22 December 2017
Greg Denieffe puts on his beer glasses.
‘Happy Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’, whichever you prefer at this time of year, I hope you find time to raise a glass in celebration. I’m sure, I’m not alone amongst the HTBS crew when it comes to enjoying an occasional libation. As Woody Allen said ‘Man cannot live by bread alone. Sometimes there must be beverage.’ Here are a few suggestions of drinks that float my boat.
MALFY Gin – Lemon zing with a background of juniper.
MALFY Gin is made in Moncalieri on the outskirts of Turin by Torino Distillati. The distillery was first established in 1906 and has changed hands several times over the years. It was originally a small batch product, little known outside its local area but in recent years its availability has spread … even to Milton Keynes. I came across the ‘Con Limone’ version on the internet at the beginning of the year and decided to treat myself. I saved all my pocket money and in August I found a bottle for sale in a local supermarket. I left the shop £28 poorer but happy not to have the fuss of online ordering.
The MALFY Crest is a tribute to a famous rowing race held each year between the four ancient kingdoms of Italy. The colours chosen for the labelling represent the Mediterranean Ocean and the lemons used in the blend. Yes, the packaging is impressive and if like me you enjoy a traditional G&T with a twist of lemon, this blend won’t be a disappointment.
The Palio [Regatta] of the Ancient Maritime Republics is a competition of galleons with eight rowers, between the crews of the cities of Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice in a historical re-enactment established in 1955 – each city taking it in turn to host the event. Each of the four boats is ordained with a sculpted figurehead at the prow of the boat proudly declaring the boat’s alliance: the winged horse (Amalfi), the winged dragon (Genoa), the eagle (Pisa) and the lion (Venice).
FULLER’S Oliver Island – Golden colour with citrus aromas, grapefruit flavour with a crisp, malty finish.
I remember clearly the day I discovered Fullers’ summer beer, Oliver’s Island. The Rio Olympic rowing course was misbehaving and the women single scullers were fighting conditions that organisers of a local two-bob regatta would have had no hesitation in declaring as unfair. I was home watching TV, giddy with anticipation but with every passing heat I grew more vocal in my criticism of the ‘fairness’ committee and eventually decided that a trip to a canal-side pub was all that would save the day – after all, I had taken a week’s annual leave to watch the rowing. After failing to find the hostelry I had in mind, I decided that the next canal side-pub serving food that I encountered would do (any port in a storm). And so, it came to pass that I ended up in The Grove Lock outside Leighton Buzzard. Serendipity struck me hard as soon as I spied the beautiful Oliver’s Island beer pump badge and within a few minutes a pint of the golden nectar was sitting in front of me. I usually prefer the darker beers and Fullers certainly know how to brew those but in the interest of research I threw myself into the ‘light-side’ and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is a perfect beer for summer outdoor drinking.
Fuller’s website describes the beer thus:
The latest Fuller’s ale to make its bow, Oliver’s Island is a crisp, thirst quenching beer that draws inspiration from a local landmark. Every day, rowers glide serenely past the Griffin Brewery towards the island in the Thames – reminding us just what can be achieved by pulling together.
Fuller’s has been brewing beer in Chiswick since 1845 and I doubt you will find a better pint than their London Pride. Situated on the banks of the Thames, it is no surprise that they have an interest in rowing which has its spiritual home on its doorstep. They have sponsored the Head of the River Fours since 1979 and host the prize giving to the pennant winners in their Hock Cellar at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick a couple of months after the November race.
BRAKSPEAR – A ‘Strong and Stable’ supporter of rowing in Henley.
Brakspear beer, in one guise or another, was in Henley-on-Thames before the regatta or rowing as we know it found its way to the town. Their old brewery in New Street is only a stone’s throw from the various finish lines of HRR and their link to Henley Rowing Club is even stronger, having been their landlord from 1903 until 1986. From the club’s website:
Henley Rowing Club has been closely associated with Henley’s Brakspear’s Brewery. In 1903, Brakspear and Sons, in order to resolve both the money and storage problems, offered to provide part of the Brewery premises, the stables at the corner of New Street and Riverside North, as a boathouse at a nominal rent. The Little White Hart became the Clubs “Headquarters” and we lived there until 1986 with the stables for boat storage and the hayloft as changing rooms. Boats had to be carried across the road to reach the river with someone directing traffic on the corner.
