“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Monday, April 25, 2011

By George!

The other day I went out for a drink with my old buddy Andy to The Vine, a place I have mentioned on a few occasions on this here bloggity blog. While we were there having a quiet drink the landlord Steve said hi to me and asked if we were coming to the Beer festival on the 23rd. At this my ears perked up. "What's that ya say?" quoth I. "Beer? Festival? Two of my favourite words together as one? This can only mean good things!".

So, long story short, Laura and I ended up toddling along to the Beer Fest on St. George's Day.

*sound of needle skittering across vinyl*

"Hold up, Jeff! St. George's Day? Was ist das, mein Herr? etc."

Well, to tell you the truth, I always thought St. George's Day was in May, so I need to do a little research.

Saint George is the patron saint of England and as such is celebrated on his death each 23 April. This is also celebrated as the day of birth and death of William Shakespeare.

Apparently, in 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon. Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).Certain English soldiers displayed the pennant of St George.  In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.

St George's Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century.The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1552 The Bishop of London tried to suppress the celebration of St George's Day: "wher as it hathe bene of ane olde costome that sent Gorge shulde be kepte holy day thorrow alle Englond, the byshoppe of London commandyd that it shulde not be kepte, and no more it was not" (from the 'Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London'). In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Popularity of the holiday waned during the 18th and 19th centuries but recently it has enjoyed increasing popularity.

So there you have it.

Anyway - where was I?

Ah yes - The Vine.

As we entered I looked down towards the beer garden where the band were playing. I knew they'd be interesting because of their name - "Madame Molotov". I could see that the bassist had a mohawk and the guy standing next to him was playing an accordion. I wasn't wrong. As I watched them later in the beer garden the accordionist switched to sax and there was also a guitarist who also played various percussion instruments and a drummer who had percussion instruments around him too. Their music was sort of indefinable, with elements of rock, jazz, polka, klezmer, African rhythms... very cool and listenable.

Then we saw the small blackboards on the bar displaying the names of the guest beers.

Royal Wedding Ale, a limited edition cask beer, specially brewed by Shepherd Neame to mark the occasion of the Royal Nuptials. At 4.7% it's got quite a bit of poke to it, and it's an incredibly hoppy yet smooth drink and I had downed my first pint before I knew it.

Dragonfire,  which was the next one I tried. Special St.George's Day brew.
Very nice beer, a bit stronger taste although only 4.6% ABV.

Canterbury Jack, which at 3.1% was the weakest on offer but nice all the same.

Bishop's Finger, which I have had on several occasions before so I gave it a miss.
Although after what happened later I probably should have stuck with beer.

Because there was a cider called Bushels, made by those sneaky buggers at Biddenden Vineyard. A very pale green, clear cider with a crisp apple aroma. Flavour is sweet and fruity on the finish with a dry edge. Very drinkable. And it's 6.0%. It kicked my arse.

Oh my God did it kick my arse. Laura had had half a pint of it to begin with. She's more of a cider fan than I am and she let me taste a little bit of it and I thought it was lovely. So after my first two pints of beer she suggested I have a cider and I thought, hey, why the heck not? I should have known something was up when she had a latte instead of another alcoholic drink.

I went to Tesco afterwards and cannot remember a thing about it. I know I went in, and I know I came out, and according to Laura I was hurling abuse at pieces of meat on display. Whew. Thank you Biddenden, for proving me to be a lightweight of the highest order.

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