Wednesday 16 May 2012

Bad Beer, Great Pint

Sitting in a sun bathed stadium in Chicago, the gentle rumble of the crowd finding their seats rippled through the plastic chairs beneath us. The sweet smell of hot dogs and popcorn wafting through the aisles was comforting and evocative.  The excited chatter of thickly accented sports fans bounced around so that one conversation was indistinguishable from another. It occurred to me that I was on a cold, cramped plane hours before and now sat warm and free in a revered temple of American sport. I sipped my pint. It was unquestionably wonderful – every minute of the half hour or so I spent drinking it were exciting, relaxing, pleasurable and fun. It was a pint worth crossing an ocean for.
        The problem with that is that the beer itself wasn’t great – we don’t get Old Style over here but think of macro American lager, pale and slightly sweet with no trace of hops or depth. This is not the first time this has happened either – I distinctly remember being at the darts last year and hugely enjoying a pint or two of Kronenbourg. I vaguely remember about another 3 pints, and don’t remember the last few at all. Similarly, a pint of Fosters at the Emirates was just as good - accompanied by a chicken balti pie, the air thick with anticipation and openly celebrated disdain for the opposition, it was exciting and heady. A Budweiser after a cold, rainy afternoon playing golf last year was nourishing, familiar and unchallenging in a wonderful way.  The low point of this was surely the cans of overpriced Red Stripe at my university leaving ball – I drank plenty, revelling in every mouthful.
          After thinking about his I have decided that first and foremost, I love beer. I cannot think of another beverage with which I would be quite content paying serious money for a lacklustre version of. Yet I do this regularly in bars, pubs and stadiums around London when there is little else available, drinking pints of macro lager which result almost no change from a fiver. But I inevitably enjoy them. Not in the same way as craft beer, which can provide excitement, pleasure, flavour and memories all on their own. Ordinary beer needs the infinite possibilities and pleasures created by company and circumstance. I will always continue to seek out great beers – but for me a great pint doesn’t always begin and end with the merits of the liquid inside the glass.

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