The weather turns warm and sunny. The sap rises. I want something different, something clean and fresh, something other than big chunky beers. Magically, a selection of beers from Camden Brewery, and a mini-cask of Sharp's Spring Cask Pilsner arrive at my desk, as though the beery gods have sensed a change in my mood, and can tell that I need placating a bit sharpish, matey.
The beers from Camden are good. The Hells Lager (apparently a stab at combining the helles and pils styles) works well, being a well-made lagery sort of a lager - clean, crisp and moreish. This is the beer you get if you go into a bar and ask for "a beer" - well-executed, transparently flawless, drinkable, bittersweet. The unfiltered version ups the ante a bit further, and the Unfiltered USA Hells slams down a hand of four aces and scoops the pot into its lap - zesty, slightly yeasty, but carrying that unmistakable hoppity-skippity of an unfiltered lager. It's just more alive, somehow.
Sharp's Spring Cask Pilsner is an essay in elegance. Brewers talk about having nowhere to hide when you brew a lager, but lagers such as Camden's have a distinct robustness when compared to this lager-ale hybrid. The Crafterati will hate it, even though it's a distant relative of Monsieur Rock. It's the opposite of an edgy, boundary-pushing beer, so ethereal as to be pummelled into submission by a full-bodied, unfiltered lager like Camden's. It's there, it's gone. Honey, herbs, lemons, fresh air and dewy grass. Can I have another please?
The Spring Cask Pilsner was such a gentle waft of spring breeze across the palate that that it got me thinking. Last night, I drank a Kernel Brewery Double Citra, so full of mangoes and passion fruit that its 9%+ abv slipped by unnoticed. It was the concentrated fruity essence of a hop that has been bred to be the concentrated fruity essence of hops. Have my doors of lupulin perception been pushed permanently ajar by the repeated ingestion of Double Citra, Double IPA, Imperial Black Ale? And more importantly, if they are, should I even care, or should I just yield to it and accept that the past is a different country, and things are going to be different from now on?