All that glitters is not gold

I stayed at my brother’s last week and we managed to pop out for a couple of pints to just about the only pub in Hayes, Middlesex, that does real ale (if you know differently, don’t be shy, let me know where it is!). The Botwell Inn on Coldharbour Lane is a Wetherspoon pub which always seems to have a few interesting different ales on offer and mostly serves them well.

This time I opted for Butcombe Gold and my brother went for Wickwar’s IKB. I tasted the IKB but decided to stick with the Gold, which reminded me that I often opt for the golden ales while my brother usually avoids them.

This pushed my train of thought in the direction of the phrase ‘brown beer’ as employed by me and my friends to describe real ale in general. I started to wonder whether we were doing ale a disservice by using the term. After all given the amount of Otter Bright, O’Hanlon’s Yellowhammer, Hop Back Summer Lightning and other golden ales we often consume we obviously don’t restrict ourselves to bitter! Having said that, one of my very favourite beers in Adnams’ Broadside which is pretty brown indeed.

Brown beer is obviously a misnomer when one considers the variety of real ale available, but if the phrase is only being used among friends I don’t suppose it’ll do much harm. 

Speaking of harm, just how bad is it to partake of processed/pasteurised bottled beer? And why don’t more breweries offer their ale in bottle-conditioned forms as well as in the cask? I expect those more knowledgeable than me might have an answer to the latter question, but is the former so easy to resolve?

Take the aforementioned Broadside as an example. It is actually two different beers. (I always used to wonder why it was 6.3% in the bottle and 4.7% at the pump). The cask variety has a different recipe to that in the bottle. I enjoy both, but I feel a bit cheated when I drink a bottled beer that isn’t by definition real ale. I wish I could buy bottle-conditioned versions of all the cask beers I enjoy in the pub. Instead, unless I make a special trip to an ale shop, I am stuck with processed beers (although my nearest supermarket does sell at least one bottle-conditioned ale).

I suppose it comes down to money. Brewing for the bottle, so that secondary fermentation takes place within, sounds like a time-consuming and highly skilled craft and maybe a bit of pasteurising and yeast removal is quicker and easier thus being more cost effective? And some processed beers taste ok, not as good as they do in the pub but passable for a drink at home.

I’d rather they were real ale though. Maybe it’s time I took my internet shopping a little further than just books and CDs?

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