I have a selection of friends all of whom enjoy the odd beer. It always amazes me to discover just how differently each of us views beer, however. For example, I mostly prefer a lager, but I know several people who laugh at lager drinkers as though they’re an underclass compared with ‘real ale’. I’ve always found the fizziness of lager to be rather attractive as well as the fact that it’s often served cold. A real ale is usually slightly chilled because it’s been kept in the cellar, but not cold enough for me. I must admit, however, that real ales do tend to have rather a lot more different flavours than the inexpensive lagers, but strangely enough, I’m not very interested in that despite my wine preferences.
One of my friends is a member of a drinking society which gets together about once every two months in order to drink fourteen pints of Stella Artois each between about 7pm and 11.30pm. Personally, I rarely want to drink more than one pint of beer at once, if only because of the capacity issue. I also don’t think you can possibly enjoy drinking such a huge quantity of any booze, squashed into the short time. It’s more than three pints per hour! They also have a game which you lose if you must go to the toilet first out of the group.
Sometimes a friend will tell me that a particular real ale is very interesting, in which case I’ll order half a pint to see if they’re right. I remember one from not so long ago, called Old Peculier. That rarely happens with lagers, because there is usually only a selection of four or five different well-known brands in bars and pubs, so I’ve tried them already. But there is a bar called All Bar One which often has an interesting selection of lagers from across Europe, particularly Czech beers (often a favourite). Well worth a visit if you’re a bit bored with Carlsberg or Fosters.
Cambridge each year has a Beer Festival, about which there’s a blog in the archives. The amount of completely unbelievable different types of beers in different styles is astonishing. Some of them are nearly 10% by volume and thick and treacly. Not my cup of tea, as they’re amazingly bitter, too, but some people seem to enjoy it! The strongest beer I’ve found in pubs is Leffe, at 6.6% and most places serve it by the half pint and charge about three quarters of what you’d pay for a normal full pint. It’s quite sweet and very biscuity. Then there’s Hoegaarden, a Dutch white beer, very pale with gentle flavours, sometimes like bubblegum, in which I always insist on a slice of lime to give it a slightly sharp edge.