I’m in possession of a most wonderful postcard, a gift from a friend who has just returned from a trip to the UK. It displays labels of some prominent British beers, a collection of ales, lagers and stouts arranged in a neat matrix. “I figured you are the only one I know who could recognise at least five of those labels,” she said. Well, she was wrong. I recognised only three, much to my dismay. Needless to say, they have all been added to my must-try list now.
The truth is, there’s a huge variety of superb beers out there, and I’m not talking about the run-of-the-mill, mass-produced stuff that you’re bound to find in every pub in town. The ones I am talking about are distinctive products (and as yet unavailable in India), brews with intriguing histories and flavours, and names as fascinating as Hobgoblin, Belzebuth, Merman, Fat Weasel, and, I kid you not, Old Fart.
I’ve sampled some, fortunately. The first time I saw a bottle of Hobgoblin, I let out a whoop of joy. Wouldn’t you, too, if you saw a label that reminded you of Hogwarts, Eragon and Lord of the Rings combined? The beer itself, I might add, was equally impressive. Another beer I fell head-over-heels in love with for its distinct flavour is St Peter’s Cream Stout — it’s creamy and chocolatey.
But the loveliest of all is a trappist beer boasting a 400-year history, the Rochefort 10. This potent brew is made by monks of the Abbey of Notre-Dame in Saint-Rémy, Belgium. Apart from its high alcohol strength (11.3% abv) and a honey-like taste, what appeals is the mystical aura about it. Only seven trappist monasteries make beer today, and the brewing process is a closely-guarded secret.
Now if only some such beers made their way into the country. Give me a touch of eccentricity and myth in my brew, throw in an enchanting label and an equally fascinating name — and great taste too, please — and I assure you, you’ll find a die-hard fan in me.