>Help Needed: What Are The Modern Classics?


A month or so ago, I was standing at the bar of The Vic and my drinking buddy ordered a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. Taking that eagerly-awaited first sip at the bar, he threw away the following comment: ‘Lovely.Landlord; a modern classic’
…A sentiment to which I retorted that although it’s undoubtedly a classic, the perennial Yorkshire favourite is hardly modern. Which got us to thinking: What are the modern classics? It’s a loaded question really. In my mind, unless you go for something concrete like awards won or sales, you’re always going to be looking at a matter of taste. Being a blogger (not a beer writer!) I thought I’d try to put together a list of what I thought the ‘Modern Classics’ were. It seemed like a good challenge.
So, I cracked open a beer, cracked my knuckles, and sat down to type. However, the more I rolled the idea round in my mind, the more complex this question got. Why? It’s just too broad a concept – it’s too personal.
Take for instance, Criteria: Firstly, it’s Modern. In my mind, Beers brewed in the last, say, 20 years. Awards do count, although obviously many great (again, in my opinion) beers don’t win awards. And the ‘classic’ part – well, that’s harder to pin down. My interpretation means two things: a soft spot for the beer, be it emotional or taste-wise, and the fact that I order it again and again. This last point may seem a bit frivolous, but I’m the sort of beer drinker who doesn’t order the same thing twice a lot, given the opportunity; but my logic is still personal to me. Variety and Beer-Hunting is the key to my beer-life, and that’s why the ‘Modern Classics’ are important – to underpin that variety, to give a bedrock to exploring beer. I started a list but quickly admitted defeat: it just wasn’t authoritative enough. Whilst doing this I realised how personal a list this would be, and also that there would be an unending amount of variety out there depending on who you are – even where you live.
So – here we go; in no particular order. I’ll put the tin hat on.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I’ve waxed lyrical about SNPA on too many occasions to count. My gateway beer. The bucolic country scene on the label and that vivid lime-green colour scheme are as iconic to me as the Brooklyn ‘B’ or Bass’s Red Triangle. The problem? It’s nearly 30 years old. Damn. So is it too old to be classed as ‘modern’?
Roosters Yankee. Again, my love for the Franklins knows no bounds. Yankee was the first beer that got me (and I suspect, a lot of brewers) seriously considering the possibilities of aroma. At the time it was a real oddity – a cuckoo’s egg; quietly subverting the scene around it. First brewed in 1993.
Mordue Workie Ticket. One of my favourite session beers; a wonderfully rich and fruity pint that I really could drink all night. But is it loved enough to be a ‘Modern Classic’? Probably not.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. Not only the first TB beer I tried, but for a while it became a bit of a poster-boy for how good UK Brewing can be. I actually prefer Halcyon, taste-wise, but Jaipur means a little more. To me, anyway. The only beer I’ve specifically attended a beer festival on the first day to try.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Garrett Oliver’s first gift to the brewery. What a gift it was – still popular and and sits on its own in terms of style.
…And that was it. I’d hit a wall. The task was just too big, too mind-boggling, and – ultimately – fruitless. It’s just too personal. My mind is screaming out ‘There are more, hundreds more!’ – But I can’t access them. I’ve only even really hit upon two countries, for christ’s sake!
So, I decided to open this up – I want to know yours. I need help. I want to know your take on this subject; I’m only an enthusiast; a hobbyist and homebrewer with an urge to share my passion with those who need a nudge in the right direction. Bona Fide ‘Beer Writers’ out there have contacts, experience, and have tasted about a million more beers than I have – what’s your take? Hell, do we even need to be discussing this? BrewDog describe some of their beers as ‘Post-Modern’ – so where does that leave the ‘modern’? Retailers – if you were to put together a ‘Modern Classics’ mixed case for Christmas, what’s going in?

The only essence of the ‘Modern Classic’ that I was happy with was this; An enduring quality. If you look at classic literature or music (the only other two things I’m take an interest in), what makes , say, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, or Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ so great is that they have a quality that endures through trends, fads or time. You can listen to them or read them now and be moved, years after their inception. Truly great beer will always cut through these factors.

So that’s the question I throw out to you all in this virtual taproom that blogging is. Let me know your thoughts – I’m genuinely interested.


About leighgoodstuff

Blog: https://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/ I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 11/10/2010, in beer in leeds, What are the Modern Classics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. >I'd like to nominate Marble Pint. The most flavour packed session beer in the country in my opinion.

  2. >A modern classic to me would be a beer that made people take notice and inspire, be it brewer, drinker or whoever. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout does that for me more than any other beer.

  3. >Of modern classic I would consider the 'modern' part to represent the packaging and overall look of the beer, and the 'classic' to represent the actual beer itself. I think both need to stand out to have a great modern classic. A couple of mine could be; Saltaire pale ale, Odells IPA, or anything from Marble brewery. I think the same though, there must be hundreds, but our problem may be that we know too many so pinpointing a couple is tricky.

