It started, for me it started one Thursday. There was no expectation on my part for what was about to happen, no pre warning, no hints that something wasn’t quite right. It was before Colin Valentine of the political wing of CAMRA had pointed the guns of his esteemed beer club at the ranks of beer bloggers. I had heard rumours for sure about “ale jihadists” but always thought it a humorous term for those that took their love of pongy ale that bit too seriously. Those that did more than simply appreciate what for the most part is reasonably decent if a bit pongy grog. Those that give the appearance at least of fighting a war against lager rather than just appreciating and promoting their personal tastes.
How wrong can you be? There I was in the car park of Tesco, loading some San Miguel into the boot of the car and before you know it a sack was thrown over my head and I was bundled into the back of a Ford Transit. Who are you? What do you want? I cried with fear in my voice as I heard and felt the van speed away.
“We saw you in the supermarket buying 3 boxes of cheap lager for £20. We are the paramilitary wing of CAMRA, what reasoned argument will not solve, we sort out. We are taking you to a pub and we are going to make you drink cask ale until you damn well get used to it and start to like it. You’ll thank us for it, in the end”
“But my car, my cheap lager, what’s going to happen to it?” I begged.
“Your car will be put in your driveway, the dirty cheap lout will be poured down a grid and we’ve got your phone. We’ve texted your missus that you’ve joined a sexually deviant religious cult and won’t be back for a bit so don’t keep dinner warm”
I felt despair. I felt fear. It’s free country I thought. I would never stop anyone from making their own beer choices, why would they wish to prevent me?” It all became clear. This was a group that advocated the madness of minimum prices for cans of lager. Good God I realised, they were capable of anything. What torture would I have to endure with these madmen?
The hood came off; I was sat in what appeared to be the cellar of a pub. I heard the rumble of tatty bearded old men walk above and discussions regarding the true origin of IPA and an argument about sparklers. The smell of pongy ale was overpowering. They gave me a pint of dark pongy liquid they referred to as “bitter” alongside a bag of something called “pork scratchings” which appeared to be little more than salted cooked fat. “Get that down you, lager lout” they taunted.
“You can’t do this to me” I pleaded “I’m a beer geek too, I have a beer blog and everything, please, for God’s sake please, a can of Foster’s, have you no humanity?”
I heard a rasp “Foster’s Blogger? Worse than a lager lout, a £4 a half craft keg drinker no doubt, you’ll be here a while, young man”
“No, No, my blog is about cheap lager, Google cooking lager, let me go and I’ll be nice about beards, sandals and this warm pongy muck you’re making me drink”
They started to mutter among themselves. I heard “He’s like the first impression that's stamped on a coin. He isn't finished.” I heard nought from them for days but all that was brought to me was pint after pint of warm flat pongy bitter and pork scratchings. Hunger and thirst finally got the better of me and I succumbed to the pongy beer. It slipped down and reminded me of the perfection of cheap lager, like an echo of what beer could be. I begged them, I told them I was converted but they didn’t believe me. I never knew fear until I supped pong. A man returned and said he’d been looking at the cooking lager blog and I was the worst sort of beer blogger and would be here imprisoned for a while. Days turned to weeks, weeks into months then a new bearded man arrived. He had a bad haircut and a weird 1980’s jumper. He showed me a pair of sandals and beige trousers and asked me what I thought. I saw my chance. “That’s quite dapper” I told him. “He has passed the test” I heard from the back of the room. I was handed the sandals and beige clothes to wear. I put them on. They gave me a CAMRA card and some wetherspoons vouchers. A hand was placed softly on my shoulder and a voice said
“Less than a month ago, Santa Mira was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. Pubs with nothing but keg lager and smooth bitter. Then, out of St Albans came a solution. Seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer's field. From the seeds came beer ingredients which had the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of beer ingredients... It takes you over cell for cell, atom for atom. There is no pain. Suddenly, while you're asleep, it absorbs your mind, your memories and you're reborn into an untroubled world...Now you’re one of us...There's no need for lager... Lager. Lager. Without it, life is so simple, believe me.”
“It may sound harsh, but we did it for your own good, son, you can now step back into the world, now what are you drinking”
I wasn’t thinking, it came out of my mouth before I could think “Pint of Carling, please” I uttered. I heard gasps of horror and they reeled back but a saw a chink of light and ran for it. Up some stairs and I was in a pub. I moved though the crowd. My disguise of sandals and beige made me identical to the rest of the punters. The discussion about IPA and sparklers was still ongoing. Keep your eyes a little wide and blank. Show no interest or excitement, I thought. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. I had a beard and a haunted expression. I ran for the door. And so I ran. I ran! I ran! I ran! I ran as little Jimmy Grimaldi ran the other day. I ran through the road. Cars swerved and beeped their horns. I shouted. Help! Wait! Stop. Stop and listen to me!... These people who're coming after me are not human!. Look, you fools, you're in danger! Can't you see?! They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! THEY'RE HERE, ALREADY! YOU'RE NEXT!
Don't just sit there measuring me for a straightjacket, call for help!