Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Back to Unclear Beer


It is ages since I did a poll and I haven't got the hang of putting it up on the newer version of Blogger that I now have, so apologies to the person that voted.  It wasn't meant to be published until I'd done this bit. Sorry.

When you are doing this, it is difficult to get the questions as right as you'd like, but hopefully I have included most scenarios.  Anyway, while in the main it is just a bit of fun, it does have a serious background and purpose.


I may draw conclusions from it and use it at the CAMRA AGM.  So get voting.

See also my earlier blog here and blogs from Phil and Paul  who also have views on the matter.  I do urge you to read them before diving in.  They do tend to be supportive of clear beer, so if there is another link to the opposing view, let me know and I'll include it.

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50 comments:

Neil Walker said...

'Murky'?

What a loaded question!

StringersBeer said...

it is, isn't it? Also, what about if it's supposed to be hazy/cloudy/opaque and isn't? Should I send it back?

Cooking Lager said...

I voted "warned" but really more informed regarding what I'm buying.

Really just put the words cloudy/hazy or summat on the pump clip then I can swerve it, otherwise it's getting sent back as a fault.

Tandleman said...

The word murky was chosen because cloudy doesn't cover hazy and vice versa. There is a qualifier answer of "depends".

Stringer: That shows the confusion we have.

Curmudgeon said...

It's a bit hard to frame a single poll as there are really at least 3 separate questions.

1. Do you find cloudy beer offputting?

2. Should we be more prepared to tolerate cloudiness in British cask beers?

3. Should it be made clear at the point of sale if beer is intentionally cloudy/hazy?

My answer to the poll is the same as Cookie's.

Dave Unpronounceable said...

I'd vote for the first and fifth options, though I'm not sure 'warned' is the right word for me

Curmudgeon said...

"Informed" would be better than "warned".

Beer Coup said...
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Beer Coup said...
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Phil said...

I would have voted 'warned', until I had a beer which I knew was going to be hazy (because unfined) & it came out murky & yeasty-tasting - this is what I wrote about in the post Tand linked to. Now I think sod 'em, I'm not willing to take that risk.

Beer Coup said...
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The Beer Nut said...

Those Brits and their clear beer fixation, eh?

It's not a problem in Munich; it's not a problem in Prague; it's not a problem in Dublin. If the beer tastes OK it's not a problem.

BeerCoup said...

Surely murky shouldn't be an issue. Isn't the Craft revolution about rebuilding the Beer market based on taste and flavour?

https://twitter.com/BeerCoup

Tandleman said...

Mudgie. Should have asked you really. A lot better than mine. But maybe less fun.

pyo said...

Whenever I receive a cloudy pint I always anticipate it to be either really good or really bad.

Tandleman said...

Beer Coup. I suppose it depends whether you believe that murk = good and the rest of the statement is delightfully cheeky..

Tandleman said...

Beer Nut. As me mother would say "Just because everyone else is sticking their head in a fire, doesn't mean you have to."

The Beer Nut said...

And does the fire use extraneous or natural gas?

Dave Bailey said...

I voted for the first one, because I think that's what really matters. However, I expect most people will at least like to know that it will be less than completely clear.

Although it is flavour that matters, sometimes a hazy beer can be a sign of something more adrift, so a punter that isn't informed is much more likely to be suspicious. Even I would be.

Ed said...

Bollocks to this murky stuff, give me a clear pint.

DavidS said...

It'd seem pretty parochial to just assert blindly that all beer should be clear, so I'm surprised that anyone's actually gone for that option - are they going to call up the Germans and tell them they're getting hefe-weizen wrong?

Otherwise, as mudgie pointed out you're sort of asking three questions at once. I probably do pay attention to the appearance of a beer and whether it matches the taste, and there'd be an offputting bit of cognitive dissonance to having a golden ale or a best bitter that was cloudy that there wouldn't for a wheatbeer or a new-wave IPA. But then that's also something I'd probably get used to (cf black IPA), so I guess I'd go for 1.

Tandleman said...

