As I make my way through yet another Bent & Bongs Beer Bash a wave of nostalgia hit me that I feel best to recount, perhaps to realign this blog briefly into a less political state.
I started drinking at around 13 on the fields near mine and my mates houses (parents houses obviously). Back then it started on stupidly strong stuff like Kestrel Super and Ice Dragon cider, the former of which should never really be drank by anyone with functioning taste buds so as a starting point it could poison your idea of beer from the very start.
We were away from the public, actually quite quiet and respectable of our surroundings. It took me a long summer of finding the right cans before I first got drunk; two cans of Strongbow did the trick back then, my mates were may ahead having spent each weekend seemingly trying to increase their tolerance a can at a time.
That I’m still mates with most of them, or rather they are still mates with me, highlights that the only evolution on that scale has been that we now go out drinking together in the pub, or around each others houses (our actually own houses because we’re all sensible and grown up and have responsibilities now).
We moved into drinking in pubs at around 16-17, after all there is only a certain amount of time your growing body can get used to drinking alcohol while playing football.
I’m tempted to suggest that my pub experience started in the 2nd wave of keg beer. After Red Barrel and Double Diamond, I drank up in the Smooth Flow era. A time of a seemingly Irish beer invasion, where it wasn’t just Guinness of off but Murphy’s, Beamish (red and black), Kilkenny and Caffrey’s, which back then started out at 4.8%. This went along side Boddington’s launching a “Gold” version, while you could also get Thwaites Smooth, Tetley’s Smooth, John Smith’s Smooth and the personally missed Calder’s Cream Ale.
Can drinking was awash with cans with “widgets” in them; for an authentic creamy pub head in your own home, or in the case of Carling Premier, then need to mop the floor each time one was opened.
I honestly don’t recall much, if any cask at all, nothing of note anyway, that phase only entered my life when I went to university in Bradford. A place of Flowers IPA for £1 a pint, or the premium offering of Directors (when it didn’t just taste of syrup).
Bradford had the Biko Bar, at the time it was sold as “the only student bar in the Good Beer Guide” – they regularly served cask Moorhouses’ Witches Brew (again before it tasted of syrup) and Younger’s No. 3.
Fun smoking fact about the Biko Bar; it had a no smoking section that was on a raised platform to the rest of the pub. The pub was basically a rectangle, the platform near the windows and opposite the door, so naturally all the smoke from the rest of the pub went over the non-smoking area and out through the windows. Genius idea.
In fact back then they did a pub quiz on a Sunday, where once a team name was called “What kind of crap pub has a no smoking section” – how times change.
A pub near my halls called The Shearbridge (now a curry house I believe) had regular beer festivals and always sold Skull Splitter and Dogs Bollocks as part of them.
This brings us up to starting going to beer festivals (Bent & Bongs I’d been aware of since my dad started going from its inception) and the fact that I still didn’t really care what I drink, style wise. Back then it was – oh what’s this 14% beer, Sam-something-or-other.
I write this piece because I’ve realised only necessity has made me “have” a preferred drink. Cans as a kid was lager or cider. Pubs at the beginning was generally lager, sometimes Guinness. Cost as a student meant it was Flowers or some random lager.
Going into pubs now, with the choice far more varied than it was, I still don’t have a drink, I’ve never got to hear the bar tender ask “the usual” and I’m wondering if anyone does any more.
Though I think I’m just happy that my usual is the places I go and the people I go with.
Thanks for reading.