Saturday, 11 April 2009
Beer blends: recipe for success or alcoholic anarchy
So there we were in the Penrhyn Arms in Penrhynside hoovering up vast quantities of Williams’ Midnight Sun and John the landlord suggested that we try some cider (after all, his pub is one of the best in Wales for the stuff). My friend the Maltworm, who had already been warming the seat since 5pm, was solubly enthusiastic, while the Farmer, who we were trying to persuade to have a beer festival on his grounds, made his excuses and staggered off home to dream of the new German girl who had just started work at his place. Try this, try that, came the command from John, who used to be the gravedigger in town (‘would you like to come to an exhumation,’ was the subject of one phone call recalled the Maltworm, he turned it down), and especially try this: The ‘this’ was Pider, a blend of perry (not pear cider) and cider, which underwhelmed, but made me think about beer blends. Mild and bitter, old and bitter (mother-in-law according to some drink lore), special and ordinary and bitter top, which as I recalled, having cut part of my drinking teeth around this part of North Wales (the other part occurred in the east of England involving drinking lots of Greene King IPA in the company of Tetley Bittermen — the blend there was Burt St Edmunds Ale, I think, and Abbot, one bearded old wag, an rustic anarchist with Kropotkin forever on his lips unimaginatively christened it Braindeath) was some keggish sort of bitter with lemonade sprinkled in it to make it palatable. But I digress: is there any future in beer blends? I once attended a meeting at Wychwood where Manns Brown Ale was seductively introduced to Tia Maria (it was also done over ice). The match with Tia Maria was sweetish and sickly, while the ice just watered down what was already a rather thin beer. I hear of beer cocktails but have yet to try them, though brewers have long blended various brews, especially for pubs who want a beer named after their establishment. It leads me to the question: blends these days for beer, are they frowned upon? Or do they fulfil a need? Anyone fancy a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale sharing its sap with, say, Meantime Porter? Jaipur and Hook Norton’s Double Stout? A Thomas Hardy Ale and a Punk IPA? Or is this the road to the bearded old wag’s anarchy?