|Jupiler rising: uplifting stuff from an|
There is really very little to say about the beer itself - it's pretty much a standard continental lager the like of which is sold in practically every country the world over. By rights, it really doesn't belong here. But I couldn't help take pity on it when I spotted it on the shelf alongside much more weighty, craftier beers.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for the runt? I remember when it came to picking a kitten from a litter aged eight, I went for the one that looked like it was on its last legs. Poor little mite outlasted the rest by a fair few years, so I must have had an eye for the ones that are worth it.
Perhaps I've sneaked it in there with the sole intention of giving it a proper shoeing. Wouldn't be the first time that's happened and probably won't be the last.
Deep down, I know it's nothing to do with either of the above. The only reason, sadly, is nostalgia. This beer was pretty much ubiquitous when I worked in the Vendée region of France before going to university. We have history.
Almost from the moment I set foot in France with my three other campsite courier pioneers, we repaired to a bar at which this beer was sold. A long drive on stupid N roads was only made bearable by the promise of some more of the same at our final destination in Les Sables D'Olonne.
Then a jaunt up the coast to a bar called La Frégate saw us find a place that sold this stuff by the litre (I coveted one of those litre glasses so much I tried to nick one. Unsuccessfully and embarrassingly). As a 19-year-old with a thirst, this was heaven. We spent many hours at the Frégate. I developed a crush on someone there that lasted several years, I bumped into another girl who tried to drag me into the ocean with her and I played pool with the locals who, losing heavily, kept inventing ever more ridiculous rules when potting the black that I later adopted as a tactic in pubs back home.
It's nearly 25 years ago, so I doubt the bar is even there any more. Much of that area has been commercialised beyond recognition and it's unlikely I'll see any of the people I met there ever again (except the crush; by some miracle we stayed in touch). But I always look back on it with immense fondness and I'm hoping this beer will transport me back in time to a place where nothing really seemed to matter all that much as long as you could afford bread, cheese, a bottle of Valstar and a few Jupilers at the bar.
Beer: Jupiler Bière Blonde
Strength: An underweight 5.2%
Colour: Pale golden like the vast sandy beaches of St Jean de Monts
Smell: The heady, sweet whiff of nostalgia
Tasting notes: One sip and I'm back to another time when everything was still possible and I genuinely believed I was destined for greatness. A fellow courier - Matt Applegate - said to me he thought I'd be famous for something or other, but he wasn't quite sure what. Maybe there's still time, although I share his uncertainty about which particular field of notoriety would be mine. In truth, the beer itself is practically over before it's started. A short sharp shock of hops is followed almost immediately with an overly sweet malty stab before it's gone. All that's left is a fleeting memory and not exactly a burning desire to live through it again.
Gut reaction: On an empty stomach, it might smart a little, but it's not going to do any damage otherwise.
Session factor: Massive. Even now I think I could plough my way through a good three or four litres.
Arbitrary score: 1988