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Posts Tagged ‘whisky’

Bitter and Jaded: Changing Tastes and Blogger’s Ennui

Like a fasting, beatific saint from the early middle ages, I have seen wonderful things. Colours not previously experienced anywhere in my mundane, cruel, mud-sodden, stinking, warty, short, pox-curtailed real life. I have seen gods, angels, demons and castles in the sky: nothing else compares.

More specifically, I’ve caught myself in the middle of a lot of mediocre beer experiences recently, possibly due to increased expectations after 18 months of beer blogging. Pints of slightly earthy brown water no longer satisfy. I find myself trapped in market towns where the pubs only offer endless pumps of perfectly-kept, virtually identical cask boredom.

I used to settle for Guinness. More recently I won’t even tolerate that. I reluctantly opt for the least worst pilsner before quickly moving on to whisky. I’ve even turned to wine in the desperate search for flavour in a flavourless climate. (It’s alright, I’ve discovered).

Recently I ranted a little on Twitter late on a Friday night (tellingly) about how people could possibly have given two shits about cask beer before some genius thought to put New World hops in it. That’s an unfair exaggeration and a slur on many excellent traditional (and yes, even subtle) English beers, but it reflects my increasing view that the majority of cask beers don’t merit my enthusiasm or loyalty. Nor do the majority of keg beers, or the majority of bottled beers.

I seem to have turned myself into a snob. Now there is interesting beer and there is uninteresting beer. Thankfully there’s still a hell of a lot of the former, thanks to hardworking, thoughtful, innovative brewers. These people deserve my money and support.

But as for the rest, I’m no longer prepared to settle for boring cask beer just because it’s cask beer, whether it was brewed in a shed or an aircraft hanger. Nor will I settle for any dull beer, just because it happens to qualify as beer and I’m a “beer drinker”.

Alternatively, perhaps I just need a holiday.

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Argyll & Beaut: Whisky & Seafood in Oban

December 5, 2011 3 comments

The second stop on our honeymoon was Oban, where we’d rented a small cottage with a woodburning stove, which was a blessing when we arrived on a very, very wet afternoon.  We both really liked the town, but it was a bit of a non-starter when it came to beer in the pubs, I’m afraid.  The best cask beer on offer was either Deuchars IPA (again) or the fairly unappealingly branded Oban Bay Brewery beers in the Lorne Bar.

The highlights of Oban, when we weren’t relaxing by the fire, were the beauty of the sea and the countryside, the whisky and the amazing seafood.  A tour of the Diageo-owned distillery was interesting and refreshingly lacking in bullshit.  Both Kate and I became very fond of the 14 year old, with its orange peel and slight saltiness.  We also took a trip over to Mull on the ferry, saw sea eagles flying over the road and picked up a bottle of (pleasant but unremarkable) Tobermory whisky from a hardware shop in the town, the distillery being closed to visitors.

We enjoyed langoustines in garlic butter in Cafe Fish on Tobermory, and in Oban itself we had oysters, half a lobster and a dressed crab accompanied by a nice bottle of Fyne Ales Pipers Gold in the modern harbourside restaurant Ee-Usk.

If there is one place (apart from the distillery) that I would encourage you not to miss in Oban, it’s The Seafood Temple.  This is a tiny restaurant, slightly south of the main part of the town, looking out to sea from what used to be a public toilet block in a strip of seafront parkland.  It’s described as a former bandstand in the Time Out guide, which amused the waitress and chef.  The service was really friendly and welcoming and the food was incredible.

We had a scallop starter, a truly superb platter of superfresh seafood (oysters; crab claws; lobster; langoustines; smoked mussels; their own hot and cold smoked salmon) along with a St Mungo Lager (good) and an Oban Bay Skinny Blonde (dull), followed by a delicious poached pear pavlova.  The lack of Fyne Ales didn’t put us off; it really is one of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to.

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