There is a discussion over at ratebeer right now concerning the views in the beer community of the beers from Fuller’s of London. Opinions differ, but there is one argument that I tend to support – they might not be the most adventurous of brewers, but they have a consistent quality, both for their bottled beers and the cask ales sold in pubs.
As I have stated earlier, I am all for exciting and extreme beers – I will try most beers once. But, on the other hand, there is a lot of bad stuff out there as well.
To make some sweeping generalisations, the very top beers often come from small brewers – Jämtland in Sweden, Mikkeller in Denmark, Nøgne ø in Norway, BrewDog in Scotland. They make inventive and exciting stuff. Not too everyone’s liking, but they put a lot of care and knowledge into their products.
On the other hand, there are micros who have won fame among family and friends with their home brew, buy some equipment and think they can scale up everything and then be in business. They often make spectacular failures. We had one micro here in Norway that had 4 (!) different Christmas beers listed at Vinmonopolet, the state monopoly stores, last year. Not a bottle turned up. Even their two standard beers taste miserably of failure in organic chemistry.
It is tragic for those who have tried to establish a micro to make a living. But it of broader concern, too, as Vinmonopolet will be even more vary of dealing with upstarts. And the casual consumer will reach for the labels he knows to make sure the contents are drinkable on Friday night.
So I will continue to take the risk of getting bad beers on occasion. But if I want to offer a guest a beer at my home, I will make sure it comes from a brewery that has consistent quality. And the bottled Fuller’s ESB is a good example that it certainly does not need to be Carlsberg or Heineken.