IS IT REALLY MY JOB TO TEST THEIR BEER ?

 

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Alternative title: (Framlingham) Castle on a Hill

Some more shameless raiding of modern pop culture today. My son Matthew was disgusted with yesterday’s effort, but it’s harder to work the LP he got for his 16th birthday into my post. Here’s a sample of his Lorna Shore album.

So he gets the next best thing, the most brutal track from Edgy Ed Sheeran’s latest LP.  American readers may need to know that Ed is a Suffolk maths teacher who releases albums with mathematical symbols to help his Sixth form pupils improve their GCSE scores. Rather like Kate Bush did with Pi on her Aerial album.

Ed comes from Framingham, the nearest town to my sole remaining Beer Guide tick in Suffolk.

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Only seven newbies in the whole county, which says a lot about the pace at which micropubs are invading East Anglia.

I’d been saving the Crown in Great Glemham for the Latitude Festival up the A12(Guardian reader on Sea) that Mrs RM is dragging me to in July. But frankly I don’t rate our chances of getting the campervan down those narrow lanes, so I did it en route to Southwold.

The A1120 from Stowmarket to the coast via Earl Soham is labelled a “tourist route“.  Let it be a warning about how easily the English are impressed by signs proclaiming a “tourist route“. I’ve just heard the radio advert for “Suffolk Day”, the scariest piece of radio since Orson Wells in 1938.

But Framlingham remains largely an unspoilt (and little known) gem; Saffron Walden on the cheap, perhaps. Even a philistine like me can admire the palette of pale here.

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I don’t remember it looking quite so upmarket on my previous trips.  Farrow and Ball paints, Lemon Tree café, Cromer crab and pop-up antiques shops driving a booming grey economy.

You need about 90 minutes in Framlingham;  20 minutes to visit the gorgeous castle, an hour to discuss lunch options (I recommend the GBG Station Hotel), and 10 minutes to find the loo (it took me 15).

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Five minutes away, the Crown is the sort of smart gastropub that should benefit from a Framlingham success story. It looks pleasant and unfussy, and serves Salt & Pepper Squid at lunchtime.

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Very New Suffolk, and like recent Beer Guide entries it offers local beers from Earl Soham and, er, Black Sheep.  Both of those suit me fine.

Actually the hand written pump clip said “Dark Mild“, mirroring the DIY ethos of a recent Sussex oddity I visited. “We like to do our own pumpclips” said the cheery landlady, before enquiring as to the brewer and chalking “Earl Soham” on to the clip.

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Earl Soham ? I hope you’re not turning into a craft beer bar !” said the local at the bar. It’s too late mate, Sam Smiths keg means you’re craft already.

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The Dark Mild was, you’ll have guessed, vinegar. Vinegar in a handled jug. (NBSS 0.5).

I asked the landlady to taste it, in that polite way the English have.

Terribly sorry, but I’m not sure if this hasn’t reached the end of the barrel“.

She deferred to the landlord, who was mortified.  He put a new barrel on, served it in a proper glass, and suddenly it was superb (NBSS 3.5).

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And there’s my dilemma when it come to duff beer.  If I occasionally come across a bad pint, changed apologetically for a good one, should I applaud the pub ?

Or is it really my job to test their beer ?

16 thoughts on “IS IT REALLY MY JOB TO TEST THEIR BEER ?

  1. I don’t think you can really complain if they apologise and change it without demur. There are very few pubs I go in regularly where I’ve never had to have a beer changed. And at least if it’s vinegary (or murky) the fault is glaringly obvious, so you’re not going to get into an argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. That was a genuine question rather than rhetorical. As I mentioned, the response I suppose the bigger issue is that the OAP tourist might not be brave enough to take their beer back, but conclude that Earl Soham, or real ale in general, isn’t for them.

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      1. Indeed, although even with enough turnover for more than the number of beers you’ve got it’s still possible for one to hang around for whatever reason (too dark/too light/too hoppy/too brown/too local/too national…)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The age old problem with cask beer being a living product, it can be so variable even when the other variables are constant! And to be fair, it is possible for the beer you’ve tasted in the morning before opening to have turned within an hour or so if it’s that far down the cask (surface area vs oxidation vs cask level).

    We care about our beer quality above all else, but I’m 100% certain even then that not quite every pint we serve is good enough – and unless people bring it back we can’t do anything about it. For me it is all about how it’s handled.

    Last pint I took back due to being vinegar (in an award winning CAMRA pub) was met with a very hostile landlord who clearly didn’t give a t*ss, so I’d much rather the situation you faced here!

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    1. That was a helpful licensee perspective Chris. As with that Liverpool pub yesterday, I’d give the benefit of the doubt to a friendly landlord.

      I suspect other visitors may be less inclined to return the beer.

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      1. I’d second Chris’ comment – a pub should catch beer before it turns to absolute vinegar, but a good cask can droop below NBSS 2.0 during a service, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for customers to be the ones to catch those ones that are only just over the edge. As long as the pub takes the “thanks very much for telling us” attitude which good ones should do, particularly if already in the GBG. I also try to give feedback if wine is too warm//cold etc.

        I’ve only had a big problem with taking beer back once, at one of the original London gastropubs now living on past reputation, where the staff couldn’t recognise a bad pint and made me pay for another one(!!!) There is an increasing problem with all-day opening, that the kind of 20-something who is responsible enough to be trusted with the daytime shift as an assistant manager or whatever, is increasingly either not a beer drinker or not a drinker at all. So tasting beer is seen as a chore to be avoided, rather than something to be done with pleasure.

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  3. No, it’s not your job. It’s the job of whoever is looking after the beer and whoever actually dos it, vicariously it is the landlord/lady’s responsibility. Okay, if it’s just on the turn I can nearly forgive them. Having said that, they will know how long the barrel has been on, so they should have a body good idea.

    My old man used to draw ale from every tap at the start of each session, throw away what was in the neck of the tap and then taste it. It’s simple. it’s easy and it’s what every good licensee/cellar person should do. In corporate speak, it would be ‘a regime of careful quality control and product management’.

    To serve vinegar is unforgivable. Ale, wine or anything else doesn’t turn to vinegar overnight, even if you add a vinegar mother to the liquid, it’s a gradual process taking several days, although the acetic acid will become detectable and then build over time. And if the old barrel had been sat there going off for several days how long ago had the new barrel been tapped? I think it’s called throwing good after bad, or false economy.

    It’s why I don’t believe that ‘some’ pub closures aren’t a bad thing. Many are saying that there is an over saturation of breweries currently, but surely we are still suffering from an over saturation of pubs which are unable to turn over the excellent products our breweries are creating.

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    1. Thanks for that.

      This was a pleasant dining pub which, if I’d known/thought the cask was going to be dodgy, I’d have stuck to the keg Sam Smiths.

      As mentioned, it’s the local breweries like Earl Soham that suffer when there’s no quality control.

      We could do with CAMRA branches calling out poor craftsmanship, most folk are quick enough to criticise the food (e.g. in Spoons).

      Like

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