I’m happy to confess to being a beer drinker, lager in fact, but when I say I’m happy I don’t mean a langers-drunk, falling around, laughing helplessly, kind of happy. Instead I’m just a contented pint man.
Well I was until last March that is. As I got older, (not too old mind), my capacity began to shrink bit by bit so that before my sixties a ten-pint piss up was forever off the menu. Then eight became a struggle until now a session of six pints must be spaced out over many hours to be enjoyed. The ideal for me is two pints early on and perhaps another two over the rest of the evening. So I can safely say I haven’t been drunk for a very long time but a feeling of being tipsy is something I like and it doesn’t take too much for me to achieve that.
Like most young men, I had a sweet tooth around the time I first tasted a beer and I was genuinely surprised and disgusted by the taste of it. That many men could appear to quaff gallons of that bitter poison at one sitting was a mystery to me. At the time I would have gladly exchanged six pints of beer for a single glass of red lemonade, (popular in Cork still), or a ‘real Coca Cola’.
But a bit like smoking, it took persistence to understand the appeal of beer, so I persisted. In this country, (and the UK), we have a pub culture. That today refers to “wet pubs” that sell drink only but they will have peanuts and Tayto’s as a cursory nod to a food menu. These were the venues where you went to consume beer. My earliest memories are of smoke-filled bars full of men chatting quietly, arguing passionately, laughing wildly and generally winding each other up for the ‘craic’. Those pubs tended to be a warm welcoming shelter on a cold wet night where you could meet your mates, exchange views on everything while slowly getting happier and happier. It was the late seventies by the time the ladies began to trickle in and they had the effect of slightly altering the dynamic without destroying the culture.
And, of course, that culture is the point. The beer in isolation is not much use to you. Without the attendant good company, convivial atmosphere and the familiar warmth of human interaction, the pint is a pretty pointless thing. I’d always kind of known this but had never brought it to the frontal lobes for thorough examination before. It took a pandemic with the resultant lockdowns to drive home the message. Beer and socialising go hand in hand. If I develop that thought though I find that beer is not essential for socialising but socialising is essential for beer.
During these past three lockdowns I have gone walking several times a day during which I meet many people and socialise, (lightly). It is fine and good as far as it goes. But I miss meeting up with my two Saturday/Sunday lunchtime pint mates. The two to three pints with Jim and Noel on the high stool at those times can sustain a fellow through the dry week to come with the prospect of more fun next weekend. When I think of pints now, that’s what I think of, not the insipid cold can from my own fridge.
Somehow the lockdown lager doesn’t taste the same.