Dan Vaux-Nobes, of Essex Eating fame, recounts his transformation from a Stella-swigging teen to a lover of local beers…
My earliest real memory of alcohol is the smell. I remember being propelled down a 1970’s East London high street by my mum one sunny morning, past the huge gothic Victorian pile of a pub on the corner and suddenly being enveloped in the most incredible warm, comforting hoppy aroma emanating from within. I was intrigued, and every time our route passed the same spot, the smell absolutely fascinated me.
Many years passed before I settled into drinking as recreational pastime proper. Admittedly, as with most teenagers, there was a very brief, ill-judged flirtation with Thunderbird/Strong cider/20-20, but it didn’t take me long to realise beer or lager was my drink du jour, namely Stella Artois.
Imagine if you will, the oft reproduced sketch of the evolution of ape to man. Hairy crouched monkey over time gradually developing through Homo Erectus *snigger* and finally into modern man. I like to imagine my drinking represented like this. My swaggering teenage pub posturing, sporting an earring, reeking of Kouros and swigging from bottles of Stella is represented by an ape just beginning to rise from the crouch and taking his first tentative steps.
I thought I was sophisticated, sipping my Belgian brew. I now realise I was anything but. Although I had got one thing right, something, which helped to push me a few steps up the beer evolutionary scale. I’d read an article once informing me how inferior beer in cans was to its bottled brethren, which apparently was more likely to have been imported and therefore more often than not, tasted better. I took this advice to heart and never really got into swigging flat, metallic tasting booze from cans like my mates. No, I was a connoisseur…. of sorts.
The next stage in my evolution took almost twenty years, I slowly worked my way through hard to source, trendy imported bottled lagers, Italian, Japanese, American…I considered myself the international playboy of lager drinkers. Albeit still pretty damn hairy and crouched and yet to discover fire, but I was getting there.
Then, last year I moved to Bristol and absolutely everything changed, a complete evolutionary jump.
Bristol and the South West in general has lovely beer and ale, and it’s everywhere. No one was more surprised than me at how quickly I ditched my favourite trendy imported lagers, and started drinking pints of Bath Ales Gem, Bristol Beer Factory Sunrise, Otter or Sharp’s Doom Bar. All of it absolutely cracking, all locally produced and absolutely a million miles away from the mass-produced Belgian crap I’d drunk way back at the beginning. I’m not quite ready to join the bearded ranks of the rabid real ale drinker just yet, but I’m getting there.
If you asked me now how I’m portrayed in the drinking evolution scale, I’d say I’m almost a Homo Sapien, still a bit hairy arsed and stooped, but with a bit more refinement, I reckon my evolutionary beer journey is almost complete.