The blue sky lifts my mood instantly and the garden gets a thoughtful springtime inspection. The grass will need cutting soon. Some seed needs to be sown into the areas where Wilson’s claws have ripped it up as we play with the tennis ball. The shed roof’s ripped felt, peeled off by January’s malevolent winds, will need to be tacked back down. Piles of cut branches, browning slowly, will need to be hauled into the rusting burner soon to be turned into ash and smoke. Perhaps it’s my mind, but I can smell other people nearby lighting those little bonfires already.
The sun and sky contradict the contents of my beer store. Strong, dark, stout, sweet and smoky beers dominate; the pale ales that I love mostly consumed in pubs and bars over winter. Powerful, muscular, viscous beers with depths that require dark evenings to appreciate, taking a slow, diving-bell descent to the bottom of the glass, are most of what I have.
I do have one interloper to call upon however, in the familiar shape of Schlenkerla Helles. As I drink, smooth, sweet malt gives way to that wisp of unmistakably mellow beechwood smoke. Tender bitterness – only enough to refresh – and a gently crisp finish bring a smile to the lips. My Franconian friend, deeply complex yet cheerily golden in disposition, is perfect for the afternoon and hopefully, a symbolic end to the dreadful winter behind us.