Bad beers can lead to good times. Jumping straight to the ‘best’ of anything deprives you of so much fun along the way. If your first car was an Aston Martin, then you would never experience the joy of climbing into a Vauxhall Nova on a cold December morning and trying to start it using a manual choke, nor would you have felt the fear of looking down into the foot well of your Daihatsu Charade and seeing daylight. These are not moments you would choose for your Ground Hog day, but looking back on them gives you so much more than a moment of luxury ever could. In Stuart Howe’s keynote speech, at ‘that conference’ nobody wants to hear much more about, he referenced his time brewing Hofmeister Lager-Bier. I tried to listen to the next passage of his talk, but the word Hofmeister threw a forgotten switch in my brain which released memories of a summer in 1994.
A mustard coloured Austin Ambassador pulled into the campsite, shoehorned inside were five teenagers, a family sized tent, rucksacks filled to bursting point and very little food. We were all 16 and my mate’s dad knew we were in for a fun few days. He gave a wry smile when he lifted the baggage from the boot. Both the weight and the distinct four-pack shapes protruding from these bags could not hide their bounty. It was like a scene from the Wonder Years where Kevin and his dad share a moment, a rite of passage where no words are exchanged but everything has been said. As the car drove away we knew we had plenty of time to pitch the tent, so we flopped onto our bags, cracked cans of warm Hofmeister and talked crap about football and girlfriends. Even after several cans of non-premium lager we did have somewhere to sleep on that first night, but the shape of the tent did not match that of the picture on the instructions. None of us gave a shit, but one of us did vomit into someone else’s Hi-Tech 4×4 trainers.
We played cricket in the sun until we couldn’t move for sunburn, we talked and we laughed and when we ran out of things to say the conversation was quickly jolted back to life with a reference to Hawes, the comedy name of the town we were staying in. After two nights we had the campsite to ourselves, no coincidence, and were running low on beer. My mate Dom looked the oldest as he had the darkest hair, making his top lip the most convincing. A quick trip to the Spar shop and we were laughing again, no more of the good stuff in a yellow can, but plenty of Ruddles, Trophy and Old Speckled Hen, which did none of us any favours. Before calling home for help and an immediate airlift, we visited the Hawes Rope Maker, he wasn’t there, but we left him the can of Hofmeister we had saved for emergencies.
Back in the room at the Met Hotel, Stuart Howe wrapped up his talk and we all clapped. Apologies to Stuart and thank you Hofmeister.