Until last night's episode I'd been enjoying Oz and James Drink to Britain. Firstly, it was nice to see beer getting some sympathetic media coverage, and secondly, they seemed to have done their research.
Unfortunately last night's episode (watch it here) was a big let down – shoddy and shallow.
Bugbear number 1: Given the rare privilege of sampling a 139 year old beer James May offered the trite comments "it's corked", "it's horrible, it tastes like it was strained through Magwitch's underpants, it's rotten". If I was Steve Wellington, minder of the old beers, I would feel very insulted that this TV ignoramus couldn't even make a sensible and perceptive comment on the flavour. I've tasted three or four beers from this collection and I know that they don't resemble anything you'd find in the pub. They more like a mysterious form of fortified wine something like a peculiar Medeira or Port with a dose of malt syrup – Tetley or Stella they ain't.
Bugbear number 2: The final sequence was an uninformed anti-lager rant. Anti-lager rants are what you expect from loudmouth CAMRA neophytes, not from renowned drinks writers and their sidekicks. Clarke repeated the oft-heard but lazily simplistic idea that lager's boom was due to clever advertising brainwashing beer drinkers - "a television advert could finally make people drink something they viscerally didn't want to drink". The duo then went on to taste lagers ("oh God, do we have to?" - Oz Clarke, "the least we can do is try the stuff" - James May) with curry. Isn't that a bit obvious? Lager and curry eh? How many milliseconds thought were given to that scene? ("Which lager goes best with curry? - Does it matter, would we notice?" - Oz). The duo went on to say disparaging things and make grimaces at some well-known dull lagers (I think I spotted Kinfisher) – but where was the necessary reminder that there are countless brilliant lagers in the world? No-bloody-where.