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Friday
Mar042011

Loud bitter drinkers...

I really dislike loud bitter drinkers. They are about as relevant to the real thing as is a shiny plastic jacket to designer leather. Ridiculously self-satisfied, the whole bloody lot of them. The rest of us go to the pub to have drink or two, hopefully have a laugh, possibly a game of dominoes, and generally relax and enjoy ourselves.

Loud bitter drinkers, on the other hand, go to the pub to play a strange game, largely involving playing with a glass of beer. It is irritating enough when you get one in, and he performs on his own, but goodness only help you if you get a full platoon of the sad exhibitionists, deciding to nestle at your local.

You can tell from the moment they walk in. These particular bitter drinkers give off strange vibes. They have an air about them; they don’t seem to resonate at the same pitch as everyone else, nearly, but not quite. I suspect an abnormally high proportion of un-descended testicles.

It is January, it is cold, wet, and foggy outside, but it is nice and warm in your local with good company, conversation, and wit. The door opens, and four loud bitter drinkers stride in. You can tell that they are loud bitter drinkers because a) they leave the bloody door open, and b) they are all dressed up for an evening’s ‘bitter drinking’ – loads of cardigans, duffel coats, hiking boots, bobble hats et al. You sink deeper into your seat and prepare for the three act farce that is about to be enacted. Any genuine pub regular, throughout Britain, will recognise the plot.

First comes ‘the Choose’. This involves stamping up and down the length of the bar peering closely at the branded bitters on offer. This will involve lots of unapologetic trampling between and amongst the established customers. There will be lots of comments as well:

‘Oh  look, Derek, they have got ‘Double Malted Brown Bear Poo’….’

‘Hmmmph, it doesn’t travel!’

‘But they only brew it at the Brown Bear, 200 yards down the road!’

‘Like I said, it doesn’t travel.’

or

‘Haven’t had that one before… “Umpire’s Funny Finger”….’

‘ “Umpire’s FAULTY Finger”, Eric, it’s named after that cricket umpire Billy Bowler’

It goes on, and on, and on. Its irritating, its ignorant, its patronising, its ill-informed, and it is also, frankly, bloody rude. However, they are not in full flow yet, the next stage is the ‘Try’.

Can you imagine the following situation? You have walked into a strange pub, you have examined the wares, and you appear to be just about to make up your mind. You confidently approach the landlord thus:

‘I see you have the 25 year old Bowmore Founders Anniversary Islay single malt…’

‘Yes we do’

‘Do you think I could TRY some, to see if I like it?’

The landlord wouldn’t even bother to find a polite way to refuse, yet bitter drinkers get away with it time after time:

‘I see you have got “Granny’s Cobweb and Golden Syrup Ale” on draught, do you think I could try some?’

My immediate thought is ‘piss-off, you tart,’ but no. The landlord pulls a sizeable swig into a half pint glass and deposits it on the bar for FREE. Then the duffel-coated one transforms into a mass spectrometer. His eyes turn into a time-of-flight analyser, and his tongue converts into a linear quadrupole ion trap. It’s bloody amazing, and the results appear to be immediate…

‘No sorry, that one is a bit under-hopped, could I try some of the “Shipbuilder’s Red Hot Rivet?”’

Bugger me; the landlord gives him another swig for FREE. By this time the loud bitter drinker is exactly where he wants to be, at centre stage. The pub can’t even think about settling down again until he, and his equally irritatingly self-centred mates, have spent 20 minutes sampling, then ordering, four separate, and different, half-pints of bitter.

One then could, of course, think that one could go back to one’s conversation, or game of dominoes. No chance. There is still an act of this particular costume farce still to come. ‘The Peer’

The loud bitter drinkers will just about have settled down when one of them, seeking to impress the others, will hold his glass up to the nearest light fitting, peer into it, and ask:

‘Do you reckon that’s a bit cloudy, Derek?’

This will immediately set the other three off into a kind of rotational peering cycle, as they all take it in turns to submit their half pint for a communal peer, and then a second, third, and fourth opinion. Everyone else in the pub can see that the beer is crystal clear, and is shining and sparkling like the girl’s hair in the shampoo ad on TV. Never mind the facts, in fact, never mind ‘cloudy’, loud bitter drinkers can find an entire worldwide weather forecast within any given glass of beer. This will provoke the following, delivered with a shake of the head:

‘Mmnnn, don’t think I would drink that, Brian, if I were you. It might make your tummy a bit funny’

Personally, I sincerely hope that he DOES drink it, and that it leads to the immediate onset of something painful, lingering, and ultimately fatal. A non-infectious derivative of the Black Death would do nicely. I also hope that the landlord will have enough common sense not to call an ambulance, and to stay open long enough for me to be able to witness the final painful throes.

I don’t know how all of this started. I do understand that bitter will vary according to how it is kept, and maintained.  I also understand that certain beers can be temperamental, no matter how well kept and maintained. My brother once owned a pub that was renowned for the excellence of its Hook Norton ales. This is genuinely temperamental beer! A butterfly farting, three fields away, could knacker it, in seconds. It would transform from a magical glowing nectar into brown windsor soup. My brother used to do his bear with a severe headache routine until it came good again. In the meantime, he most certainly wouldn’t serve it to anyone.

I have drunk a lot of bitter in my time. Firkins and firkins! Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I have never held a glass up to the light to determine its quality. If it is seriously cloudy, you can tell without doing that. Other wise you TASTE it. If it tastes ok, you drink it. If it doesn’t, you quietly ask for it to be changed. End of story. There are more important things in life. Now then, how am I going to get rid of this double six?