Paul’s First Ale
I remember the first ale I had like it was yesterday, and it was enough to put me off for nearly 10 years. The year was 1996 and I was a fresh faced lad of 14. England were about to hammer the mighty Dutch 4-1, and me and my brother settled on the family sofa to enjoy the spectacle. My mum and dad had gone out for the night so led on by my elder sibling we decided to raid my dad’s beer cupboard. I cracked open a rather large bottle of dark brown ale. It tasted like dishwater to my unsophisticated palate, I almost felt like I could chew it. “I thought this was supposed to be a drink!?” I complained. So being 14 I decided to have 5 or 6 more. I suffered that night.
So from then on in I was a lager drinker. Nothing could shift my opinion that ale was lactated from the devil’s own nipples and was incomparable to the delicious effervescent golden lagers I regularly enjoyed. Me and my family debated it for years and being the sole non ale drinker in the family and an obnoxious sod, I enjoyed telling them all how disgusting it was… repeatedly. And then came the conversion.
Christmas eve 2005, my now married brother had moved to a little village called Thornton towards Leicester. I’d travelled up with my parents to spend the holidays with him and his new wife. We’d found our way to his local, a beautiful little village pub called the Bricklayers Arms. My usual request for a lager was met with the usual derision from my family, and so being in the festive spirit I acquiesced to their appeals. Apparently the staple beer of the pub Tiger from Everards was a “top pint and so much better tasting over in Leicestershire”. I nodded doubtfully and settled down by the fire. Taking a sip the first thing I noticed was that it didn’t taste of socks. The second thing I noticed was that I wanted another sip…..this was entirely new to me. For those who don’t know it, Tiger is your classic best bitter. Amber in colour and a perfect mixture of sweetness and bitter. And I was noticing this for the first time. I began to enjoy how you didn’t feel bloated after a few swigs and the more I drank the more I noticed the complexity of the flavours. The bricklayers knew how to keep their ales and this was in top nick. I loved how the ale at its perfect temperature (not freezing cold like lager) gave me an explosion of taste, it was all so moreish. And from then on it was a voyage of discovery leading me all the way to here, the bars manager of one of the best real ale pubs, in one of the best real ale cities, in one of the best real ale countries in the world.
I now love all kinds of ale, from your light citrusy summer ales to your dark syrupy stouts, and this is reflected on our pumps in both the Tavern and Tudor Bar here at the Old Bell. We have 14 hand pumps in all, and you get a real cross section of styles and flavours. One of the greatest things about the real ale world at the minute is the countless breweries and beers, so as well as our old favourites such as Bass and Jaipur (which you will nearly always find here) we can experiment with some really innovative and interesting pints, like Dirty Stop Out (a cracking smoked oat stout from tiny rebel) or Melba (a beautiful golden fruity ale from Thornbridge). It can sound like a cliché but we really do have a passion for our ales at the Old Bell, we enjoy what we do and I hope that shows in the quality and range of our drinks. There’s always something for everyone, unless you, like the daft young me, think they taste of old socks. So keep your eyes peeled to this blog to find out about our exciting upcoming ales in the near future.