|Stout master: Redchurch come up trumps|
with a fitting final beer
True to form, it's been another eventful one. It's like the year saves all its surprises for December, delving deep into its pockets to pull out 12 months' worth of joy and heartache in one sitting. Perhaps there really is no better month for this after all.
Along with work stress, illness and borderline insomnia-induced exhaustion, not for the first time this year I've had to deal with disappointment and now death.
This morning, a really close friend of the family died after a fairly long battle with cancer. I've known her all my life. She was my mum's best friend. She took us in when my mum fled the breaking family home. As our dentist, she stared into our mouths for nigh on 20 years and was there when I was undergoing some pretty horrendous intrusive dental surgery.
A fantastic woman, she had far more to cope with than I have so far in my life and always seemed to take it in her stride and with indefatigable good humour and scarcely a word of complaint, if any.
If I had even a fraction of her gumption, readers would never have seen a single moan or whinge from me on this blog. Bellyaching about setbacks wasn't her style. Instead, she'd face whatever life threw at her with the fortitude of someone with a terrific sense of her own worth.
When stuff goes awry, it's difficult to maintain your composure and not let it affect you, as has been ably demonstrated by my good self this year and in previous ones. Perhaps a fitting tribute would be to try and be a bit less melodramatic in future.
I'm loathe to leave the calendar on too much of a sad note, however. It's certainly not what she'd have wanted.
So I'm inviting readers to vote for their 'gripe of the year' from the following contenders:
- "Some days it can feel like you're a mere needle following a pre-determined groove pressed by a particularly vindictive producer and that the song's a heart-breakingly sad one."
- "No succour. No comfort. So I did what any man in my position would do and headed straight for the bottle."
- "Today's been a struggle. Hell, the whole week's not been easy and we're barely half way through it."
- "I saw Seaford Head again, dominating the skyline like some kind of brutal geographic reminder. "
- "Right now, if you offered me the chance of feeling better instantly in return for never drinking again, I'd seriously consider it."
- "Sometimes you reach a point when there's really nothing to gain in continuing and I arrived at it this morning."
- "It's like the drinking equivalent of a soft handshake."
- "I'm still firmly of the opinion this is a time of year that amplifies what you don't have rather than emphasising what you do have."
Simply add your name and a number in the comments section below. All votes will be entered into a special prize draw, with the winner getting the potentially dubious pleasure of having me buy them a pint.
Cheers for reading and hope to see you again next year.
Beer: Redchurch Old Ford Export Stout
Strength: A robust and formidable 7.5%
Colour: Charcoal black with a burnt ochre edge.
Smell: Dried fruits soaked in treacle and rum, with a hint of vanilla.
Tasting notes: I love ending the calendar on a stout and this one hits the spot perfectly, I'm delighted to say. Succulent and smooth up front, soon the bitterness of a thousand overheated black coffees and unsweetened dark chocolates looms in like an awkward bachelor on the lunge. This is tempered by what feels like a helping, guiding hand that catches your elbow and steers you away towards the comfort of the booths just over there by the dancefloor. And suddenly there you are, blinking, convivial and at ease in the presence of a charming, calming host who plies you with tasty fruits, wholesome malty biscuits and some hefty local firewater. Redchurch have pulled a blinder here. While some of their output can be hit and miss, this provides exactly what I need to consider it worthwhile carrying on doing the same thing again this time next year.
Gut reaction: Heavier than a Sly and Robbie rhythm section, but more soothing than a thousand Andy Williams tracks.
Session factor: Relatively low at this strength and thickness.
Arbitrary score: 53