Friday, 27 November 2015

Why drink this beer?

Why drink this beer?
Because I’m on a train going home.
Why drink this beer?
Because I had five minutes at Birmingham New Street and it was easy to grab.
Why drink this beer?
Because it was cheap and cold and I could get three of them.
Why drink this beer?
Because sometimes I’m just looking for a beer and this one is much better on my palate than Carling or Carlsberg.
Why drink this beer?
I don’t really know, I keep getting sweetcorn DMS notes in the middle of the mouth and I’ve just noticed a sickliness in the flavour that reminds me of Tiny Tim hobbling along on his crutches. 
Why drink this beer?
Because it’s cold and wet and carbonated and slightly sweet and has the ghost of bitterness somewhere in the flavour.
Would you drink this beer again?
Where would you drink this beer again?
On a train.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Thoughts on brewing

Thoughts on brewing: in which a beer is brewed and hewed into the world, leavened and heaved followed by a sense of me-too as other beers join in and to-and-fro their way into the glass, as careful as an aunt, as fretful as an aunt, as artful as the kindest thief.

Brewing is the beginning of the end: hops that were picked at harvest are changed and juddered into a different state of being in the dry heat of kiln; dead; packed together, forced, turned out into the world; the end of the journey that barley took from the field, cut down in its prime, crushed and eviscerated, its insides transformed, the death of John Barleycorn; the vanquishing of water, in thrall to a process that expels it into the air (only to start the journey all again). And, of course, the yeast, microscopic beasts, tumbling and turning over before coming to rest in the cool limpid liquid that will eventually end up as beer. Maybe, after second thoughts, brewing is just a means to an end, an end that is always beginning.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Christmas Day

Are you open on Christmas Day. From 12-4 sir, comes the reply. I’d normally be at my daughter’s but I’m here this year, she’s at her mother’s in Jersey. 

At the bar of the King’s Arms in Oxford and ordering a second glass of Young’s Ordinary. As you do when you’re in a pub you start talking with strangers and I discuss the joys of a pint on Christmas Day with the man. 

I retired a couple of years ago and I started travelling around the country on my bus pass. Seen most of the country and off to the Orkneys in the spring. There’s a brewery there, I say. He nods. 

He had a tent, pitched at a site on the edge of town. No home either, but an address at his daughter’s in Suffolk. I’m free, he continued, I can go anywhere my bus pass takes me. The beer is crisp, bittersweet, eloquent in the way it wakes up the palate, and now sitting on a coach to Heathrow I wish I had one in front of me. Meanwhile I think of this man who is ranging across the country, light in possessions, able to change direction at will, and at ease with strangers. Welcome to the world of the public house.