Beer girl

I have a simple palate at the best of times. For example, before I went vegan* I used to love Jelly Bellies. They come in 50 nature-identical flavours and I used to enjoy picking one without looking, putting it in my mouth and trying to identify the flavour. There was buttered popcorn, lemon cheesecake, several types of citrus, cotton candy, watermelon, cantaloupe, caramel apple, red apple, green apple, etc, etc. Very infrequently could I tell what was in my mouth (only the most obvious – licorice, root beer, peanut butter, orange, jalapeno and so on). The flavours are extremely faithful – when you know what they are they are spot on. But the little jelly bean format always confuses. Turns out it’s just the same with beer. Honestly – grapefruit? Biscuit? You don’t say.

Anyway, I went to the Great British Beer Festival on Thursday with Matt, B (we did the Inn Way in Cumbria last year) and B’s work friends. I wasn’t in the mood that night for some reason. B pointed out that there was a tour for “my lot”. I was quite surprised but it wasn’t Jews this time – he meant women.

It was in three minutes. I thought it might pass the time and give me one up on Matt and B so I drained my third-of-a-pint glass and hurried to join it. We congregated near the office of Earls Court. Suddenly a young woman with the splendid physique of an innkeeper’s grown-up daughter crowded into a plunging fuscia pink top exploded into our (rather mousey) group. This was Melissa Cole, leader of the Girls’ Guide To The Beer Festival. I was very impressed because there are a lot of hairy men with tankards on chains round their necks at the beer festival. They also found her arresting. By the time I had sampled my five different beers I felt I knew a fair bit more than Matt or B, based on their grunt-like analyses on the Inn Way. I won’t go into it but I think I like an old hop and darker malt. Melissa Cole was extremely knowledgeable, funny, articulate and – if it doesn’t sound shmaltzy – passionate about beer. And she wasn’t a wanker whatsoever. Ah, bonhomie – I want her life.

When I arrived backand told B that I’d had free beer the look on his face became very misogynistic and his voice high pitched.

I didn’t know Melissa Cole was at the time but oh hello, here she is peeping blondely over a glass in – I find this highly amusing – the Watersports section of Observer Escape where she is ‘Beer Girl’. I never even read it – I will from now on. How modest – all she said was that she’s a writer and critic.

And here she is taking the beard out of beer (I liked the Deuchars XPA too).

Postscript – conserving the British pub and British brewing seems like a good idea to me but you sometimes get the slight sense there might be an incontinent bulldog under the table. At the festival they sell things like this:

I searched the Web for CAMRA “British National Party ”  -camera and some other searches. It’s perfectly fine – not too much Stormfront.

* No, I’m not ready to stop drinking when I go out. I gave up Jelly Bellies so leave me alone.


2 thoughts on “Beer girl

  1. My girlfriend met a guy at a conference who received a grant to study beer and nationalism as a postdoctoral research project. I believe his plan was to drink a lot of beer with CAMRA members.

    For what it’s worth, CAMRA are harmless (unless you’re working behind a bar serving them–if so, death by boredom is a very serious risk). The extent of their political involvement is in lobbying the government to prohibit short pints and in petitioning councils not to rezone pubs into shops or condos. I can’t see anything malicious or xenophobic in wanting to protect British ale styles. I believe they’ve even been active in Belgium, trying to protect traditional Belgian beer. Of course, the types of people they or the culture attract is another matter entirely.

    And giving up Jelly Bellies is pure crazy talk. I love those things.

  2. Thanks Graeme.

    CAMRA seem to me to be part of a phenomenon which views conservation in terms of preserving diversity. Fine where there is an equal emphasis on quality (with CAMRA there is). Because it’s interesting to see different groups approach cultural conservation, I sometimes keep an eye out to see if this turns into a more prescriptive movement – for authenticity for example, or purity for its own sake. For example (small example) at the Woolpack Inn in the Eskdale Valley, Cumbria, which is a CAMRA pub, the menu announces quite rudely that they won’t offer ketchup, basically because they reckon they know better than their customers what sauces enhance their food. (The food we had was definitely not all that, but then, they had an interesting vegan option on the menu, and marmalade made with treacle).

    But I reckon you’re right – there’s nothing much wrong and a lot right with CAMRA.

    I think I’m going to write a pleading letter to Jelly Belly because you are quite right that giving them up does leave a gaping, aching void in my confectionery life that a beer tooth can’t seem to touch.

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