The most common reactions I get when people find out about my geekily keen beer passion are “How do you stay so slim?” and “What’s it like hanging around with loads of bearded old men?”
Granted, it’s unusual to find a 26 year old, female girl about town, who has drunk around 1200, and continually counting, different British beers since records began. These are only my records, of course, in four consecutive Good Beer Guides, but my obsessive carrying around of these near sacred tomes, and the subsequent broken handbag straps and scarred shoulders, will surely convince you of their trustworthiness. By the way, just in case you are a particularly curious type, this number does not include the hundreds of foreign beers I’ve supped; I have to draw the ticking and record keeping line somewhere, people.
This achievement, whilst undoubtedly nerdy for such a groovy gal, which I assure you I am in most other aspects of life, is a fact I am always quick to point out to the handful of ‘bearded old men’ who still advise me to stick to something weak or fruity. You see, these 1200 odd brews are not just evidence of a deep love of beer, but an (admittedly thus far relatively short) lifelong quest to sample and delight in our country’s beers.
Beers from both ends of the strength spectrum, beers from all corners of the nation, beers that represent a long heritage and history, beers that began as an enthusiast’s home brew, beers that use local produce, beers that help keep vital community pubs alive, beers that bring likeminded people together, beers that push boundaries with unusual and exciting ingredients, beers that simply make your day that bit better, beers that just taste darn good. Let it be known that I am willing to stand my ground to fight for these beers, even if I have to argue with an outdated girlphobe to get my hands on them. Hands which, for your information, are not so small and delicate as to require a special mini, stemmed girly glass, and while we are at it, no I wouldn’t prefer a vodka, yes I do know that there are more stouts than Guinness, and no, it really doesn’t need to be fizzy for me to enjoy it.
But, as a fellow curly haired revolutionary said, the times they are a- changing, and it really is just a teeny handful of fuddy-duddies who persist in derogatory ‘you are a girl, you don’t know anything about beer’ comments. I now have a faithful collection of bearded (and clean shaven) pals who are interested in my beer related opinions. Young people who are equally proud of their ale geekdom, people from other beer minority drinking groups (like my pensioner friend form the Caribbean who claims we are two of a kind, fighting the corner of underrepresented ale lovers), and a London based brewer who might be producing a special for my wedding (you don’t get that from Smirnoff). But none of them look as good as me in a Dark Star Brewing Co. T-shirt. Or pint glass shaped earrings.
Beer matters. It matters to all those people. It matters to all the pub landlords in the cities and towns around the UK that my Good Beer Guide led holidays take me to. It matters to the microbrewers in manky derelict farm buildings that have left jobs in the city to pursue their passion and to help nourish ours. It matters to the retirees whose social calendar revolves around manning the beer mat flooded tombola. It now matters to the Spanish girls in their twenties that I met at a recent beer festival who asked for something like San Miguel but left drinking porter. I’m not a brewer, I’m not bearded, I’m not retired, and I am absolutely not a bloke, but, do you know what? Beer definitely matters to me.