Monday, September 30, 2013


My uncle Harold, a Yorkshireman of the old school, who was a steelworker, had two traits that are relevant to this post.  The first, he called everybody “Boss,” except of course for his actual boss in the steelworks.  Secondly he was the most obsessive beer connoisseur that anybody in the family had ever met.  This is one of the pubs he often drank in.  It used to be called the Shakespeare, now it’s The Shakey.  Sign of the times innit?

It was said around the pubs and clubs of Sheffield that uncle Jim should have been a professional.  He brought the same attention and expertise to beer tasting that others brought to the very finest wines.  Uncle Harold died before the Internet really took off and I don’t imagine he’d have been a fan, but these days there are any number of beer-related websites that obsess about beer in ways that even he would have thought were going a bit far.

 Here in the USA, Saturday September 28th was National Drink Beer Day.  This had very little to do with my visiting Jons, our local all-purpose “ethnic” supermarket, by which I mean it caters for a great many ethne (yep, that’s the plural of ethnos – I just looked it up).  You want half a sheep’s head?  You want some Guatemalan sausage?  You want a vast selection of Arak?  This is the place to go.  You want some Polish beer?  Ditto. 

And so, on National Drink Beer Day I found myself drinking Polish Boss Beer, made in Witnica.  It was a good strong lager, 8.10 ABV, sweet but not too sweet, and although you knew you were drinking a serious beer, you didn’t feel you were going to end up in the gutter, in a stupor.  The people over at (should you care about the opinions of beer drinkers you don’t know) are not especially keen.  One of the reviewers says, “Overall, this is quite a poor beer with a really weird pickle-like smell and flavors that make this one a chore to drink.”

Later that same evening I watched the  “camp classic” movie The Big Cube one of those psychedelic angst fests from the late sixties, which takes a fairly ordinary plot and then shoehorns LSD into the scenario.  This one had Lana Turner in it, as the widow who won’t hand over her money to her daughter who wants to marry George Chakiris, and so he doses her (Lana) with acid to make her think she’s going mad.  It’s kind of like Gaslight with ergot.

But, and here’s a thing, and the only reason I mention it, there’s a certain amount of beer drinking in the movie.  People drop sugar cubes into their beer, which is drunk from strangely spherical beer glasses.  You get some idea from this screenshot:

“Sugar in beer, what a groovy idea,” says the ingénue: little does she know.  Well it all turns out sort of OK for Lana Turner, though I must say that by the end I wasn’t following things all the closely.  I did like the look of those beer glasses though. (Forget about the lightweights at the back with the coffee cups).

Anyway, next day, Sunday September 29th clearly was not National Drink Beer Day (though only another 364 days till the next one) but while at Jons, I’d also bought myself a bottle of Black Boss Porter.  Hard to decide whether that name is politically incorrect or not, but let’s say not. 

It thought it was damn good, and the folks at beeradvocate tend to agree.  One of the reviewers really expresses himself over this one:  “Burnt umber liquid, dark but clear with a thick finger of soapy khaki up top. Sticky fluffy lacing, superior retention.  Melanoidin rich, yet soft malt in the nose with a hint of toasted oats, light chocolate, and tobacco. Clean but inviting. Sweet palate entry with a massive kick of sweet malt and alcohol. An explosion of brown sugar with plenty of fusels subsiding to a slightly dry finish full of black bread with hints of rye, wheat, and pepper. Low bitterness though I can almost detect a hint of chive-like hops in there. Maybe just a whisper of diacetyl.”
Melanoidin? Fusels? Diacetyl?  My uncle Harold would have had a fit.  Has this guy taken acid or what?


  1. First week of term so I nearly missed this, but The Big Cube sounds like essential viewing & I'm downloading it as I type. Entertaining as ever, Geoff. Good luck with the new book.

    1. Thanks David, you won't regret the Big Cube, believe me - there's a Pirandellian streak in there too (if that's your thing).