Memorable Beers #14 — Guinness With Nick

By Bailey.

The only reason I started drinking was because of peer pressure from my mate Nick. I stayed at university for an extra year to do a masters and he had another year of his engineering degree to go and. Early on, the full horror dawned on him: “I can’t believe I’m stuck in this miserable city with only a teetotaller for company.”

I started drinking to keep him company and soon learned that Nick had a set of rules about pubs and beer:

1. Pubs should be dark brown up to waist height and nicotine brown above.

2. Red Stripe is the go-to beer for most situations, but especially nightclubs and picnics.

3. Beck’s tastes of blood.

4. Stella gives you headaches because it is “dirty”.

5. No-one likes Guinness, but you have to drink it on Sunday lunchtime — “It’s a rule.”

Having only been drinking for about two months, I remember vividly being bullied into getting a pint of Guinness and taking two hours to drink it. It only got worse as, sitting next to a roaring fire, it got warmer and warmer. I’d never tasted anything so bitter or so vile.

I was not reassured by Nick’s Sixth Law:

6. Guinness makes you shit treacle.

These days, of course, Nick is himself teetotal, and I’ve got way more rules about beer and pubs than he ever did.

real ale

Memorable Beers #12 — Birthday Sophistication

By Boak.

It’s 2002 and I’m in a central London chain pub celebrating my birthday with a mixture of work colleagues and friends from the real world. At this time, you’ll normally catch me drinking Foster’s or bloody marys but it’s my round (hey, thanks, so-called friends!) and one of my colleagues asks for a Deuchars IPA. I am so intrigued by the name that I order one as well.

It’s quite nice – every bit as refreshing as the lager but with some interesting flavours that I find I want more of.

Over the course of the next year, I drink more, and start looking out for it in other pubs. My conversion to real ale has begun.

We’ve posted about how disappointing Deuchars usually is. Either it’s got worse or I grew out of it.

Beer history

Memorable Beers #11: Pale Ale for POWs

By Bailey

During World War II, my grandfather was taken prisoner at Dunkirk, and spent most of the next few years at Stalag VIIIb in what is now Lambinowice in Poland, but was then called Lamsdorf.

I decided to visit the site of the camp and badgered Boak into using her Polish to make arrangements. As a result, I was greeted on site by an English speaking student from the University of Opole, who showed us what little remained of the camp and escorted us around an exhibition building.

There were three camps, she explained, and the “Britische Lager” was by far the most civilised. The Russian camp was hellish; the Polish one not much better; but the British soldiers benefited from lip-service to the Geneva Convention.

She pointed to a photograph: “They even had one bottle of beer a week from packages sent by the Red Cross.” There it was, the familiar shape of an English ale bottle, with what I thought was the Big Red Triangle on the label.

It must have tasted great after a day labouring on the construction of an Autobahn; the fact that it was a little piece of home must have made it all the sweeter.


Memorable Beers #10: a Sobering Pint

By Boak.

London, 8 July 2005 – the Day After.

It felt really important to get into work that day, to show that our lives were not going to be disrupted by terrorism.  Many of my colleagues clearly felt the same, as despite the ongoing public transport chaos, and the fact that we could all have worked from home if we wanted to, the office was perhaps even busier than usual for a Friday in summer.

But our minds were on things than accounts and spreadsheets and, eventually, a number of us sloped off early to a nearby pub. We needed to be with each other, doing something normal, not being afraid.

As the tipsiness kicked in, the British stiff upper lip started to falter just a little, and we began to express how we really felt about the previous day’s events.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent a more sombre night in the pub, or a more therapeutic one.


Memorable Beers #9: First Decent Homebrew

The first beer we made that we were proud to give to other people was only ever intended as a test subject.

We were trying out our new all-grain brewing kit and were also trying to start from scratch designing recipes, and so brewed with only pale malt (Maris Otter) and Fuggles, fermenting with dried Nottingham yeast. (We think. This was years ago, and we weren’t keeping notes.)

We were staggered when the finished product was bright and aromatic and flavoursome. Our flatmate/landlord/friend, Ed, described it as “immense” and refused to believe we’d made it. Perhaps he was being polite, or perhaps he meant “compared to that shite you forced me to drink from the first kit”, but we didn’t care.

Of course, the next two brews failed, but the memory of this early success kept us going through the hard times, and convinced us it was possible — that the idea of drinkable homebrew wasn’t just a cruel lie promoted by the vast and sinister plastic bucket industry.