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Taking a sip of your dad’s beer as a kid is a bona fide rite of passage to adulthood. The smallest amount of the vile, carbonated sting has to be enough to put you off for life. The self-punishment of the guilt I felt telling my dad that it tasted delicious but then casually declining as he offered me a subsequent sip must be my first memory of telling an untruth to my parents. “It was really nice, honestly”.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and I’ve succeeded in repressing that memory and quite often enjoy a quiet beer with my old man. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to my dad as my ‘old man’ before. All this beer talk has turned me into a real ‘lad’. Maybe not. Some of my fondest memories of my dad come from my university life. When he was nearby on business, I would go to the hotel he was staying at and we would chat in the bar until the early hours, guaranteeing ourselves hangovers for our meetings and lectures the following morning. In those few years, I remember looking forward to those evenings with such fervent enthusiasm and anticipation. I suppose the beer greased our wheels a little and we had some real father-son chats. Sitting there with a beer in hand, I vividly remember realising that adulthood had arrived – the beer being a symbol to prove it.

I’m a great lover of spirits. My only problem with drinking whisky, or wine for that matter, is the snobbery (including my own, unfortunately) that surrounds it. I have a simple equation for working out whether certain bottles of whisky I own are worth drinking: value of the bottle, minus the guilt I feel for drinking it, plus the taste, divided by the company I’m with gives me some indication of whether drinking the whisky will be an enjoyable experience overall. If I’m left with a positive, I know it’s good to drink.

Amazingly, beer doesn’t have or need any such equation. It’s reasonably priced, varied in sub-genre and comes in a lot of forms. People aren’t waiting to jump on you to tell you they are getting a ‘bouquet’ or ‘a hint of vanilla on the nose’ and they, generally speaking at least, won’t judge you for drinking a lesser brand. Recently, at a local beer festival, I made it my aim to sample every beer and make some sort of coherent note about the taste. Fortunately, the drunk version of me has a sense of humour and I woke the next morning to find ‘Tastes like beer’ scribbled next to the last half-dozen I tried.

Of course, beer does have its drawbacks. Let us not forget a typical Saturday night in custody or the two idiots outside the bar at 3am who are having a cuddle and repeating ‘I love you’ having only two minutes earlier been threatening to fight out some trivial matter for the prize of pride. We ought neither to consider beer to have the same ‘weight’ as other drinks. A whisky on the anniversary of an important event, be it one that is joyous or saddening, can give enormous precedence to that moment – almost by accident. Beer cannot lay claim to such an episodic magnificence. With beer, memories tend to become less vivid rather than more.

Still, beer is truly British. It is the underdog of drinks; the ultimate beverage. It’s not typecast and there’s one to suit most tastes. If you doubt this claim, you ought to go and sample several in an attempt to prove me wrong. You can come and argue with me when you’ve had a few.



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