It's a spring thing
My first pint***

Unlike many people, I didn't have my first full pint until I was 18, (34 now). I was really looking forward to it and so when I turned 18 I headed to the Off License, (bottom of the Limestone Road, Belfast for you Norn Iron readers), all growed up like and asked for some Carlsberg, as that's what I'd seen advertised on TV as being "probably the best lager in the world." I thought I'd start with the best, it was my first after all and I'd hate to be disappointed!

The shop assistant asked "Special Brew?" I thought "wow they have a special version of what's probably the best lager in the world." So I bought four of those, some lesser "probably not the best lager in the world," stuff, some Guinness and a bottle or two of something nice for mum and dad and duly set off home.

The pressies were handed out and I sat down for what was surely going to a momentous taste sensation, I had been waiting 18 years for this and here it was upon me. I sat on the floor with my back against the sofa, facing the TV and opened up the tin, savoring the pleasing "fssst" sound that just seemed to enhance the moment. I raised the tin to my lips and took a long slow drink. I swirled the almost syrupy liquor around in my mouth, searching its every nuance of flavour for what seemed an eternity before slowing swallowing it down. It tasted of...something. Looking back I probably felt a deep sadness for all those other "not the best lager in the world" drinks because if this was the best, they must be truly minging.

I quickly knocked back the tin and nearing the bottom I suddenly got it! How could I have missed its obvious tastiness before? How could I not have noticed its ambrosia-like qualities? Had my taste buds been asleep? Clearly this was a drink with a delayed taste release system. "Wow those Danes know a thing or two about brewing!" I thought to myself. I tried one of the "probably not the best lager in the world" tins and sure enough it wasn't the same so quickly opened another Special Brew, noting the "fssst" sounded almost ethereal as my journey of discovery continued.

I seemed to be knocking this stuff back as if it was going out of fashion and by the bottom of this tin I had my doubts about the "probably" bit. "Probably?" "You guys do yourselves a disservice. There's no "probably" about it, it IS the best lager in the world, trust me. Does everyone else know about this stuff? You're going to make a fortune, I tell you."

I remember thinking this drinking malarkey was a piece of cake. I felt absolutely top of the world, no side effects. While undeniably "the best lager in the world" it definitely lacked any kick. Meanwhile I noticed a problem with the TV, there was something wrong with the picture, almost like a soft focus effect. Anyway, it didn't seem to bother anyone else so I thought nothing of it. The only option seemed to be to crack on and have another Carlsberg.

Tin three was faulty, the ring pull seemed really fiddly and smaller than the previous two. It took me ages to open it and then when I sat it on the floor it nearly spilled everywhere. The bottom of the can must have been deformed. I was going to complain to those clever Danes about poor quality control but the can seemed to right itself again and for some reason I forgot all about it anyway. I was nearing the bottom of that one when mum, with a tone sounding somewhere between shock and disbelief asked:

"That's not Special Brew is it?"
"Yes" said I, "it's the best lager in the world, would you like a taste?"
"You'll be drunk!" mum exclaimed.
"No not at all I feel perfectly fine, don't worry."

There was a knowing look between mum and dad and my younger brothers who were clearly not as naive as their older brother.

"Well if you're "ok" why don't you make us all a nice cuppa, you'll need it."

"No problem" said I.

I knocked back the last dregs from the tin, had a quick look at the TV to find the picture was worse than ever and wishing to get up noticed a slight time lag between my brain telling my legs to move and them actually obeying. "Strange," I thought, "there must be a slight temporal disturbance in the room, causing a time dilation." I probably didn't think that at the time but I wish I had. Anyway not wishing to appear to be suffering the effects of alcohol, I...very determinedly...rose to my feet, stood for a moment or two trying to look cool and realised the temporal disturbance was much worse than I thought, causing the walls and floor to appear to be moving and out of focus. Clearly whatever had affected the TV was a bigger problem than I'd thought. "They'll think it's the beer," I muttered so "better think of something." Looking around I noticed the mat mum and dad had made, (hey it was the '80s) had a nice straight edge, (being rectangular and all that) and putting my best foot forward I walked the line. Just to make a point I balanced on one foot and touched my finger on my nose while reciting the alphabet backwards*, but they still all had a weird smurk on their faces. The mat was much longer than it appeared as it seemed to take an age to get to the end of it. When I did I was about six feet from the door which I traversed with two big steps, turned into the hallway and towards the safety of the scullery.**

Anyway without going into detail, ("hooray") I managed to make the tea. I sat down again in the same spot, noticed the TV was still playing up and contemplated the last tin of SB. It was goading me, but in a strange moment of clarity I decided against it. I would save it for another day. And that as they say is that. Not a great ending to the story I know, but then I don't expect anyone to a: read it, or b: read this far should they actually start reading it. In the words of a famous captain "it's about the journey, not the destination" which is a cheap way of getting out of writing a clever ending.

*Artistic license :)
***The above is not intended to condone drinking "too much" in any way and is merely a light hearted memory of my first drink. Drinking in moderation can be a pleasant way to spend an evening with friends. Moderation is the key.


I don't think it's known exactly who were the first people to drink or produce alcohol, but it was probably some ancient Irish Egyptian, or Scottish Greek guy.

It's likely someone stumbled across some over-ripe, fermenting fruit and after eating it discovered it had some "interesting" qualities.

In the past, alcoholic drinks were often brewed as an alternative to drinking water, as the water source was contaminated. The fermentation process cleaned it up.

Alcohol is a poison, however some studies have suggested that a moderate intake may have health benefits. Red wine in particular often pops up as being linked with health benefits. See your doctor for advice on this.

Although it can make you feel relaxed and even euphoric, alcohol is a depressant!

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