I was out having a couple of pints tonight with my Brother-in-Law and frequent companion Darrin Pikarsky when we experienced the highs and lows of the average beer drinker.
At the Flying Saucer near the UNC-Charlotte campus we had a couple of fine draught and bottled beers (catch the best in the upcoming Tuesday Tastings review). These were fresh and properly chilled brews. We then headed to the Southend Brewery & Smokehouse. The Pale Ale and the Brown Ale were to say the least a disappointment. It's hard to imagine, but two of what should have been the better moving taps at this brewpub tasted like out of date beer. How does this happen at a brewpub? I've been to Southend before and had good beer and food. I'm not exactly sure why this visit was so bad, it just was. The off beer lost the Southend our dinner business.
We headed down the street to Mac's Speed Shop Barbecue and had a nice meal and two hefty pours of Chimay. It was great to taste beer as it was meant to be. Which leads to my main point. Too often consumers in the United States put up with poor service, bad selection and -- even worse -- product that has gone bad. We are not alone. In England a group called Cask Marque has taken on the task of inspecting and recognizing pubs that do a good job serving cask ale. In a report that was recently released, they took U.K. pubs to task for selling "“bathwater beer."
Cask Marque spot checked 200 pubs and found many serving warm pints. The idea of British beer being "warm" is a misconception. Real ale brewers recommend a cellar temperature between 51-55ºF (a bit warmer than we are used to in the USA, but still refreshing) for the perfect pint. But Cask Marque found pubs in Sailsbury, Wiltshire and Keswick pulling pints as warm as 73ºF. In a pub in Dartford a Cask Marque rep was served a 86ºF pint. That's somewhere around the temperature of a good hot bath, not a thirst quenching ale. On the plus side, Cask Marque hands out plaques to pubs that do it right.
Tonight we left the Southend with more than half filled pints on the bar. I would normally have said something, but we opted to vote with our feet. Too often in America consumers are not willing to stand up for good beer. We all need to reward pubs that consistently serve quality brew with our business.