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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Favourite Beers

The debate about the World's best beer is timeless. People will always have their own personal favourites and will argue endlessly about the reasons as to why they're the best in the World.

For me, what makes a beer the best in the World is far more involved a subject than just what a beer tastes like. Memory is something I think is important to consider. Unless you're tasting one beer directly against another, you're always relying on your memory when making a judgement as to what's best. How can you accurately and fairly compare the beer in your hand with the beer you had last week, last month or last year? You can't.

A truly fair test would be blind and would involve you tasting every candidate against each other. In reality, this just isn't feasible.

For reasons like these, and the pure subjectivity around taste, I shy away from the argument of the World's best beer. I do however tend to keep a mental list of my favourite beers. This of course changes wildly with time, depending on anything from time of year, recent holidays and beer festivals I've been to, brewery specials that have been released and so on.

In my eyes, "Favourite" and "Best" are two completely different things. To be a favourite, it has to be something you can drink often and easily. Racer 5 is a beer I've tried once. It's one of the best beers I've ever tried, but it isn't a favourite. I might visit this differentiation in a more detailed future blog. This entry is more of a personal record, just to see how my own favourites change over time.

#5: Thwaites Nutty Black
I love mild, and judging by CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain award 2009, other people love mild too. A shame then that it's so unfashionable and rarely praised, even among the more ardent of beer enthusiasts. Nutty Black (formerly Dark Mild) is one my favourites. Lovely toffee and caramel flavours combine with some subtle dark maltiness. Who cares if the ABV is low when it's this drinkable and tastes this good?

#4: Guinness
The local (back home) sells Shepherd Neame Masterbrew, Old Speckled Hen and Courage best. Outside of that, you're in Lager or Guinness territory. Despite the price tag, the result of this is that I drink a lot of Guinness when there. It might sound a bit naff and might get the beer snobs tutting, but served with the right people, I love a pint of the black stuff. Nice creamy head, roastiness and a subtle bitter finish. It might have its problems, but down the local with mates, it works for me.

#3: Orval
I can take or leave the Trappist ales, all with the exception of Orval. It's such a great favourite to have because it changes so much with age. Each time you drink it will be slightly different to the the last. The Brett character gives you a real talking point when trying to introduce people to craft beer and the beautiful dryness makes it so moreish.

#2: Erdinger Weiss
The first Weissbier I ever drank, and still my favourite. Lovely Banana and Clove flavour and really refreshing. Fond memories are attached to this one too, I first tired it whilst camping in Italy with the family.

#1: Shepherd Neame Spitfire
I think this will always be my favourite beer. By no means innovative or ground breaking, but will always hold a special place for me. It's synonymous with Kent and cricket in Kent, and is intricately linked with many happy memories. I can't help buy feel a tiny sense of pride whenever I drink Spitfire, it's silly but true.


Tandleman said...

Bloody Hell. I can't imagine many will agree with this list, though I do appreciate it is for your own idiosyncratic reasons rather than for any other. (In fairness, most wouldn't agree with most lists though either.)

Guinness however is just bloody awful these days.

Mark said...

Yeah, exactly. I guess there could be some slight exaggeration in the list (to further the point about favourite vs best).

Guinness and Spitfire you probably have a point about, the other three are good beers though. If I think about the fun I've had whilst drinking beer, this list is pretty much right. Maybe I should do a "best" list, to see how it compares.

Mark Dredge said...

SPITFIRE?! Oh my goodness... I've got happy memories linked to cherry VKs but I wouldn't tell the world about it ;)

Orval, however, is glorious. I will ignore the others and focus on that one!

Your next job is to brew the best beer in the world!

Mark said...

You've got to embrace the guilty pleasure and be proud of it! :P

Guinness and Spitfire are as much about available choice as anything else. Even if - as a 17 year old cricket fan - I'd had the appreciation for beer that I do today, I'd still have drunk Spitfire because it was basically that or cack lager. The good times you have whilst drinking a particular drink is probably the main criteria in determining a favourite ... at least for me it is.

Better get back to that brewing then!

Scyrene said...

So glad to see another Orval fan! It's expensive, but I love it.