As the Wort Tuns…*
October 29, 2009

So, last night Mr. Malting came home with a beer for me, made in honor of “that soap I watch.”  A beer made after Eastenders? My mind raced with perverse variations of the kind of ale that might be served at the Vic. (For those who feign ignorance because this topic is beneath them, it is the pub on the show.) I wondered: had Mr. Malting found some Black Eagle Porter? Maybe some Albion Ale?  Of course all they drink on Eastenders is some thin, brown-to-yellow ersatz, but what if they didn’t?

I started watching EastEnders when I moved to the UK almost five years ago.  Not unlike the mermaid in Splash who watches telly hoping she will learn to speak, I hoped it would be a fast-track aculturation. All it really gave me was a time-suck addiction and dreams of certain characters long after they’d moved off the show to Essex.

But no, this ale is called Coronation Street, after a serial I’ve never watched.  Maybe Mr. Malting doesn’t know me that well after all!  This beer is brewed by JW Lees in Manchester, and the label claims it’s made with “Northern Soul” and is full of “twists and turns” like you find on an episode of the show.  I don’t know if contrived complications are what I want in a beer.  Even so, this beer is pretty darn uncomplicated.  Uneventful, even.  But Coronation street has a lovely theme song, and being kind, I’d say this beer is more like that. Just nice.  It’s a deep amber color with a thin head that laces down the sides of the glass.  Once you get past the soapy confrontation in the nose (maybe that’s where they get the name?) there is caramel upfront, balanced with some mild-mannered Goldings.  Consider the iconic opening credits with the brick rooftops, the sun bathing cat.  Maybe in the cask this beer would be like that– archetypal and comforting.

Now, what if brewers sponsored beer operas?

*Mr. Malting reminds me yet again that my immigrant-mind has damned me.  Brits won’t get the title pun, and Americans won’t really get the telly references.

Soap Opera Ale
June 25, 2008

Kind of like the mermaid in Splash, when I moved to London I watched the telly to acculturate.  I found myself addicted to Eastenders.  After a year of rationalizing my affection for the Square, I forced myself to give it up.

It’s been a couple years since I went cold turkey but the other day I watched the omnibus on the BBC iPlayer.  Real ale is featured for a brief moment when Vinnie and Shirley put on a “Best of British” party at the Queen Vic, and the whole place is decked out in British Flags (No St. George flags to be seen– so much for realism).  There’s a little cask sitting on the bar and Shirley asks Vinnie disparagingly if anyone is drinking the “Speckled whatever” he’s got on.

Later in the episode there’s a dramatic fire and the British flag is used to catch Mickey as his sister Dawn pushes him, unconscious, from the burning building.  Later, the good-for-nothing Keith actually saves his daughter while wrapped in the same flag.  I thought maybe Shirley would use the cask of Speckled Whatever to douse the flames since it wasn’t selling in the pub, but the beer was only making a cameo.