Beer Matters


“Is there a perfect beer for ringers?” This question popped into my head, as random thoughts often do, while performing my morning ablutions. I quickly decided the answer was “no”, but it set me thinking about characteristics of beers and ringers.

I did enjoy the recent front page article by Saskia Frisby about Worcester young ringers*. What particularly impressed me was that she has realised that ringers are eccentric and feels able to identify with that. It had occurred to me a while ago that perhaps we should abandon any attempt to present ringing as “cool” (or whatever the expression is now) and instead concentrate on targeting those young people whose aversion to peer pressure and disdain for contemporary youth culture make them a natural fit with the Exercise.

But I digress. Or perhaps not.

In my opinion there are sound reasons why that that what is now commonly termed “real ale” is the preferred drink of most ringers – and church musicians and narrow boat enthusiasts and steam railway buffs and Morris men and ramblers and suchlike.

It’s all about character.

Go back about 80 years or more and all the beer in this country was “real ale” – unpasteurised, uncarbonated, a living, volatile product delivered in natural wooden casks. No doubt a lot of it was rough, sour even, but palates were more robust then, just as noses were less sensitive to the inevitable consequences of the minimal (as we now see it) standards of personal hygiene that prevailed, and it was all there was. Then came the introduction of pasteurisation and pressurised containers in the mid-twentieth century and, driven by the promise of consistency and improved shelf life, the “Keg” bandwagon became unstoppable – until four young journalists noticed that the twin babies of flavour and character had been thrown out with the bath water and decided to do something about it.

But I suspect “real ale” is doomed for the foreseeable future to occupy a minority share of the market because, notwithstanding the general surge of interest in the quality and provenance of food and drink generally during the past decade or two, the TV-led masses will always prefer the safe, predictable, bland option to having their taste buds regularly challenged, occasionally insulted but often delighted. And by the same token, ringing will remain a minority interest because the majority have become accustomed to spending their spare time immersed in passive entertainment instead of getting off their backsides and actually doing something which challenges them physically and mentally. Thank God for young people like Saskia who are prepared to be different.

So, there is no perfect beer for ringers because we’re all individuals with differing tastes, but here’s one I came across recently that went down a treat after a morning of surprise minor in Hertfordshire:

Side Pocket for a Toad, a light (3.6%), hoppy bitter from Tring Brewery, whose beers are generally well worth drinking. You might think it’s a silly name but according to their website it’s an archaic Hertfordshire expression meaning something useless, in which case it’s an entirely inappropriate name for a very fine beer.

Maximus Bibendus

* I was a little alarmed by the reference to hot chocolate but they are young. Mark – take them down the pub when they’re a bit older, will you?

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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