As you’ve probably noticed, the brewing industry continues to expand at an unprecedented rate. This growth has led to shortages of raw materials as demand for certain hop-varieties goes through the roof. Droughts in California have led to fears that the spiritual home of US brewing may run out of water,
But there is one more essential brewing ingredient on the brink of exhaustion: The superlative.
With some notable exceptions (pilsner, hefeweiss, Belgian quad) whose peaks have all been conquered a long time ago*, it seems barely a week goes by without me supping on a new beer of groundbreaking brilliance:-
Another aggressively hopped Double IPA, another deeply intense imperial stout, another mouth-puckering sour with a wacky ingredient. To be honest, they all tend to blend into one lovely beery blur.
Truly memorable beers have nothing to do with quality, it’s the people, places and circumstances which sears them into your personal drinking history. There are a few beers that I’ve had that have proven truly unforgettable:
My twelve year old self, on holiday in Canada experiencing the delights of Labbat’s blue, or a few years later knocking back halves of John Smith’s at Romford dog track instead of revising for my A-levels.
Certainly, nostalgia has been kind to the memory of these beers, imbuing them with a quality they no doubt lack in reality, but sometimes a drinking experience can achieve an undeniable perfection.
Fifteen years ago, I saw the millennium in, up Calton Hill with a magnum of La Chouffe & a bottle of port. This was an epic event, with an awesome beer that added to the bacchanalian atmosphere.
On the quieter side I cherish the memory of an afternoon wasted in the Golden Lion (Prague’s legendary drinking den) As my wife tried to teach me cribbage, the vigilant staff, unprompted, brought us repeated pints of Pilsner Urquell poured to perfection & the pub slowly filled up with triumphant marathon runners.
No doubt, you have your own examples and I’m sure you understand me when I say that although a beer may be technically beyond reproach, doesn’t mean it can ever reach the heights of the perfect drink, at the perfect moment in time.
*In my opinion (and the opinion of all sane people) Budvar, Weihenstephaner, Rochefort 10