I love good beer. Really love it. Ales mostly — nearly all the Fuller’s beers, Brains, Ruddles, almost any IPA, and lots of local brews including our own Gold Miner, by the Freeminer brewery in Cinderford — which I have just, as I am writing this article, discovered is 2.4 miles away from my house.
I’m also very fond of wine. But it rarely moves me in the same way that beer does, except for the very rare occasions that I’ve had the seriously good stuff. Oh, but, you know, now that I come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything in my life that worked on my palate, my gut and my soul quite like the one bottle of Penfolds Grange I’ve ever tasted. (Vince, if you’re reading this, a big thank you for getting hold of it! It lives on in the memory. Stupidly, I don’t remember what vintage it was, which is particularly important with Grange. Oh well.) And more than once I’ve had a seemingly unprovoked Taste Flashback of the Hunter Estate chardonnay that I last tasted 17 years ago, and haven’t come across since 1993.
So maybe in a sense I love wine more than beer, even.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is this: I’d like to drink less. For the sake of long-term health, and also to save money. But everything else that I drink seems so pale and characterless compared with the richness, complexity and intensity of a good beer or wine. Fruit juices are OK, but their appeal is very simple: there’s no depth to their flavours. Although I do like juices, and drink quite a lot of orange, pear, grapefruit and pineapple, I think of them as desserts — something that’s a nice complement to the meatier main course, but no substitute for it.
Don’t get me started on sodas.
So I have two questions.
1. Since alcohol is flavourless, why is it that all the most interesting-tasting drinks have alcohol in them?
2. Can anyone recommend other things to drink? Drinks without alcohol, but which have the weight and structure and sheer substance of a good beer?
(For once the sushi is relevant: it’s the food that most nearly evokes in me the same emotions as a really superb beer.)