Hefe weizen is a different case. Really thinking British beer here.

Cooking Lager said...

Indeed, Tand. Every German knows what they are getting when they order a wheat beer. Maybe the odd tourist gets caught out but not if they have read the guide book.

For British beer if it is intentionally cloudy then there should be no difficulty making that apparent to a punter prior to ordering.

If it unintentionally cloudy then it is a fault.

Copella sell cloudy apple juice. Most apple juice is clear. It says "cloudy apple juice" on the Copella label. It doesn't say "clear" on all the rest. Clear is just the expected norm. A punter can take their pick.


Tandleman said...

Funny. I thought originally that I'd use cloudy but though that to pejorative. Then everyone gets antsy when obviously I avoided hazy.

Thought London Murky was a badge of pride and now some reckon its an insult.

Good job I don't claim there's confusion. Oh. Wait a minute.

Curmudgeon said...

While I'm sure it is possible to brew a good cloudy British cask beer, for the general run of cask beer cloudiness is a certain indicator that there's something wrong.

If I get a cloudy pint of something like Wainwright it goes straight back without tasting.

I'm waiting to be transported back to 1980 when I order an unfamiliar beer, get a glass containing what looks like a diarrhoea sample, take it back and am told "it's meant to be like that".

Stono said...

murkiness isnt the issue if thats they way it was intended to be served.

But problem is how am I supposed to know,pumpclips dont help if the beers served from a tap room, so I might make an educated guess, but plenty of beers claiming to be wheat/hefeweizen style beers, are often served completely clear (again how do I know that isnt intentional) and as I dont store the many thousands of potential beers that could be on offer in any pub in the UK at one time and how they are meant to look ideally in some kind of mind palace, Im sort of relying on the staff behind the bar serving it to know when they are serving a complete pint of drek (as I encountered for about the 4th time already this year at the weekend) or a genuine cloudy beer.

stop serving pints of rubbish cloudy beer, people might be a bit happier when presented with it to drink.

Mitchel Adams said...

Firstly I haven't answered the poll. I don't agree with the leading questions and negative wording.

Some beer is supposed to be clear, some is supposed to be cloudy. Beer that is supposed to be cloudy should a) never be described as murky and b) be sold as such with relevant information available from the staff or on the pumpclip.

Beer that is supposed to be clear should never be sold by an establishment when it isn't clear.

Deliberately cloudy beer may come from a bottle, a can, a cask or a keg in much the same way as clear beer.

The crux of the problem with this poll is that you are only out to get results which fit your narrow minded view of what a pint should be. Thankfully not everybodies idea of what a pint should be is the same as yours, or mine for that matter, as the world of beer would be a far duller place.

Graeme said...

I voted for "As long as it tastes OK", but I wanted to vote for a few here, though not necessarily in an indecisive way as I felt those choices were all valid as well("depends" and "warned").

But it has to come back to taste. I've produced myself and tried commercial beers that are far from star bright, but taste great - that's the point isn't it? We drink beer to enjoy its taste, no? We'd all like our beer to be wonderfully clear and bright, but give me a pint of hazy but fresh, great tasting beer and I'm not going to turn it down flat without at least trying it. Maybe it's the homebrewer in me?


[A little off topic for the intended poll, but still beer, and which I find more of an irritation: bottle conditioned beers with a half inch of yeast sediment waiting to turn into a snowstorm. No, no, no.]




pyo said...

I've had plenty of hazy pints that taste fresh and great and just as many clear pints that taste like complete crap.

You should really judge a pint by how it tastes, not how it looks. This is probably easier for younger beer drinkers that haven't had the "cloudy beer is off beer" line drilled into them.

Bryan the Beerviking said...

OK, now you've specified that you mean British cask beer, that's tightened it up a bit. I can think of several beer styles where cloudiness is expected, but none of them are British and none are cask ales.

If a cask ale is hazy, I'd like to be advised ahead of time. If the cellar staff know their stuff and they think it is both hazy and perfectly drinkable (as I've often seen at beer festivals), then I'm usually willing to give it a punt.

