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  • British beers are bland and boring, aren’t they?

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    November 4th, 2009FletchtheMonkeyComment
    British beers are bland and boring, aren’t they?
    Well, that’s what the general consensus isn’t it? I’ve heard this comment twice in the last two weeks. A week ago, my friend @Sam_Watson was on business in northern France, where he was accosted by a local spouting rubbish about how all English people drink is Stella.
    Yes, in Yates. But not everyone. And today, one of the breweries pioneering the exact opposite of bland and boring beers, Scotland’s BrewDog, were interviewed by The Full Pint. Both parties agreed that the perception of British beers is one of ‘uninspired session ales’ and James went so far as to say ‘pretty much all the small UK brewers make the same boring 4% ales’.
    Now hang on a minute.
    I get where these perceptions come from. When Greene King IPA is the most exciting beer in a pub this country’s brewing scene is in trouble. And I can understand how the US craft brewing scene can consider the UK beer market uninteresting. But to say that British brewers all make the same beers with the same hops – that’s simply not true.
    Yes there are predictable beers Yes there are predictable breweries. And traditionally British ale has been in the doldrums over the last 30 or 40 years perhaps?
    But not anymore. Perhaps we should thank the craft brewing scene across the Atlantic for been a catalyst? Maybe the UK really are fed up of the monotonous shite of Carling and Fosters. But there’s no doubt that beer and brewing is in the beginnings of a renaissance.
    Boring? Halcyon and Jaipur? Golden Champion?
    Uninspired? Gadds No. 3? Summer Lightning?
    The same hops? Unpronounceable IPA, Ring of Fire?
    I’m a massive fan of American ales, my top ten beers would be full of North American pale ales and hop laden concoctions. But I will say that there are British breweries just as bold and daring as those around the world.
    We should not be distinguishin between ales across borders and classifying countries as bland or boring. We should be praising those beers that do dare to be different, those that shine above others when you’re tasting, and those hat you’ll always come back to, because when you need a beer, when your desperate, they are thbeers that you will come back to time and time again.

    Well, that’s what the general consensus isn’t it?

    I’ve heard this comment twice in the last two weeks. A week ago, my friend Sam was on business in northern France, where he was accosted by a local spouting rubbish about how all English people drink is Stella.

    Yes, in Yates. But not everyone. And today, one of the breweries pioneering the exact opposite of bland and boring beers, Scotland’s BrewDog, were interviewed by The Full Pint. Both parties agreed that the perception of British beers is one of ‘uninspired session ales‘ and James went so far as to say ‘pretty much all the small UK brewers make the same boring 4% ales’.

    Now hang on a minute.

    I get where these perceptions come from. When Greene King IPA is the most exciting beer in a pub this country’s brewing scene is in trouble. And I can understand how the US craft brewing scene can consider the UK beer market uninteresting. But to say that British brewers all make the same beers with the same hops – that’s simply not true.

    Yes there are predictable beers. Yes there are predictable breweries. And it could be argued that the British beer scene has been in the doldrums over the last 30 or 40 years perhaps?

    But not anymore. Perhaps we should thank the craft brewing scene across the Atlantic for been a catalyst? Maybe the UK really are fed up of the monotonous shite of Carling and Fosters? But there’s no doubt that beer and brewing is in the beginnings (or even well in the middle?) of a renaissance.

    Boring? Halcyon and Jaipur? Golden Champion?

    Uninspired? Gadds No. 3? Summer Lightning?

    The same hops? Unpronounceable IPA, Ring of Fire?

    Look, I’m a massive fan of American ales, my top ten beers would be full of North American pale ales and hop laden concoctions. But I will say that there are British breweries just as bold and daring as many other countries around the world. And I’m  a massive fan of BrewDog, they push boundaries and are fun to drink.

    We should not be distinguishing between beers across borders and classifying countries as bland or boring. We should be praising those beers that do dare to be different, those that shine above others when you’re tasting, and those that you’ll always come back to, because when you need a beer, when you’re desperate, they are the beers that you will come back to time and time again.

    And as Chilliupnorth said, “I bet we can find 50 beers from the UK that aren’t bland or boring!”

    FletchtheMonkey

    Mark is better known as @fletchthemonkey and started writing about beer in 2009. When not content with spending all day on the internet working in digital for an multichannel retailer, Mark waxes lyrical at digitalmediamonkey.co.uk and types up match reports for Leeds Guide magazine.

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7 responses to “British beers are bland and boring, aren’t they?” RSS icon

  • Right on brother!

