We were talking about the principle of “conversion beers” – that first amazing craft beer that you have that converts the drinker to good beer forever. For some, it’s a slow process. However, for many, with some thought, we can often drill down to the exact moment, the exact beer when we couldn’t go back.
This article is part of an ongoing series about “conversion beers” – the story of getting hooked on great craft beer. To see all articles, go here.
It was difficult at first to find that ‘light bulb moment’ when I tasted something that made me switch from cooking lager and on to the good stuff. Obviously I started wracking my brain and realised that it wasn’t one but two events that led me to where I am at right now.
Like most young un’s I started out drinking what I now call cooking lager, it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s fizzy, it contains alcohol. Cooking lager is basically one step above injecting alcohol directly into your vein and only marginally more fun.
At the age of about 23/24 I met a bloke called Richard Simpson, a proud Yorkshireman who insisted that what I drank was utter arse and that it was time I tasted something, anything at all, whilst getting drunk. Being belligerent, aggressive (another smashing side effect of cooking lager) and drunk I dismissed his bitter drinking as flat cap wearing nonsense, a throwback to a bygone era.
It is to Simmo’s credit that he persisted and I moved, grudgingly, to drinking Tetley’s. Tetley’s, for those of you that don’t know, is a traditional English ale, smooth, malty, a true session ale. My dad used to say that you would drown before you got drunk. So there I was, a card carrying member of CAMRA, extolling the virtues of bitter to anyone that would listen whilst ignoring the irony of the fact I had only been on the stuff for a matter of months myself.
Unbeknownst to me there was a change coming, Tetley’s had long be owned by Danish lager whores, Carlsberg, but was still brewed in Leeds City Centre. It had been talked about for a long time but nothing had ever happened, now, however, it was happening; Carlsberg were selling the brewery! The Danish swines. So, in true Yorkshire style, once the last batch had been brewed and the whole shebang shipped off somewhere down South, we stopped drinking Tetley’s… How could we continue?
There was no was that way we patriotic Yorkshiremen could continue drinking a bastardised version of something that our fathers and our grandfathers had drunk for centuries. Luckily, the micro-breweries in the area saw this happening and each of those, of which there are many, started creating their own Tetley’s substitute (Leeds Best was my favourite). What it really meant was that we consumers now had a choice, instead of looking for the huntsman on the wickets, we opened our eyes, a whole new world opened up to us, we were no longer tied to the drink that defined us. We miss Tetley’s and mourn its passing every day, but it is not necessarily a bad thing.
So, for me, the real light bulb moment, the real conversion beer, came with my first ever taste of Jaipur by Thornbridge Brewery at a pub in Huddersfield. It was expertly pulled through a sparkler into a tulip glass resulting in a thick and creamy head. It was wonderful.