Sunday 11 December 2011

Take Time to Smell the Beer

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.


Leigh said...

That's lovely. I always sniff first - no matter what the drink. Your relation of that smell to your grandfather is a lovely little tale. When I was a teenager, a girlfriend of mine wore this perfume - im not even sure what it was - but I hated it. It was so sugary, so sweet. I never asked. Now, when I smell it, on the bus or passing a girl with it on - BAM! I'm back in the late 90's, thinking of her. Smell is so powerful, unlocking those memories you've hidden away.

Melissa Cole said...

I have a similar reaction to Gaultier Blue Jeans, except it just evokes rage! The ex who wore it was horrid to me and I can't bear the smell!

Pleased you liked the post : )

rabidbarfly said...

What Leigh said. To the word, spooky that.

beersiveknown said...

I'm racking my brain trying to remember what memory was evoked by a beer smell recently for me. The brain is such an amazing organ and the ability of beer to transport us back to a given moment in time is equally brilliant.

Eddie86 said...

Something I'd never considered, but yes, now you mention it my love of Broadside may have something to do with family times on the North Norfolk coast, the smell of the beer mixed with salty sea air.

A lovely post - thank you :)

Unknown said...

That's... beautiful. A certain cider always reminds me of teenage summers working in Devon; waves crashing off the sea wall, trying to run on shingle, other people's warm jumpers, the feeling that you and your mates could do anything.

I can almost see the sun setting over the sea. And now I'm feeling soppy.

I still can't believe even the memory of an aroma is such a powerful key in unlocking the past.

Wow. Thanks!

Michigan Microbrews said...

Yeah that was a great post, as I always did when I am alone and want to relax my tired body, smelling the beer before drinking. :)