    I’m only reviewing bottled ales (and most of those are from mainstream supermarkets – not many smaller offies around here) and I’ve found a massive range of smells, tastes and finishes.

    Take the M&S Cornish IPA (my new favourite) fruity, hoppy, crisp, taste with a finish that says “open another bottle please?” – not a bland UK ale at all – St. Austell has done a wonderful job.

    Even in my crusade to review every bottled ale that Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and Aldi have I’m still struggling and that’s after 64 ‘baron ratings’ later!

    May the UK brewers ignore the ‘uninspired session ales’ message and carry on doing what they are doing…

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  • “We should be praising those beers that do dare to be different, those that shine above others when you’re tasting”

    Couldn’t agree more. Time to abandon the implication in your blog title that Paradox, Dogma and Punk IPA are somehow “fake” ales?

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  • With 700 breweries in the country I’d hope we could find a damn sight more than 50 beers that aren’t bland or boring!

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  • There are so many great beers but there are still a lot of crappy, bland, me-too bitters around. The perception of boring session beers is a hard one to shake off but hopefully it will.

    I drink at home more than in the pub. If I go to the pub then I want to drink beers from the breweries I know are making great stuff. I tend to steer away from ones I don’t know so well unless it comes with a recommendation. It’s a difficult, double-edged sword of a situation – I want to drink more but I want to drink better!

    We should rightly be celebrating the best British beers and most of these will be session ales as that’s what British drinkers drink (our love of big and esoteric is quite rare among pub drinkers, unbelievable I know).

    Hopefully Beer Swap will showcase a lot of great beers (39 entrants, 4 beers each, taking into account some overlap, should give us over 100 excellent brews).

    Right now my votes would go…

    Thornbridge: Jaipur, Halycon, Handel, Kipling, St Petersburg, Alliance.

    Marble: Pint, Dobber.

    DarkStar: Hophead, Six Hop.

    Gadds: No.3, No.7, Dogbolter, Black Pearl, Reserved Barely Wine.

    Worthington White Shield.

    Harviestoun: Schahallion, Ola Dubh, Old Engine Oil.

    Fuller’s: London Porter, London Pride, Vintage.

    Brewdog: Punk, Paradox, zeitgeist, 77 lager, Tokyo*.

    Meantime: IPA, LPA, Porter.

    Hopdaemon Skrimshander.

    Taddington’s Moravka.

    Then beers from Oakham, Pictish, Amber, Lovibonds, Saltaire, Bath, Orkney, Crown (I’d better say Stu! – he is deserving, after all)… there are so many!! this is just top of the head stuff, I’m sure more will come to me later!

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  • The attitude at the begining sounds like a case of why bother investigating when a stereotype will do!

    However some large British brewers have not helped relieve themselves of this title by creating “smoothflow” which is an abomination that I can only see aimed at enticing lager drinkers.

    The upsurge in micro/ craft breweries is a good sign, and a better sign is that more pubs seem to be selling a local beer. It is about enticing people to try something new when it is your round! Please try:

    Wagtail Brewery: Ale-Next-The-Sea
    Bradfield Brewery: Farmers Pale Ale
    Unknown: Pommies Revenge
    Kelham Island Brewery: Easyrider
    Abbeydale Brew: Absolution

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  • FletchtheMonkey

    Thanks for the discussion guys and the beer recommendations. I’m a firm believer in good beer and I’m delighted with the resurgence of brewing in this country, and everywhere else. There are so many breweries making good ale.

    Baron – Glad you are finding great ales!

    Barm – Massive fan of Paradox and Punk, I have a hot/cold relationship with Dogma, and Chaos Theory blows my mind!

    Mark – I agree, there are lots of dull session ales, and trying new things can result in disaster. But I’m also optimistic, it’s better to have tried it than to not have tried it! Thanks for the list, that’s a lot of votes!

    Paul – hopefully you don’t think I’m negative about British brewing, quite the opposite! Looks like I should have spent more time on the title but I was racing the clock to post this for Mr Dredge! Loving the resurgence in mirco/craft breweries, and home brewing too. Have tried none of your list so am on a mission to have them all ASAP!

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  • First, I agree with you about there’s lots of fine British beers.

    Second, let’s read between the lines at the Brewdog interview. End of the day, James and co. have an agenda to push and internationally.

    Third, we believe at beerviking.com that the ability to consistently brew a below 4% session beer is the hallmark of a great brewer. It was the main thrust of our summer tasting this year, in particular at the GBBF.

    @Mark names some great ones but a favourite of ours is the Weltons (W. Sussex) Pridenjoy at 2.8%.

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