Valentine’s Day has always been a bit of a quandary for me. It is, of course, manufactured and tacky as hell; the sight of a pink plush heart confuses me no end. However, I’m of the school of thought that you should seize any and every excuse for a celebration, whether it be a monthly anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or just a Thursday evening. In light of this, in addition to buying us a new board game (Catopoly, anyone?!) and booking us on a Haunted Underground Manchester Experience with the rather marvellous Mr Flecky Bennett - which would I highly recommend, by the way -, I thought that I should take this opportunity to buy a few bottles of beautiful sours. Happy Valentine’s Day to my palate, I love ya baby!
Following an afternoon meeting in the Northern Quarter, I had half an hour to kill before my bar shift started, so I rushed into the Beermoth on Tib Street and began frantically scanning through the shelves. Luckily, one of the chaps who runs the place kindly took pity on my slightly flustered demeanour, and helped me find what I was looking for. It was a hard choice, but I finally settled on three bottles: one I knew far too well, and two I had never tried before.
First up was an old favourite: Cantillon Kriek (5%).We all know this one. It’s not my absolute top beer from the Cantillon brewery – that would be the Rosé de Gambrinus, one of my favourite beers of all time -, but it’s still pretty ruddy excellent. Big sour cherries, a good straightforward kriek. You should be drinking glasses of this in a beer garden on a summer’s day. Idyllic.
The next bottle was from De Ranke, a brewery which is new to me. De Ranke Kriek (7%) was, if you’ll excuse my language, fucking glorious. A side note: if you have an issue with swearing, you’d better not bother spending any time with me; my speech patterns frequently elicit the comment “you swear a lot for a posh girl”. First off, I’m really not that posh, and second of all, bugger off. Anyway, this little beast was tart, dry, and funky as anything, with a big cherry hit. The Mr found it far too sour and mouth-puckering. A glorious recommendation from the Beermoth, thank you, chaps!
The last beer I tried from this particular haul was the Against The Grain Chris Framboise (7.5%), a bretty raspberry saison. I know that some people online haven’t particularly rated this beer, but I thought it was genuinely very good. It took a little while to grow on me, but once I’d got my head around it, I realised that the fact that this beer is so laid back and subtle is part of its joy. It’s really mellow, but there’s a lot going on: fruit and funk, intermingled in a way that’s like having the perfect lie-in on a Sunday morning. It soothes your soul. Don’t try and drink this in a pub, or after strongly flavoured beers or food. It deserves quiet, dedicated, attention.
So, we’ve had the familiar old standard which you know can do it for you, the new and exciting yet almost too extreme character, and the subtle individual who, once you commit, is highly rewarding… Sounds like a list of my past boyfriends! I can’t wait to get back to the Cantillon brewery at some point this year, and drink some Lou Pepe, or Fou’ Foune. Dear gods, I do just adore sour fruity beer. If it’s not something you’ve explored in great depth thus far, let this be your year. Your face deserves it.
At midnight, in a Manchester suburb, I took a sip from my glass of prosecco, gave the Mr a kiss, and then returned to drinking Hardcore IPA (9.2%) while making sarcastic comments about how very lucky all of the people crowded along the banks of the Thames were, how much fun they seemed to be having, and how talented that Gary Barlow is. It was one of my most civilised, restrained New Year’s Eves to date – long gone are the days of house parties where everyone ends up necking vodka while covered in glitter and strawberry lube – but one which nicely rounded off the year: enjoying great beer with close friends, and succumbing to a growing urge to play terrible board games. Have you ever played ‘Mr and Mrs’? You try to predict your partner’s answers to such soul-searching, revealing questions as “Which footballer does your partner find most attractive: David Beckham, David Seaman, Emile Heskey, or Michael Owen?”, and “Which vegetable does your partner like least: Swede, sprouts, cabbage, or parsnip?” Playing that game is possibly the most unnervingly middle-aged thing I’ve ever done, but you know what? I enjoyed it, with only a slight edge of sneering irony. I think this means I am A) old, B) a loser, or C) both. I will say this: Cocoa Psycho (10%) is a charming companion for nerdy nights in, and made being forced to play a Mario game on Wii slightly more bearable. Slightly.
This morning barely brought a hangover, the gin and lemonades swilled down towards the end of the night no doubt soaked up by the cheesy chips I stuffed in my fat face on our five AM walk home. 2013 had been a year of many terrible hangovers, and it was pleasant to start 2014 with nothing more than a slight headache! 2013: The year of the hangover, and also, the year of change. I started the year living half at home and half in a laddish flat in Brixton while working at a lovely beer shop in Dorking. Not a bad set up, and the job was perfection, but I found myself longing to be back in the North, back in the beer scene I’d grown to love during my time at university. Before long, the wheels were in motion, and, after a short time living with the Mr’s folks, we found ourselves moving into a flat in the ‘burbs, and I started pouring pints at BrewDog Mancs. The last six or seven months have absolutely flown by, and I can honestly say that right now, I’m the happiest I have ever been. It’s taken a lot of work to figure out what I want, but now, everything’s falling into place, and I’m hugely excited about all of the opportunities and schemes I’ve got in the works this coming year.
And with that disgustingly optimistic statement, I’ll put 2013 to bed by listing, in no particular order, a few of the beers which mattered to me last year… No surprise considering my place of work, a number of these are BrewDog!
The Harveys Sussex Best (4%) which we drank from dimple jugs at my friend’s beautiful, whimsical wedding in the summer.
The BrewDog Hello, My Name is Ingrid (8.2%) that convinced a number of my non-beer drinking female friends that beer could be an excellent thing.
The first third of a hungover lunchtime at a beer festival in Lewes, when Wild Beer Co, Good George, and Burning Sky Shnoodlepip (6%) cleared away the cobwebs and blew my tiny mind.
The many bottles of BrewDog Cocoa Psycho (10%) which have been my ever-faithful writing companions. I’ve always found that strong, dark beers have been an excellent aid to getting words on paper, Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (6%) having got me through a number of university essays!
The freshly filtered Jackhammer (7.2%) at the brewery in Ellon. Oh god, too good.
The bomber of Hardcore IPA (9.2%) we shared after moving into our flat this summer.
Siren/Cigar City/Grassroots Neither (8.3%), with family and friends at the Hope, and then with work babes at IndyMan Beer Con.
The many drinks which I have had after long shifts, special mention to Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus (5%), which is always a winner, and many, many schooners of Jackhammer (7.2%).
The insanely tart and refreshing pints of Cromarty KiWheat (5%).
The Evil Twin Femme Fatale Blanc (6%) which was my first taste of a Bretty IPA. Oh, my…
The victorious half of Hardcore (9.2%) in BrewDog Camden, after the end of the first event I’ve ever organised outside of university! Also a similarly celebratory half of the same when I passed my Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam.
The BrewDog Tea For Punks/Six Impossible Things (6%) at Leeds International Beer Festival, sipped while chatting to one of the guys who brewed it.
The first half of something pale, hoppy and refreshing at my London local every time I got off the train after the six hour journey home from the North.
The Burning Sky Saison a la Provision (6.5%) which confirmed that my excitement about this new brewery was justified.
The Beavertown Dark Matter (3.8%) which got me obsessing over sour stouts. More of these this year, please!
It seems that my go-to beer this year has been Hardcore; I’ve enjoyed rather a lot of it, as you can see from my sickeningly couple-y New Year’s Eve photo! Anyway kids, raising a glass to you, I hope you all have a glorious 2014. Be good, spend time with good people, and drink good beer. I’m going to.