Like comedians being asked to tell someone a joke, when I tell people I write about beer the question that inevitably comes back is “Well, what’s your favourite then?”. There’s so many ways to answer this. Firstly, I don’t really have one – new beers are coming out all the time – and attempting to try as many as possible always leads to good things. It also depends on the season – ask me around Christmas-time, and I probably would think for a while, and come back with something dark and roasty as my (current) favourite.
Having a favourite beer is about much more than the actual drink. Context is all important – the surroundings, the company, the service. Try drinking a bottle of Westvleteren 12 in a bus station during the evening rush hour – those mellow trappist notes will become dulled somewhat by the jostling crowds and discarded Metros fluttering around. That’s not to say an all-time favourite beer experience needs to involve trained sommeliers, hand-polished glassware, and a lecture from the head brewer – there can be a different kind of context.
With that in mind, one of the best beers I ever had was a Black Isle Blonde. A decent crisp lager – but one that not even the proudest native son of Munlochy would hail as the best in the world. However, a while ago, after my other half had emailed about a terrible day at work, I left early and picked up two bottles from an off-licence on the way to meet her. After the surprise, we sat on a wall round the corner from her office, swigging out of the bottles and eating a pack of salted McCoys.
So, if someone asks me what my favourite beer is – the official answer would be Tripel de Garre, served with a three-inch head and cubes of cheese at Staminee de Garre in Bruges. But not far behind, the bottle of Black Isle Blonde I drank in the sun behind Lothian Road, helping my girlfriend relax after a shitty day at work.