Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Eating Humble Pie

In my recent post about Ruddles I described how I attended a PR event at the brewery held to publicise the launch of the company’s Best Bitter. This 3.7% abv beer was never going to be a personal favourite, as in my mind at least, Ruddles had sold their soul to the devil, aka Watney’s! Watney pubs were few and far between in the part of West Kent where I lived, so Ruddles Best was not a beer I came across that often anyway, and over the years Ruddles and its beers largely disappeared from my radar.

As I recounted in the article, the brewery and its brands passed through a succession of different owners in the wake of the fall-out from the governments “Beer Orders 1989”; legislation designed to open up the beer market to competition but, as is so often the case with well-intentioned legal rulings, ended up having the opposite effect. Eleven years later Ruddles Langham Brewery had ceased production and the company’s beers had become little more than two of a myriad of different beers produced by Greene King; the new, and current, owner of the Ruddles brand.

I wrote that I would not go out of my way to drink either of the Ruddles beers , especially as Ruddles Best Bitter has had the indignity of becoming Wetherspoon’s “budget brand” bitter, and can be found on sale in most JDW outlets. Well last weekend I was forced to eat my words, as what started out as a “distress purchase” actually turned out to be a pretty good beer, and certainly one that punched well above its 3.7% weight.

There are several reasons why I ended up with a pint of Ruddles Best in front of me last Saturday night, but primarily they were due to my being in Wetherspoon’s Dereham outlet, the Romany Rye with my two sisters and three of our respective off-spring, for a rare sibling get together. We had chosen various dishes from the menu, but on ordering I discovered that my pulled pork sandwich came with a drink included. I am used to my local JDW allowing customers to include one of the “guest ales” as part of the “meal deal” but this particular outlet was more rigid in its application of the rules. If I didn’t want a pint of Strongbow or Carling, then it would have to be Ruddles Best. I decided to give it a go, especially as I would be driving later on and a 3.7% beer would be more sensible than the 5.5% Adnams one which had taken my fancy.

Well, as I said earlier, I was pleasantly surprised, and whilst Ruddles Best is still not a beer I would drink, given the choice, it certainly suited the occasion and my situation at the time. It was full-bodied, with sufficient hops to counter the maltiness, and all in all was a well-balanced and perfectly drinkable pint. So if there is a moral to this tale, then it is not to let preconceptions and blind prejudice cloud one’s judgement. The beer is evidently popular with Wetherspoon’s punters, and whilst price may play some part in this, I am sure taste and balance also count well in its favour.


paul said...

And I have enjoyed Greene King beers recently (in Bury St Edmunds, of all places!). The mild was, of course, excellent, but the IPA was not the abomination that I remembered (or had been led to believe). Which leads me to think that the problem may not be so much 'bad beer' as 'bad pubs', 'bad landlords' and 'bad cellars'.

Curmudgeon said...

Agreed - while these beers are never going to be earth-shattering, when well-kept they can be very pleasant and drinkable.

Too often people dismiss beers as being poor when the basic problem is inadequate cellarmanship.

Cooking Lager said...

Pity spoons no longer flog it for 99p

Tandleman said...

I rarely drink it, but recently had a couple of pints on two different visits to the same pub. First was full bodied, slightly lactic ina good way and very drinkable. Second was thin and boring.

Same cellarman. Tricky.