25 december door William
Beer is lauw.
It might not surprise those of you that know me that the one thing I really, really miss about home is English beer. Or as we know it, Bitter, in all its flat, tepid glory. Yet for some reason those very characteristics that make it so brilliant, somehow make it unappealing to anyone from the wrong side of the channel. And it makes me sad. Nostalgia is best when shared, so crack open a tinny and allow me to reminisce through my five favourite tipples.
1. Adnams - Suffolk, 1990. 3.7% ABV. Hazy, amber brew with a fruity bouquet and full finish.
Tasting Notes: I’ve got to admit, my relationship with bitter hasn’t always been an easy one. When we were first introduced, my first impressions weren’t great. I might have even have spat it out, while just to be a dick, my brother said he loved it. All in all, it was enough to make sure that all I drank for the next 5 years was cider and alcoholic lemonade before finally seeing the light aged 14.
Nostalgia is best when shared, so crack open a tinny and allow me to reminisce through my five favourite tipples.
2. Boddingtons – Plymouth, 2001.
3.8% ABV. Golden beer served with a large white head, hence its moniker ‘the cream of Manchester.’
Tasting Notes: Boddingtons is bitter for lager drinkers and should normally be avoided like the plague. But it did play a considerable role in my finest hour: the 8 before 8.
The challenge is simple: drink 8 pints before 8pm, starting when the pub opens at 5pm. To add further drama to the already wonderful concept, your progress was charted on a scoreboard for the engrossed spectators, and there was a complimentary t-shirt for the few who completed the herculean endeavour.
Before embarking on this epic journey, I went into intensive training the week before and sank 8 cans of Boddingtons every day at the appropriate time. This wasn’t ideal preparation, as the cans were only 440ml as opposed to the regulation 568.26125 ml, and it convinced my mum that I really had no ambition in life save win free t-shirts.
For these two reasons, when the big day dawned, I struggled. Especially when the locals added rules forbidding the consumption of anything but alcohol during the event (eating is cheating) and dastardly added a pint of Guinness to the 8 (finish on a Guiness). But never say a Georgi is a quitter. At 7.58, I downed the last of my Guinness and reaped the universal acclaim.
The shirt is now framed on my wall at home. Reports that I was later spotted walking through Plymouth town centre without any trousers are sadly true.
‘it convinced my mum that I really had no ambition in life save win free t-shirts’
3. Rosey Nosey – London, Christmas 2006. I think.
4.9% ABV. Fruit infused winter warmer that tickles the tongue and warms the soul.
Tasting Notes: One of the best things about Bitter is its seasonal nature. Any time there’s a special event, the cry goes up for a brew to honour it. And as brewers, like anyone creative, generally have lots of time and beer on their hands, chances are they’ll come up with a brilliant pun as a name.
Rosey Nosey was such a pint, embellished with a pull boasting a picture of Santa with a flashing LED as a nose. But the best ever name has to be Rat’s Piss, closely followed by Seeping Pussy. The problem is that the novelty of asking for a pint of Rat’s Piss or Seeping Pussy means that you order too much to remember it properly.
‘And as brewers, like anyone creative, generally have lots of time and beer on their hands, chances are they’ll come up with a brilliant pun as a name.’
4. St Peter’s Best Bitter (Organic) - London, 2007.
4.1% ABV. Full-bodied ale with distinctive fruity caramel notes.
Tasting Notes: Now this actually is the shit. It’s the best bitter I’ve ever had. Ever. It’s organic. The brewery is carbon neutral. And the first 5 people to write to me will win a pint that I’ll bring back with me after Christmas. I could even make it the first 50, as I’m fairly confident that a) no one reading this will want to drink warm beer or b) have a pint with me, but I know that even in Holland only a fool turns down free beer. Even bitter.
‘And the first 5 people to write to me will win a pint that I’ll bring back with me after Christmas’
5. Spar Scrumpy Cyder - Nottingham, 2004.
7.4% ABV. Cloudy, yet crisp refreshing drop best enjoyed outdoors.
Tasting Note: Cyder isn’t bitter, but given that this too is flat and served warm (or not chilled, it’s an important distinction) it sneaks in the list. Scrumpy, depending on who you believe, is the true cyder. The closest thing I can compare it to is Flevoland’s Appelsap, with lots of alcohol thrown in. It’s been known to make grown men blanch and small children cry. Yet when you consider that it’s dirt cheap (1.90 for 2 litres) and comes in a fetching (and recyclable) glass flagon, it’s got something for everyone. Or at least that’s my friend Sam and I thought, when we drank it in parks as students and thought we were terribly suave and bohemian. Needless to say, as with most of what I do, the public didn’t really see it the same way.
So there we have it. If this doesn’t give you an insight into the English and our love for Bitter, I don’t know what will. Ultimately Bitter is a very English thing. In fact, it’s just like the way we express our feelings - warm, sloppy and fuelled by alcohol. Cheers.