Brakspear now brew their excellent beers in Witney, Oxfordshire and whilst a pint of their Bitter can still be enjoyed all year round, at this time of year they produce a fine seasonal ale called Oh Be Joyful – ‘Guaranteed to get you feeling festive, or at least make you feel better after the Christmas shopping, this rich fruity spiced ale is dark and complex with a warming finish’ – and it is one of the reasons for my annual Christmas shopping trip to Henley.
|Don’t Worry, be Hoppy. Two of my souvenir photographs of HRR. Photos: Greg Denieffe (30 June 2017).|
I do have one gripe and it is that you can no longer get Brakspear Bitter in HRR’s Stewards’ Enclosure. It is available in the shopping village but I know from experience that that is a poor substitute for the Bridge Bar.
THE BOSTON BEER COMPANY Samuel Adams Boston Lager – A perfectly balanced and complex original brew (according to sales blurb).
|Shurely shome mishtak.|
Samuel Adams Boston Lager, the original beer of The Boston Beer Company, makes an appearance here by stealth. I have not had the pleasure myself, but this year they introduced a speciality glass that is designed to enhance the flavour of the beer. I’m all for proper glass etiquette and a matching glass for your beer is always an added bonus. I don’t know if this beer has any rowing pedigree – perhaps it is popular during the Head of the River Charles – but that glass reminded me of someone with rowing connections – cheers Tim!
|On the left, Jim Koch (Illustration by John Cuneo), the founder of The Boston Beer Company and on the right, a similarly named man that knows a good beer when he sees one. Well what’s one letter between friends when there’s beer at stake!|
WINDSOR & ETON BREWERY Eton Boatman – Fresh, clean and full of flavour.
Since its foundation in 2010, Windsor & Eton Brewery has been focusing on high quality beer with a local emphasis. As part of the legal requirement to use the word ‘Windsor’ in the brewery name – it’s a sensitive word under legislation that requires approval from the Cabinet Office because of the royal link – the brewing site had to be located in the town.
Eton Boatman has a fresh clean and full flavoured taste. Made with a combination of American Citra hops with citrus flavours, and Australian Galaxy hops with hints of exotic fruit.
Originally brewed to celebrate the fact that all the 2012 London Olympic rowing events were taking place at Dorney Lake – less than a mile away from the brewery. By popular demand it is now produced every summer as the perfect seasonal cask beer.
GUINNESS – Distinctively dark, with a rich creamy head – delicious!
‘Ta siad ag teacht’ (They’re on their way/They’re coming).
Forty years ago, in 1977, Guinness released a short television advert called The Island. It features a currach with a keg of Guinness on board being rowed out to Inis Meáin (pronounced ‘Inish Maan’), the largest of the Aran Islands, situated off the west coast of Ireland, whilst the locals wait patiently for the arrival of the precious cargo. If I remember correctly, Guinness didn’t travel very well in the 1970s – I dread to think how it would have poured after a bouncy sea crossing in a currach. Pouring the perfect pint of Guinness is an art and if you want to fit in on an Irish round, you best be able to discuss the finer points of the skill, like how it was performed by the bar tender, the shape of the glass (tulip or straight), the head on the pint and how well it keeps its rings after each mouthful. The Japanese tea ceremony has nothing on the Guinness drinking ritual.
JAMES MULHERN & Co Dry Ginger Ale – One for the non-drinkers of Christmas past.
Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is home to Enniskillen Royal Boat Club, the rowing club of Enniskillen Royal Grammar School (founded in 2016 following a merger of Portora Royal School and Enniskillen Collegiate Grammar). There was rowing at Portora from at least the 1850s and according to an old school website ‘there is a picture of a six training on the lake from the second half of the 19th century. The arrival of A. C. McDonnell as Headmaster from Armagh in 1904 heralded the start of the modern boat club’. Of course, young boys at Portora would not have had the slightest interest in beer but perhaps they may have been tempted by the locally brewed Dry Ginger Ale. I’m certainly tempted by the poster produced by James Mulhern & Co to promote their ‘Ale’. The company certainly existed from 1918 to 1961 (the Public Record Office of NI hold their financial records for this period) and the attractive poster probably dates to the middle of this period.
Whatever you put in your glass this Christmas, I hope you can join me in raising it to those at Buckhorn Towers that keep the Hear The Boat Sing show on the road – Skål.