Out in the Cold

When is the very worst time to be a beer drinker?

For every moment you’re about to operate heavy machinery or have been talked into giving up beer for Lent – or as we now call it, Dry January, there is a much worse occasion for the beer lover – and (unlike Dry January) it is one that comes to us all eventually. I’m talking about the common cold. Those who catch full-on flu won’t ever think of that newly-acquired New England IPA blazing down from their beer shelf with reckless abandon – they are too busy splintering into shivery pieces in bed to worry about gaudy can artwork and the nuance of stone fruit flavours.

But for those people who catch the far less sinister cold, they have a dilemma. Not ill enough to ignore booze’s sweet release and yet not well enough to open a farmhouse ale with joyful adventure they are caught between a rock (craft beer) and a hard place (being unwell). It is the worst of all worlds. I mean, you need something to make you feel better – and shouting at Jeremy Kyle isn’t going to cut it. For all the unending sympathy and kind words your partner has for you as soon as the sniffles arrive, there’s a lot to be said for being able to relax in the loving embrace of a barrel-aged imperial stout.

And yet there are plenty of major drawbacks with this. Arguably top of the list are the potential side-effects of mixing that imperial walnut kriek with Lemsip Maxx Strength. Not in terms of the half-kilo of paracetamol contained in the latter – much worse is the clash of lemon and cherry on your palate. There’s also the more fundamental way in which beer and colds don’t mix – you can’t taste much. I’m not descending into craft beer wankery with the inability to detect the ‘top notes of sea herbs’ or the ‘Peruvian cacao…no, it’s *sniff* Chilean cacao’ as much as any light beer tastes like lemonade shandy and any dark beer like week-old Dandelion & Burdock.

Then there’s the booze itself. Whilst you want a comforting embrace – again that your partner gives you every ten minutes to ensure you aren’t suffering alone – the alcohol in your beer of choice seems to end up in all the wrong places. The backs of your knees ache, the sore head somehow becomes compounded rather than soothed, and you instantly feel drowsy and more awake than ever at the same time. The plain and simple fact of the matter is that beer drinking whilst you have a cold just isn’t fun. And if drinking isn’t fun then what the hell is the point of doing it?*

*Answer: to look cool. And chunky dressing-gowns and four-day underwear don’t help in that regard.

Anyone looking for a Dragon’s Den idea could adopt this one – the lemon saison cold remedy. Brew and then powder-up a spritzy, refreshing Paracetamol golden ale and just add warm water for that immediate relief from symptoms and kiss of sweet alcohol we all need now and again (or every day). Maybe introduce a blackcurrant porter as well – blend the cold-relief medication with perfectly-balanced flavours and sub-4% ABV into a sachet and it will make you feel better and give you the beer you are sorely missing.

Otherwise, just let nature take its course and eventually you can get to that cardboard tower of curated beer club arrivals that are blocking your front porch from the outside world. If nothing else they have formed a useful barrier to having anybody from the outside world catch a glimpse of your supernoodle-encrusted face for the last week or so. And once your tastebuds feel better, have at it and just try to forget those dark few days when a virus that has been around since the dawn of time prevented you from tasting IPA for a few days. Stay strong.

In unrelated news, I have a cold at the moment. #PrayforRichard

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