As I dedicate most of my life to writing, and my only paid work is pissing about in carparks making food, I’m clearly destined for a destitute future. The only hope I really have is some sort of apocalyptic event or societal collapse will save me from being old and homeless in this awful world. As I don’t make any money to save, nor do I expect pensions to still be a thing, I need to start looking into how I’ll get pissed in the future. Without the mind to learn how brew and all of this craft beer taking any spare cash I do have, super strength canned lager will probably be the answer to my problems. Now don’t get me wrong, I do like cheap spirits, but they all taste like the same caustic chemicals and I don’t reckon I’ll lose my tastebuds even when I’m homeless. I’ll have no friends and stuff, but there’ll always be a nice friendly beer shop open.

In this case, it’ll be the shop at the end of the street, which sells only absolute shit. Of course this doesn’t help my financial state but when you’ve never had any money, you don’t miss having a little bit less. This is the rule which makes poor people more generous than the greedy rich. So what will my future of poverty taste like? Or indeed will I find a beer that can replace the other 8 or 9% finely crafted monsters I usually drink anyway? Either way, it’s a fine day to be pissed in North West London as the Champion’s League final is on just down the road at Wembley, so there’s Germans falling about pissed all over the place.

First up I gather the brews, barely getting even a slightly strange look from the staff. These guys have seen so much worse and they look like they’ve never slept or had a day off. I imagine the upstairs of this ‘world supermarket’ is just dirty mattresses and soiled sheets, housing a jaded workforce that has  kept the place open for three decades straight. I leave with five cans of top-shelf booze; Kestrel Super, Tennant’s Super, Skol Super, Carlsberg Special Brew and a can of K Cider. I take them round to a house full of guys that I’ll probably end up drinking in parks with someday. In fact, only last weekend I drank Glen’s vodka with my mate Liam and a couple of mental bums in central London church yard.

‘I quite like K Cider.’ Liam’s first observation of the selection. Liam’s good at loads of stuff and we run a art-for-art’s sake kind of organisation, so we’re clearly going to be homeless at some point. Also in the room we have Matt and Rich, the former has a psychology masters and the latter is a musician, meaning we’re undoubtedly going to be gathering cardboard together in the future. Matt has a mate over too, so we’ve got a tasting panel of five. All of the cans are slightly damaged and dented, just like their drinkers.

‘Where’s Kestrel from?’

‘Scotland, it’s where they invented alcoholism.’

 

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We start the tasting with the Tennant’s. There’s no slogan on the can but PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY is on there in huge text. I pour it into a pint glass and observe: golden colour, non-offensive odor. It’s actually tastes pretty sweet and pleasant, like Gold Label. I imagine all strong lagers weighing in at 9% probably taste fairly similar. We’re about to find out. I pass the glass around the gang as we the football appears on the television; we’re in the extremely cheap seats in Dollis Hill, where we can only just make out the top of the stadium.

‘Be weird if all these German fans were secretly soldiers.’

The votes are in and 3 of 5 like it.

Matt: ‘Nah not for me.’ Reaches for his can of Becks, ‘Couldn’t drink a lot of it.’

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‘One of those beers that makes my face screw up.’ Matt’s mate doesn’t dig it either. They’re from the country, maybe special brew is very urban flavour. Either way, we push on to the Kestrel Super, which is labelled as being a “SHARING CAN,” so clearly embracing the idea that it’ll be passed around a park bench. This one has a “serious whup”, much bigger on the nose. It’s also much darker, with more upfront alcohol and a slight burn. For me, this is much more pleasant, if something is strong I want the whup of it all.

‘Tastes like bandages.’ Matt has a very sharp palate. This makes Bandages by Hot Hot Heat play in my head as conversation turns to memories of other experiences of extreme smells.

‘…there was just a real bovine funk in the air.’

The football has started a blistering pace and we’re tearing through the special brew too.

‘I better put the others in the fridge at half time.’

