to. TBN makes the point that it would be better to fight the predominance of bad beer rather than worry about where the CO2 in the beer came from. There is plenty of awful cask and bottle conditioned beer out there. I have quite a lot of it inflicted upon me by the CAMRA beer club each quarter. They feature little on this blog because they just don't stir me sufficiently to write about them. Filtered, force carbonated beer on the other hand is very common on this blog, mainly because it is the most available form of beer I consume and also because it many cases it is outstanding in flavour and quality. What concerns me most about the discussion is the CAMRA member's opinion that every artificially carbonated beer he has tried is inferior to cask. Perhaps he has a point when comparing two indentical beers; often filtration and over carbonation will kill a flavourful beer - I have experienced this a number of times, but to suggest that all artificially carbonated beer is inferior is just rubbish. From my old pages here we need only look at Big Daddy, Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout as examples of outstanding filtered, force carbonated beers. These beers are world beaters in my opinion and deserve as much respect as real ale. They simply cannot be dismissed and anyone who would do so should question their ability to appreciate good beer.

Getting back to the beer in hand, it is an excellent ale brewed very well with mouth watering foam, full body and perfect carbonation. The hop aroma that I enjoyed from the cask is not there and I have at last experienced the harsh bitterness that The Beer Nut has decried. The bitterness is indeed rough and I can't say I have experienced this from the cask, but what makes this beer for me is the action of the yeast used in the Timothy Taylor brewery; it really gives this beer an extra level of complexity that has made this strain so sort after by home brewers. Wyeast offer it on a seasonal basis and I would rate it up there with the stubbornly flocculant Fuller's or Brakespeare house yeast which make their beer so wonderfully complex and chewy.

Not as enjoyable as cask but certainly not to be dismissed.


Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

I'm in agreeement. Let me know if you ever come to the West Coast.

Adeptus said...

Well put regarding the so-called "real ale" versus good beer. No way can anyone put forward a blanket statement that it's always superior to filtered/kegged/carbonated/unreal/whatever beer.

But then, it is generally only one small island, and within a small group, where this kind of dogma prevails. But when I hear a German landlord talking "real ale" it vexes me :D

Adeptus said...

I'm reading that "discussion" on the camra forum. I have to stop before I pop a blood vessel. Sounds more like reciting articles of faith than real world experience. How does Mr. Nut stay so polite? As a founder of ICB I'm glad we never set up a set of commandments.

The Beer Nut said...

I think if I got worked up about beer, and other people's attitude to it, it would spoil my enjoyment of drinking it, writing about it and campaigning for it.

Love beer, not gas, that's what I say.

(And I'm wearing one of my CAMRA t-shirts today.)

Adeptus said...

You're dead right. It's more the attitute that irritates me. Drink and let drink.

Maybe he should do a blind tasting? :P

By the way, the German landlord who runs the Yorkshire pub here in M√ľnster is a member of CAMRA.

Velky Al said...

CAMRA really seems to have come in for a fair bit of abuse of late, and while it is very nice of them to have "saved" real ale they really shouldn't go confusing "real" with "good".

Tim said...

It's a hornets nest I love to poke my stick at. I have received some rather unsavoury emails from certain CAMRA members recently over my views on the organisation.

BTW Fuller's ESB is way better in the bottle than from cask.

Thom said...

Al - I agree with you that CAMRA have done outstanding work and I am always very grateful when I visit Britain for the invariably good cask ale I get to drink. This CO2 debate has uncovered a dimension to CAMRA that I wasn't aware of and makes me question their attitude to craft beer.

Tim - I feel the exact same same about Fuller's ESB, but my main experience of a great many of cask ales is at festivals where the beer is not at its best and I was unwilling to compare them if the cask wasn't up to scratch.

Anonymous said...

Any kind of orthodoxy is just are people who like to argue on the internet without any personal accountability. I have to say these explosions were the first glimpses I got of "real ale" fans-- which is unfortunate, as they don't represent CAMRA as a whole. Don't they see that they are not doing real ale any favors by being so dogmatic?

I've never liked Landlord but then I've only tried it at my local which doesn't always keep its cask ale in good condition. I think maybe the pints I've tried have been off. I should give it a go at a better pub.