Save Deuchars IPA! DESTROY IT!

21 Jun

Now, I don’t usually like talking about beer. For me, beer is something of such rare and true quality, that I feel I would be doing it a disservice, should I even comment upon it.

Image (c) Ford Buchanan on Flickr, used under Creative Commons License

Am I due one? Am I f**k.

With Deuchars IPA on the other hand, I feel I can make an exception.

A once fine beer, who only ten years ago deservedly won the Champion Beer of Britain award, is now virtually unrecognisable from its former self. Simply put: it’s awful.

There was something magical about the beer that won the award in 2001; it was light, it was crisp, it was tangy. It wasn’t too fizzy, and it wasn’t too dry. It had a lingering citrus taste which, on a nice summers day, hit the spot.

Fast forward ten years and the end product is entirely different. The hoppy, citric bitterness is still there, only now its far less pronounced, as if it were hiding behind some some rather uninspiring malty overtones. Now, I can only begin to guess at why a perfectly balanced beer has been zombified over the course of a decade; according to Wikipedia, the brewery has undergone a takeover and a change of management since they won that award, and the company that took them over (Scottish and Newcastle) have themselves been taken over by the Dutch brewery, Heineken.

Furthermore, the change in management resulted in the brewers of the award-winning pint heading to the Harviestoun brewery, which they already owned but was deemed surplus to requirements by S&N. Too bad, I guess. A quick look at the companies websites (Harviestoun, Caledonian) suggests that the awards followed the brewers out the door almost immediately.

So what can be done to improve it? Well, drastic times call for drastic measures, and this suggestion may well incur the wrath of seasoned Deuchars drinkers and ale fanatics alike, but I believe the only way to make this once great beer drinkable again is to pasteurise it, shove it full of carbon dioxide, and serve it from a keg. My reasoning goes like this:

Firstly, it’s a beer that can only really improved by carbonation. The pressure group CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) contend that adding gas to a beer ruins the flavour, and whilst that has been the dominant school of thought for many years, there are now some beer aficionados and brewers who believe that fizzy is best (or can be best) for certain types of beers. While I’m personally of the opinion that nothing can beat a good, well conditioned cask beer, Deuchars is seldom well conditioned, and it’s not all that great. Frankly, the taste and texture of Deuchars would be improved nine times out of ten simply by giving it the Soda Stream treatment.

Secondly, the quality of kegged beers has moved on leaps and bounds over the last few years. A few years back, I found myself at the Drill Hall in London for the recording of a Radio 4 comedy. The venue was sponsored at the time by Charles Well’s brewery, who supplied the beer for the bar, including their flagship brand, “Bombardier“. Though I wasn’t a fan of kegged beer, I gave it a go, and to my surprise it was the best pint of Bombardier I’d ever had. The fizz managed to release some spice that otherwise went unnoticed in its casked form, and I lament the fact that it’s not commonly available in this format.

I am convinced the same would be true of Deuchars – in order to make it a beer worth drinking again, it needs to go back to the drawing board, look at what it is, and where it fits in with the modern beer world. There are many beers available now that, quality wise, far exceed Deuchars at even its highest points, beers such as Fyne Ales’ Jarl, Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter and Harviestoun’s Bitter and Twisted to name but three. If it were to regain any semblance of a beer worth drinking, it would need to destroy itself and start from scratch. Besides, being brewed by Heineken, they may as well work to their strengths…

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