This week saw the start of the Wimbledon Championships, when many people go bug eyed staring at the telly, listening to the thwack of the ball over a net. The breakfast news channels send reporters to broadcast the scenes of queues and crowds buzzing around the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. They inevitably interview ‘Maureen from Milton Keynes’ breathlessly telling the camera that she has been camping out since 1998 for a place on Henman Hill/Murray Mount. Municipal park courts gridlock with budding Andy Murrays and Serena Williams to the annoyance of the dedicated stoic summer-long players.
In honour of this annual event, I have set up the Swing Ball in the garden, and I sock a ball on a string backwards and forwards with ferocious gusto. Much to the annoyance of everyone within a mile radius, I channel Maria Sharapova with shrieks, screams and grunts. It’s very childish but it makes me helpless with laughter, especially when the Big Dog tries to get involved and risks a whack around the chops with my plastic bat. It also works up a raging thirst.
Now, most people associate Wimbledon with a glass of Prosecco, a gin & tonic or, at a push, a glass of ‘reassuringly expensive’ lager. All of which can be imbibed at home. I decamp to the local pub, hot and sweaty, for a glass of ale. I can’t get the cask conditioned at home and it’s a great excuse to have a natter with the regulars. This got me thinking: what beer (and food) would I choose to be on the handpulls at my Swing Ball final? Like a fantasy football league of ales for a hot summer ‘tennis’ day?
I would start off with a cheeky glass of restorative Wainwright, a 4.1% golden ale to invigorate me. One of my trainees said to me the other week: “Hold a glass of Wainwright up and it’s like looking into the sun”. I thought that was a marvellous comparison, despite the fact a few days earlier I had read the same analogy about how looking at Cheryl Cole has the same effect. I digress: I’m going to drink this beer with a simple plate of good quality smoked salmon, drenched in lemon juice and sprinkled with black pepper. Sod the bank-busting Chablis, this beer squares up to this dish as brilliantly as any top end wine.
Swiftly followed by an Oakham Green Devil IPA, bursting with mango and passionfruit flavours, perfect for a summer day, matched with Coronation Chicken. The mango chutney in the dish harmonises with this zesty beer, and at 6% ABV it’s going to mellow any player out. Put it this way, I’ve got a natty little Green Devil lapel pin on my desk and for the life in me, I can’t remember who gave it to me, and when. I just knew it was a good night. This beer is a devil indeed…
I’ll top it off with strawberries and cream, served with a side of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. The acidity in the strawberries contrasts brilliantly with the sweetness of the chocolate in the stout creating an incredible flavour combination on your tongue. To be honest, most stouts and porters go really well with strawberries and cream. Look, it’s chocolatey. Do I need to say more?
I would then go back to my garden, replete, restored and ready to take on another willing participant in the Swing Ball challenge.
Nah, that’s a complete fib. I’m ready for a lie down now.