We all know the story “A Christmas Carol“, The Charles Dickens’ classic novel about the miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas ghostly apparitions.
If you don’t, “errr hello, where have you been”? To rectify just pick up the book in any good book store or turn on the TV sometime over Christmas and be enlightened.
Turning to beer though, as the point of the blog and the basis of my topic for tenure of this months edition of The Session, I wanted to relay those spiritual visitations in the form of beery ghosts of my past, present and plans for the future.
I think we all have some old beery ghosts buried away somewhere, the swirling pit, drunken fumble, the party snog you wished never happened, even more so at Christmas time when drunken excesses are usually at their peak.
For me I remember our house always being full of booze at Christmas, cases of Kestrel Lager and McEwans Export stacked high (we were a well classy bunch back then). I used to eye them greedily in my early teens knowing that for once I’d be allowed to drink openly, these are ghosts I’m glad to have buried as I wouldn’t touch either with a barge-pole these days. Is Kestrel still brewed, I’m not sure and don’t really care, we’ll leave that one for Marley’s ghost..
That’s not the worst though and I have many, many more, but one Christmas session will always haunt me, it’s the only session that made me so ill, I could not eat my Christmas slap up dinner. Truly a spectre of Christmas past I’d like to exorcise..
That night occurred at a pub called The Vine in my current hometown of Burslem, Stoke on Trent. I’d only moved into the area a few weeks earlier and was still in the stages of working out which bars were friendly and most importantly, had good beer. The Vine was a really cheery little place back then (as it is now) with a changing cask selection and a pool table nestled at the back.
We made the Vine our stop off for Christmas Eve as we’d made a few friends there and the landlords of the day had made us really welcome. I started to play pool and was on fire, it was one of those nights where you could not go wrong, every shot a winner and soon I was attracting attention. One after another the local regulars who played for the pubs league team dropped their 50p on the table, wanting to be next to beat this newcomer, a challenge to their superiority of the Vine’s baize.
All this time I was drinking Courage Directors, it was a lovely pint that night and was flowing in fine style. I have no idea how many I drained, nor how many folks I beat at the table in my one off night of glory. What I do know is that I was completely slaughtered when I got home, if my memory serves me well I spent most of the night naked as a Jay bird on the downstairs sofa. Christmas morning was then very much a grim affair, slow progress at present opening and when dinner came I fumbled at it like a child not wanting to eat their greens…most unpleasant.
What of Christmas present, well things have moved on a little since the cans of McEwans Export. I have big plans for this years festive season and have been busily gathering and hoarding beers away, guarding them like old Ebenezer Scrooge did his Farthings.. So what are we having for Christmas?
Then we have a variety of Christmas Beers from Belgium, including Gouden Carolus and St Bernardus Christmas ales, Abbaye Des Rocs plus Bush Noel and Gordons Christmas. From the USA from Goose Island, Odell. Finally Klosters Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel, apparently a German version of a Belgian Christmas ale..interesting indeed.
(Oh, did I mention the Westvleteren 12? ;))
I want to share as many of these beers as possible. They are beers that in the main I would never have tried but for my last year of beer blogging discovery and I want to share what knowledge I have in the best way possible, drinking the stuff. So family and friends be prepared to have your tastebuds tickled with more than egg-nog..
On futures yet to come, well how do you move on from that little lot? Well I suppose there are always going to be new beers and new breweries, I’ve tasted well into double figures this year alone and almost every single one as been a cracker (pun). Seriously the new breweries popping up are great news and are all our futures, new breweries new drinkers and so the cycle continues.. For me personally though that’s not what it’s about, I want to take the next step and learn to brew.
I’ve heard so many stories this year about home brewers and how they have gone on to starting their own successful micro-breweries, garage brewers that are fast becoming regarded as some of the best in the country or in some cases the world. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have one eye on beery world domination, I just want to know how to brew, to get some experience of what makes those subtle differences between each beer I drink.
Back in my beery youth (post McEwans), I tried home brewing but it was a pretty sorry affair in all truthfulness, warm can, open can, pour gloomy malt mixture into bucket, add sugar, pour in hot water, stir, sprinkle sachet of dried yeast, wait………disappointment. But I see things have moved dramatically on now, home brewers are making beer from real base ingredients, tweaking recipes, experimenting with hops and I want some of that.
Up until late this year I’d not tasted proper home brew until I kindly received my first from another beer warrior Ghostrdinker, it was a red rye ale if memory serves and really good too. It confirmed my suspicions that all home brewing was not the same bland headache inducing slop. Strangely enough I received my second Ghosty beer this weekend, quite uncanny really as I was writing this post with a spectral twist. It’s called as you can see Poltergeist and was brewed in collaboration with Matt Lovatt. If that timely apparition wasn’t an omen I’m Tiny Tim, this one’s being drunk on Christmas Day!
“God bless everyone!”