Yesterday, I drank a can of warm Becks Veir. I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I had a second. And I drank them out of the can. Most of you reading this will have taken a sharp intake of breath and thought ‘Well, that isn’t very craft’. Well, no, it isn’t but you see, I really don’t care.
Some context. I’d been sailing for nearly four hours and yesterday was that perfect combination of around twenty knots of breeze, sunshine and clear skies. We were slightly short handed having only eight on board. I’d been hoisting the jib and dowsing the spinnaker for the last of those two hours. Our boat has a big spinnaker, well over 100m2 and I’d been so busy I’d not been offered a bottle of water for about fifty minutes. What I’m trying to say is that that lowly warm of Becks Vier was like the long awaited rains on the African savannah. It was glorious.
Another crap beer I drink regularly is Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew. It is pretty rare to see it outside of East Kent in a cask and it is famous for ‘not travelling well’, whatever that means. Having grown up in Faversham which has loads of pubs but only two free houses, Sheps beer was pretty much the default. When I’m back in Faversham I’ll still have a few pints of ‘Master Blaster’ as it is colloquially known. I know all too well the crystal malt heavy, twigginess and the nasty yeast bite that all Sheps beers seem to have. I know it will be lacking carbonation because Sheps don’t cask condition their beers and after 12 hours on a stillage venting it is fucked. But, the publican gets a great yield because of it and, it drops bright in about 4 hours. We’ll all take a first mouthful and pull a disgusted face. This aside, it tastes like home. Familiar. The fuel of a thousand drunken nights when I was younger, usually with my brother. Snapshots of lock ins at The Sun Inn with the large, bald assistant manager Gary, from Dagenham doing Elvis impressions in a white sequinned jumpsuit. Hop Festival, the six pints I’d had before meeting Heather for the first time. Stumbling home. The hangovers. Mates dropping by the following morning with bacon, bread, panadol and a hair of the dog.
To complete the trifecta of crap beers, I’d like to mention the generic green bottle stubby of French lager. Whether Export 33, Biere D’Alsace, Kronenbourg, or one of the myriad other varieties. Extra points for ones with a twist top because they are all the easier to get into. Each bottle contains exactly four mouthfuls of corn, enzymes, a touch of raw barley and some tetra-hop. Perfection. Barely bitter, fizzy as hell but so, so cold. This is the main selling point about this particular variety of crap beer: chugability. On a hot day when you have just finished cutting the grass, nothing refreshes better. I have done most of my drinking of these of these green grenades of goodness either on holiday in France where they are stupidly cheap at eight or nine Euros for a case of twenty or at barbeques in the summer. Again, the love of these is slightly Proustian. They were the first beers I drank, Dad and I would have one after working in the garden or on a car together when I was aged about fourteen. Or, sat lazily devouring a book by the pool in the South of France, in the shade of an olive tree, polishing off a steady stream of stubbies.
It is these precious fragments and the suitability to the situation that make me love these beers, not the actual liquid itself. Remembering the times, places and people. The ghosts of beers past. Going to the pub in Faversham with my mates and drinking Kernel IPA would feel wrong.