With keg and craft stuff, it's a bit harder. There's been a fashion for unfiltered cloudy beers (weiss, naturtrub, etc.) in Germany for some years now, even unfiltered Pils, and I can easily see that transferring to some UK and US brewers.

jesusjohn said...

As Phil has written, it does make it more difficult to take back a pint if it's "meant" to have a haze if it isn't right.

I had a pint of unfined Moor beer recently - a brewery I rate* - and it was soupy and green (that's to say I think it was rushed on under-conditioned; I don't think it was the end of the barrel).

But I ran through the likely scenario with the barkeep ("Oh, we've had this a bit - you do know it's *meant* to be cloudy...") and just thought "sod it".

* My experience of unfined cask Moor in standout pubs is that, properly conditioned, you'll get a light haze, but not full-on murk.

Tandleman said...

Or that most wouldn't know a good beer if it bit them in the arse? Most cloudy beer is full of trub and brewing faults.

Tandleman said...

And almost all such beer in Germany is dreadful. Weizen possibility excepted.

Tandleman said...

But you got a confusing pint John. One you had no confidence in and one you weren't on solid ground with. That's what I'm getting at really. The odd great beet and loads of..... well what?

Phil said...

Thanks, jesusjohn - interesting that the only person picking up on my point is somebody who's had the exact same experience (with the same brewer's beer)!

I know that some beers are brewed to be served hazy. I know that some beers, served hazy, are top-quality beers - I've had 'em. My problem is that if you tell some bar staff "this one's meant to be hazy" they won't bother avoiding the wrong kind of haze/cloud/murk/whatever you want to call it - and the punter can end up with a pint of yeast porridge and no possibility of complaining about it ("it's meant to be cloudy, it says so right there").

Nothing to do with wanting all beer to look the same. Everything to do with wanting all beer to be served in good condition, and knowing that cloud in beer is sometimes a sign of bad condition - even in beer that's meant to be hazy.

Tandleman said...

Phil and JJ. How refreshing to see that you two have actually applied some intellectual rigour to this.

But it doesn't go far enough. Extrapolate to the not so far off future. No-one will be able to challenge bad beer with confidence. Standards will fall. Why brew good beer when bad will do just as well? Sadly because not enough know bad beer from good.

Looking on the er.. bright side. Clean, clear beer with flavour will always have a market. We just need to stand up for it. Cloudy beer does no-one any favours.

DavidS said...

" Why brew good beer when bad will do just as well? Sadly because not enough know bad beer from good."

Surely we should aim to improve standards by encouraging punters to take more of an interest in what they're drinking and pubs to take more pride in what they're serving, then, not by moaning at people who're actually trying to improve (in their view) what they're offering for not catering to the lowest common denominator?

For what it's worth, I've had the "that's what it's supposed to taste like" argument a few times, and their point has normally been simply that they've already got my money and don't care about my repeat custom. By and large pubs that care enough to be aware of unfined beer (and sour beer and so on) also care enough to apologize and replace it if it's off.

Tandleman said...

DavidS: I rather think it is more complex than that. It has taken years to get to a point where people could say that they expect a clear pint and one that isn't has a fault in some way. That is being undone.

Nothing wrong with innovation, but your hope that good pubs won't put on bad beer is a pious one. They may not know.

It is a myth that in good pubs you get staff that know a lot about how beer should taste. particularly when it is "different".

Tandleman said...

PS: A slight haze is rarely a problem. That's not my worry.

The Beer Nut said...

"Extrapolate to the not so far off future ... Why brew good beer when bad will do just as well?"

Isn't this the same argument you used when craft keg started to appear -- why would any brewer bother with cask when people are prepared to drink easier and more profitable keg beer?

Seems like a bit of an unfounded paranoid fantasy to me. I think you already know the British beer market doesn't work like this.

Tandleman said...

Well if it was just me thinking it, you might be right. But there's some pretty good beery folks that agree with me.

