Category Archives: The Session
Drinking with Levon: The Session
This post was originally going to be very different. The spirit of this Session, I felt, was more to do with stripping the ‘moment’ of beer down, and not elevating it to heights that maybe remain hard for people to relate to. The People’s Moment, if you will. I had a few ideas, and spent a few days kicking them around in my head, as you do. As it happens, I fear somewhat that I have missed the point entirely of what Pete was trying to achieve.
Anyway, this was entirely out of my hands. On Friday the 19th, Levon Helm died.
Now, unless you listen to The Band, or music of that ilk, you probably won’t know – or care – who Helm was. To me, he was representative of something; a simpler time, and a period of my life that I look back fondly on.
When I was younger, I played in a band. I played Bass and sang, and was lucky enough to call a quartet of men who loved the same music I did – mostly termed ‘Americana’ or ‘Alt.Country’ nowadays – friends. We’d hoover up albums by Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Richmond Fontaine, Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams and countless others, regurgitating them into our own sound. We were good, to be honest. It was a great ten years or so.
I remember one evening in our rehearsal room, tooling about with some covers, and we decided to try out “The Weight”, one of The Band’s more famous songs. We sounded good, as we were, right up until the chorus. The song, if you don’t know, has this gorgeous harmony on the chorus; a rotating, rough-but-beautiful cascade of words and melody – it stops you in your tracks and puts a smile on your face.
Of course, we failed horribly. We couldn’t do the song justice, so we left it, stumped by that magical moment. We were missing that one thing that The Band had – a spark. The harmony isn’t technically hard; but it needed to come from the heart. And we didn’t have that, I guess.
When Levon died, a part of that memory became more poignant; I didn’t remember The Band – or Levon specifically – but my mind rewound to that night, those laughs, those red faces, and those renewed respect for artists who remain true to themselves, living together, living for music, in the moment. It was the whole package; knotted together. The music is the man, and the man is the memory.
There was only one way I could pay respect to that. The albums came out; headphones on, beer poured; a Coniston Old Man Ale (A subliminal nod to Neil Young, perhaps?) Eyes closed, its amazing what you hear when you really listen to something with a new impetus. The beer was good; it was fine. Rich, smooth, subtly strong; it seemed to suit the rough-hewn, salty feeling of The Band, a throwback to simpler times in an age of Psychedelia. I sat there for two hours, rocking in my chair, dog at my feet, beer in my hand.
It wasn’t maudlin; just me, a beer, music and memories.
The beer, ultimately, was unimportant. The feeling was what was important, the warmth of alcohol’s kiss ushering in reverie over any superficial style or ingredient. But I sat there, rapt, living in the past with a beer in my hand, and I’m sure many others did the same over the weekend. It wasn’t maudlin; far from it. It felt right at some point to acknowledge – in the best way I know how – a time of my life that I really, really enjoyed; with a beer.
At the opposite end of the scale, (and maybe more in line with Pete’s original vision), one of those ‘moments’ cropped up a few days later. I was in Sheffield, enjoying a lunchtime pint (Blue Bee’s Amber’s Nectar) at The Rutland Arms. The place was quiet when I got in, but soon filled up with people partaking in mammoth sarnies and good-looking pints. I sat at the end of a table, opened my paper to the sports pages, and started poring over the hype for the upcoming Manchester derby.
A few minutes later, a shadow fell across the table. A chap appeared, and sat opposite me. We looked at each other, nodded a greeting, and he did the same as me; opened his paper, took a gulp of his beer, and settled in to study his news in silence. Two men, enjoying a beer, with no obligations or need for conversation. If I could verbalise the feeling, the best I could say is ‘contented sigh‘.
I can’t boil down ‘The Moment’ in any definable way. There’s too many moments in life – and Beer – to do that. That’s the beauty of it. There’s always a moment around the corner, everywhere, and it could be with any beer, with anyone, or alone. Events transpire. So, that week, these were my moments. This time.
The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.
>Cask vs Keg vs Bottle vs Can
>The Session: New Beers Resolutions
What beer mistakes did you make?
I planned to do a round up of Supermarket beers during the summer, but with the exception of one or two, they were all so supremely bad that I couldn’t bring myself to post about them.
Also, I became too freindly with some Fuller’s London Porter in exceelent condition in York earlier on in the year, and almost missed my train home – which was important as I had a birthday meal to attend. I made it (just), but was so drunk that I could not enjoy the lovely Thai feastthat had been laid on. A shame – and I was well and truly in the doghouse that night.
What beer resolutions do you have for 2010?
One – to drink more in Pubs. Simple as that, to simply drink in pubs more. Not much of a hardship, is it?Also to provide more coverage on the blog for beer festivals and more small brewer interviews. That’s what’s important – not how many free lunches I’ve attended.
Beer regrets? Well, simply not doing more! There’s always beer festivals, events and launches that I can’t attend due to short notice or location. Working full-time can really be a bind on your beery adventuring. Embarrasing moments? Not any that I can recall! No regrets!
What are you hoping to change about your beer experience in 2010?
I have a gap in my knowledge when it comes to Italian Craft Beer, and as I’m visiting the North of Italy in September, I’m hoping to find some time out of my honeymoon to try some great beers. I’m incredibly lucky to have a partner who is very open to beer and my passions and is happy to indulge me!! I’m also going to try and see if I can avoid temptation to do the inevitable ‘World Cup of Beer’ posts in the summer. Really. It’s been done. Really Done.
>The Session: Love Lager
Then I had a think about it. I do drink lager! On holiday!
The photo at the top is of sunset at an awesome fish joint in Sozopol, Bulgaria. The terrace was on the side of a sheer clifface, the crystal clear Black Sea below. We drank steins of Zagorka lager, and accompanied this with plate upon plate of fried whitebait and mussels and mozzarella topped tomato salad. The plan was to start there and then move on for the evening, but we didn’t. We just carried on there. Sometimes there’s no reason to move.
>The Session: My Favourite Beer
I remember the first time I tried it. It was chosen simply on the colour of the label and design of the logo – and that I was pig-sick of lagers, or rather, what we call lagers in the UK. Upon pouring it, I smelled the sweet, bitter tang and knew that I was on the verge of something new. But nothing could prepare me for the taste.
I still stock up on it, and it’s my ‘go-to’ beer if it’s on tap somewhere. Just to try it. Just to see how they keep it. I’m like a crack whore with SNPA – I could be faced with a thousand taps and I would choose one beer that I have not tried and one SNPA.
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