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Thursday, 21 August 2008

What it's really all about

I had a moment the other night that made me realise the single thing I love the most about this whole beer lark.

I was out with a journalist from Time Out Mumbai who had written a feature on my IPA voyage, (it's credited to me, but it was one of those 'as told to' jobs) and is now in London for a couple of weeks, and asked me to show him around a few pubs. He knew his beer and his been in London before, as his ability to teach me the rule sof bar billiards (a shameful gap in my knowledge) testified.

We confirmed together that the Dog and Duck in Soho serves the best-kept point of Timothy Taylor Landlord to be found in the south of England. Then we moved on to a Sam Smith's pub. He deferred to me on the ordering.

"Do you like Guinness?" I asked.

He nodded.

"OK, let's try a bottle of Oatmeal Stout."

The look on his face was one I see often in this situation. It's the look of having nailed it. His eyes bulged, his knees bent slightly, his mouth puckered, then stretched into a massive grin. "My god," he said, "That is amazing! I'm never going to drink anything else ever again!"

That this was Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout isn't really the point. It's a great beer, but I've also had this same reaction to Goose Island IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Orkney's Dark Island Reserve, and Franziskaner Weissbier. Maybe you think none of these are the absolute immortals of the beer world, but they're all beers that, to someone who doesn't know craft beer, completely change their very perception of what beer can be. Their palate becomes recalibrated, the doors of perception are opened. And to be the person who gets to facilitate that, who gets to introduce someone to the sheer sensory pleasure of a great beer for the first time, is both a privilege and a great high all of its own.


Anonymous said...

So, the real question is, who turned you round on beer? We all had someone - a guru, an enthusiast, an acquaintance. If you say you didn't have one, you're probably bullshitting... ;-)
But, you tell us between the lines why ticking is such a perfidious disservice to beer. The subjective and embracing love for an epiphany beer can't be filed, numbered and indexed.

Stonch said...

We confirmed together that the Dog and Duck in Soho serves the best-kept point of Timothy Taylor Landlord to be found in the south of England.

Nope. My pub does! No contest!

Boak said...

Snap! I've had the exact same experience with a Guinness lover - gave them the Oatmeal Stout and they were drinking it all night.

We've just been considering the question of "conversion" beers on our blog. We didn't include that one, but it's a good idea.

The Beer Nut said...

Surely, Anonymous, the opposite of ticking is drinking the same beer(s) you love all the time. Doesn't that necessarily do a worse disservice to beer by closing off the possibility of new epiphanies?

I've ticked my way to many an epiphany, lemme tell you.

Pete said...

Stonch - whoops, sorry! Red rag to a bull, that one. I suppose the fact that I can't get a pint of it when I come to your pub because it sells out so quickly speaks for itself!

Anon - it's a very good question. I grew up in Barnsley at a time when perfectly-conditioned pints of cask ale were simply the norm, so I always had the taste, no-one converted me to beer per se (although to be honest, I did spendf a couple of teenage years insisting that Castlemaine XXXX was the best beer ever brewed). But over the last few years I've had epiphanies on specific styles and flavours from many people. Mark Dorber and Rupert Ponsonby spring to mind. Steve Wellington at Worthington, Karl Ockert, the brewmaster at Bridgport in Portand, Oregon, the guys at Thornbridge... I've been lucky - when I first started writing about beer my palate wasn't that broad, but the books put me in situations where I got to meet some great people!

al_uk said...

Hear Hear Pete,
As a fellow Barnsley bitter drinker I have always drunk bitter. I have never really got on with lager and stuck to bitter even when "my friends and acquaintances" took the piss out of me for only drinking pints of the stuff.
Oh well a prophet is never appreciated in his own time.

Ron Pattinson said...

Barnsley Bitter was the first decent beer I drank, too. Showing my age.

Velky Al said...

Had the very same experience just last week when I introduced a committed Gambrinus drinker to the delights of Bakalar from Pivovar Rakovnik. I didn't have the heart to introduce her directly to Primator Exklusiv, would have been overload.

Anonymous said...

loving your book "Three Sheets" but would I be wrong in thinking that you've lifed the odd Belgian reference from Bill Bryson's "Neither Here Nor There"?

Pete said...

Anon, I read Mr Bryson's book but don't think I lifted anything - if I did I would have put it in the bibliography. I have been told I have a similar style (though not in a way we can use as a quote on the cover, goddamit) but as far as I know it's all my own work!

Andrew Arnold said...

Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout at the Lyceum on the Strand - You've got me all misty-eyed in exile here.