In my dim and distant youth when I could drink a lot more beer than I can now, a "pint of bitter" was all you asked for at the bar. You never hear that said now do you? Beers were generally a mid brown colour and although they differed a fair amount in maltiness and strength we rather took the hops for granted. Goldings and Fuggles were the main varieties. Now of course the situation has practically reversed. No-one thinks too much about types of malt, but the hops -well that has been a revolution. It's quite possible to find a beer with five varieties of hop in it, and those hops may well not come from Kent or Hereford or Worcester, but from Canada or New Zealand or central Europe, lending flavours such as elderflower or grapefruit to the brew. The malts tend to be lighter too. Look at the bottles in the supermarket, or the handpumps in the pub and you'll quickly notice all the brewers jumping on the Golden Ale band wagon. You can get Golden Ales from Guinness, and even the dreaded John Smith's now. They're all at it and many of them don't do it at all well.
Time was when you knew the top selling beers and what they tasted like, so you could ask for a pint of Pedigree or Directors and know what you were going to get. But now you stand at the bar gawping at a row of handpumps all bearing names like Nellie's Knockers, or Golden Garbage and you haven't got a clue what to order. Kath has one solution, she asks for tastes of all of them. If possible I look for a clue as to the hop variety. If it mentions Cascade or Amarillo or New World hops, I'll generally give it a go.
And so it was when we went to the George and Dragon and were faced by a bewildering array of unknown beers from the local Church End Brewery. We opted for Fallen Angel "A sharp, full flavoured pale bitter. Bucket fulls of American hops give it that lemony edge. 5%." Ooh, a bit strong, but we weren't driving. I cannot, dear reader describe the taste of this beer beyond the above description, but I can tell you that they got it absolutely slap bang on. It was absolutely gorgeous. I knew instantly this was going to be our beer of the year. Taste is of course a personal thing so if you come across it and don't like it, don't blame me, but
the Herbie Award for Best Pint of the Year
goes unhesitatingly to
Church End Brewery
Right, off you go to the bar while I prepare another interlude featuring some of my favourite photos from our ten years of boating and blogging.