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

What's new?

What's new?
New events added including Stoke Newington Literary Festival
I had a big piece in the Guardian this week about why publicans are unhappy
Click here to hear me talking about craft beer on this week's radio 4 Food Programme!
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Monday, 27 June 2011

Surviving the Great Baltic Adventure

Yes, I know it's the middle of the summer - that's why it's daylight at 11pm.  But this is the Baltic Sea. On a good day.


Life is never boring.

Following the absolute exhaustion of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, I’d like to say it seemed like a great idea to join the Great Baltic Adventure, sailing to St Petersburg with fourteen casks of Russian Imperial Stout.  Except it didn’t – it felt like a really stupid idea. 

And it was. 

Like my last big sea adventure, we weren’t long into it before my wife wanted to divorce me.  Not because I was away from her this time, but because she was on the ship with me.  We were ill equipped and under-prepared, yearning for sleep and running on fumes. 

Two weeks later, Liz declares it the best holiday she’s ever had (despite the entirely fictitious account on her Beer Widow blog of how it came about) and we’re both in some kind of wonderful sensory overload phase where flushing toilets and hot baths give us all-over intense pleasure, where after two weeks of listening only to waves, wind and engine noise has made music in my headphones feels more intense and beautiful than it ever has, and yet part of each of us is still on the ship, still swaying, still squinting at the horizon, still sharing inanities, UHT-milk flavoured tea and endless Custard Creams with the ragged, wasted bunch of beery eccentrics we now call close friends.

“Father” Tim O’Rourke is my new beer hero.  When I pissed off to India with Barry the Barrel, it was one man’s search for a book idea that could trump the previous one.  Tim, while inspired by Hops and Glory, has managed to achieve something much greater, something that turned into a trade mission for British beer and a quirky news story that repeatedly captured the imagination of the BBC - here and here  - and various other media outlets.

If you saw me standing in a Russian brewery wearing a tri-corner hat, looking greasy and smelly, I apologise.  If you heard Tim and me on the Today programme, I hope we sounded not too mad.

Between us, we have a great deal to say about the effects of sea-aging on beer.  I’ve got more to say about Russian Imperial Stout in general, as well as Finnish Sahti, Russian Kvass, the Baltika Brewery, Finnish microbrewers, why you should go and drink in Tallinn, or if not then at least the Red Bull in Histon, Cambridgeshire, and why there’s no people like boat people like no people I know.  

From Sting personally trying to ruin my life, to watching films about dogs turning into men while deep in conversation with Russia’s first Belgian microbrewer, to face-offs with pathetic gangsters driving ancient Ladas (or ‘cab drivers’ as the Russians call them) to the case for Disturbingly Random Theme Bars, to why it can be handy to view British ale as others see it – it’s not a book. It’s not a coherent article or single blog post.  I don't know what it is yet.  I’ll try to make sense of it and present the best bits in the most appropriate and interesting way over the next couple of weeks.

Till then – would anyone like a Custard Cream?*

Good night.

*Sorry – on this score I think you probably had to be there.

9 comments:

Chris said...

Sounds suitably epic! Perhaps even enough of a saga to fill the pages of a book...

But if that's not on the cards then I look forward to reading more about this adventure in whichever format you choose. While drinking an imperial stout of course.

Might even rock back and forth a bit and hold a shell to my ear to get as close to the authentic experience as possible...

Eugene Tolstov said...

Nice to hear you are still going to produce the story in _some_ form, because we haven't heard from you for a week - so suggested you decided to just forget about LADA hell :)
I really enjoyed Liz's post btw

Justine said...

Can't say I have ever (or would ever) tasted Russian Imperial Stout, but am very interested in the book!

Justine said...

Can't say I have ever or indeed would ever drink Russian Imperial Stout, but looking forward to reading the book.

Gray Gillman said...

I'm looking forward to the full report.

Gary

P.S. Maybe I missed it, but what names were chosen for the two beers served at the Stoke Literary Festival?

Leigh said...

Looking forward to it. I saw a little section on the BBC but it was light in facts. Fantastic Voyage. You do well!

Steve Lamond said...

An E-book perhaps?

joe said...

If you're not drinking Tall Boys, you don't know Schlitz http://adf.ly/1sanq

Simon said...

OK, seeing as all the chocolate bourbons have disappeared, I'll have a custard cream. Thanks.