The problem is choice. No, I’m not getting all existential on you in some ill-judged Friday frisson of overexuberant introspection (although now I mention it...)
No. I’m talking about ale. You see, in the short space of a few years we seem to have gone from having practically no choice at all (unless you consider the cognitive gap between Fosters and Tetley’s meaningful in any way whatsoever) to having so much choice that our senses are numbed.
To wit: real ale. All hail the real ale revolution. I’m all for it. Bring on the hops. I love hops. They make beer interesting and yes, they have changed drinking habits, in that vast numbers of would-be drunkards no longer swill innumerably pints of slightly fizzy yellow-ish water down their gullets in order to block out the world. Now, the world is much more interesting, because the act of drinking has become interesting itself.
Now this is existential. Where previously, drinking was the means to an end, now it has become an end in itself. And there’s almost too much to choose from. Of course, we ought not to complaint about such things. This is, after all is said and done, one of those ‘First World Problems’.
That said, when you visit places like the Head of Steam in Headingley (they also have a place in town), it’s like stepping from a parched desert into the fabled cave of wonders.
Places like this have come to epitomise the modern lust of all things hoppy. It’s positively bursting at the seems with different varieties of craft ale, or real ale, or whatever you want to call it.
There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Hundreds. You could visit every day for a year and drink a different pint each day and still not get through all they’ve got on offer. But, like I said, this can be no bad thing.
So, during my visit, I did my best to get through as many of their ales as I could (which meant I drank three bottles in total). These were: Modus Hopperandi (335ml can, 6.8 per cent), which was certainly hoppy, with a slightly bitter aftertaste, while the Rudy Session IPA (also in a can but 4.5 per cent) was much more easy on the old gullet. Pricey for a session ale but certainly good and I think the second glass would have gone down ever better.
As it turned out, my next tipple was Anchor Steam Beer, allegedly brewed in San Francisco since 1896. This one was in a bottle (355ml and 4.8 per cent). Eminently quaffable, I’d say it was the best of the three, with a soft finish and delicate fruity notes. The bill confused me somewhat but I think they were all about £4.50.
Other points: interior: wood=good. Atmosphere: welcoming. Staff: bright and knowledgeable.