Sitting where you are, I don't doubt it seems like that, but thinking of some of the photos of really cloudy beer you have published, well I'm not so sure. In fact I'd say that lots of beer that is hazy/murky/cloudy is not caused by intent, but by poor brewing skills. Publicans like Jeff Bell have mentioned this and the term London Murky, isn't I think, one of endearment.

While new wave keg causes little or no confusion if cloudy, I believe cask beer is different and it does cause confusion. It is the confusion that most bothers me, though independently, the case for cloudy beer tasting better is far from proven.

You are clearly not a fan of the "thin end of the wedge" argument. I am. If cloudy/hazy/murky cask becomes common, it blurs a line.

And the accusation of paranoid fantasy is like the "beer is better with nowt taken out" argument, quite unproven.

Coxy said...

I think it would be easier if beer was tested by Stevie Wonder, then there would be no bias. The things is I always prefer a bright blue sky to a cloudy day, it is in our Psyche.

StringersBeer said...

I'll give it a go, Coxy, but I'm not sure blue beer is going to sell.

Barm said...

Just as an aside, “London murky” was intended to be descriptive, not derogatory.

Tandleman said...

But is it a term of approval? Can it be?

Barm said...

I suppose it could be, to someone who actively disliked bright beer.

Paul Bailey said...

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes”, as Oscar Wilde famously said, and with a lot going on at work at the moment, my spare time has been rather limited of late. I’m therefore a bit late in coming to this one, but hopeful not too late to chip in my four pennies worth.

Basically my position hasn’t changed since my own post on the subject of cloudy/hazy/murky beer. I am concerned that beer which is intentionally cloudy will give licensees and bar staff the excuse to sell beer that is cloudy for a host of other reasons. These include beer which hasn’t dropped bright; beer which is cloudy because the cask has been disturbed, or beer which is cloudy because the cask is coming to an end, and the lees, and other debris from the bottom of the cask, are being pulled through. The worry is that even when a beer is designed to be cloudy, bar staff will interpret “slightly cloudy”, or “brewed with a slight haze”, as an excuse to serve sub-standard pints.

I ought to make it clear I am talking about cask ale here. Craft-keg is another matter, and as craft is still a niche market product (and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future), it doesn’t really enter into the argument, and is not particularly relevant to Tandleman’s poll, and this blog post.

I am well aware that other countries have a tradition of producing intentionally cloudy beers, and I have enjoyed many fine examples in Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany. In these places people know what to expect , and many welcome, and even embrace, the fresh yeasty taste of an unfiltered beer. There is no such tradition here in the UK, and people are naturally suspicious of hazy beer, equating a cloudy pint with beer that has “gone off” or is “past its prime”. Most drinkers will hand a hazy pint back without even tasting it, so those few maverick brewers, intent on pushing hazy beer, really are swimming against the tide. They are also doing a disservice to hard working licensees and cellar-men who put in a lot of effort to ensure the customer ends up with that perfect pint, which is sparklingly clear, nicely conditioned and packed full of flavour.

The proponents of intentionally hazy beer talk volumes about “educating” the drinking public. Well good luck to them on that score. Most regular pub-goers don’t know the difference between cask and keg. Few know the differences between ale and lager (apart from the obvious one of colour), and there are many out there who think a pint of Doom Bar represents the very pinnacle of the brewer’s art! Whilst they may have some luck in persuading a few beer geeks that cloudy is best, by and large they are preaching to the converted. The average man, or woman, who frequents their local pub, is NEVER going to be persuaded about the merits of cloudy beer. In trying to do so though, they risk causing untold damage to the image and tradition of cask-conditioned beer!

Tandleman said...

Got to agree with that Paul.

Curmudgeon said...

I've done another poll here specifically on the question of whether customers should be informed at the point of sale if draught beer (whether cask or keg) is intentionally cloudy or hazy.

Curmudgeon said...

As an example, the other day I had a pint of a "Gold" beer from a local microbrewery in an ordinary pub, not a specialist beer house. The beer was slightly hazy, although not really returnable. The taste was a touch muddy and yeasty, and not at all clean. I think the two were very closely related.