Last Monday was our last day of exams for our MSc Brewing course, and naturally we went out drinking. We stopped for a pint at Mather's Bar, a relatively famous pub in Edinburgh. Four of our group grabbed pints of Batemans XB Bitter... and we each independently and immediately thought "this is off". The beer was clearly acetic (acidic character often a sign of an older cask). So we sent them back and got something else. The bar staff was very grumpy about this, as they all claimed it was fine when they tasted it (as well by some bloke at the bar drinking Foster's... clearly a man of fine taste). It was clearly off... I don't mind acidic beers, but if I buy a bitter I expect a bitter not a lambic.
To make matters worse, I tasted somebody else's Theakston Old Peculiar as I heard them say "wow, this beer tastes like apples!"... since I know this beer well I knew that wasn't right. I judged it was full of acetaldehyde (green apple character) which can be a sign of infection too or bad brewing practice. I assumed the former. I didn't tell them to send it back as I think I was in enough trouble with the bar staff and my friend seemed to be enjoying his beer regardless.
To make matters even worse, a couple of months ago we had the former brewing students dinner and the pub crawl stopped there for a few pints. I met an older gentleman who was sending back his pint as he said it was acetic. Turns out he was a retired brewer of 30 years.
My point is that there is a pattern of unkempt beers at Mather's. The only bad pints I've had in Edinburgh were there. Cask ales are alive need attention and proper cellarmanship. Bar staff needs training on off flavours. But perhaps if they're tasting the off beer regularly, and nobody complains, then they'll think everything is fine.
Otherwise, Mather's is a great little traditional pub with great beer selection. Its a shame that I'll unlikely go back there.
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