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Thursday, 6 October 2016

When Moor is less

The shape of things to come?
I was going to write a much lengthier post than this will be about Moor Brewery's decision to produce real ale in a can, but why reinvent the wheel when two other beer bloggers have made most of the points I intended to? You can read Curmudgeon's view here, and Paul Bailey's here.

If we accept the concept of real ale in a bottle, there is no logical reason why we should not accept real ale in a can, although there is one obvious disadvantage: as the others have pointed out, with a can you cannot see the beer when pouring so you may end up with a hazy or even cloudy pint, which is obviously not good news if clarity is important to you. Other than that, I can't see how there'd be any difference between real ale in bottles or cans.

Justin Hawke of Moor Brewery believes that we over-value beer clarity in this country, but that is his opinion, nothing more. As a former home brewer on quite a large scale for an amateur brewing a variety of styles in the kitchen (up to 200 pints at any given time), I never used finings and I rarely had trouble with clarity. If an amateur like me could consistently make clear real ale in a bottle, I don't understand why professionals can't.

The simple fact is that we do eat and drink with our eyes as well as our mouths. We needed to in the distant past because it was an essential survival skill. The instinct (if that's what it is) is still there: most of us wouldn't eat food that had, say, mould growing on it, with the possible exception of blue cheeses. If we don't like the look of something, we won't eat or drink it, and plenty of people prefer clarity in their beer. They're not wrong: quite simply, they know what they're prepared to put into their own bodies.

Although I won't take back a hazy pint if I judge the flavour to be unaffected, I prefer my beer to be clear. The reasons why most people prefer beer to be clear are really quite irrelevant. Clarity is what most customers want, and as they're paying, I think they're entitled to get what they ask for. It has been suggested that our preference for clarity dates from when a cloudy pint really meant the beer was off. That's possible but I'm not entirely convinced: I think people simply like what they're eating and drinking to look good, however they choose to define that quality. If looks weren't important, how come restaurants take such trouble to make their food look good? Why don't they just slop it on the plate in any order and tell diners to eat with their mouths, not their eyes? Because the appearance of what we consume matters to most of us.

Getting back to real ales in cans or bottles: the differences between cask beer and keg or smoothflow are quite significant. I find the differences between real ale in bottles and brewery-conditioned bottled beers considerably less so, and I expect the same would apply to real ale in cans. From my point of view, this is all a lot of fuss about not a great deal, although I expect the publicity has done Moor Brewery no harm. I have no ill-will towards this venture - I may even try the beer if I come across it - but I shan't be rushing out to find canned real ale for much the same reasons that I don't now rush out to buy bottled real ales.

6 comments:

  1. I suspect with your homebrew you are happy to leave it for an extra week to clear if need be.

    You run a pub with limited cellar space, you get your delivery monday. You want it on sale friday, not taking up space for an extra week not being sold.

    Hence the finings and the flannel about accepting murk in unfined beer.

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  2. You're right of course. My point there was only that being unfined does not mean beer has to be cloudy; it was a response to those who assert that certain beers are 'meant' to be cloudy, when in fact they will clear, given enough time. However, the practicalities of cellar space will mean that some kind of clearing agent is generally needed to clear beer within the usual timescales of pub turnover.

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  3. And the reason people balk at cloudy beer is that - by and large - it IS an indication that there's something wrong with it.

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    1. If the beer was clear and has become cloudy, yes, there's probably something wrong. If the brewer tells you that they're happy for the beer to be served hazy (cloudy / looking like cream of chicken soup / whatever) then clarity loses any value as a proxy for cleanliness. This is a problem if you're used to relying on it. But it's your problem. Probably best to rely on taste / smell. I've had some perfectly nice looking pints that tasted /smelled off. So I didn't drink them.

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  4. Thanks for the link back to my blog, Nev. I hadn’t thought of the survivalist aspect about eating and drinking with our eyes, but it all makes perfect sense. Like properly presented food, beer should also look good, and whilst I will at times drink hazy beer, as long as it tastes OK, cloudy, yeast-laden beer is a different thing altogether.

    Breweries, such as Moor Brewing, might well exercise careful quality control over their beers, by ensuring yeast counts are at an acceptably low level, but I’m sure there are others out there prepared to can, bottle or keg straight from the fermenter.

    CAMRA would be best off not getting embroiled in a debate where there are no clear boundaries, and definitely no clear winners or losers.

    ps. Fifteen or so years ago, I too was a keen, full-mash home-brewer, and like you I never needed finings to help clear my beers. A well-balanced recipe, a good flocculant yeast plus sufficient time and most beers will drop “star-bright” on their own.

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    1. CAMRA should get involved I think - to pressure for info at the PoS pump clip. The Nags at Reading does it for veggie beers and that at least gives me as a punter fair indicator. That way everyone wins.

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