One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is meeting people with diverse and wide-ranging tastes. Over the past few years, more and more beers and traditional ales have become available, whether it be in local free house pubs, supermarkets or specialist beer retailers. Only the other day, an elderly man popped into the shop and produced a list, about as long as my arm, of beers he had recently tried and tasted! Lots of the beers on his list had been sampled in local pubs, such as The Dove, The Beerhouse and Oakes Barn, and he exclaimed that out of the first 15 or so beers he had tried, he had only enjoyed about three of them.
The point is though, that at least this ‘gentleman of age’ whom probably had been drinking beer since his younger years, wants to try different beers, regardless of whether they are to his taste. And as, with the passing of years, his mobility reduces and found it more difficult to visit the pub, he just wanted to replicate that enjoyable drinking experience at home by getting a few bottles from the local shop.
We found four or five beers from his list which he had really enjoyed, so he could continue his endeavours at home. And like this gentleman, many more people now enjoy the huge variety of produce available. For many years now, people are in pursuit of new flavours and tastes. I remember tasting my first kiwi fruit and fresh dates at primary school back in the early ’70s and was bowled over by their flavour. In fact, that experience made me want to become a chef; something I kept up for 30 years until family life took precedence over individual efforts. But in those 30 years I learned the magic of combining different, individual flavours, to create a whole new spectrum of tastes. And many other people feel the same, whether it is food or drink, or, indeed, even the combination of the two.
So with the 27th East Anglian Beer & Cider Festival coming up in April, what better way than to try a few different beers and ciders from the many dozens available? People no longer want to be told what to drink by those who concentrate more on their profit margin than on the variety of beers they serve to their customers. People will simply ‘vote with their feet’ and visit those establishments offering variety, a friendly environment and good company. Which brings me back to my new customer who clearly felt that you’re never too old to try something new. It certainly ‘spiced up’ his life as he left the shop with a new found skip in his step, setting off with the trophies of his hunting expedition at the local shops. Variety is what keeps people going.
Hope to see you at the East Anglian Beer & Cider Festival at the Apex, April 18-21.
René van den Oort is owner of Beautiful Beers
It stocks more than 400 beers, including craft beers
1b St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds