The folks in England brew some mighty fine beer. Taste any in the lineups from the likes of St. Peter’s, Newcastle, Boddington’s, Sam Smith’s, Fuller’s (from the fine Griffin Brewery) and Bass for further reference. In fact, have two or three for extra proof. (Just remember to drive responsibly.)
Even the least of the brews would be great to tip back while watching the summer Olympics in London. But, guess what? In case you hadn’t heard, none of the fine brews of Britain has been chosen as the official beer of the Olympics. Instead, Heineken has.
You read that right. Heineken. The Dutch beer that was once a global sensation but has settled into being merely a step or two above the laughing stock stage. When was the last time you had a Heineken? When the other options were Bud Light Lime or Pabst Blue Ribbon probably.
I hadn’t had one in ages, so I decided it was time to give it another try. The nose was dreadful, something fetid that made the wheat seem on the verge of going bad, too. It poured a nice pale yellow with a decent foam. It tasted OK, nothing out of place, but nothing memorable. Even the finish seemed to fade before I even noticed.
Had I missed anything? I decided to check out what other beer lovers had to say. On BeerAdvocate.com, the average of the various ratings of the beer was a 69, or poor, with most commenting on that off-putting nose. One of the nicer comments was: “… a decidedly average beer. Sure there are plenty of better beers that I would rather drink. However, between this and a cheap American Lager – I would drink this any day. Ultimately it is better than Bud.”
More were along the lines of the following: “Good news, everyone! The aroma is pure skunked maltiness and sulfur that reminds me of Corona. Wait a minute, that’s not good news at all …”
It certainly wasn’t good news to the British, where the issue has become somewhat political.
Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, offered his two pence worth in a statement quoted on Yahoo.com. “Beer is the UK’s national drink and the country has a strong and ancient tradition of brewing; by choosing a mass produced bland foreign lager, the committee has ignored all the wonderful, traditional beers that the UK has to offer and instead gone for the company with the biggest cheque book. The Olympic Games is a prime opportunity for Britain to showcase the best of British, including the opportunity to promote its traditional beers and its thriving brewing industry. By opting for Heineken as the official beer, the opportunity has been lost. The decision is completely at odds with the strong positive British identity of the bid and the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics.”
I can actually see the need for having Heineken at the summer games. A beer there is said to be priced at a little more than $11. At that price, you either have to offer variety or limit yourself to something that is the brewery equivalent of fast food, something that appeals to the lowest common denominator because of the complaints that will inevitably arise if it’s slightly exotic: “I don’t like dark beer.” “This beer is too bitter.” “That doesn’t look like any beer I know.” “Where’s the lime?”
I won’t be in London for the games. And I won’t be drinking Heineken either. Join me in raising a toast to the world’s finest athletes with one of the world’s finest beers, a real British treasure of your choice. I’ve had a hankering lately for a Fuller’s 1845, which is almost like a fruitcake-infused beer, or St. Peter’s Old-Style Porter, another heavy brew with a tremendous balance of sweet and bitter. Somehow watching other people exert themselves can tire me out and leave me needing great fortification. And that’s what a good beer is for.