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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Special Friend

Starting work on a bottle of real ale a few evenings ago, I was struck by how particularly pleasant it tasted. Not that surprising perhaps, as the label boasted the title,"Young's Special London Ale". Ah, yes. Young's Special, an old friend from many years back. I noticed something else on the label: Alcohol Content 6.4%.

Ohhhkay. That would work out as 3.2 units of alcohol (I know I've had enough to drink when I can no longer calculate alcohol units in my head), or roughly what the Government thinks I should drink no more than per day. Maybe I should leave a bit for tomorrow?

6.4% was rather higher than I remembered. A bit of research (read 'Google') revealed the truth. "Young's Special London Ale", which comes in bottles, isn't the same as "Young's Special", that comes on draught and is only 4.5% alcohol. Not a huge amount of imagination shown there by the Young's beer naming department, and a potential source of catastrophe for bottled beer drinkers like me.

Which brings my memories round to the first time I tried Young's Special. A party in London with a bunch of dental students, thirty years or so ago. A pub beforehand, where a friend introduced me to the brew and I polished off two pints of it. A foolish decision later that evening at the party to move onto cider. And finally, an indeterminate time staring into porcelain wishing my life was over so I could stop being sick for a bit.

Ever since my dramatic discovery that beer and cider don't go well together, I have had very mixed feelings about cider. Yes, I do drink it occasionally, but my heart is never in it. Real ale, on the other hand, has never left me with any sort of lasting aversion. And yet it wasn't just the cider that wasted me that night, so why does my body remember that cider isn't good for it while ignoring the effects of the beer? My tentative theory: cider is usually well stronger than 4.5%, so maybe my body only paid attention to the strongest drink involved.

As corroborative evidence, I would cite the fact that I haven't been able to drink Pernod since my 20th birthday when I overindulged on Pernod & Orange, but I still like orange juice.


  1. I've heard the theory about beer and cider before but I've never seemed to have a problem mixing the pints, lager, beer and cider in the one night with no ill effects.

    I think its true about your bodies memory though, I remember when I had a appendicitis at the tender age of 12. I was as sick as a dog who mixed beer with cider. The last meal I had eaten was fish and chips, I couldn't face eating that for years.

  2. Maybe it was the combined volume of drink that finished me off, rather than the combination. I could do some experiments to test this, I suppose. Then again...