Tuesday, 11 February 2014

My girlfriend bought the voucher for me

A conversation with a former Young’s brewer the other day found me reminiscing about the time when I hosted several beer tastings there for an events company; this would have been 2000/01 and it was great fun (I also did Batemans a couple of times and I still remember the shiver of anticipation as I embarked at the station with the windmill in my sight line). We would tour the brewery, have something to eat and then I would take everyone through eight Young’s beers. There would be about 12-15 people there and they would have been bought the vouchers as gifts or just got them themselves alone; they enjoyed beer but weren’t that obsessed by it — for me it was a fun way of earning money and drinking beer, I’ve never been one for the beer writer as educator (and especially evangelist) schtick.

After my conversation ended the other day I recalled one particular tasting. We were at the end of the beers and had finished with Young’s Old Nick, their sadly defunct barley wine. Someone didn’t like it and passed it onto someone who did and he dived uproariously into the second bottle (500ml). We were all chatting, even the woman who had complained that her boss had sent her on the event because he couldn’t come; oh she didn’t like beer either and alone amongst everyone she’d not noted any chocolate notes on Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. A couple of blokes, mates, were joshing away, had seemingly enjoyed it, though one of them I seem to recall kept vanishing to the end of the room to talk on his mobile while I was explaining what honey did to beer (maybe I would have done the same thing). Meanwhile the guy with the second bottle of barley wine had turned maudlin.

‘My girlfriend bought the voucher for me,’ he said in between great heroic gulps of beer, ‘that was six months ago.’ He paused and took another gulp. ‘We’ve split up now.’ He started to weep, very slowly and slightly and looked down at his lap. The group of people went quiet. ‘Yeah, we’ve had the vouchers for a while,’ chirruped one of the brace of mates breaking the ever so English sense of embarrassment, ‘got them about six months ago.’ He paused; he didn’t have a drink to suck on. He pointed at his mate; for some reason I noticed that he was looking a bit strained. ‘We had to wait though because he was inside.’ Another pause, the room’s silence continued apart from the flutter of quiet sobs. The bloke carried on oblivious to everything. ‘Nothing serious though.’ His mate’s face was a still centre of an approaching storm you knew would break outside. Meanwhile the silent sobs of the barley wine man who’d been deserted continued.

These days I quite enjoy interruptions and spontaneity and even hostility but these were early days and such moments got me mixing up my malting with my mashing.

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