I guess most people who are reading this are regular pub-goers, am I right? You enjoy a few pints of your favourite cask ale during the week, whilst reading the newspaper, or having a natter with the regulars, and settling into your ‘own’ seat in the pub. No hassle.
So this is your friendly Beer Sommelier early warning: Thursday might be a night to stay in, download a box set, and order in a takeaway. Yes, this Thursday hundreds of thousands of students will receive their ‘A’ level results. It will be carnage on the streets of Britain. There will be a cocktail of jubilation, exhilaration, and pant-squeaking panic in equal measures. Combined with many of them reaching the legal drinking age. How I wish I could steer them away from the shots, the ‘fruit’ ciders and the gastric curdling concoctions many bars will entice them with.
My ‘A’ level celebrations were somewhat muted. I had entered sixth form with a veritable clutch of qualifications. 14 ‘O’ Levels, which sounds mightily impressive, but by my own admission I had wandered into examination halls purely by misfortune and confusion, and had thought “well, might as well see how I do”. An accidental child prodigy was born.
‘A’ levels were a whole different ball game. I started out with physics, advanced maths, art, English literature and history. I realised fairly quickly that physics was beyond my scope, and the terminology which included shaft, pivot, and fulcrum filled me with giggles much to the dismay of my more studious peers and tutors. Advanced maths involved three hour lessons filled with sin, cos and tan, a foreign language: I spent the lessons amusing myself by spelling out BOOBS on my calculator.
English Lit, well, I excelled. I had a real ale loving tutor who inspired me with stories of hard drinking dens in Dickens, bawdy rivalry in Shakespeare, and alcohol fuelled journeys with Hunter S Thompson.
So to cut to the chase, and much to my parent’s disappointment, I emerged from sixth form with a paltry three mediocre grade ‘A’ levels which qualified me to do absolutely nothing. I was average, destined to go to a second rate university. Written off at 18. Still, it was an occasion to go out with your mates and anticipate what the future might bring. Which is what this Thursday will be about for those thousands of optimistic, positive, eager-for-life youngsters will be.
With a life affirming reality check, I discovered the beer industry by accident. Doesn’t matter what you look like, what your background is, what connections you have. Work hard, be willing to learn, and you can get anywhere you want to be. We put so much pressure on youngsters to make adult decisions about where they should be, what they should do at such a young age. Let’s let them enjoy this Thursday for what it is – a freedom from enforced education and their passage into adulthood. But let’s also try and guide them into sensible, sociable, acceptable drinking and introduce them to the delights of real ale.
Real ale is the Facebook, the Instagram, the Twitter of the current generation. It’s the social glue which holds us together and gets us to communicate with each other. If this next generation of drinkers dip their toe in the cask ale world, they’ll realise what an inclusive, friendly, sociable community we are. Which is why I’m nominating Sharp’s Doom Bar as this week’s Something for the Weekend. It’s the best selling cask ale in the UK. It’s been culturally referenced in Robert Galbraith’s novels (aka JK Rowling). It’s done a lot more than most brands to encompass the message that ‘cask ale is cool’. And, for those naysayers, the cask version of Doom Bar is still brewed in a tiny little village called Rock in Cornwall.
Doom Bar is the go-to ale for novices new to the beer category. It’s well balanced, it’s not ‘blow your socks off’ hoppy, and it’s a great beer to get your first foot on the ladder into adult beer drinking. At 4%, a few pints won’t land your picture in the Daily Mail. It’s just an all round good drinking beer, and whilst I would advise those celebrating their exam results to avoid the filthy kebab on the way home, I will recommend a great student supper: grate some good cheddar cheese, mix with wholegrain mustard, tabasco and a whisked egg and load onto toasted white bread. Grill until the topping is bubbling, then serve with a side of chutney and a glass of Doom Bar.
The world is your oyster and real ale will smooth the path to whatever comes your way.