What a bad, bad influence my wife is upon me!
Most people choose cider on their teenage journey into alcohol consumption. I prided myself in the fact that I had avoided this obvious route by taking bitter (abeit with a gradual reduction in proportion of lemonade in my shandies) coupled with the sweet German white wines that were in vogue in our household in the mid 80s before the Austrian/antifreeze incident coupled with the sharp increase in the strength of the Deutchmark which nudged the family shopping trolley towards Mateus Rose and other more exotic vinyards.
With a taste for ‘proper beer’ my favourites at the age of 18 – 20 were:
1 Newky Brown, which I introduced to university friends in Birmingham as it started to be sold nationally (the popluarlity of Viz at the end of the 1980’s brought the drink into the consciousness of the more purile student population). We prided ourselves in our amassed collection of over 350 empties which our local offy (most probably illegally) refused to exchange for 350 * 0.05 / 0.89 full bottles of the brown nectar at the end of the student year.
2 Bass (but only from selected outlets such as the Gunmaker’s arms),
3 Tetley (before draftflow ruined it and it was never the same drink outside of Yorkshire anyway) and finally
4 Theakson’s Old Peculiar which was the only drink to be consumed (apart from cherry brandy – obviously) at each of our 18th birthday meal’s up at the Lord Raglan.
No to me alcohol and apples were a combination to be avoided, that was until I tried the strong 8% ciders such as Diamond White and K. These were much less apple-y (because they were more chemical and alcoholic) and so more to my taste. I particularly saw the merit of strong cider when mixed with in a pint pot with a Castaway to create what was lovingly referred to as a Blastaway and made Friday evenings in former local haunts The Mason’s and the Red King almost bearable.
During my student years a housemate introduced me to the Downes’ Price/volume/alcohol ratio. I have entertained suggesting that this ratio be adopted by my local Tesco along side the handy, but in my view limited, price per pint figure. It’s hard to mearly transcribe the Downes Price/Volume/Alcohol ratio onto paper and I argued for a (subjective) drinkability weighting to be introduced to reveal the true workings of the factor because a basc alcohol % * volume / price ratio always tended to ‘throw up’ Thuderbird Red (well didn’t we all). This conclusion has clearly been arrived at by others as I quote "If your taste buds are shot, and you need to get trashed with a quickness, then "T-bird" is the drink for you."
The Downes P/V/A ratio introduced me to Breaker which tended to win through because of its 500ml cans in the days before they became commonplace. Breaker was the ‘perfect late night Balti house companion’ in my considered opinion. I drifted into casual lager drinking. I used to loath Stella but grudgingly started to admit that it ‘does a job’. Over the last few years I have tried to limit lager drinking to quality German and Belgian stuff rather than the every-pub froth but will conceed that when it’s hot, a crisp pint of lager always beats a bitter.
Anyway years later I met Catriona, a part time cider drinker, and there has been a healthy cross-fertisation of drinking habits with her taking on Guiness as well as Hoegarden and other wheat beers. I can’t remember when she first bought me a pint of cider but I might actually have been over 30 years old. And I enjoyed it.
These days most of my drinking is done at home and tonight in the Sainsburys Local the old cogs were spinning in the booze aisle. Strongbow does not taste like it’s 5.3% and that is its intrinsic beauty. Okay so they were only 440ml cans and not 500ml but the offer price for a box of 8 meant that volume was not an issue and crucially i stayed within the £5 budget – result!