The Beer Dinner

by Steve

Beer drawing

Stan Hieronymus is hosting this month’s Session, asking bloggers:

If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?

As a vague sort of criteria:

  • I’ve gone for people who have died – I think a lifetime’s reflections and the perspective that would offer would be more interesting and valuable than someone alive who might be a little too caught in the moment.
  • People who have more than a passing interest in beer – seems a sensible criteria, and no point dishing out lovely beer to someone who won’t enjoy it, or at least have a view on it. That might derail the conversation somewhat.
  • Related to the above, I’ll choose beers where I’d appreciate their perspective, even if I suspect they wouldn’t love the choice.
  • People with interesting things to say about pubs as well as just beer. I think where you choose to drink is just as important as what you choose to drink. In the spirit of that, I’d host the dinner in some sort of pub backroom/function room. Dinner would be ploughman’s, pork pies and pork scratchings. That kind of thing.

Ian Nairn

The architectural writer and broadcaster was always a dedicated drinker and champion of pubs. His classic book Nairn’s London isn’t afraid to recommend the best boozers amongst the churches and grand houses of London. He clearly recognised the importance of pubs to the fabric of the city, and it would be wonderful to hear him expound on his theories and thoughts on this.

He lamented the state of beer in London in the mid 1960s, “the old small breweries have been largely swallowed up and their individual tastes have been replaced by mass produced flavours, which in London tend to be unpleasantly tinny, without any bouquet.”

It would be interesting to see what he makes of small brewery beer in 2016, and if modern keg offers something more appealing than the keg beer he hated in the sixties. So, I’d have Kernel Pale Ale Cascade on keg. I wonder what he would make of modern IPAs having such a huge bouquet.

Rebecca Dunne, ‘Becky’

Becky was the landlady of Becky’s Dive Bar, a south London outpost of real ale during the 1960s and 70s. I’m sure she would have some tales to tell about running a bar at that time, and bringing in beer that was rarely available in London.

Hunting out rare beer is obviously nothing new then, but I’d like her opinion of the Cloudwater brewery, who are producing wonderful, but also very sought-after, beers. I’d go for whatever DIPA they are producing now, and see how it compares to the cult beers of the past.

Kingsley Amis

Everyday Drinking is a key boozing text, Amis discussing drink, pubs and hangovers with some style and in some depth. I imagine he had a good few stories covering all the above, and would almost certainly offer some reflections on what makes a good pub.

As he rather infamously extolled the virtues of Special Brew within the pages of Everyday Drinking, I’d go for a more modern strong beer from another Danish brewer, a bottle of Beer Geek Breakfast from Mikkeller.

Bridget ‘Binnie’ Walsh

Another landlady, this time of the Harp in Charing Cross, a more modern bastion of real ale. While my other three guests would probably be considering the dark ages (in terms of real ale) of the sixties and seventies, Binnie would be well placed to discuss what happened next, and how real ale and real pubs can not only survive, but genuinely thrive, in a crowded marketplace.

As the Harp always seemed to have beer from some of the smaller, less hyped breweries, I’d offer her a cask pint of Old Mill Autumn Ale from my local brewery, Bexley Brewery. I suspect the others would enjoy this malty, warming take on a classic English bitter to round off the evening. I expect it would reassure them that traditional British local brewing is in good hands, and that while modern beer has gone in many directions, you can still get a good, honest pint of bitter.

Image from Internet Archive Book Images, via Flickr