Monthly Archives: June 2012

Real Ale, Craft Beer, what?

So a while back I mentioned that I hated the terms “Craft Beer” and “Real Ale” but I would save it for another rant. Well this is that rant.

Hate is a bit strong, I don’t really hate them, but when I hear either of these terms used or see them written down I have a small feeling of disgust towards the person who has used it. I suppose it’s the same feeling women get when I say “moist”. So where to start? I guess “Real Ale” was coined earlier so lets start there. Why does having secondary fermentation make a beer real? I can go to a shop and buy a can of John Smiths take it home and drink it. Is it beer? Yes. Did I imagine drinking it? No. Is it real ale? Well it’s not really an ale, but that’s besides the point. Beer doesn’t have to be an ale to be a “Real Ale”, for example “Real Lager?” and yes it’s real, as I have said already I didn’t imagine it, it exists, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the Matrix. The can exists, the liquid inside it exists, the liquid inside no matter how shit it might be is beer, so in terms of being, it is “Real”. Maybe I’m looking at this wrong maybe it’s not about being imaginary, maybe it’s about being fake? What’s fake about it? The lack of secondary fermentation? Somewhere between 7,000BC and 3,000BC when beer was possibly first brewed did they use secondary fermentation? I very much doubt it, so I’m not having that something like John Smiths is fake either. It’s exactly what it says it is, it’s beer and just down to the use of English it’s real.

“Craft Beer” bugs me for a slightly different reason than real ale. The main reason “Real Ale” annoys me is that every beer that isn’t “Real Ale” must be fake and that’s clearly stupid. “Craft” is the key here and what craft brings to mind when I see or hear it. Craft for me instantly associates itself with Arts & Crafts which in turn makes me think middle aged women making some tat at home that they possible sell on to friends and friends of friends. For example they might knit, croquet, make cards, bake cakes or something else equally exciting. A few of them might create something amazing, the vast majority just make crap that their friends are forced to say is lovely or else risk losing their friend. If “Craft Beer” was a term that referred to say home brewers then I could get with it. In the same way people do Arts & Crafts some people will produce amazing beers, others might as well just have bought a pack of John Smiths. I can see that “Craft Beer” is really trying to associate it self with craftsman or craftsmanship, the art of creating amazing work that has had love and care and attention given to it that creates magnificent results. But as I’ve said this isn’t what first comes to mind and possibly that’s because it just isn’t true. There are plenty of shit “Craft Beers” out there that make you think the beer has been made in a smelly guys damp shed who doesn’t know what he is doing and is just experimenting. And then there are the “Craft Brewers” that make amazing beers but are as inconsistent as shit after a dodgy curry. These two points are why I don’t think “Craftsmanship” but rather “Arts & Crafts” when I see or hear the term “Craft Beer”.

Besides the use of English for me not liking these two terms its the discrimination that goes with it. The idea that people wont drink “Craft” because it’s not “Real” and people wont drink “Real” because it’s bland makes me want to blow up Robin Hood Airport (this is a shit joke to emphasise I don’t actually care).

Drink what you want, I know I do, now does anyone fancy a “beer”?

Until the philosophy which hold one beer superior
And another inferior
Is finally and permanently
Discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war – me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class beers of any derivation
Until the colour of a man’s beer
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes –
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to taste –
Dis a war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in CAMRA,
In Real Ale,
In Craft Beer
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed –
Well, everywhere is war –
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south –
War – war –
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The beer drinkers
Will not know peace,
We Beer Geeks will fight – we find it necessary –
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good beer over evil –
Good beer over evil, yeah!

(quite a big part of me just died inside for changing those lyrics)

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Tokyo Rising Sun

Well, there is a beer from Aberdeen they call Tokyo Rising Sun and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy and God I know I’m one.

Buried alive for four years only Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes know the true origins of how this beer came to be. Locked in a concrete tomb the first batch of Tokyo has finally been found by Colin and released from its Whisky caskets to produce 2,237 bottles from the Highland Casks and only 351 bottles from the Lowland Cask.

One beer went in, but two very different beers emerged from the darkness…

Lowland Cask

Popping the cap releases a perfume of light mellow Whisky sweetness. If no-one told you would you know this was a beer you are about to drink? Pouring unveils the super dark brown almost black liquid that creates almost no head that dissipates almost as quickly as it appeared. The mellow Whisky dominates the air trapping any previous aromas there may have been four years ago. I always chill beer before I drink it, this one came out of the fridge at 11.6°C and over the hour I spent nursing it slowly rose to 21.4°C. The first sip hits you with the Whisky and a sweet sweet dark brown sugar with an ever so slight burnt caramel coming through. Next a fruitiness appears, jasmine mixed with cranberries that hints at Christmas. Whilst cold, coffee ends the ride but as the beer warms the coffee background disappears and more Whisky alcohol ends the journey. Each sip warms the chest, this beer would be lovely to drink on a cold Winters eve. If you like sweetness, jasmine and Whisky then this is a lovely beer. It makes me want to create a Christmas pudding with the same balance of flavours.

Highland Cask

If opening the Lowland edition gives you a sweet gentle kiss, opening the Highland edition gives you a little slap. A very different Whisky aroma hits you, this time it’s much more of a medicinal hit rather than the sweetness of the Lowland Whisky. Pouring gives the same almost black liquid but a head is more willing to form and dissipates over a couple of seconds rather than instantaneously. The temperature for this one started at 11.8°C and warmed to 21.6°C. Unlike the Lowland edition there wasn’t as noticeable a change in flavours as the beer warmed up. The medicinal, peaty Whisky dominates this beer. More burnt caramel than sweet dark brown sugars come through with an afterthought of Oak. The jasmine and cranberries are all but lost. More of a coffee feel ends the battle. This beer reminds me a lot of Bitch Please especially the Islay edition, it’s a beer dominated by peat and medicinal flavours.

I have a sweet tooth and I’m not a huge fan of peaty flavours so the Lowland Cask is the one that does it for me.

But, and there is quite a big but, Tokyo* the 18% version (I haven’t had the original 12% Tokyo these beers came from) is my favourite beer. The first taste of Tokyo* blew me away, it was unlike anything I had ever tasted. So complicated but so well balanced, extremely easy to drink for something that is 18.2% and very very tasty. These two beers didn’t blow me away, the Lowland I haven’t had anything like it, the Highland I have. I’m sure there will be people out there who like one or both of these more than Tokyo*, probably people who drink much more Whisky than I do.