It’s coming up to a year since the first lockdown started, so what better time than to reflect on everything that has (or rather, hasn’t) happened in the last 12 months.
As I look back I realise now that despite pubs being close for the most part, I actually spent most of my time – and I imagine I’m not the only one – drinking. Mainly beer. It was the week after Sheffield Beer Week 2020 that we heard the news that pubs would close. I remember it being mentioned a few weeks prior that they should be avoided, but this did not stop Sheffielders from getting the pints in! How could you avoid bars when you knew that an obscure Luminous Green Sasion from Belgium was available for a limited time only or there was a tasting event of spontaneously fermented stout to attend?
We had just had our second Peddler of the year, so I had booked the entire week off to spend as much time in the pubs as possible and try as much as I could. During this week, I started to take notes on the beers that I drank, thus becoming the very antithesis of what my younger beer drinking self would never have imagined – a ticker. What I once thought was lame and pointless (and still kind of do) now became a vital accompaniment to every sip of something interesting.
Then the pubs shut. At first I saw this as a shame because I had just taken up my new hobby, but I would no longer be able to drink beers in the pub. I quickly realised that I could actually just drink at home! And I did, a lot. The hobby quickly became an obsession (there wasn’t anything else to do okay!) and I think over the year I made several purchases from all the purveyors of bottles and canned beer in and around Sheffield. I finished one note book very quickly (they’re only small), and the notes became a spreadsheet! That’s right, I have a spreadsheet of all the beers I drank in the last year. It is ridiculous and I will accept any insults or criticism for my actions.
Anyway, with all this ‘research’ and ‘experience’, when the concept of opening a bottle shop was mentioned, I was into the idea. Overall I sampled around 150 + beers during the period from the first lockdown started to my writing this right now. These beers have come in many forms, from cans and bottles, to milk cartons from pubs selling off their draught stock, to 750ml sharing bottles of obscure brews purchased down some seedy alleyway or off the dark web for bitcoins. Drank on celebrations of lockdown birthdays, seeing friends for the first time in months or, you know, a Wednesday. It seemed like during the lockdown periods there were no rules.
Its hard to see what its going to be like going back to a pub for real after developing certain drinking habits that are better off kept at home away from others, but until I can hold a murky pints of something brown in my hand again I’m content sticking to the stupid collection I’ve built up of bottles and cans.
Here are some of beers that I marked as 10/10 in my notes (of course I gave them marks out of 10 – I know, its stupid). There’s 5 of them, you could even say its a top 5….
Fiona – Saison 6.6%
Most of Yonders beers are great. I enjoyed this by myself on a bench at the end of an alleyway with a book in the sun. I got some funny looks off the dog walkers that day out for their 1 hour of outdoor recreation. It suppose it was 9am….
Untitled Art x Forager Brewing (US)
Florida Weisse v3 – Sour Berliner Weisse 4.8%
Brewed with passionfruit, pink guava, and cranberries. Tart and tropical. The first entry in my notebook from lockdown #1 and what a good start! Back when we thought it was only going to last for a month.
Rose De Gambrinus – Raspberry Lambic 5.5%
Probably my favourite on this list. It’s even got a naughty picture on the front! As well as having had it in bottle form, I actually had the chance to try this on draught during the period between lockdowns.
3 Fonteinen (Belgium)
Cuvee Armand & Gaston – Gueuze Lambic 5.5%
We opened this when the first lockdown was eased ever so slightly and we could see friends outdoors. A great celebration beer in a wine sized bottle.
Neon Raptor (UK):
Twerking Turkeys – Cherry, Cranberry and Plum Lassi Gose 6.5%
This one came out around Christmas, when we were half in, half out of lockdown. Very confusing – the situation and the beer, which has so much going on but somehow manages to make it work.
“Although I specialise in mixology, I also have a lot of experience in the craft beer and wine world. Not only is it a big part of my job but also my life. I follow the scenes quite closely and am constantly looking out for something exciting. I am a closet beer ticker and, sadly, keep constant documentation of what I drink.”