  4. >Wow, good topic… And I like your choices. I don't think I'd agree with the Mordue but then I hardly see it and don't know it well. I think Dark Star Hophead could make the list. I'd also add Goose Island IPA.I've been thinking about this for 20 minutes and not got further than that…

  5. >Good post. I was having similar thoughts recently along these lines – what would be my 'house beers' if I had to choose them? Say if you had to choose 1 ale, 1 lager, 1 stout, 1 pale ale, what would they be?But in terms of modern classics, I agree Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a definite. My other definite would be Coopers Sparkling Ale.Then, like you say, it gets more difficult. My other contenders would probably be relatively widely available beers (and therefore probably unfashionable ones in the blogosphere!) – stuff like the Badger ales, Budvar, Spitfire or Bishops Finger maybe?… Dare I say Guinness? (I'll get my coat!) But like it or not, it's a modern classic brand. And these beers may not be exceptional, or class leaders, but they are reliable, reassuring – homely somehow – and they are classics!

  6. >Agree with you entirely about Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – by far the best American Pale Ale on the market today in my entirely unhumble opinion.As for other modern classics:Budvar Dark – everything a dark lager should be, sweet but bitter, easy but complex.Fuller's 1845 – how a beer that strong is so easy to drink and consistently fulfilling is one of life's little wonders.

  7. >Some good choices there. For a modern classic draught beer I'd go for St Austell Tribute and bottled Goose Island IPA.

  8. >Some great point here so far guys – and some great beers. A couple of shouts for Marble, I see! Mark – Its reassuring to find that someone else has had a good old ponder on this one. Foley's – good point – it's that intial 'wow' factor, the splash a new beer can make – like when Jaipur came onto the scene. Brooklyn Choc stands on its own for sure. Simon – I was close to putting Coopers on the list, as it happens, but it fell by the wayside. Another great beer that people don't consider a great deal these days. Velky – It would seem SNPA is the one most of us can easily agree on….so far!

  9. >Another vote for Hophead here.I'd also like to say Black Sheep(fits the 20 year rule I think), which will become Yorkshire's de facto pint when Tetley moves 'abroad'. How about Brewdog Punk IPA and Nethergate Umbel?

  10. >SNPA — yes. Jaipur — I think so — getting to be very common in London and also starting to feel like it's always been around. I agree with Mark about Hophead. Fuller's London Porter? (Isn't very old, despite the 'heritage' branding!)

  11. >Good choices. For a modern draught classic I'd nominate St Austell Tribute, and for bottle I'd go with Goose Island IPA.

  12. >Surprisingly I don't think anyone's put forward a Belgian beer yet. One of the Chimays or Duvel maybe?

  13. >Simon – would'nt Chimay and Duvel be too old to be truly 'modern'? Classics, for sure, though. TIW – interesting point about Tets – but on a slightly seperate note, i think i'd think of Taylor's as de facto Yorkshire!! Bailey – FLP's a great shout.

  14. >Modern Classic hmm, Goose Island IPA but then everyone knew I'd say that! Sierra Nevada Pale Ale definately. Totally agree on the Thornbridge Jaipur. Orval I think needs to go in there although it's by no means my favourite beer I'm also not sure if it's modern enough.I agree with Dredge on the Dark Star Hophead too. Throw a curve ball in and suggest Otley O1. These are all fairly pale or light beers, is the trend changing towards them being classic? I think so. I'll throw a dark beer in there though with Thornbridge Raven.Good topic, nice one!

  15. >Landlord dates from the 30s or 40s at the earliest, which makes it a modern classic for me. You don't limit modern architecture to the last twenty years. One newer beer that definitely appears "inspired" by Landlord is Deuchars IPA, which arguably revolutionised the Scottish real ale market in its day and spawned its own imitators.

  16. >I'll also punt in Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted. Lots of big hops in many of these suggestions … (It was the ubiquity of Black Sheep these days that I was thinking of, especially in't Dales. The Ram will soon be as common a sight as the Huntsman.)

  17. >Yep, TIW, I know where you are coming from. And yes, so far, there's not much dark in there (aoart from Bailey's shout for London Porter.) If that's not a sign of the times, I don't know what is.RabidBar – Otley are amazing and 01 is defo in there, as far as I can see. Wonderful stuff.

  18. >Hopback Summer lightening would be high up on my list.

  19. >Forgot about this blog!Crouch Vale Brewers Gold. Best thing to come out of Essex since the Escort XR3i.

  20. >Now then Scott – crouch vale brewers gold – yes, I totally agree. great beer, perennial award winner and a bit of a trend-setter. Great choice.

  21. >Do you see it much up your way? Always on in my local – Fat Cat Colchester. A pale/blonde/light ale we could sell back to the yanks no problem!

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