05 November 2008

Too much taste, and too little

When I went to open the bottle of Poacher's Choice I bought in Newry the other week, I suddenly recalled Leigh's comment about Badger beers tasting artificial. It's not something I'd noticed before, but here it was: on flipping the cap of this dark ale I got a strong whiff of sweet sugary flavourings. And on the first sip, the taste is sickly raspberryade, not the damsons and liquorice which are supposedly in here.

As far as redeeming features go, there does seem to be a passable sticky toffee malty beer at the base here, and the texture is full bodied, unfizzy and quite satisying. But I just can't get past that sweet artificial taste. Yes I know I said I wanted the volume turned up on unusual ingredients, but poor-quality beer can't be hidden behind fun adjuncts.

And speaking of poor-quality beer, a note on two others I encountered while in Newry, at a friend's wedding. I began my drinking career in Northern Ireland on Harp and Tennent's -- generally the only lagers available in the pubs of my youth. I was amused to see that the brewers have produced new versions of both, for those who find the taste of the usual lager too much to handle. Both Harp Ice and Tennents Ice taste of quite literally nothing. A shot of raspberryade would be an improvement, but I had moved on to Bloody Marys after just one swift pint of each.

And yet they say British beer is among the best in the world...


  1. I don't think they are new beers, just the regulars served at freezing point. If I was forced to drink Harp, I'd prefer the coldest version possible. And a whiskey with that, please!

  2. It's their thing...

  3. Knut, that's what they said about Guinness Coldflow, but it was definitely a different drink. Also, from what I saw, bars were serving both species which would suggest to me it's something other than the same thing in different pipes.

    Adeptus, I thought I'd escaped your dreadful fake nordie accent with you being three countries away. But no, here we are again...

  4. Beer nut,

    I have never delt with Extra cold Guinness but I have had Extra cold and normal Carling in my pub. They came from the very same keg, It's just temperature that makes the difference.

    We know though that temperature effects the tste buds and so it will, in effect, be a different drink.

  5. You are quite right re Badger Poacher's Choice - a horrible beer that I had to chuck. (Away, not Up fortunately)

  6. I can't comment on Guinness Extra Cold either as it doesn't exist here. Coldflow, which was on the market in the late '90s, came in a keg with a blue top instead of the red one of regular Guinness. A friend in the pub trade told me it was indeed brewed to a different recipe.

    Point taken about the Carling, though.

    Look, this was not meant to be a big discussion on crap lager. This was me wedging two pointless new ticks into a post about something else because they didn't deserve their own. I thought a post which will only be top of the list for two days (Session this Friday) would draw the least comment. But no.

    Thank you, Dubbel, for bringing us back on topic. Though it takes a lot worse than that to make me chuck a beer.

  7. I think your use of teh term 'Poor quality beer' is incorrect. I think tasteless megaswill is more accurate! The quality is probably ok - its just that the QA guys will fail anything WITH flavour.

  8. "Beer made from ingredients of an indeterminate quality" perhaps? But dammit man, I'm the drinker: I get to decide what's quality and what's not.

  9. Thankfully I didn't "discover" lager until I moved to Prague, if however the Tennant's is still the god awful piddle it was 15 years back then it would seem I was spared a fate worse than drinking Budweiser.

  10. Anonymous11:57 am

    Harp was invented in Dundalk, by Guinness, BN, that's why it carries that brand name, so you can't blame the British for that one. And as your near-namesake Knut implies, the whole extra-cold gig is to remove as much taste as possible so people who don't actually like beer at all can be persuaded to swallow it.

    Sorry you didn't like the Poacher's, as I've said elsewhere, I don't like all of Hall & Woodhouse's products, but I thought that one was pretty successful, and I was certainly getting damsons rather than raspberries. Ah well, de gustibus and all that ...

  11. You certainly were, Al. Even as a teenager I found the dominant flavour of then-Belfast-brewed Tennent's to be earwax.

    Zythophile, Guinness may have been the driving force behind Harp, but the original consortium included Courage, S&N and Mitchell & Butler, as I'm sure you're aware. But really, despite being brewed in the Republic of Ireland, Harp is pitched exclusively at the UK. For instance, it occupied a mere 1.2% of the Irish state's on-trade lager market in 2007 (source, p.66). Harp is not advertised in the south, except for ads bleeding through from UK TV channels, always featuring men with northern accents.

    I didn't even get raspberries from the Poacher's Choice: it was an artificial soft drink flavour. I'd have expected sourness from damsons, and this was definitely sweet, IMO.

  12. Anonymous1:40 pm

    If you collect those Extra Cold beers, I can confide that I saw Heineken Extra Cold somewhere recently. It might have been in Amsterdam, it might have been in London. I had managed to surpress the whole thing until your post brought it back.

  13. I'm pretty sure they had it at a stand in Copenhagen. Lots of tumbleweed there...

  14. Anonymous4:14 pm

    re Harp - the Guinness Book of Guinness, which is mostly about the history of the Park Royal brewery (trivia - the brewery was nearly going to be in Twickenham, close to the rugby ground) also goes into lengthy detail on the genesis of Harp, how Guinness set about developing it using yeast from Weihenstephan and water from the Mountains of Mourne, and how it was test-marketed in Ireland, north and south, before the first sales were made in Britain. Guinness got British brewers onside to have tied pubs to sell Harp in (not having any itself of course), not wanting to make Eddie Taylor's initial mistake when he tried to sell Carling Black Label in Britain without any tied houses to sell it through: while S&N (at the Royal brewery in Manchester) and Courage (initially at the Barclay Perkins brewery in London, later at Alton) brewed Harp in the UK as sales grew, they never had anything to do with developing it.

  15. The Badger's beers do have a kind of unusual note to them. I don't think I've ever described it as artificial, but I certainly might have, because in my mind it's pretty close. Not sure exactly what it is, but it comes across as a bit artificial.

    As for the the Heineken Extra Tasteless...

  16. The Bloody Tan9:55 pm

    I was one Sunday lunchtime in a pub in Bray suffering from a huge Dublin-based hangover which hadn't improved with a long cold walk on the beach.
    I called for a pint of Harp to clear the previous night's bad taste in the mouth and remarked on the model who happened to be that month on a Harp calendar behind the bar.
    " Great tits " I said.
    " Yes,we think so too - she's sat over there " pointing the the aforementioned model sat having a quiet drink and reading the papers.
    It could have been worse. I could have said " Christ,she's a minger. "

  17. And you hoped a "Dublin-based" hangover could be cured by a walk on a Bray "beach", and if not, then by a pint of Harp? After that the rest is clearly fantasy land!