Beer Matters

A few cross words from Max

Cleaner to discourage chap (9)

After our last district practice, the company retired to a pub for which I normally have the highest regard. It was that very hot Saturday in May and the lager-swilling hordes were out in droves. When I finally got to the bar, a stack of hastily washed glasses, flecked with tell-tale white foam, arrived. I forget what the beer was - something I had not tried before - but it was marred by the unmistakeable twang of detergent.

In this instance it would be churlish to complain; the staff were clearly under pressure and I have never previously had a less than acceptable pint in the place. But it is not an uncommon problem. The use of industrial strength detergents followed by inadequate rinsing ruins many a good beer (it was routine in Taylor Walker pubs a few years ago). And, now that we are obliged to take a clean glass for each successive pint, it doesn’t get any better as the evening goes on.

Naked civil servants taken with beer (6)

My local is now stocking Salty Dog crisps and rather good they are too – in a different league to the Tavern Snacks previously on offer and comparable with Jonathan Crisp’s crisps or Kettle Chips. It caused me to ponder the curious fact that some discerning drinkers will put all manner of execrable foodstuffs into their mouths along with their beer – and I am as guilty as the next man.

In my very young days there were only the original Smith’s crisps with little blue packets of salt (when reintroduced about 20 years ago, they just weren’t the same – the salt packets were machine sealed, not twisted by hand, and there was always one per bag instead of any number from zero to 17) but, setting aside the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, I recall they were greasy and/or burnt and inclined to go soggy. Then came Golden Wonder, Crispi (where is the Blehhh now?), the ubiquitous Walker’s and the supposedly innovative McCoys (have you noticed that whatever the ‘flavour’, they taste of margarine?). Hardly a gastronomic experience, any of them.

Likewise Mini Cheddars. Old PH reckons they soak up the beer and he is not wrong, so the other day I steeled myself to read the ingredients. Whilst I was not expecting to find mature farmhouse Cheddar, or indeed any cheese worthy of the name, it made depressing reading; the dreaded ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’ featured prominently along with sundry chemicals and ‘E numbers’.

Are we any better off with peanuts? I prefer dry-roasted - the oil on the ‘ordinary’ ones clashes horribly with beer - but the pile of dust at the bottom of the packet does not speak of wholesomeness. Pork scratchings are good if you can find decent ones but the majority are either so hard as to endanger one’s teeth or bloated by some dubious process and quite devoid of pig flavour *.

So why do we put up with this rubbish? Are the citizens of Ashby-de-la-Zouch (from whence most of these products originate) shamelessly exploiting the fact that beer sharpens the appetite?

* I blame modern breeds which are far too lean to produce proper crackling. Now there’s an opportunity for someone – British Lop or Gloucester Old Spot scratchings would be wonderful.

Emasculated ram gets quaintly amorous in free house (12)

“Wetherspoons is going down the pan” began a posting on Ringing Chat. I fear that may be right. Comments were made about the quality and availability (or lack) of ales, changing clientele and attitudes of staff. The admirable Tim Martin, who founded the chain and named it after his maths teacher, is no longer at the helm. Sadly this is what happens when companies grow too large and become victims of their own success. The personal touch is lost, along with the principles which made the enterprise successful in the first place, and they are taken over by bean counters who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Patriotic Iris travelling by air (4, 6)

I see Sainsbury’s stores are flying the English flag. Good for them, although I suspect it may have something to do with an impending sporting event. But why does the name Carling feature so prominently? Have we reached the stage where the Cross of St George is inextricably linked with an ersatz continental brew? Is there no brewer of honest English ale (or even a consortium of regional brewers) prepared to sponsor our national football team? Shame!

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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