‘Be difficult otherwise.’ I’ll be surprised if the cans make it to the fridge, I’m fairly settled in by the special brews and evening zoots.

‘JERRY’S COMING.’ Always apocalyptic thoughts.

‘It’d ruin my saturday if World War III broke out.’

‘Nobody wants to bomb Wales.’

These thoughts lead us to half time, where we get to see who can afford the most expensive advertising in the West. Soon Calvin Klein are parading a sexy man in his underwear.

‘Calvin Klein: Dick Braces.’ This from Matt. The actual tagline is “360 seamless technology,” which is much more fucking bizarre. What a terrible world, no wonder everyone’s drinking themselves to death. Bored of bullshit, we pass half time with a musical interlude with ‘Semi On The Dancefloor,’ a fine slice of modern RnB. Much much better than adverts and dicks talking shit about football.

‘I definitely like these better than normal lagers.’ My thoughts.

‘They’re not as sustainable.’ Rich’s pragmatism. ‘You could be on it every night if you wanted to be.’ The bum screw is turning. By this point the football is still very entertaining but I’m also thinking that it’s really really weird, as I often do. Anyway, it’s time to get about the Skol Super. This one is somewhere between the last two. Still pretty tasty and sweet.

UPDATE!

Favourites so far:

Liam: Kestrel

Matt: Skol

Rich: Tennants

Me: Kestrel

Matt’s mate dropped out and had to go. He probably wondered what kind of company his friend was keeping; pissed faux-journalists doing aggressive alcohol tastings always give a bad impression. The football has passed, and there’s a nice floatiness to the evening. Expensive adverts are back and Jaguar is asking “How Alive Are You?” and Joanna Lumley is explaining the internet to kids, “tappy tappy” says her ghostly old face. We escape to an episode of South Park and Cartmen’s horrible lucid nightmare of Judaism; The Jewpacabra. As usual the satire is deep and it makes me think that Supermarket Sweep and the whole career of Dale Winton was probably funded by Tesco. Supermarkets aren’t fun, their bright lights will burn your soul.

The tasting continues at home, as I have to escape before a full stoned coma ensures. I love sleeping on sofas, truly, but I’ve got a girl at home who’s gonna love this strong drink. The streets outside are indeed like a warzone. It smells like explosives, the air is thick. Sirens ring out and helicopters fill the sky. Maybe the Germans have come. A deep twist on everything.

In the safety of home, I crack into the Carlberg Special Brew with taste testers Penelope and Phil (Sweet Guy). For a backdrop we have a stream of more elite sport, in the shape of Carl Froch’s fight against a Dane called Kessler. I generally don’t enjoy boxing but it is pretty compelling at times and I do enjoy the worst bits of humanity, if only to FEEL things. Anyway, I get Phil’s first thoughts:

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‘Feels big. Is it bigger? It kind of tastes like an alcoholic smells, but I quite enjoy that.’ Phil’s keen eye has noticed the 500ml can straight away. A full half litre of 9% deep twisting booze in a can. This is what makes Britain great.

‘No wonder it’s so sweet, one of the ingredients is “syrup”.’ Penelope has a sharp eye too. It seems the people of Carlsberg don’t trust malt mash for adequate sweetness, they need to mask their wrong-doings with syrup. Fair enough though, these beers are for emergency situations in critical lifestyles; you’ve got to sweeten that cure. Drink easy, live messy. It’s an old saying. So the final beer tastes much like the rest and the sport is another example of inconsequential yet compelling action.

I leave the cider in the fridge. I fucking hate cider. I’m pretty sure there’ll be a visit soon from a magisterial bum, who wanders in and is refreshed. He’ll pour a bit out to old Sal Paradise and tell those tales of being outside, in the margins; these tales of life that hold only as much meaning as all of the constructed nonsense of everything else.

 

FOR FURTHER READING ON HOBO DRINKING HABITS, SEE THIS ARTICLE ON BRAIN WASH: GIN AND PSYCHOPATHS – SUNDAY AT THE IVY

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