I’m going to be brave and stand up and say my name and after taking a deep breath I am going to say that I like beer mats. Yes that’s right, I like beer mats. I started collecting them as a teenager, though I got rid of my first hoard after splitting up with a girlfriend, but then started again and now have enough to fill about four shoeboxes. I have some of them displayed on my book shelves, while others are in plastic sleeves somewhere in a folder and the rest remain in the boxes.
What do I like about them?
There’s an element of time and travel about them — some represent a visit to a pub (or brewery) in a specific town or country, a memory jogger, a souvenir, a time capsule. I can see an old school Adnams one with the fisherman (and pipe), which was used for Old Ale —this takes me back to my first visit to Southwold on a cold night towards the end of the year in 1989 (that was a good night). The one for Coreff returns me to our son’s first holiday when he was about four months old (oddly enough there’s a photo from that time on the web somewhere — I’ve got a glass of Leffe and a baby is looking at it worriedly). Then there are the mats of beers from breweries that I used to like but are no longer here: as I write I can see ones for Morrells, Devenish, Tolly Cobbold and Brakspear’s on the wall. There are also mat or should that be coasters for American, Polish, Italian, German and Belgian breweries.
However the reason why I have been thinking of beer mats is this little beauty above for Harvey’s in Lewes. I picked it up at the Rake on Wednesday night and I just love it. Its immediate, striking, has a cartoonish quality but is warm as well. There’s an element of self-humour there as well, as Viva Lewes is not a phrase I would usually attribute to Harvey’s, who are one of my favourite breweries. It’s a mat to celebrate their old ale and presumably the imagery refers to Lewes’ bonfire night next month. I love it and it’s like a prediction of a journey yet to be done — I haven’t been to Harvey’s but this is something I will get around to rectifying sooner rather than later. Oh and Pete Brown tells me that the artist who did this glorious beer mat also did the cover for Shakespeare’s Local.
And of course we all know that beer mat collectors call themselves tegestologists’ — I think I’ll pass on that .