At the weekend I managed to get out and take care of a spot of gardening. An unusual sentence to open a beer blog, but it’s not all glittering saison launches and silent barrel-store contemplation. Sometimes, the knee-high weeds need to be removed (around once a year in our case, when the winter rain has given way to spring sleet). I was out there for about a couple of hours, creating a large empty patch of earth for the local cats to play in, before filling up the brown wheelie bin for the first time since we moved into the house in August. After finishing – and before trying to find the Council flyer that tells me what day the brown bins are emptied – I rewarded myself with a beer from the fridge (a can of Fourpure Southern Latitude) and went off to set the world to rights in some other manner.
It only hit me later that I didn’t even think, on the way to get that beer. It was automatic.
So is that bad? That when I’m after refreshment following a thirst-inducing job I turn not to the tap, but the fridge? After all, ‘lawnmower beer’ was a commonly-used stylistic term, roughly equating to the modern scourge/lightbulb moment ‘Session IPA’ (although without delving into back copies of the New York Times to discover when it was first used, the term seems to have now shifted slightly to the hopped-up lager and Kölsch end of the spectrum). And not that Southern Latitude is any of those things, either, as Fourpure tag it a ‘South Pacific Pale Ale’. It just seemed to fit the moment.
It’s an age-old stereotype – and one much used by advertisers, of course – that scratchy-throated work is best rewarded by cold suds. And maybe it was a co-incidence that the first bit of work I’ve taken care of that required me to use more than my fingertips* happened to co-incide with a fridge-load of beer in our house. Which obviously only occurs sporadically, as you can imagine. No, the thing that interested me was that mental shut-off – the reward was there, and I’d already subconsciously granted myself permission to seek it out – which explains why I was halfway down the can before I realised what had happened (sorry – halfway down the perfectly-poured beer-clean branded glassware).
So is beer the unthinking reward for dusty outdoor work? I think these adverts and popular thought all hinge on it’s immediacy. You finish a job, come in from a job, decide not to go to your job (or whatever) and cans of beer are just there. That little ringpull on your shoulder. There’s nothing else that comes close – you’re not going to start fiddling with lime and tonic in order to slake your thirst (despite G&T being the ultimate refresher, as far as I’m concerned). Tea doesn’t cool you down – I refuse to believe it does.
So what else is there? Water? Pfft. Make it taste of hops and I’ll get back to you. Once I’ve sorted out that other flowerbed…