Saturday 19 December 2009

The fab four

Looks like I've got some catching up to do again.

I'll attempt to get through four tonight, but by my reckoning, that still puts me a day behind. I've run out of beer, though, after my over-zealous consumption a couple of weeks ago, so a trip to Lidl is in the offing tomorrow.

There's also the small matter of a Christmas tree to lay in, so it's a good thing I got the car fixed this week.

Tonight's delights feature such family favourites as Theakston's Old Peculier (sic), Martson's Double Drop (the first I'll have a crack at) and McEwan's Champion, a great bulging Highland games caber-tosser of a beer that weighs in at something like 7.5%. I might leave that till the end, but given the weakest of the lot is an able 5%, sobriety's looking in jeopardy already.

Which is pretty much the long and the short of this week, really. Client drinks on Monday and Thursday night left me in no fit state to even smell beer, never mind pass comment on it. Yesterday was particularly bad, which surprised me given the quality of beer I'd been drinking in comparison to Monday. Maybe bog-standard, mass-produced beers such as Guinness are better for you than the more cottage-industry ales I was sampling later in the week.

Yesterday was also coloured by the painful process of getting a magazine sent to the printers. Not that it's usually as involved, but the client in this instance makes incompetence a way of life, it seems. Instead of just getting on with what he had to do, he spent more time trying to apportion blame to me in case the magazine didn't actually get sent to print that night. Blissfully unaware of the fact he was holding up the process even more as a result, something he's been doing for months now. So I spent most of the day waiting for him to get his arse into gear before a mad flurry of activity at around 5.30pm, then waiting for what seemed like forever for final sign-off. When I did get a call to make changes, they were so picky and insignificant it was almost laughable, to wit: we really need a comma in here. For fuck's sake, just get on with it. Is anyone going to die as a result of that missing comma? No.

Finally got out of work at just short of 9pm, which put me in a foul and uncreative mood, hence the lack of posting last night. Well, that and the fact I was still feeling ropey from the night before.

But on to more pleasurable matters and tonight's first drink...

Beer: Marston's Double Drop
Country: England
Strength: A feisty 5%
Colour: An Irn Bru and Lucozade hybrid
Smell: Berry fruits and spices and citrus and a damp dishcloth
Circumstance: Spent the whole day sorting stuff out around the flat, washing clothes, cooking dinner and generally working hard. The cricket was on throughout, though. Oldham picked up a creditable away point, although 10-man Wycombe Wanderers should have been a three-pointer really.
Tasting notes: Like a beer should, really. It's slightly too cold, having been left out on the doorstep in what are now sub-zero temperatures, but that doesn't bother me too much as it's boiling in the house owing to the heating being on overdrive. A initial biscuity sweetness greets the tongue as this ale welcomes itself through the door, but that doesn't last as this visitor soon reveals its purpose. As if pulling a blunderbuss from its lengthy Loden coat, it sprays the hoppy bitterness around like an industrial sprinkler system, before calmly taking its coat off, wiping its feet properly, hanging its hat on the hatstand and settling down in an easy chair to smoke a fag.
Drinkability: Tremendous. I really wish I'd bought some more.
Gut reaction: I don't think this'll cause too many problems. It's slightly gassy but not enough to cause rumblings in the midriff.
Session factor: Fairly high, but watch out for that 5% kick.
VFM: 9.2. At £1.25 a bottle from Morrison's, this is genuinely a contender for beer of the year in my book, certainly as far as value is concerned.

