I spend a lot of time during tutored tastings encouraging people to smell their beer before drinking it, in order to get the maximum enjoyment, but today I had a powerful reminder that this isn't just about immediate gratification, but could one day give you a beautiful gift in the form of a very happy memory.
Smell is the most powerful of the senses when it comes to recalling memories and I certainly experienced that this morning, when the mere act of opening a wooden box led to the unearthing of a memory that was so happy, it bought tears to my eyes and a huge smile to my lips.
It was a memory of my Granddad, Alf Cole, who was a man I loved dearly. In fact, I'd go as far to say idolised. He died when I was 12 and, to this day, I find it heartbreaking he didn't live to see me grow up; I hope he would have been proud of me but, if nothing else, he would have at least enjoyed some free beer, that's for sure!
So when this box wafted its muted sandalwood scent at me, a tidal wave of powerful memories was unleashed and I was transported back at least 30 years to a bright summer's day in the Barley Mow pub garden on Englefield Green in Surrey and my Granddad holding his pint glass to my lips for me to take an illicit sip, which I’m pretty sure is my earliest beer-related memory - but it’s also so much more than that.
With that aroma came a host of other remembered scents - over the pungent nuttiness of the beer, I could smell the smoke on his fingers, the Brylcream in his hair and, throughout, the woody note from the Old Spice shaving cream that he used, whisking it to a lather in its branded china pot with a badger hair brush.
I then remembered how I would find him in the morning, carefully shaving in a mirror in the kitchen because it had the best light, wearing just his vest and trousers, with his braces flapping around the backs of his legs; how he'd pretend I wasn't there as he carefully finished, then wiping any excess foam away before giving me a good morning kiss and making me my breakfast, which was always a bowl of cornflakes followed by blackcurrant jam on toast.
I am so pleased to have these precious memories gifted back to me for the rest of my life by the simple act of opening a wooden box that I just want to encourage you all to do something that will hopefully make you as happy one day as this did me.
Stop and take the time, when you're out enjoying yourself with friends or loved ones, to just inhale the aroma of your beer.
Just take that few seconds to commit that smell to memory and, perhaps, one day you will be drinking that same beer and you will be back transported back to that exact moment in time of joy and companionship - and I hope it brings a smile to your lips as you take a salutary sip.