Sunday, 8 May 2011

Cloudy with a chance of idiosyncrasies part 1

We're pretty proud of our idiosyncrasies in the UK - you know, things like our wonderful sense of irony and intimate understanding of sarcasm.

Interesting headwear, tea drinking, stoicism and a tendency towards inebriation on holiday, at the weekend, midweek and at weddings, births or funerals.
A confusing propensity for self flagellation in our inability to understand the terrible nature of the Conservative party and thusly electing the fuckers again and again...

It has been said that we enjoy warm beer (not always a bad thing) and are somewhat obsessed with clarity in our beverages.

Now I like a beautifully clear golden pint as much as anyone else but it doesn't always have to be like that. If the beer has a haze or is cloudy it doesn't automatically mean it's off now does it? There's plenty of reasons why a beer could be cloudy and most are to do with GOOD STUFF.

Just looking at a couple of beers I've had recently there is plenty of cloudiness or haziness about, but you still get the odd punter bringing them back or turning their nose up - but why do we care about this at all?

I trace a hell of a lot of drinking habits back to the bad old days before CAMRA took hold of the cause of championing real ale in the UK. I say this as I've found that gentlemen of a certain middling age (yes only gentlemen!) get quite freaked out about their beer being served in a dimple tankard. One of the explanations for this is that they were once closely associated with gentlemen of a certain older, flat capped generation. Another is that they make fairly solid weapons in a bar 'swedge'.

My informed opinion is that the aversion to cloudy ales comes from a similar time when cloudiness indicated an oxidised and thus 'off' beer. There's some mileage in this explanation as it was common at one point for a landlord to save his waste beer to squeeze a little extra profit. So old beer, bar and cellar drips would go back in to the barrel. More oxidisation will usually mean more chance of the beer spoiling and getting infected with dirt, unwanted wild yeast and bacteria, sling this back in to good beer and you're going to turn it sour.

Quite a few places still use the dreaded 'auto vac,' basically a drain in the drip tray that recycles the drips back in to the line or worse into the barrel. For me it's too much of a risk and strikes me as a little tight, and I'm a Yorkshireman.

All of this however should not put you off drinking cloudier or hazy ale. Most bottled ales will have some sediment in, and stronger hoppier beers will carry a 'hop haze'. Don't panic! Taste the beer and trust your tongue!