I previously blogged that George and I visited the local hostelries to ascertain what beers sold best. The top four beers favoured in Berkhamsted are (with no great surprise): Fullers London Pride, GreeneKing IPA, Sharp’s Doom Bar and Tring’s Side Pocket for a Toad. We purchased polypins of these beers along with one of Chiltern’s Beechwood Bitter. We then got our beery guinea pigs to try the beers without being told what they are. We had a few stray women in the audience, and I have separated out their views for now.
In terms of the rating of overall likeness, Beechwood Bitter was rated the highest followed by Doom Bar but, surprisingly, Side Pocket was rated the lowest. Looking at the results from the point of view of ranking the beers, then Beechwood Bitter came out top followed by London Pride. The beer considered the most drinkable beer that our guests would be most likely to drink over an evening in a pub, was Doom Bar. However, the beer they would order then and there in a pub was Beechwood Bitter.
The ladies in our group were more favourable towards Doom Bar, whereas the eight investors in our microbrewery favoured the Beechwood Bitter and London Pride. Looking at the rating of the beer’s characteristics, the colour, taste and body of Side Pocket was lower than the others, whereas the smell of London Pride let it down.
From our results it appears that quite a few people prefer the blander (or more neutral) nose and flavours of Doom Bar and the girls particularly disliked the hoppier beers. Nevertheless, Chiltern have done something right with Beechwood Bitter and seem to have won over the regular London Pride drinkers in our blind tasting. That Beechwood Bitter is brewed locally only added to the popularity of this ale amongst our tasters and I’m sure many will seek it out in future – I recommend the Alford Arms and Valiant Trooper.
Tring’s Side Pocket came across as too bitter, hoppy and fragrant for our audience in a blind taste, perhaps because we pitched it against sweeter beers. The regular drinkers of this local ale amongst our tasters were very surprised by their own negative appraisal. Despite the results, Side Pocket is a quality session beer and a favourite with the locals; they like the locality of the brewery and what it stands for (some even like the rebranding). Personally I prefer and recommend the slightly heavier Ridgeway.
We also asked our audience to evaluate a number of beer pump clips and labels, see below. Our results show that Spitfire (T), Bath Ales Wild Hare (O) and Doom Bar (I) are the most favoured – simple with bold colours and clear text. The three top dislikes were Trooper (K) as poor taste, Saison Partizan (E) as too complex and Parson’s Pledge (W) as just dreadful. What do you think?