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Monday, 2 May 2016

A lesson in beer drinking

It's been months since my last post, and the title of this blog is starting to feel less and less appropriate. Maybe I need to change it to The Right Side of 60 while there's still time.

Two nights ago I opened a bottle of 8.1% strength beer. I won't mention the beer's name because it's probably not the brewery's fault what happened next. However, as a hint it's named after a nearby star, which was also the setting for a battle between Starfleet and the Borg in a memorable Star Trek episode: the one where Captain Picard has been assimilated and uses his knowledge of Starfleet tactics to... er. Anyway, so I open the bottle as I always do, and it goes off like a roman candle, beer gushing all over the work surface.

Two tea towels later and I'm on top of the situation, but most of the beer has gone. I carefully sip what's left. Perhaps it's the great strength of the beer, or maybe the bits of floating sediment that the bottle's instructions suggest I should have left in the bottle ("pour into a glass in one smooth action"), but I cannot warm to its flavour. Part of me wonders if the fountain effect wasn't a red flag.

Why was I even trying to drink an ale nearly twice as strong as normal? Well, it's an age thing. I don't mean that I like more alcohol as I get older. I bought the beer in the poorly lit back room of a beer shop (such an excellent invention—I never saw one until I got to York), and the print on the bottle was very small, and bizarrely I hadn't thought to take my reading glasses with me when I went shopping, so it wasn't until I got home that I discovered exactly what I'd bought.

I made it into my forties before I needed glasses. First for reading, then another pair for longer range, such as looking at a computer screen. The decline is slow but persistent, and now reading without glasses is a definite challenge, particularly first thing in the day; some mornings I have difficulty focusing on my breakfast cereal. In that dim shop, this bottle's label might as well have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphics for all the good it would have done me. In fact, that might have been better, for a couple of glyphs of legless Egyptians or a vomiting crocodile-headed god might have given me valuable clues about the alcohol strength.

But wait, I've just noticed that the label shows an illustration of two Neanderthal figures. Could this have been a coded hint about the expected level of my mental ability after finishing the bottle?

It also says that all their beers are naturally carbonated. Aha! Unexpectedly I realise I must from now on always read the instructions on beer. (Just as an afternoon of near terminal flatulence twenty years ago taught me the importance of reading the instructions on sugar-free jam.)

Old dogs can learn new tricks, provided they learn the hard way.