The pint with your fish and chips on a Friday

by Steve

Menu sign in a chip shop

Fish Friday. Chippy Tea. Whatever you call it. Fish and chips on a Friday night is one of the great institutions, the sort of tradition that genuinely keeps giving and giving, still seems relevant, vital even. Fish and chips are basically great anytime, but there is something special about having them on a Friday. It is a treat to end the week, a night off the cooking after five days of work. A way to see in the weekend.

On a practical level, I suspect they taste the best then, a combination of just-fried chips and fish that has been allowed to drain and rest a little – what I understand to be the ideal scenario when it comes to fish and chips and one that is most likely to happen on a Friday, when the fish has to be stockpiled and the chips are constantly being fried.

There is the atmosphere in the chippy on a Friday. People are happy, you can see the week falling off their shoulders. If you’ve gone somewhere decent there will be a queue, and you can breathe out, relax and enjoy the back-and-forth between customers and staff, or admire the funny old menu signs, or just take in the ozone-y smells as the salt and vinegar hit the chips ahead of you.

Loyalty is a big thing with chip shops. Once you find a good one you don’t let it go. You see the same people every week and clearly some of them have been going there for years. It is close as some of us get to community.

This is all well and good, but as you walk out the chippy with your tea you think to yourself that you probably deserve a beer too, after the week you’ve had. Now is not the time to dust off one of the fancy bottles at home, you need something more robust, less fussy, a beer to accompany your dinner not to upstage it.

Now is the time for a bottle of beer from the corner shop. You might glance at the beer in the shop during the week when you pick up some bread and milk, but it is not the sort of beer you’d usually go out of your way to buy. It is not event beer, or anything special, but it is perfect for now.

It has to be a best bitter, I reckon, the kind that has been sold for generations, a beer that can stand up to sitting in the shop’s fridge unit, or is fine if it is a bit warm too. The sort of beer people have been drinking with their fish and chips since the beginning of time, or at least since the beginning of chip shops and corner shops. Tradition, again.

You get home, eat the dinner straight out of the chip paper. The beer is a little fizzy, which might usually be annoying, but cuts through the fattiness of the batter. There is a maltiness to balance the oiliness of the fish. A near-blandness to quench your thirst from the salt liberally sprinkled on your chips. Perfection.

This the first in an occasional series about beer and the best scenarios when it comes to drinking it. I decided that I’m not really articulate enough to do justice to individual reviews of beers (although I’m sure that won’t stop me trying in future), plus I also had the realisation that a great pint is as much down to context as it is content. Some of my favourite drinks aren’t technically wonderful, but just happen to be in the right place at the right time. So, I guess some of these scenarios could apply just as well to a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Anyway, we’ll see where, if anywhere, this goes.

Image from Charlie Allom, via Flickr