It started from reading beer blogs. The curiosity was mild at first and the amusement greater. Amusement not only that for some drinking was more than throwing it down your neck and getting a little pissed. Amusement at the idea that enjoying a dark pongy liquid made you more discerning, with the darker and pongier being all the better. Amusement at the idea that putting up the price of a slab of supermarket lager would make a difference to the viability of dumpy old men’s pubs and stop pissed up kids from vomiting on the pavement on a Friday night.
It started by making a simple point, that a can of Stella Artois, one of the nation’s most popular beers, wasn’t actually a horrible tasting liquid but a quite pleasant drink. That despite its popular moniker as “wife beater”, a few cans didn’t give me the urge to beat up my girlfriend. It started from the observation that as a customer the cheap price of the beer in supermarkets was actually a bit of a bargain. A nice cheapish way of having a few drinks and relaxing and being no bother to anyone else.
But the curiosity grew and I started to throw a bit of pongy ale down my neck. I didn’t find it too bad. Then I stopped shaving every day. A little stubble from time to time grew into a beard. The girlfriend made the odd comment, but slowly accepted it. Then came the sandals. They are just so freeing. Bang tidy trainers constrain your feet, sandals allow the toes to move in freedom. The beer t shirts started through logic. Why buy clobber if people give it to you for nowt? So beer t shirts became the order of the day. As winter set in what is better than a cheap acrylic 1980’s jumper from a charity shop? They make sense. They are cheap, warm & the washing machine is kind to them. Then the orange Sainsburys bag. They are strong, durable and free. What better way to carry around your tankard, beer guide, festival programme & Greggs Steak Bake? But it’s not about the look; it’s about the slow descent into pong.
It begins by spotting a new label on the hand pull in a pub and “trying” it and deciding it wasn’t too bad. Then you find yourself drinking it more and more and forsaking the gorgeousness of Foster’s for a new brief inconsequential fling. But the fling becomes a romance then a love affair, and then you can no longer look than can of Carling in the ring pull without feeling a sense of shame in your gut. That you are forsaking all that CAMCL has achieved. It’s takes a while but you pull yourself together, you look yourself in the mirror and you say to yourself “I can no longer live a lie”
The squeeze was watching Emmerdale and sipping a white wine spritzer. “We need to talk” I said, She looked over, irritated at first then saw the look on my face. She knew it was serious. “I have something to confess, I am not sure how you will take it” Her look became a cold blank stare. I knew this was make or break for the two of us. “I’m a beer geek” I said. Immediately I felt a wave of relief. There it was, out in the open. No longer would I feel shame. “Oh stop pissing about” She said as she threw a cushion at me and I saw her reaction was not one of fear or loathing or disgust. Was there a little sympathy in that mild irritation I wondered? I had hoped our relationship would survive the revelation, and a glimmer of hope was all I needed to embolden me further.
Next came my parents. Over Sunday lunch the conversation went quiet. I took my chance. “Mum, Dad, I have something to say” They looked at me quizzical as I continued, “I have been living a lie. I can live it no longer. I need to leave the closet” My father’s eyes expanded in surprise “I am a beer geek, I like to drink pongy dark beer, pongy light beer, and the pongier the better. Whether cask, bottle, can or craft. Whether macro or micro, if it reeks I love it. I like to comment on the cascade hops and talk about resinous quality in the after taste. I’M STLL YOUR SON; GODDAMMIT” I put my head in my hands and my father put his arm around me “You’ll always be our son, and we’ll always love you. Even if you’re a beer geek. Have you considered homosexuality? That’s quiet fashionable and may even be healthier than heavy drinking.”- “Beer geekery is fashionable dad. It’s all the rage. Have you not read the cask report? And beer geekery isn’t about getting pissed. We neck pong for the taste, not to get pissed. We are quite boring that way” I replied.
The next thing was to come out to friends. The reaction was “We already knew, we already suspected”. The clues were there. A growing preference for dumpy old men’s pubs. A suggestion we go somewhere where the pong is not vinegary and music quieter and the girls less orange. So what is next?
I went to a beer festival. It was in Didsbury in Manchester. It was very good. There were other beer bloggers there. I spotted the Real Ale Girl at the bar, looking pissed and lairy, but could not say hello whilst still in the closet, no matter how fit her mate was or how pissed me and my mates were. It felt wrong, whilst I was still living this lie, whilst I hadn’t a proper pongy ale blog of my own.
I went up to the CAMRA membership stand and said “I used to be a lager lout. Please forgive me. I used to be one of the ignorami, but I love this old man’s grog now me, even though some of it tastes like a rodents arse. Some of it is the dogs bollocks. Can I sign up? A rather nice lady gave me a form and a pen and it felt like growing up. Afterwards she gave me a hug. I’m getting some Spoons tokens by all accounts. She tried to flog me a beer guide but I told her it was cheaper on Amazon. She had no signed photos of Roger Protz to sell. I presume she had sold out.
Well the final step is to come out publically and end this farce. To stop living a lie. I can no longer blog about Foster’s Lager as I don’t think she’ll have me back. Cooking Lager is done. It’s more than a meaningless fling with the pong. Onwards to a brave future. If at a future festival of pong and vinegar you see a drunk bearded man mumbling, be kind. If he says "I used to be cooking lager but I got cured", offer to top up his tankard.
I’m already writing an AGM motion now I’m in the beards club. It’s titled “Minimum pricing is bollocks and all those that support it are knobs”, but first I’ve got to go into a pub and ask for my CAMRA discount!
Say it loud. I’m a beer geek and proud!