A month or so ago, I was standing at the bar of The Vic and my drinking buddy ordered a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. Taking that eagerly-awaited first sip at the bar, he threw away the following comment: ‘Lovely.Landlord; a modern classic’
...A sentiment to which I retorted that although it’s undoubtedly a classic, the perennial Yorkshire favourite is hardly modern. Which got us to thinking: What are the modern classics? It’s a loaded question really. In my mind, unless you go for something concrete like awards won or sales, you’re always going to be looking at a matter of taste. Being a blogger (not a beer writer!) I thought I’d try to put together a list of what I thought the ‘Modern Classics’ were. It seemed like a good challenge.
So, I cracked open a beer, cracked my knuckles, and sat down to type. However, the more I rolled the idea round in my mind, the more complex this question got. Why? It’s just too broad a concept – it’s too personal.
Take for instance, Criteria: Firstly, it’s Modern. In my mind, Beers brewed in the last, say, 20 years. Awards do count, although obviously many great (again, in my opinion) beers don’t win awards. And the ‘classic’ part – well, that’s harder to pin down. My interpretation means two things: a soft spot for the beer, be it emotional or taste-wise, and the fact that I order it again and again. This last point may seem a bit frivolous, but I’m the sort of beer drinker who doesn’t order the same thing twice a lot, given the opportunity; but my logic is still personal to me. Variety and Beer-Hunting is the key to my beer-life, and that’s why the ‘Modern Classics’ are important – to underpin that variety, to give a bedrock to exploring beer. I started a list but quickly admitted defeat: it just wasn’t authoritative enough. Whilst doing this I realised how personal a list this would be, and also that there would be an unending amount of variety out there depending on who you are – even where you live.
So – here we go; in no particular order. I’ll put the tin hat on.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I’ve waxed lyrical about SNPA on too many occasions to count. My gateway beer. The bucolic country scene on the label and that vivid lime-green colour scheme are as iconic to me as the Brooklyn ‘B’ or Bass’s Red Triangle. The problem? It’s nearly 30 years old. Damn. So is it too old to be classed as ‘modern’?
Roosters Yankee. Again, my love for the Franklins knows no bounds. Yankee was the first beer that got me (and I suspect, a lot of brewers) seriously considering the possibilities of aroma. At the time it was a real oddity – a cuckoo’s egg; quietly subverting the scene around it. First brewed in 1993.
Mordue Workie Ticket. One of my favourite session beers; a wonderfully rich and fruity pint that I really could drink all night. But is it loved enough to be a ‘Modern Classic’? Probably not.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. Not only the first TB beer I tried, but for a while it became a bit of a poster-boy for how good UK Brewing can be. I actually prefer Halcyon, taste-wise, but Jaipur means a little more. To me, anyway. The only beer I’ve specifically attended a beer festival on the first day to try.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Garrett Oliver’s first gift to the brewery. What a gift it was - still popular and and sits on its own in terms of style.
...And that was it. I’d hit a wall. The task was just too big, too mind-boggling, and - ultimately – fruitless. It’s just too personal. My mind is screaming out ‘There are more, hundreds more!’ – But I can’t access them. I've only even really hit upon two countries, for christ's sake!
So, I decided to open this up – I want to know yours. I need help. I want to know your take on this subject; I’m only an enthusiast; a hobbyist and homebrewer with an urge to share my passion with those who need a nudge in the right direction. Bona Fide ‘Beer Writers’ out there have contacts, experience, and have tasted about a million more beers than I have – what’s your take? Hell, do we even need to be discussing this? BrewDog describe some of their beers as ‘Post-Modern’ – so where does that leave the ‘modern’? Retailers – if you were to put together a ‘Modern Classics’ mixed case for Christmas, what’s going in?
The only essence of the ‘Modern Classic’ that I was happy with was this; An enduring quality. If you look at classic literature or music (the only other two things I’m take an interest in), what makes , say, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, or Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ so great is that they have a quality that endures through trends, fads or time. You can listen to them or read them now and be moved, years after their inception. Truly great beer will always cut through these factors.
So that’s the question I throw out to you all in this virtual taproom that blogging is. Let me know your thoughts – I’m genuinely interested.