It's a thought-provoking topic for The Session this month: Jorge of Brew Beer & Drink It asks "what would you change to lead us into the Perfect Beer World?" I'm not looking for perfection and I doubt I'd be happy if I found it, but what I'd really like to see more than any other change is more good beer locally.
I can't complain too strenuously: I live in Ireland's best city for beer choice and a 20 minute cycle will get me to half a dozen of the nation's best beer pubs. But sometimes I just don't want to get the bike out of the shed, or even wait for a bus. Sometimes I'd like to be able to walk out my front door, into the pub up the street, and find a beer I want to drink. It's not too much to ask, is it? But, the reasoning goes, there's no demand for that sort of thing. My local has no lack of custom when serving other beers and I certainly wouldn't want to be personally responsible for even a single tap of something nice. What I'm after, I suppose, are more drinkers like me: unhappy with just what my local sells and not only creating demand, but working cheerily through the supply too.
I'm not hopeful that we'll ever achieve this utopia, though 2012 has seen beers I like become available in pubs closer to my front door than ever before. It can be interesting to talk to the proprietors of "normal" pubs about the possibility of beer from independent breweries and the brand-focus they tend to take: if something new is coming in, it should be one tap per beer and in constant supply while it builds up a loyalty. Maybe this is my complete lack of business sense writing, but I'd have thought loyalty goes out the window when it comes to craft beer: the publican would be better chasing the novelty-seeker rather than someone looking for a new brand to hitch their wagon to. And under that ideal, what's on tap is less important than keeping things changing: giving the drinker a reason to keep coming back. I suppose it's a price-sensitivity issue: most drinkers aren't going to be willing to shell out for a pint of something unfamiliar if they don't know if they'll like it or not. Better to find out what they like and keep giving them that.
And that makes phase two of perfection that bit harder: seasonal beers. Realistically I don't think we're ever going to see these outside the specialty beer pubs until multiple taps from independent breweries becomes less of a specialty. Which is a shame because seasonality is one of the things I enjoy most about beer and I'm always delighted to see Irish breweries participate.
Halloween has just passed us by and witnessed the first full batch of Trouble Pumpkin Brew, expanding upon some cask-based messing last year. It's 4.7% ABV in keg form, and an appropriate orange colour with just a slight haze to it. The flavour is fairly understated, buried somewhat by overzealous carbonation. When given the chance to emerge it presents a lovely mild winter spicing coupled with a fleshy fruit sweetness: this may be the first pumpkin beer I've met where the pumpkin itself makes a discernible contribution. The spices don't overpower in any way, but rather build pleasingly as the pint goes down.
I enjoyed it but couldn't help speculate how much better its subtleties would fare under a cask serve, with a slightly higher temperature and smoother texture. It's always important to find something we want to change, eh?