I arrived home from work last night as tired as the planet, and after supper I withdrew to my armchair with a bottle of Fuller’s London Porter. It always misses the bull’s-eye this beer, and as my head began to float in a film of sleep, dipping and springing up again and blinking profusely, I was conscious in some faraway particle of my mind of disappointment. I presently became aware of my bottled beers squabbling with each other in the drinks cabinet.
“You’re just ink” the Black Gold stout squeaked at the London Porter. “No wonder he’s disappointed. It’s like somebody has got a nasty, watery old paperback – perhaps of a Dickens novel – and squeezed out all the ink.”
“That’s not wewy fair, my son!” the London Porter complained indignantly. “Ain’t I got a narrse chocolaty nose?”
“I’ve never understood why stouts are described as “chocolaty,”” the Profanity Stout sniffed. “If somebody’s beer really tasted of chocolate, they’d be so surprised that they’d probably choke to death. But you just don’t cut it as a porter, London. You’re incomplete and insubstantial – like a creature with its heart missing.”
“We Scottish beers should give these English jokers the boot!” the Glencoe wild oat stout broke in gruffly. “They sully our good name. Take Nutty Black – it’s basically a fart in a bottle!”
“Some memorable beers have been made in England,” the Nutty Black dark ale insisted.
“Err… Um? Newcastle Brown?”
The whole drinks cabinet rattled with boos and howls. Nutty Black scampered behind the vodkas for his own safety.
“All of the best beers are made in Scotland,” the suave, rich Midnight Sun porter concluded. “Whenever you go down to England you have to hunt high and low for an anyway half-decent beer which isn’t Guinness. If our Scottish drinkers increasingly want independence, perhaps we Scottish beers should establish our own confederacy.”
Dark Island, a mighty Orkney dark ale, stepped forward in agreement, and the smooth Highland stouts Black Gold and Glencoe joined him. Profanity remained loyal to the proposition of his Alloa stablemate, Midnight Sun. Yet some of the cuter Edinburgh beers looked a little squeamish, or as pale as is possible in beers so black.
“We are specialist beers for professionals,” the dainty dark ale Black Cork pointed out. “We are drunk by people who consider every mouthful carefully and have the brains to bestow eighteen different adjectives on a beer.”
“Ah yeh calling me thick, pal?” the Tennent’s lager burped. “I own Scotland and I am its beer! Yeh wee snobs can fuck awf tae England.”
The BrewDog beers – who all tasted vaguely of lemonade and blackberries – shrank back in horror, but the Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a beer so Tolstoyan that the unsuspecting would have assumed that it had been brewed by authentic peasants in a peat bog, stood his ground. “You’re an unspeakable brute! An abomination!” he lisped at the corporate heavyweight.
The Dark Island ale turned his nose up at the Tennent’s. “The taste of you makes me proud to come from the Orkney Islands. A completely different nation altogether, come to think of it…”
The Scottish solidarity was falling apart and London Porter surveyed the results with satisfaction. “Porter and stout are English inventions anyway,” he reminded the bickering beers unhelpfully.
I turned to my drinks cabinet in irritation. “What a bunch of silly beers! There are as many differences amongst the Scottish beers as there are between the English and the Scottish. This devolution is the inevitable result of “micro-brewery” culture. Wherever you go in Britain, you are now expected to drink the local beers, purely because they are virtuously local, regardless of the fact that most of them taste indistinguishable. Drinking becomes sampling and beers are now solely part of their setting. And if any beer proves massively superior to all the others, then it still cannot be let out of its regional box because it is not the done thing to drink Dark Island on tap in Cornwall or… why, my dear?”
My wife Polly was standing in the doorway, frozen in astonishment. “I was just talking to my beers,” I explained weakly.
She nodded. “You’ve finished your bottle – would you like another drink, Zbigneiw?”
“Oh, fetch me a Smirnoff Ice.”
[Previously on Tychy: “Gripes at the Grapes.” Ed.]