This weekend, I managed to spend some time at a fairly popular local bar, Dad Watsons. Owned by McMenamins, it’s a British Pub style establishment, serving a variety of mass produced and craft beer, in addition to a selection of their own microbrews, which is what I decided to focus on for the evening. It seemed a shame that I had never been there before, having walked past it numerous times on my way to other Fremont area bars, so when the opportunity came for me to meet up with a few friends there for the start of a pub crawl on Saturday, I was excited for the chance.
Whatever excitment I was feeling walking into the carefully cultivated sensible and inviting atmosphere of Dad Watsons quickly disappeared as i was served my first beer, however.
Having just recently come off our first in a short series of IPA podcasts, I was in the mood for something light that wouldn’t assault my senses, and decided that their blandly named ‘Wheat’ beer would be a good place to start. Described as “An American style wheat ale… [with] a distinct wheat flavor in a lighter bodied beer”, it seemed just what the doctor ordered.
Sadly, the emphasis was far too much on the “light”, and any distinctness in flavor was sorely lacking. There was no hop character to be found, which wasn’t much of a surprise, given the style, but even any kind of malt character was stragely absent. In the end, I felt I was tasting the water the beer was brewed with more than anything else.
Disappointed but not defeated, I resolved to move forward on to something promising a more robust flavor. The “Tycho Party Porter” promised not just a darker, roastier, more complex beer, but also hinted at the presence of chocolate as well. What was delivered to my table, while certainly dark, seemed almost as flat and as dull in terms of flavor as the preceeding “Wheat”. While I could taste some quiet elements of chocolate and some of the roastier elements of the malt, the flavor overall was at best dull, perhaps even boring.
Being at this point both slightly disappointed and slightly toasted (ABV at least, thankfully, hadn’t seemed to be a factor so far in an otherwise disappointing evening), I asked the bartender to reccomend something, as I had felt a little let down by my own personal selections so far. What was suggested to me was “The Hammerhead”, McMenamins flagship beer. It was described as a “nicely balanced N.W. Pale Ale, with an amber hue.”
My impression was that, once again, the beer was light on flavor, imparting at least some hop bitterness, but for the most part seeming to sidestep some of the complexities of flavor you would expect to find from the malt.
So there I was, three beers deep, $15 poorer, kind of buzzed, but sadly none the richer for the experience. A common theme in every beer I sampled that night was a lack of flavor. While to some extent the Hammerhead, and to a lesser degree the Tycho Party Porter, managed to at least contribute some bitterness, none of them really stood out as being well rounded, fully characterized beers. In fact, every beer I had that night tasted watery, to the point where I was starting to wonder if perhaps I had managed to catch a series of bad batches.
On the up side, while certainly boring, these are all beers I could seem myself drinking several pitchers of over the course of the night, if for no other reason than the flavors were all unassuming enough to ever worry about having to become offensive. But if that’s all you’re worried about while you’re drinking a beer, you’d be better off saving your money and investing in a Bud Lite or PBR.