My latest Planet S column takes a bit of a different tack around beer (read it here). My job often involves drinking intense, complex beer. I truly appreciate the opportunity to sample a one-off, out-there beer knowing it is a signature piece for the brewer. However, for every big, bold, crazy, boundary-pushing beer I drink, I believe that I have at least one straightforward beer. I am a big fan of well-made modest beer (regular readers already know that). Plus, I find it does wonders for my palate. A pint or two of a blonde ale, pale lager or amber ale/lager can quickly reset the taste buds and make me pay attention to subtleties in beer, rather than the boldness.
On the various beer web ratings sites, quiet beer like blonde ale get killed. They call it boring, uninspiring, etc. I won’t disagree, that is their experience after all, but will say that a quieter beer need not be boring. If well made, a straightforward beer (as I like to call them) can be refreshing and satisfying.
So the column focused on that quality of beer. I work through a few different beer, including Half Pint’s St. James Pale Ale, Great Western’s Original 16, Boddington’s, Tree Thirsty Beaver, and Paddock Wood Black Cat. Very different beer (that was my plan), with very different flavour profiles. But, I believe, they all have something in common. All are meant to be low-key, easy-drinking beer. And that is not a dirty word.
Beer is about time and place. These straightforward beer about those times when you don’t want to work too hard to taste your beer, when you would rather focus on the conversation with your friends, or when the stupid Oilers are in the middle of losing yet another hockey game.
Or, frankly, these beer might start an evening well when you know you will be having more than one or two. Gotta pace your palate in addition to your alcohol intake, after all.
Plus, these are damned hard beer to make. Nowhere to hide that flaw, kids. If you screw it up, everyone knows it. And the brewer has to pay close attention to balance, making sure that no one feature becomes too dominant, lest the whole beer get thrown off. A very different kind of brewing than making an extreme beer, but no easier.
I suspect that most of the folks who hang around this site already have a good appreciation for straightforward beer – you mostly seem like a thoughtful, reasonable lot. However, all of us – including me – can sometimes let our snob come out and look down our noses just a little too snootily. This is just a friendly reminder that even the simplest of beer can be worthy of our attention.