Words & Photo - Matthew Curtis
I’m currently suffering from what I can only describe as “beer fatigue.” Wherein 9 out of every 10 or so beers I taste do absolutely nothing for me. That 1 in 10 is usually something exceptional, such as a great Geuze or immaculate mixed fermentation Saison but more often than not it’s a lager, pale ale or bitter. At this moment nothing delights me more than a cold bottle of Augustiner Helles, or perhaps a pint of Five Points Pils or Fuller’s ESB.
I’m trying to work out the reasons that have triggered this and the most obvious one is that I’ve drank a lot of beer this year. I’ve drank West Coast IPA on the West Coast and East Coast IPA on the East Coast (and on the West Coast but that’s another story.) I’ve drunk Pilsner in Plzen, Helles in Munich. I even went to Chimay where I not only got to try a several vintages from its range that were from its cellar but I was also taken to a local pub in Charleroi where I drank fresh Chimay Tripel on keg.
All of this travelling, as wonderful as it was, made me realise the inherent value in a beers sense of place. The result of this is that I feel like I’m constantly trying to replicate my experiences by drinking these beers at home, and failing. With the exception of Augustiner, which seems to work every single time. This probably explains why I’ve suddenly found myself enjoying cask bitter a lot more recently, than I have in recent years.
The other reason I feel this may be happening is that actually, 9 out of 10 beers I try just aren’t good enough. We’re steadily approaching the UK being home to over 2000 breweries, but when you look at the chatter on what’s good, what people are actually drinking, it’s the same 50 to 100 breweries that come up in conversation every time. This includes the modern brewers, the traditional and even the macro.
I’m sick and tired of picking up or being sent bottles and cans of beer from breweries that have faint hints of oxidation, or the creeping tang of yeast bite. I used to be furious when I ordered a pint and it arrived drowning in diacetyl or showing signs of acetaldehyde starting to form but now its just boring. I used to be able to overlook these faults, especially if they were small because beer is important, man. Now that I write about, photograph and most importantly drink beer for a living, it no longer washes.
After a few weeks of contemplation I’ve come to realise that *I* might not be the problem, after all there are still plenty of great beers I’m enjoying. There are plenty of brewers making lots of really good beer, but I fear they’re in a minority. There are also plenty of other producers making very tasty “cool booze” be it gin, whisky, vodka, cider, amaro and more. It feels like the drinks industry has never been more competitive than it is right now. Put simply, I don’t think the majority of British beer I try is good enough to compete.
So buck up, kiddo, it only gets tougher from here on in.