Words & Photo - Matthew Curtis
This dialogue has progressed somewhat since that night in Philly, and you can read the updated conversation here. The lesson here is: don't treat remarks heard late at night in a bar after several beers as a source.
“Eurgh, yeasty.” Says the man stood across the table from me, as he frowns at the hazy pint of beer in his hand. That man happens to be Randy Mosher, author of what is probably the most important book on beer I’ve ever read, Tasting Beer. We’re in a bar called Martha in North East Philadelphia, surrounded by the shining lights of modern American craft brewing. Representatives from breweries such as Jester King, Tired Hands, Societe, Green Bench, Almanac, Treehouse and more are all here. If this bar was a Twitter hashtag you can bet it’d be trending.
Randy has just been served a pint of Tired Hands Station IPA. In fairness it looks like a glass of milk that someone’s dropped a Berocca tablet into on the sly. He takes another sip, “nope.” I happen to be on my second pint of the same beer. Yeah it looks like shit, but the smell? Wow. The aroma is redolent with a punchbowl of tropical fruit flavours, with a herbal, almost coriander leaf scent creeping around the edges. The taste is phenomenal, it captures more kinds of fruit than I can be bothered to squeeze into a sentence and the finish, rather than leading me to nothing like so many modern East Coast American IPAs, is satisfyingly bitter and it lingers.
So I pipe up and tell Randy that I can’t really taste the yeast. “Really?” He says, peering into the murk again. “Sure it’s a nice beer, but it’s flawed and I can’t get past that yeasty bite.” I taste it again, searching for that yeast bite. I wasn’t going to argue with the guy who wrote the book I used as a reference with which to train my palate after all. I guess I can feel the yeast, adding body and mouthfeel in much the same way as it might in a Hefeweizen, but all I can taste is fruit, and lots of it. Randy doesn’t send his beer back, and finishes his pint, but he doesn’t order the same beer again.
The next day I travelled a few miles west to the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore in order to visit the Tired Hands Brew Cafe. Sat at the bar I look to my left and then to my right, slowly taking in the length of the bar as I do so. All I see are people enjoying delicious, opaquely hazy pints and not really caring. They’re not too worried about what might classically be seen as a brewing flaw, they’re just ordering beer that their palate tells them tastes good. Then they’re ordering another one, because it tastes good. I sit back in my barstool with another hazy pint and stop searching for that yeast bite and just get on with enjoying the beer in my glass, because it tastes good.