We are very, very lucky at the moment in the beer world. We now have more breweries in the UK since the 1930’s. Beer is outselling wine in every country in the world (other than France, Italy, and quite bizarrely, Bulgaria). We luxuriate in choice and variety. A new generation of drinkers has discovered how wonderful and diverse beer can be. So the easy option when writing this piece every week would be for me to pick the ‘beer of the moment’, a brand which everyone is talking about, and then I would be an ultra cool beer writer, and pick up shed loads of awards.
But it kind of goes against the grain with me (scuse the pun). I’m not super cool, or hip, and I want to make sure we don’t forget the excellent beers which provided the backbone for the growth of cask ale. I want to tell you about beers which have a little back story for me, beers which have meant something to me, regardless of how trendy they are, and give you an appetite for trying, or even reconsidering them. So this week’s beer is Wadworth 6X.
6X used to be on almost permanent rotation in my pub. I didn’t really know much about the beer, other than it sold well, was always easy to keep and I never had a problem conditioning it. It’s a malty, fruit ‘n’ nut beer with a copper hue. It weighs in at 4.1% although I remember the hey day of 4.8% 6X – boy, we lived on the edge back in the eighties. It goes brilliantly with good old bangers and mash, or Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
Travelling down to Wadworth in Wiltshire for my first Cask Marque meeting with them, I became inexplicably excited that the route would take me past Stonehenge. I phoned my Mum from the car, telling her I was approaching the famous stones and then – whoosh – I was past. She asked me what they were like. I’m ashamed to say I described them with one word: small.
But as I went further into Wiltshire (aka Wadworthshire), I passed mysterious boulders in Avebury, just plonked at the side of the road, and strange hillocks which resembled scenes from a Lord of the Rings film set. This was middle earth and the heart of ancient England. Driving into Devizes where the brewery is situated, wooden barrels were being loaded up onto carts pulled by two Shire horses (Monty and Max, if you’re interested, and they belong to a Shire Horse Union, but they don’t ever go on strike).
If you’re wondering where this is all going, let me bring all the threads together. If breweries like Wadworth didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have the wealth of wonderful beers we have today. The importance of heritage is so easily overlooked and it’s easy to knock beers which some consider old fashioned and old hat. But just take a moment to consider how brilliant 6X has been to survive changing consumer demands, perceptions and attitudes. It has stood the test of time, and whilst it may not be hip to extol the virtues of a traditional beer, we need to reconsider why it’s still around: it’s solid, it’s well designed and it’s known worldwide. Just like Stonehenge.