Monday, 28 May 2012

Men: Growing Up & Embracing The Ale

By Patrick Evenden


To some, a song lyric, to others a code of behaviour with applications across a range of social environments: the 21st birthday party; the England football match; the summer holiday. Regrettably, when I was trading my first few explorative punches with alcohol between the ages of 16 and 22, it was mode of conduct that I all too readily fell into.

Lager does make me, and most men, a bit on the shouty side. It has also been known to make me sing, leer, slur, lurch and very occasionally wear women’s clothing. It’s no wonder, by the time you reach your late twenties, you start shopping around for a drink that doesn’t make you act like a bit of a prick.

Rather unwisely I tried my hand at cider. Cider is the Piccadilly Line to Lager’s District Line: both take you to Hammersmith, only one gets you there much quicker. And Hammersmith is awful. Wine is good, very good. But you see Alex Ferguson’s nose? Wine did that. You could always have a cocktail. That was a joke. NEVER order a cocktail unless it’s for someone else, and even then, make them carry it back from the bar.

It is this alcoholic quandary that sees so many men staring down the barrel of their thirties, turn to bitter and ale. As a teenager you wouldn’t be seen near it. In my experience there is a clear correlation between the sort of teenagers that drink bitter and those still attending Venture Scouts.

But as you grow up you start doing things that would make your younger self implode with embarrassment. You start walking purely for pleasure, you find yourself looking at jumpers in M&S, and Chris Packham becomes less laughing stock, more idol. Similarly, you begin to feel the allure of a pint of Old Cornish Bastard, served in one of those thick glasses with a handle.

Recently, I attended the launch of a new pale ale by the St Austell Brewery for Nicholson’s pubs. What is clear when you hear people talking about proper ale is that they care. The almost fanatical way they talk about variations in flavour, is entirely alien to a lager drinker. No one has ever taken a sip of Stella and commented on its hop varieties. They are far too busy menacingly wielding a pool cue, while urinating into someone’s handbag.

This was the first time that I had ever heard anyone talk about beer in terms that are usually reserved for fine wines. We were guided through the difference between Styrian Goldings hops from Slovenia and the Galaxy varietal from Tasmania. We were also invited to taste the Maris Otter malting barley used in the brewing process. Unfortunately, being a bit of a newcomer, I was unsure of what the etiquette is when passed a glass full of malting barley. I sniffed it, much like you would a brandy and nodded appreciatively before passing it to the stranger on my right. He took a handful and crunched it between his teeth, shooting me a look of utter contempt.

Thankfully the malting barley was but an appetiser and we were given chargrilled chorizo, which was complemented perfectly by the St Austell pale ale. This, to me, was something else. Beer with food? Everyone knows that eating is in contravention with established rules and is, therefore, considered cheating. Don’t they?

Discover the best beer, ale and bitter pubs in London, by clicking on this link.


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