I am distinctly off colour today, and despite the prospect of going to see Stewart Lee on Friday cheering me up, I am looking forward to spending tomorrow Saturday and well, most of the rest of the month's nights indoors. This is quite unusual for me these days, because I normally like to get out twice a week at least. If am not on a "beer quest" I am enjoying a fine wine with Chala, so am well watered most nights, but this never used to be the case. I used to stay in more, and, before the magic of blogging, I used to write things, on paper, using a pen, and everything.
Some younger readers may find this an alien concept, but I used to find any scraps of paper I could to jot down ideas, song lyrics, track listings, and record all the beers I tried (yep, in the days before it became "material" or "research" this was called beer scoring, for which I sincerely apologise). I also often recorded details of the pubs I had visited, more often those that I wanted to visit, indeed during the prolific nineties I probably only managed to keep myself sane by writing this stuff.
Better than a Top Ten...
Where I am seemingly never getting to is this - I wrote a list of Desert Island beers. Not a top ten, no that was passe, I wrote a top twenty. Mind you, looking back, it seems possible that it would have been a twenty five or thirty had I been able to find some more paper. I wrote it some time in 1996, so this was a list from someone who had been drinking real ale regularly for probably only three years. And I was barely past childhood - I wrote the list aged just twenty three. Imagine! I probably wore faded grey clothes that I wished were still black, ginormous framed glasses which no-one had the heart to tell me looked ridiculous, and weighed ten stone. Even I can't imagine that...
Better still, I found that list tonight. Here it is, not written out verbatim because each beer comes with a lengthy description, but I shall provide the name, place tried and one quoted line of prose. Please note that the order of the beers confers no preference - I really didn't have a favourite.
1. Samuel Allsops Traditional English Stout (also called dry stout), White Lion, Heeley, Sheffield April/May 1995 - "gorgeous, totally refreshing, if a little overpriced"
2. Arkells Kingsdown, Fat Cat, Sheffield, July 1995 - "I can't describe the taste, but I must say - butterscotch"
3. Bathams Best Bitter, Great Western, Wolverhampton, June 1995 - "the sort of bitter you can drink in Winter (I suspect) or Summer, beautiful"
4. Cannon Royall Millwards Cannon Mild, Cask and Cutler, Sheffield, May 1994 - " the best mild I've ever had and the only beer I ordered another pint of that night"
5. Church End What the Fox Hat, Fountain Real Ale Bar, Gornal, West Midlands, June 1995 - "it was wonderful, as was the atmosphere, as was the barmaid. There was a beer festival on at the time, and in the corner of the tiny bar a band belted out covers of the Pogues"
6. Devenish Regal Ale (1977) at home, July 1995 - "It had a taste and smell I'll never forget, like the Kingsdown it was butterscotch"
7. Enville Gothic, Fat Cat, Sheffield, July 1995 - "it was beautiful, not only that night, but every night I've drunk it since"
8. Federation Best Bitter, Miners Arms, Acomb nr Hexham, June 1993 - "the last pint I'd had before this was a unnaturally cold Newcastle Exhibition, and this just hit all the right spots"
9. Hexhamshire Shire Bitter, Yellow Lion, Apperknowle, Derbyshire, June 1994 - "it was low in alcohol and easy to drink, but it had a beautifully strong flavour for a beer of that strength"
10. Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, Beacon Hotel, Sedgely, West Midlands, February 1995 - "this is a wonderful beer, and the Beacon Hotel provides the ideal surroundings"
I'm going to leave the other ten until my next post, because this is a lot of information to take in (and to write out!).
A few things strike me about this - firstly, that the Yellow Lion was demolished years ago, but that the Miners and Great Western are still in the GBG (2011). Secondly, that I keep using the word beautiful, which is really not a word I use very often to describe beer (or at all) nowadays; perhaps this was a romantic phase of my life.
Also, my appreciation of Federation !?!, which quickly turned into one of the most dreadful real ales in the UK, in fact am not even sure it is still available as a real ale. The fact that virtually all these beers were tried after I had got my first job, and finally, that price was an issue then - the Sarah Hughes was £1.55 in the Beacon in early 1995, and £2.15 at the Yellow Lion the same year, according to the notes. I was most displeased...
Somethings of course, never change - I still love Bathams Bitter, Enville Gothic, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, and Hexhamshire Shire Bitter.
I can't escape my black malty beer past it seems...