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Fergus - the critic

By Fergus Fitzgerald, also posted in News on

Fergus FitzgeraldI did a beer tasting at our Bloomsbury Cellar & Kitchen Store this week. I’d not been to the store since it opened so when they asked about a tutored tasting for their customers I thought it was about time I paid a visit. After a few traffic jams and late-running trains I arrived with about five minutes to spare. The beers were already laid out so I hastily laid out my samples of hops and malt, wiped my sweaty brow and I was ready. There were, I think, about 40 people in total, so quite a good turnout. I talked them quickly through the brewing process and then through our range of beers and a trial beer that I’d brought along (Broadside that we’ve had in a whiskey cask with some cherries for about 2 years).  I’m not the most natural of speakers so I do tend to ramble and my talk went over a little bit, but it seemed to go well and the people I talked to afterwards said they enjoyed it. This blog isn’t really about the tasting but more about a comment someone made afterwards. They thought that I had been very critical of other breweries and that had spoilt the tasting for them. I was a bit incredulous at first because I don’t think that I am critical of other brewers or other beers. In general I like to think of myself as very even handed and I often end up arguing with myself or putting both sides of a case forward, a habit which I am led to believe is quite annoying. However, having thought about it, there were I think two occasions where I suppose what I said may have been taken as critical. Firstly in talking about Sole Star I said it was in my opinion one of the best (although I may have said the best) of the new 2.8% beers out there. I said also that too many of the other 2.8% beers didn’t have enough flavour and were in danger of putting people off the whole category. I didn’t mention any brewers by name and I didn’t say that all other 2.78% were of that ilk but I do think that many are and if the sub 2.78% beer is to prosper then flavour has to come into it. The second area where I may have been seen as critical was when I was asked a question about the disadvantages of using clear glass for bottled beer. The person asking the question did mention one, if not two, other breweries that use clear glass but I didn’t talk about any of them specifically. I explained to the crowd the benefit of using amber glass over clear and the reasons that are usually given for using it. I told the audience that actually amber glass itself isn’t perfect and that the perfect glass colour to protect the beer from the lightstruck flavour would be red, but as that involves the use of Gold no one uses that so we all compromise on the ideal. I also said that drinking beer in the sun will induce the same effects and so the only way to totally prevent it is to drink your beer in a dark cupboard, or as someone suggested, drinking very quickly (something which we do not encourage). I thought I was being even-handed by explaining both sides of the argument while still showing why we prefer to use amber glass for most of our beers. But for at least one person this was taken as an attack on all brewers that don’t use amber glass. The tasting was quite lighthearted and as such perhaps I exaggerated things for comic effect but for me at least saying that something you make is one of, if not the best beer of its category out there is quite a normal thing to do (if you believe it is) and explaining the well established disadvantages of using clear glass for beer (while also explaining the reasons in favour of using it) does not amount to an unfair critique of other breweries. Or maybe I have started my descent into Grumpy Old manhood?

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Fergus Fitzgerald

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