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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Sunday, 9 August 2009

The most expensive bottle of beer in the world.

Yup, on Thursday night I enjoyed a bottle of beer that cost me over £1500.

I'm thinking it was karma. As you can see from recent posts, I was having a very good week. Then, it just got better. A review for Hops & Glory in the Times Literary Supplement (sorry - it's not online) dubbed me "The beer drinker's Bill Bryson", an accolade I've been not-so-secretly coveting for years because it would look very good on the front cover of the H&G paperback and probably increase its sales.

I was told about the review while en route to Leeds for a reading event in Borders. Before the gig, I visited Zak Avery's fantastic shop, Beer Ritz in Headingley. We had a great chat, and I found beers I thought I would never see again, and beers I'd never seen before, and walked out of the shop £65 lighter, a very happy man indeed. And as if things couldn't get any better, I then realised my oldest mate from uni was on his way to Leeds to watch the Headingley test with his dad. I phoned him, arranged to meet up, and he offered me a ticket to come to the test match with them.

OK, things were getting just a little too nauseatingly perfect.

The reading went well. Sold a few copies. Met a couple of good guys. Later, back in my hotel room, I decided to have a bedtime beer while writing up a few notes.

This is something I've done almost every day of my life for at least the last seven years. I have perfectly normal motor skills - I wasn't brilliant at sport at school, but neither am I noted for being particularly clumsy. So it came as a total shock when, after placing my beer carefully on its coaster, while bringing my hand back to the keyboard I clipped the top of the glass and neatly poured about 250ml of beer into my pretty damn new (last November) MacBook Pro.

The weird thing is - two days before, Mrs PBBB had done exactly the same thing to a different MacBook Pro with a cup of coffee. She phoned the Mac technician she uses and he told her to turn off the power immediately, turn it upside down and rest it on something absorbent. She did. That MacBook now works fine, albeit with slightly sticky keys. I remembered this, and immediately did the same.

But before he told her to do this, he asked one very important question: did the coffee have sugar in it? The circuitry could cope fine with water, but sugar was fatal.

And so we come to the beer in question.

Thornbridge Alliance PX Reserve 2007 is an 11% barley wine brewed at Thornbridge in collaboration with Garrett Oliver. Brew Day was 18 hours long because they had to do two mashes to get the gravity up high enough, and the fermentation was explosive. After brewing, this particular bottle was aged in vintage sherry casks for a year. As far as I knew, it was no longer on sale anywhere, and then, there it was on Zak's shelf. I gladly paid my £7 for a bottle, knowing I would probably never have the opportunity to do so again.

This was a very expensive, very rare beer. It was also a beer with a very high level of residual sugar contributing to its wonderfully rich, mellow, complex, flavour.

I guess at least my MacBook Pro died in style.

The next morning that wonderful residual sugar had gummed up my circuitry and turned my laptop - my fifth limb, my life, my career, my window on the world - into a frozen, dead piece of beautiful brushed aluminium. I'm told I can probably get the info off my hard drive so if anyone is reading this to whom I owe work, I should be back online in a day or two. But I'm writing this on my new MacBook Pro, bought yesterday. It brings the true cost of my bottle of Thornbridge Alliance PX Reserve to £1632.

And of course, England's performance on the first day of the test completed the restoration of karmic balance in the universe after what had been an absurdly good week.

From now on, I'm writing tasting notes by hand at the kitchen table, and typing them up later.

Remember - always drink responsibly.

12 comments:

Woolpack Dave said...

Buy a cheap PC, they cost much less to replace when you spill beer on them.

Kelly Ryan said...

And the crazy thing is, Simon at work did the exact same thing to his Mac a week or so ago... the sadness is, it wasn't with a fine bottle of Thornbridge beer, but with wine! Actually, maybe that's not such a sad thing after all...

Did you lick the keyboard? You know you did...

Mark said...

Isn't it technically £1500 for HALF a beer?! Ouch. And what a beer to spill.

Chris said...

I guess you missed the episode of the Office where Gareth gives the 'keep liquids away from computers' safety demonstration

BLTP said...

This all has resolved one thing you're not the Jonah for England it's our mutal friend you went with. As I seem to remember the only time I've been to the test at Headingly OMF was there and England were rubbish that day too!!

michael Reinhardt said...

Heart-wrenching story. I'm on my Mac Book Pro right and an we sang a dirge for yours.

Fatman said...

So it was you!

May bad luck dog you for the next 10 days and the Brown Karmic balance descend on the Oval in restorative good timing to complete the summer.

I'm off to the bookies....

adwelly said...

Ouch.

I'm very carefully putting my coffee down and stepping slowly away from my macbook.

metri8 said...

First of all the barleywine sounds excellent, it's a shame half of it was spilled.

Now onto the Macbook. I wouldn't despair just yet, unless some circuits were bridged and completely fried you may be able to salvage this one. I've saved many a family members laptop that has had coke, beer, and just about anything else you can think of dumped on it.
FYI this is a fair amount of tech type work so it may not be worth it to you but if nothing else find a gadget/tech happy friend and see if they'll take it on for a project.

Take the computer completely apart, once it is fully disassembled check to see if there are any burnt spots on the motherboard or anywhere.
Take the ram out, the processor off, the hard drive, etc basically anything that detaches (you can find pictures of these components on google images).
Get a tray or bucket and put a good two inches of 95%+ denatured alcohol (grab at the HW store, usually denatured with methanol). Put all of the components except for the hard drive in the bath and let it sit for a little while. You'll need to get a soft cloth like a t-shirt and wipe any areas that look like they have some beer residue on them. After you done this take it out and give it a little bath with some more alcohol and let it dry for a few days.
Reassemble and it may just work.

Also on the hard drive front don't let the mac geniuses or other repair shops gouge you, unless the hard drive was compromised (which is hard to do) it's as simple as taking it out, plugging it into a external drive case (you can buy one for $15 or less usually) and copying the files over. I would strongly advocate doing this yourself.

If nothing else piece out the macbook on ebay since you'll get a good 3 - 5 hundred dollars for a working LCD screen. Even more if you can show that the processor didn't get wet.

Rob Nicholson said...

£1,500 for a MacBook to write blogs? Jeez, can I have your account please ;-) You can get four PCs for that price.

Hats off to Apple though in making a product people are will to pay a premium for.

It is the Stella of the computer world...

Leigh said...

It would have happened sooner or later! Occupational hazard. That's why i dont log on in pubs - free wi-fi or not!

David said...

Mate, you drink beer in bed? Alone?
I thought I was bad.
David