Monday, 7 March 2016

Batham's Bitter at last

Sometimes you have to take desperate measures. The fact I'd never had the much acclaimed Batham's Bitter was playing on my mind. There was only one thing for it. I would have to go to the Midlands.


Being a cultural wasteland there's normally no reason to go there, so I'd never found a way of matching up finding the beer with doing something else. But it did occur to me that with a little side trip I could change the Midlands from the annoying bit when heading north to a welcome, and brief, break. So my next journey to the Lake District had a detour to Dudley planned into it.


The satnav got me there without any bother and I was finally standing outide the famous Bull and Bladder pub. It's an excellent traditional boozer, with several rooms and two hand pumps on the bar: mild and bitter. Such elegant simplicity. And what a delight it is to be able to just say "a pint of bitter, please". Only £2.60 a pint too.


As to the beer, I'm pleased to say it was good. Surprisingly bitter and surprisingly sweet there was also a little something adding something extra. A little four carbon molecule in fact: diacetyl. Now some would say that diacetyl has no place in beer. But they'd be wrong, in some beers it works. Admittedly it doesn't work in every beer, and in this one there was perhaps a touch too much, but I drank it quite happily and if I hadn't been driving I've had more. Sadly I was though, so with that I was off and heading north again.


16 comments:

  1. Always interesting to read another view of this beer from someone outside the cult, especially someone who's a bit more confident than us in pinpointing off-flavours. (Er... feature flavours.) We liked it a lot when we finally got round to trying it but it could only ever have been a bit of anti-climax after years of reading articles and blog posts mooning over it.

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    1. There is something about beers not being too 'clean' though, at least in some cases. There's also some diacetyl in in Timmy Taylor's Landlord which is a great favourite of mine. And I'm sure there's wild yeast in Harvey's, which is another favourite.

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  2. You can quite upset Mudgie if you neck one on his recommendation and describe it as "alright I suppose, nowt special though, just bog standard bitter"

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    1. I'd have happily drunk more, and I really need to try the mild now.

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  3. Damn, I was planning a post on this very subject. I agree, diacetyl is part of the flavour profile of Black Country bitter. Holdens has it too. But it can easily get to higher than acceptable levels. I think that’s probably one reason they don’t seem to travel well. I had Bathams in Derby and Holdens in London and they were both rotten with diacetyl.

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  4. Can't say I've ever particularly noticed diacetyl in Bathams. But its distinctive quality (speaking as an unabashed cultist) is how it moves from a soft, sweet initial impression to a long, dry, bitter aftertaste. It's a grower, though.

    And surely Bathams, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, pork scratchings, grey paes, Diamond Head and Magnum ARE the culture of the West Midlands :-)

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    1. ... and don't forget the orange chips of Wolverhampton. A cultural powerhouse really.

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    2. Orange chips? You mean ones that have been heavily "seasoned"?

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    3. Fried in orange batter. I assumed the colour came from some toxic chemical but I could be wrong.

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  5. Arguably, the cult of Bathams, certainly among west midlanders, isn't so much about the beer itself, more having a night 'on the Bathams'. From my youth spent in various Black Country pubs, but most notably The Exchange in Stourbridge, nobody pontificated or even commented about the beer on a night out, but everyone looked forward to drinking lots of it. The cult of Bathams wasn't ever about beer geekery, it was about a night on the lash followed by a Balti.

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    1. Perhaps it’s because they take it for granted. Last time we got stuck (as you do) in Ma Pardoe's until closing time, downing pint after pint of pale mild and talking to some locals. They literally could not believe that we’d journeyed from Scotland to drink beer in their pub.

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    2. Another one I've never done. My journeys north are going to be long and complicated for a while.

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  6. It was on at the Magnet in Stockport yesterday; I made a detour specially, for twenty minutes in the pub which turned my usual 30-minute journey home into more like three hours (how can it be so hard to get to Stockport from Manchester?).

    All I can say is I wish I hadn't read this blog post beforehand! On previous exposure - in Wolverhampton - I've just thought oh, that's sweet... but it works... quite a lot going on there... nice bitter finish... could just fancy another one of those. (It would be a stonking session beer, incidentally - there aren't many beers which taste as good as BB but go down as easily as it does.)

    This time round all I could taste, at least to begin with, was popcorn: the diacetyl edge to the sweetness was impossible to ignore. It got better with exposure - I had a second pint to check - but it wasn't what I remembered. Perhaps it's as Barm says, and it just doesn't travel (or keep?) well. Still glad I made the detour, though - even in less-than-perfect form it's a unique beer.

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  7. Replies
    1. Naah, knowledge is power innit.

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