Sooner or later, every beer fan will fall into the situation I found myself in last Thursday at Islington’s Craft Beer Company. I say fall – more likely they will meticulously plan to be there rather than stumble across it, but sometimes these things do come around purely by chance. I’m talking, of course, about the happy accident of turning up at a public house to find some kind of monumentally exciting event taking place – as if you’d been guided there by a celestial beery force (as opposed to, say, Twitter). Trouble is, for one reason or another, you’d only planned for ‘a couple’. What to do?
Now, this term is something of a dirty one amongst the beer community, craft or otherwise. Binge drinking happens somewhere else, to other people, and involves unpleasant beverages of dubious ancestry. Beer fans don’t binge – we merely appreciate, faster. Given a single hour in CraftN1, a couple of relaxed halves between trains (mainline and tube) turned into a frantic, sudsy chase through pretty much every beer the peerless Thornbridge Brewery have turned their hand to recently. Pin back the liver and go for it. But is it acceptable?
After all, it’s not like I was drinking cheap cider. Admittedly, the beers I was gracefully pounding through were about as strong – and came carefully poured in branded tulip glasses. But, nevertheless, getting through that many in so short a space of time can only really fall into the ‘B’ column, so rounded upon by the gutter and hateful press. The fourth time I went back to the bar, the same chap who had served me the first three times acknowledged this with a slight, but perceptible, raise of the eyebrows and nod of respect.
I remember, last year, being in the Marble Arch in Manchester with my old man – who can get through bitter like a Dyson airblade working in reverse – as we table-shared with two rugby league fans attempting to drink each and every handpull. They’d started at the far left and were working their way along, troubled only when one they’d already polished off was replaced by something new. After brief discussion (to which we offered our opinions), they decided anything new from a handpull they’d previously visited was to be ordered, and drunk, immediately.
The thing is, the Warrington fans were going to be there for hours – they were awaiting the Challenge Cup final later that afternoon. On my visit to the Craft Beer Co, I had only a brief moment to try as many beers as I could. It pains me to say this, but I did what had to be done – to make efficient use of my limited drinking time, I ended up leaving some of the halves unfinished. For spellbinders like Twin Peaks – their collaboration with Sierra Nevada, I made a (wonderful) exception, though. But how many times will I get to try Thornbridge’s Weizenbock, or their 7% Imperial Rye ESB in Edinburgh? You weren’t there, man. You weren’t there. It had to be done.
Binge drinking is for teenagers. If you have purpose (and a smartphone), is it acceptable?