Beer: Thwaites Double Century
Country: Lancashire, England
Strength: A worrying 5.2%
Colour: Off-lager. I don't mean lager that's off, mind. Beer equivalent of off-white. Oh, make your own mind up; you can see for yourself.
Smell: A sharp sniff of cooking apples with some gooseberry and a tot of melon
Circumstance: Getting to grips with the calendar and listening to Purple Radio. Will be eating shortly, so I'll be switching to the even heavier stuff after a quick stomach-lining.
Tasting notes: Terrifically balanced, with tight citrus flavours mingling naturally with malty goodness and even some summer fruits. Whatever they are. There's a speedy nip of sherbert too before an appealing orangey bitterness rounds off a thouroughly well-brewed beer. If there is a slight criticism, it's that there is a tendency towards milk in the finish, but it's barely noticeable unless you're familiar with the phenomenon of beer beginning to taste like milk after a while.
Drinkability: Extremely good. It's flavours are a show-off juggler keeping more than four objects of varying weights and sizes in the air at once. While whistling Colonel Bogey.
Gut reaction: Calming rather than volatile, I'm certain this isn't going to be coming back to haunt me from either end.
Session factor: More one to appreciate than glug, this. But under duress, I'd happily knock a few more of these back and not get bored. Might feel a bit queasy, though.
VFM: 9.1. Another bargain at £1.25, that score would have been higher but for the dairy undertones. But I do recommend seeking this one out because you won't be disappointed.

Beer: Theakston's Old Peculier
Country: Yorkshire, England
Strength: A now troubling 5.6%
Colour: Red so deep it takes on a looming darkness more usually found at the bottom of the ocean
Smell: Not entirely sure, but it's thick and chemically. I can almost detect a bit of molasses in there somewhere, but that's masked by the noxious odour of DIY balloons.
Circumstance: Hurtling towards midnight and still only halfway through tonight's marathon. I fear the wall.
Tasting notes: Ah, forget the smell. This wipes away all apprehension you may have built up when sticking your nose in the glass. All right, it tastes pretty robust, but there's a misleading lightness about it too, which I think would throw me if I were unaware of this beer's 'depth-charge' effect. It's hard to pin down exactly what it tastes like, but I'll throw Christmas pudding, pickled plums, sweet Marmite and tawny port hats into the ring for consideration. I'm a bit foxed by this if the truth be told. It's lovely, but I'm not quite sure why.
Drinkability: Great if you're not in a hurry, but it's a struggle otherwise. I can't think of any beer-related pursuit I'd less like to take part in than a Theakston's Old Peculier race.
Gut reaction: Treat with caution, for beers of this stature don't usually lie easily on the gut.
Session factor: Behave.
VFM: 9.4. At £1.25 a bottle, you're getting some serious bang for your buck here. Amazingly complex and subtle, yet juggernaut strong. Seek it out.

Beer: McEwan's Champion
Country: Scotland, Scotland
Strength: A frankly ridiculous 7.3%
Colour: Similar colour to the Old Peculier, but greyer, if that makes sense. It looks bloody threatening.
Smell: A swimming baths full of vinegar. And bad cider. I'm almost convinced the beer's off.
Circumstance: After midnight and I'm beginning to reel. In years gone by, this assignment would have been a breeze; now it's beginning to hurt. And I'm certain my sense of smell's on the way out.
Tasting notes: Not as bad as I'd feared, but it's one you'd have to 'get used to'. I'm reminded of German altbiers a little, especially given the damp burning wood flavour. Imagine drinking the smell of charred wood with cheap lager spilled on it and you wouldn't be too far away from how this tastes. In its favour, its strength isn't overpowering. In fact it's lighter than I thought it would be. According to the sleevenotes, this is 'Brewed to those fastidious standards that have made McWewan's a byword for quality beer'. Those who know McEwan's beers will appreciate that comment, I believe. Laughable.
Drinkability: Unremarkable. This is by no means the worst beer I've ever tasted, but I really couldn't see myself drinking it again, save for checking whether indeed the bottle was off or not.
Gut reaction: The porcelain is liable to receive a sound pebble-dashing tomorrow morning. Even if I stop now, which I'm not going to.
Session factor: I'd rather drink the pus from a badger's haemorrhoidal aris' than drink more than one of these in one sitting.
VFM: 6.7. While you wouldn't seek it out, it's unarguably value for £1.25. Gentlemen of the road take note.

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