Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Old Friends

One of my favourite things about Beer is its ever-changing face; seasonality keeps the pool fresh with new beers to look forward to every year, with their ever-so-subtle differences in last year’s batch keeping us intrigued. With new releases, limited editions, new trends (for example, the recent explosion in ‘Cascadian Dark Ales’ or whatever they are called this month) and collaboration beers constantly hitting us, it’s a good job there’s a lot of beer to go round. It keeps us on our toes, and I for one never cease to be amazed at new ground broken.

With all this going on, it’s easy to lose memory of those influential, classic or downright special beers. The ones that got you started. The simple ones, the ones that have dropped so far down the pecking order that the last time you drunk them you didn’t have facial hair (in my case, anyway!).

I've enjoyed two beers recently that I'd let fall into that category. Worthington White Shield first; what a beer. Although brewed by Coors, and purists may sneer, it’s still a great beer and one that I genuinely regret forsaking for so long; incredibly balanced, sweet as hell but with enough bright, citric bite to wake the tastebuds up. The bottle conditioning gives you that distinct ‘yeasty, fresh basked bread’ nose, and a liveliness that only makes it more refreshing. A wonderful Burton beer, and one that I enjoyed so much I went and bought another two bottles the next day. And I shouldn’t have been so readily willing to miss the Burton Twissup; lesson firmly learned.

Sam Smith’s Organic Best Ale was the next beer to take me back in time. I drink Sam Smith’s beers all the time, so much so that I will happily admit that I’m quite blasé about the whole brewery. I do love their whole image, that of arcane and proudly traditional brewers*, and the White Rose of Smith’s is as familiar to me as the Triangle of Bass, but for me, Smith’s represented ‘normal’. And we all know that ‘normal’ often means ‘ordinary’. So I cracked open the heavy, wonderfully-labelled bottle without a second thought; one to quaff whilst watching the football.

How wrong I was. After one sip I was concentrating fully on the beer; Crisp, with a caramel-led body that gives way to a gloriously fruity, apricot-tinged finish, I was in heaven. There’s an estery, sour note in there that gives it a wild, rangy edge, yet - as usual with great beers – everything is balanced. A masterful beer indeed; and a true example of how complex a ‘Yorkshire Best’ can be. So – new resolution time. Every few weeks, I promise to re-visit an old favourite. Looks like there’s been a whole seam of beer enjoyment there I’ve been ignoring for far too long. I don’t put this post up to educate about the beers, but to hopefully ask you; have you been ignoring an old friend for too long?

*There's not much out there about Sam Smith's, but Zak Avery wrote an excellent profile in October 2008's now-defunct Beers of The World Magazine, if you can track it down.


Alistair Reece said...

I have the same thing with Guinness, the first beer I ever drank legally in a pub. Sure the Foreign Extra Stout might be brewed up in Canada, but it isn't nitro-defiled and is such a smooth delicious stout that sometime nothing else will do.

One beer back in Prague with the same patina was Stepan, Pivovarsky dum's in-house pilsner which they sold at the sister pub, Pivovarsky klub. So often neglected because the other taps rotated so much, but always a good reliable beer.

Tom mann said...

After trying hundreds of different beers, it's good going back to the ones that started it as my palate is better and I can pick things up that I couldn't then.

Leigh said...

Tom - yeah, I know what you mean. Would I have picked up all the nuances of these beers three years ago? Probably not. Velky - you hit the nail on the head.

ZakAvery said...

Leigh - I think it's vital to go back and try beers you haven't tried for years, and you'll know my enthusiasm for what I term 'ordinary brown bitter' - it sounds like you had a bit of an epiphany yourself.

If you'll excuse the self-promotion, you can find my article on Sam Smith's on the Tasting Beers website here. All of the content from BotW is available on there - just set the drop-down menu to 'Articles' and away you go. It's a pretty decent (and apparently little known) resource.

Leigh said...

Zak - always a pleasure.Thanks for the linkage, I'll check that out.

Martyn Cornell said...

I agree with you completely about Organic Best Ale, a fabulous beer, but unfortunately very hard to find in the South East. (I also agree about WS, a world classic.)

Leigh said...

Martyn - that's a real shame, Organic Best is wonderful. So complex.