If you get them to taste it, they will be converted

Henrietta gets turned on by Alastair to the complexities of beer, in this case Hospital Porter

There’s a good video short featuring the Old Brewery at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich just gone up on the Guardian‘s website here which illustrates perfectly the fact that people are best converted to good craft beer by having it shoved in their faces and being ordered: “Drink that!”

When people DO try a craft beer from somewhere outside their zone of experience and, wondrous thing, find it to be good in all manner of ways, and deeply pleasing to the heart and mouth, then do they fall to praising the small brewer, and forswearing crap megafizz for ever. As you will see at about the 6:25 mark in that video, when Alastair Hook, bossman at Meantime, the company behind the Old Brewery, hands Henrietta Lovell of the Rare Tea Company a glass of Hospital Porter, a blend of one-year-old and comparatively fresh beers meant to emulate the kind of beer that would have been made at the original brewery on the Royal Naval College site in the 18th century, when it was the Royal Naval Hospital.

As Henrietta tastes the porter, her eyebrows almost rocket into orbit, while a grin wide enough to bridge the Thames splits her face and she declares: “Wow, that’s really good … It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before … it’s really deep, completely multidimensional … I’m amazed at the complexity. There’s no level of complexity missing in this that you would get in a wine. This has been around since 1717 and yet I didn’t even know it existed. To have a fizzy pint of something industrial instead of this – it’s a tragedy.”

It’s certainly a tragedy that Ms Lovell, presumably someone whose taste for the satisfying is away from the common run, since she is known, Google tells us, as the “rare tea lady”, has never previously been exposed to beer of the standard reached by Meantime, and many other artisinal brewers around the world. And yes, it costs £7 a pint, but at eight per cent abv and with that level of complexity, forget your pocket, you’d be doing neither the beer nor yourself any justice by wallying back pints of it. These are beers to be savoured, sipped and appreciated – and Hospital Porter, I suggest, is perhaps a sixth of the cost of an equivalent quantity of fine wine of the same sort of complexity.

So how does the beer world reach out to the likes of Ms Lovell, seekers after excellent taste experieneces but innocently unaware of the miracles that can be found in hops and malt. How can we convert them to the idea that complexity is not to be found only in a wineglass, and beer does not have to be one-dimensional fizz? What sort of evangelical effort should be made to open their mouths, and thus their eyes? Are there enough tastings being organised, enough roadshows, enough side-by-side beer versus wine challenges, enough occasions where food and wine buffs gather and beer, too, is presented as an equal partner at the table? Judging by the time it’s taken for Ms Lovell to realise how good beer can be, no. Is it so, craft beer brewers and craft beer retailers: are you reaching out to the unconverted enough?

Summer reading

I was delighted to see that Amber Gold and Black, my just-published history of beer styles, has cracked the summer holiday reading market and will be seen on all the best beaches alongside Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest and whatever codswallop Dan Brown is currently minting millions from, if this message from Joe Inglis reflects a general desire to read about the truth behind IPA and porter while crisping under a layer of factor 30:

Your book rocks. Read it once, hugely entertaining and informative, so much so that it’s on my list of books to go on holiday with next week.

You can find out if it really does rock by buying Amber Gold and Black yourself for just £9.99 plus p&p via this link if you’re in the UK or Europe, or for $16.47 from here if you’re in the Americas. Should you not like Amazon, you can also order it from my mate Paul Travis at Beer Inn Print here.

And if Joe Inglis doesn’t convince you to buy AGB, the first and best complete coverage of the history of every beer style ever made in Britain, here are a few critical comments from around the globe, the first by Jay Brooks, the highly respected Californian beer writer and blogger, writing in the Bay Area News a few days ago: Continue reading Summer reading