Most of my readers (if I've still got any) and Twitter followers - I have plenty of them - know that I don't really drink at home. I like to drink in the pub. Any pub really, but of course I do have favourites - my locals. Places where I go quite often. I've always been that way inclined and in fact wrote about it here, a long time ago. In these local pubs, I know enough people to be recognised by and to speak to. People who call me by my name, shake my hand when I come in and who I know by name in return. It makes me feel part of something. On the other hand drinking at home seems rather furtive somehow. Something I somewhat unreasonably feel you do not because you want to, but for reasons of finance, domestic arrangements or whatever, though of course, I freely admit, many must do so simply because they like it. It is how they drink. But it isn't really me.
Friday saw five weeks since the pubs were told to close. Have I missed going out to the pub? You bet. I miss the simple fact of deciding to "go for a pint". I miss my Sunday sessions in the Tavern with my pals, the banter and just being there. And I miss cask conditioned beer of course. But I don't believe in wearing a hair shirt. I've been drinking beer at home. Given that on the whole weather has been fantastic, I've enjoyed a different kind of beer o'clock. Around five in the evening E and me have had a beer or two in the sunshine in our garden. Not every evening, but certainly most if the sun is still shining. We have had to wear fleeces on the odd occasion and once, given the rather spiky wind that generally accompanies sunshine in the Grim North, we reinforced our outer apparel with blankets. We have remarked, like everyone else, about the perfect blue skies, the absence of vapour trails and aircraft and enjoyed the birds singing. Not so much though the whirring sound of wood pigeons, but you can't have everything, can you?
It has been good to sit in our unusually tidy garden and I have enjoyed the togetherness. It's just us, with the odd word here and there with a neighbour, but what do we drink? Well, for me, predominantly, it has been bottles of St Austell Proper Job. Bottle conditioned, but with the tiniest of sediments, it has been ideal. At 5.5% it is a tad hefty, but it isn't over gassed and after two of them, I find that will do. E has been drinking German lager. Warsteiner for its bitterness, but sometimes Krombacher. Both well-made and easily available.
Normally if I'm in a supermarket, I pay little notice to the beer aisle. Naturally, from time to time, I do have a nose at what's around, but I don't study it in detail. Now it is different and the first thing that strikes me, is how bloody cheap it is. My Proper Job is currently £1.49 for half a litre in Aldi, while I have discovered too, that 660ml bottles of decent German lager are now a thing. Who knew? Not me for sure and at 3 for a fiver, it is certainly priced to go. Even with an accompanying bag of crisps- or whatever - it is as cheap as chips to drink at home if you buy it from the supermarket and mostly, for most people, why on earth wouldn't you?
Now I know that it is good to support local breweries - and I do by buying my weekly treat of a 5 litre bag in the box of re-racked cask beer from Pictish Brewery in Rochdale. The lion's share of that gets supped every Friday afternoon and evening, with two or three pints for the next day. Served by handpump, there is a little wastage from the line, but it is worth it to support a local brewery and to get a cask conditioned pint. That, next to the people is what I miss most.
Reflecting on all this, one of the things that worries me, is that perhaps even more people than already do, will realise that there are huge savings to be made in drinking in the ease and comfort of their own homes. I worry that drinkers will get used to it and used to the savings. The longer this goes on, the more the pub drinking habit is compromised, particularly if the return to pubs opening brings with it restrictive practices that make pub going a far different experience to that which they formerly enjoyed. Added to that is the cumulative effect on disposable income as the lockdown continues.
Habits once broken are difficult to re-establish. Pub going as we know it will certainly be different for a time at least and maybe forever for some.
There are many other aspects of this to be explored. Hopefully I'll do that soon in future posts. Other beers I have enjoyed at home are BrewDog Lost Lager, Thornbridge Jaipur (despite the daft little cans) and Sierra Nevada Summer Ale left over from last year. I've still got some interesting stash stuff to tackle too.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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