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Monday, 18 April 2016

Beer - a Few Thoughts

I was weaned on beer.  From about my 10th birthday my parents were in the Hospitality industry, first when my dad was steward of the Stourbridge Institute and Social Club, and then running a 26 bedroom brewery owned hotel named the Bell Hotel (with 5 bars!). The Bell was tied to the Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery, whose Banks' Best Bitter was my beer of choice for a number of years when at home until I finally left the UK  for warmer climes in 1972. Not that that was the only beer I experienced. I was one of a crowd of young adults who spent a lot of time meeting in a number of different pubs - I recall the Crown at Iverley, the Navigation, The Plough at Claverley and the Unicorn in Wollaston village. Our favorite beverage when on pub crawls was either draft Bass or Worthington E.

After joining the Royal Navy in 1964 I was introduced to a wider variety of beers. My first encounter with beers during my naval career was at the Floaters (The Floating Bridge Inn) in Dartmouth while I was at Britannia Royal Naval College, though I can't recall the brand of beer that they served back then. After my introductory Officer's Course I moved to Malta for several months for the Naval Observer's Course, and it was here that I was introduced to Cisk lager. On the completion of that course I was posted to the Royal Naval Air Station at Lossiemouth in Morayshire, then home of the Buccaneer strike aircraft, and it was here that I tasted my first Scottish beers, Youngers and McEwans ales. Three tours on aircraft carriers to the Far East brought me into contact with Tiger (Singapore), Tusker (Mombasa, Kenya), Fosters (Perth & Sydney, Australia), San Miguel (Subic Bay, Philippines) and a cluster of others in Hong Kong, New Zealand and other ports of call.

My emigration from the UK to Rhodesia in 1972 and later to South Africa marked the start of a dearth of good beers. The sum total being Lion and Castle lagers in both countries and Zambezi in Rhodesia. There is little doubt in my mind that South African Breweries "powers that be" lack imagination, and there is certainly room for the development of craft beers, of which there are none at all in that country. This scarcity was to last until I relocated to the United States some 42 years later.

Some of the beers in my closet
Up here in New England there are, without any doubt, some of the best beers I have ever tasted, as well as scores that I have yet to sample. Craft beers are a big thing here, and there is a huge variety to choose from. The average price of a box of 12 beers in New Hampshire is around $12, which works out to 66p for a 355ml bottle, although a few weeks ago I found some at a local market selling at $5 for a case of 12. The most common and popular beers are around 5.5% to 6% alcohol by volume, although I have found one or two on the Internet  as high as 18%!

It has been interesting doing some of the research for this article. Only when I started researching the names of some of the foreign beers I had forgotten, did I discover that a number of countries are turning towards craft beers. Also some countries, such as Belgium, have beers that go back many hundreds of years. Australia surprised me with a huge number of craft beers. Much as I'd like to taste some of the older beers of Belgium and the many varieties of craft beer in Oz, I will have to be content with what is available locally - and there is plenty to choose from without having to resort to to such common brands as Budweiser or Millers.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Passing of Time

It's been a while since I last (metaphorically) put pen to paper - mea culpa! Time flies past so quickly these days. I have been busy putting together a new website for a veterinary clinic in the Northeast Kingdom (for those of you who are not familiar with where that is, it is in northern Vermont next to the border with Canada).

The passage of time is perceived differently by every individual. It has been theorized that the brain compares the passage of a fixed length of time with the total length of time it has experienced since birth. Thus an hour for a three year old is an eternity, whereas for an old-timer like me it passes in the mere blink of an eyelid. The older you get, the faster time appears to pass by.

I have been reading some interesting things about time of late. Mostly in the context of space-time and Quantum theory. Time, of course, is your most valuable asset - more valuable than money. No matter who you are, you should make the best possible use of the time that you have been given, for you never know when it is going to be taken away from you. You can never guarantee how much time you have remaining. Eventually each of us will run out of time - that's guaranteed. I recall vividly from many years ago the time when I was on a dummy strike mission in a navy jet when, during a dummy dive bombing attack, we were hit by a second aircraft. In this particular case both aircraft landed safely, but I worked out from the size and position of the dent on my aircraft and its speed at the time that I had come within one hundredth of a second of a very untimely death.

Of course suddenly having your time taken away from you can happen at any time and to anyone. It can happen crossing the road or in your sleep, in an earthquake or a thunderstorm, Only the very old, the very sick or those who have decided that they want no more time are aware of its impending demise. My message is - while you still have it, make the best of the time you have been given.