Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Mine's a beer.

This is a blog post about beer. If you don’t like beer it might be best to look away now, or read something else, or go and look at Facebook or something. If you love beer, and I do, then this is definitely the blog post for you (hi, Alan) hang around and we can get virtually pissed here together. Or even actually pissed. Especially if you did dry January. Who cares that it's only 8.30 on a Wednesday morning? January is over! Cheers.

My love of beer sprang from necessity because of my husband's obsession with it. Ever since he lived in northern France working as an English assistant in a secondary school and his teacher-mates drove him to Belgium every weekend to get pissed in beer bars, before drink-driving him home again, he has loved beer. It was there that he discovered Chimay and Duvel and Hoegaarden and Kriek, long before any of you lot got a sip of it via Sainsbury's speciality beer aisle.


Returning to Angleterre he got hold of a book about Belgian beer by Michael Jackson (no, not that one) read it, and set about trying to find, and drink, all the beers mentioned in it. This was not as simple as it sounds in south London in the early 90s. There was nothing doing in our local Safeways. It involved lots of trips out on the Northern line to Chalk Farm where there was this new restaurant called Belgo (now a chain and not a patch on what it was) where waiters dressed as Trappist monks served Belgian beer with mussels, cooked all ways.

Remembering things past.

Back then I drank white wine because that’s what young women drank. And yet whenever it was time for a tipple, and sometimes even when it wasn’t time for a tipple, Husband would ask, "beer or wine?" and I would reply, "wine, please." Month in, month out, year in, year out, he offered beer or wine, and I replied "wine," until one day he offered beer or wine and I cracked. "Alright, already!" I cried. "A beer! I'll have a beer!" I guess it was an if-you-can’t-beat-him-join-him kind of a thing. 

Proost to that.

After that I drank beer every time it was offered, which was often, and realised I liked it. In fact, I realised I preferred it to any other beverage, including water. Beer is refreshing, and I got less drunk on it than on wine, and less dehydrated. I got a better night’s sleep after drinking beer than after drinking wine, too. So, beer became my booze of choice and has been for ages now, IPA in particular. All my mates drink sauvignon blanc which I don't mind, on a hot day, with some seafood, sitting in a piazza in Italy. Or they drink prosecco, which is nice but a bit sweet for my taste. For me, though, it's beer, pints of, which seems to surprise people for some reason, maybe because of the size of the drink relative to the size of me. My current favourite is Citra, with its lovely lemony twist. They sell it in Waitrose, so maybe give it a whirl next time you're in there.

Won't make you dizzy.

On a family weekend to Sweden one time I discovered the Swedish version of Dizzy Blonde, which, at only 3% alcohol, felt like it had my name on it (as if to prove the point I just Googled 'Swedish Dizzy Blonde' to check that out and got into all sorts of unintended shenanigans). Because what I'm always looking for in my beer, is beer without much alcohol in it. 

I remember one time when I was alone in the house with small boys, as usual, and could find nothing in the fridge save a bottle of Chimay Bleue (9%). After shoving the three of them in front of The Simpsons at six o'clock prompt, as usual (The Simpsons saved my life when the boys were little) I drank it, and instead of laughing at The Simpsons and then skipping off to cook supper, as usual, I crawled away and conked out on the bed. Husband returned home to find three small boys wreaking havoc, no food on the table, and a wife sound asleep upstairs, like Goldilocks. Since then I've steered clear of Chimay Bleue.

Will make you dizzy.

After I switched to beer there was no stopping him. Husband suggested we take a little winter holiday in Belgium. So we did. If there's anybody out there reading this considering a romantic break in February to the God-forsaken flats of Flanders, take it from one who knows, and think again. All I could see as I stared out of our car window through the rain, elbow propped on door handle, chin cupped in hand, was a blighted landscape of empty fields and full cemeteries, war ones, stretching for miles in all directions. “Boys came here to die,” I sighed, my breath steaming up the window. “In their millions.”

“Yes,” replied Husband. “But the monks round here make great beer.”  

He took me on a whistle-stop tour, drinking as much Belgian beer as possible. There was this particular monastery where they brewed this particular beer that he really wanted us to visit. It was hard to find. We had several aborted attempts. Finally, on our last day, we drove for miles to the middle of nowhere and there at the end of this dirt track, we found it. Unfortunately an imposing set of wrought iron gates blocked our way, firmly locked, like something out of Great Expectations, a handwritten sign pinned upon them. 

I couldn't read Flemish, still can't, (although Husband can, of course) and yet as we parked up in front of those gates, the rain lashing sideways, the ghosts of those dead soldiers closing in around us in the mist, even I could decipher what it meant. In huge handwritten letters were the words, 'Gesloten Vrijdag!' 

Love E x


P.S. And of course it was a Vrijdag.

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