I've been drinking quite a bit of ordinary brown beer over the last couple of months. It started with a trawl of my local supermarket (Morrisons), with the vague idea of trying to buy beer like a "normal" person does. Morrisons has been doing a "4 for £5.50" promotion on a good chunk of their range for a few months, and I was just curious to see what you could get for your money.
Overall, the standard of ordinary brown beer on the supermarket shelf is pretty good. Nothing I tasted was technically faulty - nothing was skunked, oxidised or infected, it was all good clean fun. There was also plenty of differentiation between these lookalike beers - they might look similar, but they all taste different, and in fact, some of them taste really good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there are some classics you can up on the supermarket shelf for very little money.
Bateman's, Hook Norton and Greene King all had distinctive flavour profiles that really set my memory synapses whirring, not in a Proustian sense (there you go, Adrian), but in a way that made me think "God, this ordinary brown beer is not only distinctive and classically English, but actually really tasty".
I quite like ordinary brown beer, made with ordinary malt and hops. I don't think there's any disconnect between liking a pint of ordinary brown beer and liking a glass of concentrated West Coast hop ejaculate (for the avoidance of doubt, I'm using that word as a noun, and also using it as a form of praise). I like mashed potato, and I like really spicy Thai food - they are totally different tastes and textures, but I can still tell the difference between good and bad examples of both. Actually, I'm a sucker for all Thai food, good or bad, but I can definitely make some of the best mashed potato you've ever eaten.
There's a place for everything in the omnivorous drinker's fridge, and actually, liking one can sometimes help you understand why you like the other. Try it - you might like it too.
(TRANSPARENCY STATEMENT: I visited Greene King last year, and they showed me around the brewery, and arranged a tasting of their entire output, including Old 5X and BPA (the constituents of Strong Suffolk Vintage), plus some soon-to-be-released new beers. They sent me away with a couple of dozen freebies, some of which fuelled this post)