Contamination in the Lines

The other day I was eating at one of those chain English-Style pub restaurants. It has decent English style food and decent beer. It’s actually more than descent in the form of Fuller’s ESB and London Pride. I’ve had Fulller’s beers on several occasions, but I have never had a Fuller’s London Pride on draft, so I figured it was time. I get the beer, waft in the aroma, and take a sip. Wait a minute! There seems to be something horribly wrong here. I take another sip. It tastes off. It certainly doesn’t taste like any of the London Prides I’ve had before. I know the draft should be a bit different from the bottle, but not this different. In fact, no beer should have this flavor. It seems kind of spoiled, maybe moldy, and just plain off. Sadness.

My first suspicion is a contaminated draft line. This has happened in the past and I never did anything about it. This time I figured it wouldn’t hurt to email the brewery, or at least the US representative Paulaner HP. They responded to say that their Chicago sales person would look into. Hope it changes something at the restaurant. All it really takes is cleaning the lines at a minimum of once every two weeks, and preferably weekly. If somebody had this beer for the first time and found this foul taste, there is a good chance they would think it was Fuller’s fault and never get that beer again. A damn shame. Before I started studying draught systems for the Cicerone Beer Servers exam, I never really understood how prevalent dirty lines are, and how most people (including myself) would never attribute it to the dirty lines.

It is important to understand what the differences are between flavors from  contamination and from poor recipes.  A professional brewery didn’t become a professional brewery by having poor quality control and off flavors in the beer. If you find a beer that has offensive flavor, that is probably a contamination due to poor handling or dirty lines. If you drink a beer with an offensive flavor, especially if it is from the draft, I’d try the beer from somewhere else before giving up on the beer altogether. If everything is alright there, it was probably the restaurant or bar’s fault. Sometimes things happen beyond a bar’s  control, but if you properly clean your lines and equipment on a regular basis, you shouldn’t be getting these problems.

Fullers ESB

Now that I have my laptop back from the shop its time to get back to this blogging business. I’ll start with a classic. Fullers ESB, or Extra Special Bitter. Throughout the years you will find that breweries tended to differentiate their brews by alcohol with the general flavor profile the same. This happened for two reasons. Usually the beer style depended on ingredients available and the mineral content in the water. You couldn’t brew a Burton-On-Trent style pale ale in a place like Pilsen with the decided lack of minerals in water. Another reason was that governments always wanted their cut, and with generally one style of beer in the area, one of the best ways to figure out a good tax system was to tax by the amount of alcohol in the beer. The extra special bitter is at one end of the alcohol (and original gravity) spectrum with ordinary bitter on the other end and special bitter in the middle.

Aroma

Big malt up front with no appreciable hop aroma. Real sweet, almost citric.

Appearance

Golden color, slightly darker than straw. Clear white head with good lacing.

Taste

Surprisingly bitter. Would not have thought this with the lack of hop aroma. There is a big wallop of malt flavor. It makes me want some Whoppers.

Mouthfeel

Light to medium mouthfeel with light carbonation. Nice and smooth. A warming alcohol feel follows each sip.

Overall Impression

It is a great beer that would go perfectly with some good vanilla ice cream, maybe topped with some homemade caramel sauce.