Thursday 12 September 2013

The betrayal of the cursed Bayern beer bottle!

I can’t afford Sky Sports, so any live football involving either Chelsea or England on terrestrial TV is a source of excitement in this house, as well as a chance to indulge our English palettes.

As many Irish people know, when you live away from the country of your birth, there exists a comfortable nostalgia for the ways of the old country. So before Chelsea’s thrilling encounter with European Champions Bayern Munich a couple of weeks ago, I spread the coffee table with plates of pork pies, Scotch eggs, pickled onions and Branston pickle. Then, lifting my 1970s dimpled glass pint mug, I slowly poured out a bottle of Fullers London Pride.

One of the few English beers available in Irish supermarkets, London Pride may not be a supreme beer, but to someone who yearns for real ale, it goes down a treat. Also, it’s brewed in Chiswick, west London, close enough to Chelsea to feel local.

Sad to admit, but I was twitching with excitement. Much as I enjoy the craic watching footie in pubs, as a lifetime fan of the game there’s little I love as much as watching a Chelsea game unfold properly, at home. Everything was prepared so that I could sit on my voluptuous arse throughout the match.

Just before kick-off I decided to build up the fire. As I stood up my foot got caught in the phone cord, which tripped the little table, which threw the entire pint of Fullers London Pride all over the floor, phone, coffee table and ... just bloody everywhere. My eyes tried to follow the beery tidal trail, marvelling for a second at just how far a single pint of liquid can travel.

Then I moved like the wind.

From the age of 17 I worked in bars, so spilled beer was nothing new to me. Zooming into the kitchen, I grabbed the mop, bucket and wooden floor cleaner and set about an emergency operation.

The teams were already coming out, but UEFA were throwing a razzmatazzy party to celebrate this coming together of footballing giants. Good, that’d take a while.

Mop, rinse, mop, rinse, then out with the lavender wooden floor spray, because after years of opening up pubs in the morning, I know only too well the stink stale beer leaves on a floor. Mop, dry, into the kitchen to dump the filthy mop in the sink, and finally sit down, breathe out, say bollocks out loud and stand up yet again, to get another bottle of beer, because after all that stress I really needed one now.

Just typical. The one thing I’d been looking forward to and tried to set up so that  -
Oh give the whinging a rest man. Football’s on.

The Snapper arrived back from work just before kick off and we sat and watched a thrilling first half, in which Bayern Munich had all the possession and made twice the amount of passes that Chelsea achieved, but Chelsea scored the goal.

Even though my beer was going down a treat, part of me yearned for a proper pint. The hand pumps you see in English pubs draw real ale along the lines, finishing at a little valve called a sparkler, which sucks air into the beer as it flows into the glass. In namby-pamby Southern pubs, the sparkler is set really loose, so the pumps are easy to pull and the beer floods out uninhibited.

So it wasn’t until I moved north that I discovered how real ale should really be poured. When I went for a job at the Peel pub in Bradford, West Yorkshire, the landlady told me to pull a pint for her. Sure, no problem, I’ve pulled thousands and - ooeerrr!

She laughed as I struggled to pull the handle down. In the north, they tighten their sparklers to the max, making the pump the super-stiff. The beer then hisses as it slowly fills the glass, forming a thick creamy pint of bitter that needs time to settle and clear, like a pint of Guinness.

I’d poured and drunk the very same bitter in London, but it had never looked so good in its glass nor tasted so fine in my mouth as that proper northern pint.

I got the job and withstood the inevitable barrage of abuse that any London boy would endure from Yorkshire ‘regs’ in their local.

Everyone had their own bar stool and their own style. At the far right of the bar sat Jeb, a softly-spoken philosophical genius of a man. Every day I’d bottle up 9 bottles of Carlsberg Special Brew on a shelf just for him, so he could drink them warm.

Then there was tall Tony, the Wizard we called him, with his long white hair and beard.
“Ere Chaaarlie!” he drawled, handing me back the pint I’d just poured for him, “Can you drop a whiskey in there fr’us?”
“‘Course I can Tony.”
“Well then top it up with beer ye prat. Asked for a pint, didn’t I, not half ‘alf a bleedin’ pint.”

Meanwhile, back in my living room, Bayern Munich had scored a equalizer in the second half and Chelsea’s Ramires had been sent off. When the whistle blew at 90 minutes, the score was 1-1. Chelsea were heading into Extra Time with only 10 players.

There’d be a few minutes before the game resumed, so I dashed off into the kitchen to rinse out the beer-drenched mop, because I knew it’d smell wretched, but as I lifted it out of the sink it hit the bucket, which hit the empty beer bottle, which flew into the air and fell onto the kitchen floor, shattering into thousands of beery shards of broken glass.

That same bloody bottle, spilled and then shattered at each end of the match. 
Maybe it wasn’t brewed in Chiswick any more. 
Maybe London Pride was now brewed in Munich. 
Maybe that bloody beer bottle was an inanimate Bayern fan. 
Maybe this was now a game that required Irish whiskey.

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