Mon Mar 11th, 2013 at 09:25:11 AM EST
Surely everybody has one, not a favourite beer which they happily order every time they see it, but that one pint which has left an especial golden glow in your memory.
I’ve been drinking an awful long time and several candidates push themselves forward;
that first revelatory pint of Timothy Taylors Landlord at (the much missed) Saddleworth Beer Festival, back when it really was the best beer in the country,
or perhaps it was a truly extraordinary pint of Wadworths 6X at Crawley beer festival back in 1985,
or maybe an amazing pint of Crouch Vale Best Bitter which I can taste even yet. But when all is said and done, I find I have two beers where I cannot elevate one above the other; both are, for different reasons, my best beer memories ever.
Barnsley Bitter at The Wenlock Arms.
I don’t know where I’d been but I was drifting through London on a late Sunday afternoon and just popped into the Wenlock to have a swift pint before going home.
Anyone who knew the pub can picture the dust covered scene; about 6 or 7 punters arranged at various grimy tables, nursing pints. Even when it was newly opened in the early 90s, a visitor would have to have been charitable to have described it as merely “shabby”, 15 years later, the pub felt like a time-worn armchair, worn, patched, re-patched but somehow.. just right.
I asked what was good and somebody suggested “you should try the Barnsley bitter, it’s going down well”. This was answered by nodded assent from other tables.
I approached it as any normal pint, had a good swig before arranging myself and then stopped, because somewhere close by a large choir had started singing the Hallelujah chorus.
I had something special in my hands. Even though I’d had this beer before, nothing prepared me for this. A little drop of amber perfection. I beamed a smile and somebody said “yea, it’s pretty good isn’t it” and chuckled. It might have been me.
That pint came and went as did a few others. People came into the pub but, once they’d had the Barnsley, they didn’t leave. We were trapped by it, bewitched by it. We knew we’d not taste its like again. And so we stayed, on into the evening, quietly enjoying that once in a lifetime’s experience.
The barrel ran out at 9:00 and I managed to nurse my last pint for another 10 minutes before leaving. The pub was emptying anyway, the spell had been broken.
Last Rites at Bamberg
It was Sunday, our last day in Bamberg in 99 and we’d been to a festival up at the Griefenklau brewery and had returned into town quite late. So late that we didn’t even know if the Schlenkerla brewery tap was still open.
Fortunately a push at the door and we were in. It was late and the main beer hall had been closed so that the 20 or so remaining punters were clustered into the smaller side bar. Beer was taken: Rauschbier; dark, smoky, mysterious. Contentment ensued.
However, with the clock well past midnight the barman called out (in English)“How many of you will want another beer ? This barrel is finished and I would like to know if it is worth starting another”. 15 hands were raised and so the barman disappeared while we formed an orderly queue.
This beer was fizz-gogglingly fresh, fruity and truly joyous; one of those rare barrels which is Just.That. Little. Bit. More. Everyone seemed to sense this and as we sat back to enjoy this unexpected treat, a quiet late night bar became a hubbub of shared pleasured conversations. Close friends were made, never to be seen again. I think we were finally rolled out into the night about an hour later, but the memory of that beer will last me a lifetime.