Imagine the scene. You stumble out of the Pickled Partridge, moments after closing; the cask marque-stickered door thumping against your backside as Dave and Brenda’s tired pleading about drinking-up time fades in your ears. Next port of call, the kebab house. As you try to straighten up, and work out which direction it is, half a beer mat detaches itself sadly from your right elbow and flops into a puddle. A keen gust of wind picks up, propelling you across the empty car park, feet dancing the dance of the gently inebriated.
Halfway across the dark tarmac, though, the wind suddenly picks up. What had initially aided your passage now hinders your movements, a gale whipping to a furious intensity. From nowhere, electric-blue lightning forks off the lamp-posts, the pub sign, and the dripping bus stop. In front of your very eyes, twin trails of fire appear, flame licking off the car park. Just as you wonder if that sixth pint of Spoolman’s Old Throaty wasn’t such a good idea, a noise startles you – like a stadium of football fans performing a single clap at the same moment. A DeLorean roars to a halt, inches away. The door arches upwards.
“C’mon – get in! Where’d ya wanna go?”
If you had a beery time machine, where would you let it take you? What wonders would you flash back to re-visit? If you passed yourself, via some mind-bending temporal möbius strip, what advice would you give the younger, thinner, beer fan? How about these…
The first sip
I’d instantly head right back to the beginning – no, not that can of Elephant lager on the 8th green of Preston golf course – but the very, very beginning. Hang with the chimp-men as they fermented durian fruit. Take a turn at the cave mouth, protecting the Neanderthal’s first attempts at boiling up sweetened barley-water. Scribble notes in the corner, as the alewife goes about her business. Just think how many situations you could instantly become a part of – you could be a patriot and help the regency dandies formulate barley wine; watch the reactions following the first time hops were used; be a Trappist monk for a day, and work in a gift shop.
Get some facts
Assuming this past could be interacted with, as the DeLorean fires between the centuries, I’d very definitely have a couple of pints of Watney’s Red Barrel – just to see for myself how bad it was (and how similar it would be to craft keg). I’d also ship out on a cutter heading for the subcontinent, to judge for myself if that whole India Pale Ale thing really happened. The temptation to gather facts that you could use to win Twitter with would be overwhelming. If nothing else, you could become a Master Cicerone pretty much as soon as you got back to the pub cark park. Oh – and I’d also find out where the hell Black IPA came from.
Go to the future
Herbal beers and eighty different Edwardian milds can only hold the interest for so long, of course. Sooner or later, I’d have to push the gears forward, instead of back. See how many breweries the UK will have in 2100. Taste IPA in pill form. Take a turn with Beavertown’s ageing ray gun ‘Instant Imperial! Just point and shoot!’. See if Alcohol Concern really did get their sums right. Visit BrewDog Stranraer. The temptations would be endless. Will cans have conquered the world? Or will pewter goblets have come back in?
What would you do with a beer time machine? What wrongs would you right? Oh – that reminds me…
When in Belgium
Whilst dragging my other half to Cantillon, on a short weekend in Brussels, I wouldn’t go on maybe quite as much about how stupendous it was going to be – and I would definitely walk her down a backstreet that didn’t have a man with his cock out, pissing aggressively against a garage door…