Wednesday, 2 March 2011

‘Beer-snob’ is not an oxymoron

I thought that, for the subject of my first beer-related post, I would not extol the virtues of ale, nor condemn the pee-coloured horse-dribble that passes for ‘beer’ in the mass market, nor even tell an amusing beer-related anecdote.  No.  I thought I would delight you all today with a rant about an obscure and barely significant element of the pint making process, known generally as the ‘sparkler’ (although I prefer to call it The Showerhead of Foamy Doom).  You’re welcome.

What?  You don’t know what a sparkler is?  You mean ‘Showerhead of Foamy Doom’ didn’t explain it for you?  Ok, fine.  The sparkler is a wee gizmo that screws onto the nozzle of the beer engine and sprays the beer out into the glass through its perforated base, ensuring that the pint froths up like a rabid bulldog.  Usually, in order to get enough actual liquid into the pint, the barman/maid has to let the foam stream over the edge of the glass until some beer has managed to escape the sparkler, whereupon they hand over your dripping and slippery drink with a big smile, proud of the impressive ‘head’ they have produced.  

The Scots are very fond of sparklers.  Ostensibly, this is because northern beers are traditionally quite bitter.  Scottish sparkler enthusiasts will tell you that the sparkler spreads Co2 and softens the bitterness.  To which I reply ‘But if you don’t want your beer to taste as bitter, why not easy-up on the hops rather than subjecting us all to foam-moustaches?’ (I do this from a safe distance, often through a megaphone, because sparkler enthusiasts are a strange and unpredictable bunch, roaming in anorak-clad packs and painting themselves in beer-froth for ceremonial occasions).

I once had the misfortune to encounter a barman who was a sparkler enthusiast.  It went something like this:
“Good morning!” said I, approaching the bar with my most winning smile (it was not, in fact, morning, but I feel ‘Good afternoon’ has too many syllables to be an effective greeting, and ‘Good evening’ sounds like something Jeeves would say.  Plus, I was drunk), “I would like a pint of the Edinburgh Gold, please, and could you please pour it without the sparkler?”

The barman was not happy.  “The sparkler is there for a reason”, he said.
“Indeed it is”, I replied, “but Edinburgh Gold is not too hoppy for me to bear, and I prefer not to have to submerge my upper lip in froth up to the nose in order to quaff.  I would be very grateful if you remove the sparkler, and may even spare your life when the revolution comes”.
“A pint”, he replied, “should be frothy.  Otherwise it’s flat”.  
At this point, I felt it prudent to don a smoking jacket and faux-Victorian lexis, and clamber atop my Corinthian plinth# to deliver a beer-snob’s lecture upon the folly of the sparkler.
“Point the first”, I cried, screwing my monocle more securely into my eye and glaring down at the barman, “pints should not-“
“Gin and tonic”, said the barman, “three pound fifty, please”.  He had turned away from me, and was serving another customer.  I scowled.
“I dislike the cut of your jib, sir!” I called.
“I’m sorry?”
“Your jib, sir, its cut offends me.  But enough.  Now I have regained your attention, let us resume our discourse.  Point the first – a pint that is flat without the intervention of the sparkler is by its very nature a bad pint, and should be thrown to the wolves!”
“Flat beer-”
“The wolves, sir!  A properly brewed and stored ale will have a natural head and a pleasing texture upon the tongue without the need of artificial enhancement.  The sparkler, sir, is the boob-job of the pub-world!  Now, point the second-”
“Fine”, said the barman, rolling his eyes and bending to unscrew the sparkler, “have your crappy flat pint.  Only come down from that plinth to get it, I can’t reach up that high and it’s getting in the way of the customers”.
“Very good, sir”, I slithered down from my perch, “you have been a worthy opponent.  I hope we may meet again someday, under more favourable circumstances”.
“Whatever.  That’ll be three quid”.   
Was it worth it?  Oh yes.  

*Less portable than a soapbox, but to be recommended as it lends an air of gravitas to the lecturing snob that the soapbox lacks.  Also, it is very high, so enraged listeners will find it hard to tear you down and trample you underfoot.


  1. This made me think of this:

    Word of the Day -


    Pronunciation: gam-brin-ous

    Definition: Being full of beer.

    Use in a sentence: Most college students are planning on being very gambrinous after their exams.

  2. Good to see your satirical wit is still wrapped in such eloquence.