I read Boak and Bailey’s post and all the erudite comments yesterday about Cloudwater’s decision to no longer supply their excellent ales in cask and felt quite? Er … I’m not sure what I initially felt, actually?
I’ve followed Cloudwater’s progress from a distance, and I’ve enjoyed supping their beers, wherever I’ve encountered them, cask and keg. Which do I prefer? Both, depends on time and place. If I’m out for a pint or four then cask wins hands down every time. That’s just personal choice, based on price, enjoyability and quaffability. I can’t visit four or five bars and have a pint of, usually, 5% ++ beers at £6.00 ++ a pint, in each one without ending up pissed and broke. I can of course enjoy sitting with a half or two of excellent keg beer, having a pleasant conversation for an hour or so, leave it at that, and keep everyone happy.
I went into one local establishment the week before Christmas to be met with the distinctive, yet quite small, Cloudwater pump clip. After peering through the strongest part of my varifocals, I was able to discern the particular brew and order a pint of cask Cloudwater Bitter. Surprisingly, the manager, who was sat at the bar next to me said, ‘You’ll probably prefer that one.’ As he pointed to a cask variety of another progressive brewers excellent ales. Now I very much like this other progressive brewers beers, but I like Cloudwater better, particularly because you don’t see it as often as I always thought it should be seen in the West Yorkshire Metropolis. Since they first started brewing, I’ve always thought Cloudwater’s cask ales were often a particularly refreshing twist on cask beer, at the very edge of modern brewing.
We exchanged views regarding the merits of both brewers and although said manager accepted that Cloudwater were an acclaimed brewer the conversation ended with, ‘Well I’ve tried all of them Rich and I’m just telling you what I know.’
Now we could discuss the merits of two different brewers all day and what I think, might be nothing like anothers view’s, it’s a personal thing is taste, and long may that stay. Thing was, and it really surprised me, the guy was right. The other progressive brewers beer was infinitely more superior, in every department!
My immediate reaction was to ask, ‘How long have you had this on?’ I needn’t have because there were none of the flavours of off beer, or beer that had been hanging around on the bar too long. My own observations – it wasn’t on the afternoon before, and the managers reply, ‘Only put it on last night,’ confirmed this.
I was a bit dumbfounded at this point. Cloudwater Bitter, yet no vibrance, no harmony, just all a bit dull and disappointing. It bothers me not the beer wasn’t bright. Basically, nothing wrong with it, just not up to the usual expected quality. Now I don’t know what had gone wrong here, although the establishment in question is not a GBG pub, it consistently turns out well above average pints of cask ales, and keg beers. Even at £4 a pint, might have been £4.50, an easy drinking, below 5% ABV beer like this would fly out.
What I do know is that if Cloudwater’s decision to ditch cask ales means I don’t get any more of their beer like this one then bring it on. After all it’s their brewery, not mine, and they do actually say in the post on their site, ‘Cask beer should take pride of place in every bar and pub’.
Will I be drinking Cloudwater keg beers and bottled beers? Probably, and occasionally, just nowhere like as often as I have been drinking them on cask. But, unless they immediately follow this up with the release of Cloudwater DIPA v666, their decision is not going to worry me.